NFL Player Lost 100 Lbs. in 40-Day Water Only Fast — Research Shows Health Dangers Behind the Method

Super Bowl champion Russell Okung detailed his recent weight loss methods, which studies show can be “detrimental to their body”

<p>Christian Petersen/Getty; Russell Okung/Instagram</p> Russell Okung did an extreme fasting diet

Christian Petersen/Getty; Russell Okung/Instagram

Russell Okung did an extreme fasting diet

On Monday, former NFL offensive tackle Russell Okung posted a series of tweets detailing how he’s lost weight recently. While sharing a before and after photo of his transformation, the 34-year-old Super Bowl champion revealed he lost over 100 lbs. by fasting for 40 days.

“The journey from being a 330+ lbs @NFL football player to 100+ lbs lighter - has been unreal! A new me, a new chapter,” he wrote. “The number one question I keep hearing is: ‘How did you do it?’ I fasted for 40 days with nothing but water. Yes, you read right! The experience was so rich and rewarding that I’m going to do it again.”

“Fasting isn't just about weight loss. It's about regeneration, healing & self-discovery,” Okung explained. “In quieting my physical hunger, I unlocked mental clarity and spiritual revelation. A total reset. As an elite athlete, I was always told to eat big, stay strong. I never questioned it. But breaking away, embracing fasting, it changed everything. I'm not just lighter in weight; I'm lighter in spirit.”

Despite his weight loss methods, research has shown that fasting for 40 consecutive days and ingesting nothing but water can be extremely harmful to the body.

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<p>Christian Petersen/Getty; Russell Okung/Instagram</p>

Christian Petersen/Getty; Russell Okung/Instagram

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One study in the National Institutes of Health found there are far more dangers to water-only fasting than possible benefits.

Participants in the study, which was published in 2021, were middle-aged men who completed an 8 day water-only fast — significantly shorter than Okung’s recent 40-day transformation. Researchers found that although the fasting resulted in benefits like reduced stress and maintained protein balance, participants experienced numerous health concerns.

These dangers included dehydration, significant weight loss, hypoglycemia (low blood glucose), increased ketogenesis (which cause cause an increase in acid buildup in the blood), hyponatremia (low sodium levels in the blood), and hyperuricemia (high levels of uric acid in the blood).

“Therefore, for the safety of middle-aged people subjected to 8-day [water-only fast], it is recommended to discontinue such intervention, as it is a drastic form of fasting that already begins to generate unfavorable symptoms for a healthy person,” the study stated. “The appearance of the above-mentioned adverse metabolic effects suggests that the further continuation of fasting intervention by the subjects would be detrimental to their body.”

Additionally, research published in the journal BMC Complementary Medicine Therapies states that the most common adverse events from water fasting include fatigue, headaches, dizziness, difficulty breathing, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal problems, endocrine problems like diabetes or thyroid issues, or musculoskeletal problems like arthritis.

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Samantha Berkowitz, a registered dietician and founder of telehealth service SammiB Nutrition LLC, also warned that prolonged fasting like Okung’s method is similar to fad diets, which can hinder a person’s relationship with food and possibly lead to disordered eating after the fast is completed.

“The promotion of weight loss of 100 pounds in 40 days is just not feasible for everyone or something that should be set as a goal,” Berkowitz — a nutritionist who works with patients with a disordered relationship with “food and movement” — told The Charlotte Observer.

While there are concerns about water-only fasting, Okung recognized in his social media post that his methods aren’t feasible for everyone. Experts suggest that those considering any forms of fasting speak to their healthcare providers and be closely monitored during the fast.

“Fasting isn’t for everyone, I get that. But for me, it was a life-changer,” Okung said on Twitter. “My journey hasn't been just about shedding pounds; it's also been about shedding old habits and old ways of thinking. Fasting opened a door to a healthier, happier me. It gave me control back.”

“Today, I stand before you - changed, empowered and inspired,” he added. “Whether you're considering fasting, or just looking to change your life, remember: The first day is always the hardest.”

Okung — the sixth pick in the 2010 NFL Draft to the Seattle Seahawks — played 11 seasons in the league. During his professional career, he was a two-time Pro Bowler and a member of the Seahawks’ Super Bowl XLVIII championship team.

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