My name is Rachel Sharp. I am 26 years old and live in Lees Summit, Missouri. I am the mortgage operations assistant at a local Credit Union. I finally found a weight-loss strategy that works for me and dropped over 100 pounds in a year.
I had been overweight ever since I was a little girl. I was badly bullied for it all through school. My weight made me shy and prevented me from making friends. I lacked confidence and self-esteem.
After graduating high school, I tried multiple methods to lose weight. I counted calories, I worked out, and at one point I was even on a prescription weight-loss pill from my doctor. It was frustrating and sank me deep into depression. I was also in an abusive relationship from the ages of 18 to 21. After that relationship ended badly, I felt even more lost than ever, and the weight seemed to pile on even more. Before I knew it, I was at my heaviest: 236 pounds.
- My turning point came two years ago, when my new boyfriend (and now fiancé!) and I went on a short hike.
- That’s when I sought out more info about intermittent fasting.
- Once I got used to this eating schedule, I started swapping out less nutritious meals for healthier options.
- After seven months of intermittent fasting and down 62 pounds, I decided that I wanted to start adding physical activity into my life.
- Whenever I feel discouraged or unmotivated, I remember why I started.
- I am not the same girl I was before this journey.
- What You Need to Know About Alternate Day Fasting
- Alternate-day fasting has health benefits for healthy people
- ADF as an option
- Unexpected biological benefits
- Future applications of ADF
- What Is Alternate Day Fasting?
- Why I Tried ADF
- What I Did
- What Surprised Me?
- The Pros
- The Cons
- Was I Able to Work Out?
- Did I Lose Weight?
- Now What?
- Final Thoughts
- Alternate-day fasting associated with weight loss
- Intermittent Fasting and Alternate Day Fasting: Pros, Cons, and Guide
- What Is Intermittent Fasting?
- What Is Every Other Day Fasting?
- How to do Intermittent Fasting
- How does intermittent fasting work?
- How to do Alternate Day Fasting
- What Types of Food Should I Eat on an Intermittent Fasting Diet or Alternate Day Fasting Diet?
- Should I go Keto?
- Is it a Bad Idea to Fast if I am an Athlete?
- How Does Intermittent And Alternate Day Fasting Work?
- Should I Incorporate Fasting into My Diet?
- Some data on alternate-day fasting
- And how would this alternate-day fasting work in real life?
- The bottom line on alternate-day fasting
- What is Alternate-Day Fasting, and is it Even Safe? Here’s What Nutritionists Have to Say
- What is alternate-day fasting?
- Are there any benefits to alternate-day fasting?
- Is alternate-day fasting safe?
- So, should you try alternate-day fasting?
- Alternate Day Fasting – How To Do It Right To Get The Best Results
- What is Alternate Day Fasting Actually?
- How Alternate Fasting Works
- ADF and Hunger
- Is It Safe?
- Alternate Day Fasting Benefits
- Alternate Day Fasting and Weight Loss
- What if Normal Weight People Follow This Diet?
- What to Drink and Eat
My turning point came two years ago, when my new boyfriend (and now fiancé!) and I went on a short hike.
It was only two miles long, but I could barely keep up even a mile in. My feet hurt, my knees ached, and I was struggling to breathe. It was embarrassing, and I was so ashamed of myself. Something had to change.
That’s when I sought out more info about intermittent fasting.
My boyfriend was doing the 16:8 method for his own health reasons, and we had briefly talked about it. I was skeptical at first. But after finding an inspiring first-person article by someone who had success using intermittent fasting, I figured maybe it might work for me.
The woman whose article interested me followed the 4:3 method of alternate-day fasting, where she fasts for three days and eats for four, along with counting calories. It was then (on September 5th, 2017) that I decided while munching on a snack of mixed nuts that I would commit to IF.
I decided to start my own method of complete intermittent, alternate-day fasting (ADF), where I would go every other day (or 36 to 40 hours) without eating, also counting my calories as I went.
When I first started ADF I calculated what my calorie needs would be for my body using a total daily energy expenditure calculator. During my first week of fasting, I allowed myself up to 500 calories on my fasting day to wean myself into going 40 hours without food. In reality, I didn’t change much of what I was eating, besides just watching the number calories I was taking in. The second week of fasting, I was able to go the whole fasting day without intaking any calories. Intermittent fasting was a *lot* easier than I thought it would be.
Once I got used to this eating schedule, I started swapping out less nutritious meals for healthier options.
For example, I changed little things, like my 2 percent milk to almond milk, or started measuring out my pasta per serving instead of just using the whole box. The small changes can really add up to a whole lot of success. Within my first month of ADF I lost 16 pounds. I was elated that I had finally found something that worked for me.
Here’s what I typically eat in a day now:
Breakfast: Overnight oats or banana oatmeal
Lunch: Cauliflower rice with lemon pepper shrimp or braised beef, or spinach with a sweet potato, hard boiled egg and salsa
Snacks: Mixed nuts, or a protein bar, or I also make my own tortilla chips with high-fiber, low-carb Xtreme Wellness tortillas
Dinner: Two-ingredient dough pizzas or baked chicken with veggies
Dessert: Breyers Low-Carb Vanilla Ice Cream with cookie butter mixed in, or frozen fruit blended in a food processor (healthy sorbet!)
After seven months of intermittent fasting and down 62 pounds, I decided that I wanted to start adding physical activity into my life.
Before intermittent fasting, I never worked out. Now that I had lost some weight, I didn’t feel as heavy and thought I would actually be able to really push myself and help my body grow even stronger and healthier. I started using a couch-to-5k running app and took my time, not exactly following the program, but it helped tremendously. I went from hardly being able to jog for two minutes, to running for 20 to 28 minutes without stopping.
Eventually, after a year of ADF, running every eat day, and losing 98 pounds, I also introduced weight lifting into my life with the help of my boyfriend. I worked my way up to my current exercise routine. I run on every fasting day and try to walk two miles on my breaks at work. I lift on the days I am not fasting. I’ve found this is the perfect balance for me.
So, I run on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and weight lift on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. I rest on Sundays.
Whenever I feel discouraged or unmotivated, I remember why I started.
There have been times when I just wanted to give up and not care anymore. IF is not easy; it takes time and patience. Going without eating can be difficult. But it has had so many more health benefits for me other than weight loss.
I’ve also found that if I am busy on my fasting days, I am much more likely to stick with it. But if you need to, you can eat up to 500 calories without it disrupting anything. You have listen to the signs of your body. But if it nags at you, just eat. It’s definitely okay.
I am not the same girl I was before this journey.
My weight-loss experience has revealed the true me, and I don’t ever want to go back to the girl I used to be. I wish I knew I had this type of willpower and strength in me all along because I have overcome so many obstacles since starting that I never thought I would achieve.
And I also wish I knew there would be people who still criticized me after losing weight. Now, the criticisms I get are not so much about my size, but about my method. People tend to discourage what they don’t understand or don’t agree with, and I find that IF is one of those prickly topics. (Note: A fasting plan might not be right for everyone, and there are pros and cons to consider, so talk to your doctor or a dietitian first! This is just what worked for me, and I like to be totally honest with people and my social media followers about my approach.)
When you find what works for you, as long as you’re in a good place physically and mentally while you do it, that’s great. You just have to ignore them and trust the process. No one can control your life except you.
Since starting ADF, I have lost 108 pounds over one year and two months. I am gaining muscle and my body is still changing every day.
What You Need to Know About Alternate Day Fasting
With everyone hyping on intermittent fasting lately, you may have considered trying it but worry that you won’t be able to stick to a fasting schedule every single day. According to one study, though, you can take days off of fasting and still reap all the benefits of fasting.
Meet: alternate day fasting (ADF).
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago put a group of obese volunteers on either a 25-percent-fat diet or a 45-percent-fat diet. All participants practiced alternate day fasting, alternating between days of eating 125 percent of their calorie needs and days of fasting, in which they were allowed to eat up to 25 percent of their metabolic needs during a 2-hour window.
The Perks of Alternate Day Fasting
After eight weeks, both groups lost significant amounts of weight-without losing muscle mass-and reduced visceral fat, the deadly fat that surrounds your internal organs. The higher-fat diet also had better compliance and lost more weight. That’s not a huge surprise since fat adds palatability to meals. I have seen my clients consume meat, avocados, olive oil, and other high-fat foods that add more calories to meals yet still result in an average of five pounds of weight loss a week, along with improved cardiovascular risk and body fat composition even without fasting. (See: Yet Another Reason to Eat More Healthy Fats.)
So if you’re interested in losing weight, you may not need to change the type of diet (ex: low-fat or high-fat) that you already follow-just change your eating pattern. And if you decide to try alternate-day fasting, you may be able to do so without complete deprivation on fast days and still lose weight. (Not all weight-loss plans work for everyone, including alternate day fasting or intermittent fasting. Find the best time to eat to lose weight for you.)
What I thought was interesting, as it may shed light on a metabolic phenomenon that we do not fully understand, is that despite the 50-percent calorie deficit over a two-day period, volunteers maintained lean body mass instead of losing muscle. (Here’s more on how to build muscle while burning fat.)
The Downsides of Alternate Day Fasting
Fasting or ADF isn’t for everyone. For one, there may be differences in how men and women respond to fasting. You should also be wary of fasting if you have a health issue that requires you eat regularly (such as diabetes) or have a history with an unhealthy or disordered relationship with food, as we reported in Everything You Need to Know About Intermittent Fasting.
My clients ask me all the time, “What diet should I follow?” and my reply is always the same: The diet you choose should be one that you will enjoy the most. If you enjoy a low-fat diet, then this is your answer. If you like higher fat-foods, lower your carbs and you will feel content and be healthy with these choices. You will stick to the plan you have chosen because you like the food. It is a “winning” decision (and will surely help you stick to your healthy eating goals).
And if you’re thinking about alternate day fasting, my question to you is: If you could eat a little more food than you needed on one day, would you be able to manage eating an extremely small amount of food the next day?
Nationally known as an expert in weight loss, integrative nutrition, blood sugar, and health management, Valerie Berkowitz, M.S., R.D., C.D.E. is co-author of The Stubborn Fat Fix, director of nutrition at The Center for Balanced Health, and consultant for Complete Wellness in NYC. She is a woman who strives for internal peace, happiness and lots of laughs. Visit Valerie’s Voice: for the Health of It or @nutritionnohow.
- By Valerie Berkowitz, R.D.
Alternate-day fasting has health benefits for healthy people
A new study shows that strict alternate-day fasting may be a valid alternative to counting calories and may have similar results, while also benefitting various biological processes.
Share on PinterestFasting may have benefits for healthy people, new research suggests, although there are some caveats.
People often alter their diets — in order to lose weight, improve their cardiovascular health, and become healthier overall. There are many different ways to do so.
A recent study looked into alternate-day fasting (ADF) to see whether it is a viable alternative to other methods, such as intermittent fasting or caloric restriction.
The researchers found that a number of health benefits accompanied weight loss in participants who practiced ADF.
The results of their investigation appear in the journal Cell Metabolism.
ADF as an option
Researchers — many from the Medical University of Graz, in Austria — conducted a randomized controlled trial. They enrolled 60 participants in a 4-week trial and randomly assigned them to either an ADF group or a control group.
The control group participants could eat whatever they wanted whenever they wanted, and the ADF group alternated between a 36-hour, no-calorie fast and 12 hours of unlimited eating.
The researchers followed the ADF group with continuous glucose monitoring to ensure that they did not consume any calories during their fasting periods. The participants also kept diaries during their fasting days.
The team also worked with 30 people who had been on a strict ADF diet for the last 6 months or more, in order to asses the long term safety of the practice.
All of the participants had a healthy weight and good overall health.
Unexpected biological benefits
While those in the ADF group often compensated for some of their lost calories when they were allowed to eat, they did not compensate for them all. Overall, they experienced a mean caloric restriction of around 35% and lost an average of 7.7 pounds during the 4-week trial.
There were health benefits, as well. The participants in the ADF group had reduced levels of soluble intercellular adhesion molecule-1, a marker linked to inflammation and age-related disease.
They also had lower levels of the thyroid hormone triiodothyronine, without experiencing any problems with thyroid function. Previous research has associated lowered levels of this hormone with longevity.
Additionally, the ADF group had lower levels of cholesterol and reduced trunk, or belly, fat. They also had some restriction in amino acids, which research in rodents suggests may extend the lifespan.
Furthermore, the ADF group experienced an upregulation in ketone bodies, which researchers consider a health benefit, on both the fasting days and non-fasting days.
“Why, exactly, calorie restriction and fasting induce so many beneficial effects is not fully clear, yet,” says Dr. Thomas Pieber, the Director of Endocrinology at the Medical University of Graz.
“The elegant thing about strict ADF is that it doesn’t require participants to count their meals and calories: They just don’t eat anything for 1 day.”
Dr. Thomas Pieber
Prior studies have indicated that long term adherents of ADF could experience malnutrition and an impaired immune function. However, the researchers found no immune function problems in the present cohort who had practiced ADF for 6 months or more.
Future applications of ADF
While this study uncovered benefits of ADF, the authors do not recommend it as something everybody should practice. They caution of other caveats, as well.
“We feel that it is a good regime, for some months, for obese people to cut weight, or it might even be a useful clinical intervention in diseases driven by inflammation,” says Prof. Frank Madeo, of the Institute of Molecular Biosciences at the University of Graz.
“However, further research is needed before it can be applied in daily practice.”
The researchers also warn against fasting while experiencing a viral infection. They recommend consulting a physician before undertaking a new diet, particularly one that is as strict as ADF.
WEDNESDAY, Aug. 28, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Tired of that spare tire?
Low-calorie diets work, but can be difficult to follow. A much simpler approach to losing weight might be to just stop eating every other day.
It’s called alternate-day fasting (ADF). As the name implies, you starve yourself by fasting one day and then you feast the next, and then repeat that pattern again and again.
In just the month-long trial of the ADF diet, study volunteers lost more than seven pounds.
That weight loss occurred even though people on the ADF diet ate about 30% more on the days they were allowed to eat than they normally would. Even with that extra food on feast days, the study volunteers still consumed fewer calories overall because of their fasting days, the researchers explained.
“This is an easy regimen — no calculation of calories — and the compliance was very high,” said the study’s senior author, Frank Madeo, a professor of molecular biology at Karl-Franzens University of Graz, in Austria.
Madeo said the researchers didn’t study how the ADF diet might compare to other types of intermittent-fasting diets or to a more typical lower-calorie diet. He said that the ADF study didn’t appear to have any impact on the immune system (at least in this short-term study), but that diets that simply rely on lower caloric intake may dampen immune system function.
Why does intermittent fasting work?
“The reason might be due to evolutionary biology,” Madeo suggested. “Our physiology is familiar with periods of starvation followed by food excesses.” It’s only in recent history that humans have had such an abundance of food that they need to restrict calories to maintain weight, he added.
Intermittent-fasting diets have gotten a lot of attention in the past few years. A number of celebrities, like Beyonce and Jimmy Kimmel, are rumored to use intermittent fasting to lose weight.
There are a number of variations for fasting besides ADF. Some people eat as usual for a set number of days per week, and then may fast or eat very little during the rest of the week. Some people restrict the number of hours they eat in the day, eating only from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., as an example.
I sprang into Spring excited to start running more and ended up hurting my knee. I took a month-long break from running and CrossFit classes to heal and also did a bunch of traveling, so I was eating like crap. All that added up to some weight gain, and my usual 16:8 intermittent fasting (IF) schedule wasn’t helping me drop those pounds. I decided to try alternate day fasting (ADF).
What Is Alternate Day Fasting?
Alternate day fasting (ADF), a form of intermittent fasting, involves fasting one day, eating the next, and repeating. If you need to, you are allowed to eat on fasting days, the recommended amount being 25 percent of your total calories. For example, if you’ve calculated that 1,800 calories a day is the amount you need to eat in order to lose weight, on a fasting day, you’d eat no more than 450 calories. On nonfasting days, you’d eat 1,800 calories.
Why I Tried ADF
First and foremost, I spoke with my doctor, the registered dietitian I was seeing, and even my gynecologist about how I wanted to try ADF to make sure this was safe for me. They knew I had been doing 16:8 IF for over a year, and I explained that now that I was in my 40s, I was having a hard time losing belly fat and was concerned because it’s the unsafe kind of visceral fat that can lead to cancer (which is in my family).
I also spoke to them about my issue with overeating, my sugar cravings, and belly bloat and how fasting longer in the past has helped with that. After having blood tests, they all said ADF was safe as long as I felt good and energetic and had no negative side effects. We decided that once I lost the belly fat, I’d go back to 16:8 — I mean, this didn’t sound fun at all, so it wouldn’t be something I’d want to continue.
What I Did
To complement my workout schedule and family life, I fasted Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays so I could have the weekends to enjoy eating with my family. With ADF, you’re supposed to fast all day long, and only consume about 500 calories on that day, but since I was still doing intense CrossFit workouts, I needed more fuel than that. So I did a modified version of ADF, fasting for 24 hours straight from 6 p.m until 6 p.m. the following day. I only drank water, sparkling mineral water, black coffee, and tea. My week of eating looked like this:
As you can see, I still did 16:8 intermittent fasting on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. I’m so used to not eating breakfast, and since I wasn’t hungry on those mornings, I didn’t eat. I ate very well on those nonfasting days, consuming probably 2,000 to 2,500 calories (I didn’t track it), and just made sure to stop eating around 6 p.m. so I could eat dinner at 6 p.m. the next day.
On my fasting days (Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays), I ate a huge dinner at 6 p.m., then at around 7:45 p.m., I’d eat a mini meal of nuts and fruit, a whole avocado with sunflower seeds, or homemade fruit and nut bars smeared with nut butter (gotta have those healthy fats!). On those fasting days, I didn’t really keep track but definitely ate around 1,400 calories. On Saturdays, I ate what and when I wanted.
What Surprised Me?
I wasn’t super hungry on those fasting days. I thought I’d be famished and hangry, but I wasn’t. I guess I was used to not eating breakfast, so on those fasting days, the only difference was that I was skipping lunch and afternoon snack. I was surprised that my hunger level always felt the same; it didn’t get more intense as the day progressed. By the second and third weeks, hunger wasn’t really an issue.
I felt energized and clear-headed, I had absolutely no bloating, I slept well, and I had less cravings for sugar and other crappy food. Since I was spending less time prepping, cooking, and cleaning up after meals, I had more time to do other things — I was more productive. It sounds insane, but I found I was actually looking forward to my fasting days because I felt so good, especially on Mondays, as a way to reset after a deliciously indulgent weekend.
Eating big meals, not counting calories or carbs (or cookies!), and having no restrictions on the foods I ate during my feeding windows was so freeing. I felt satisfied physically and emotionally, and even though I had specific times to eat and fast, it didn’t feel strict or hard to follow. Fasting for 24 hours also let me know what true hunger felt like, which helped prevent mindless eating on my nonfasting days.
Not eating for 24 hours sucked at first (obviously!). I was definitely hungry by the time dinner rolled around, and I was so excited that I could sit down to eat that I ended up overeating. It only took a few times to feel full and bloated, so by the second week, this wasn’t an issue.
Was I Able to Work Out?
I continued to do morning CrossFit classes or runs, and I felt great since I was fueled from dinner the night before. I was used to not eating before my workouts, so nothing felt different here. I still had tons of energy and endurance. The only times I felt crappy were if I didn’t eat enough protein and healthy fats the night before, but that had nothing to do with ADF.
Did I Lose Weight?
I not only saw the scale numbers drop an average of one pound a week, but I could see from the before and after photos that I definitely lost belly fat and my face looked thinner. I saw more muscle definition in my arms and upper back and just felt leaner and less puffy.
ADF wasn’t so bad! I liked how my schedule was consistent, I could still work out, I could eat every day, and I was still able to lose weight. I plan to do this for one more week, then I’ll go back to 16:8 and hopefully maintain what I’ve accomplished.
If you’re considering trying intermittent fasting, consult with your doctor and get the green light first, because IF isn’t safe for everyone. If you do get the OK, start off with an easier form of IF, like fasting for 12 hours a day (7 p.m. until 7 a.m. the next morning) to allow your body to adjust. ADF is a very advanced form of IF and may not be suitable for everyone. I have been doing intermittent fasting for well over a year and built up to alternate day fasting. It’s important to listen to your body and do what’s right, safe, and healthy for you.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Jenny Sugar
Alternate-day fasting associated with weight loss
(Reuters Health) – People who start fasting every other day may lose more weight than they would if they stuck to their usual eating habits, a small study suggests.
The 60 healthy people in the four-week study were not overweight. Researchers randomly assigned them to either stick to their usual eating habits or switch to alternate day fasting, with 12 hours of unrestricted food followed by 36 hours of no food.
With alternate-day fasting, people reduced weekly calories by 37% on average and shed an average of 3.5 kilograms (7.7 pounds). That compares with an average calorie reduction of 8.2% and an average weight loss of 0.2 kilograms (0.44 pounds) without this diet.
“We do not recommend this as a general nutrition scheme for everybody, because this is a harsh intervention of which we do not know the long-term effects,” said Frank Madeo, senior author of the study and a researcher at the University of Graz in Austria.
“We feel that it is a good regime for some months for obese people to cut weight,” Madeo said by email.
To ensure that people assigned to alternate day fasting didn’t eat on fasting days, researchers asked them to wear continuous glucose monitors. Spikes in blood glucose levels might mean people had a snack. Researchers also asked participants to fill in food diaries documenting their fasting days.
After 4 weeks of alternate day fasting, people had more lean muscle and less body fat, lower cholesterol levels and improved heart health – all things that can happen with a wide variety of exercise and nutrition programs.
To get a sense of the safety of alternate day fasting, researchers looked at a separate group of 30 people who had been eating this way for at least 6 months, comparing them to healthy people who had not been fasting.
They didn’t find any meaningful negative side effects.
One limitation of the study is that researchers didn’t test the diet in people who needed to lose weight. They also didn’t have any long-term safety data, and many health problems associated with extreme dieting like malnutrition and brittle bones can take much longer than 6 months to develop.
“The ‘starvation mode’ the body goes into during alternate day fasting may have some benefits,” said Susan Roberts, a senior scientist at the USDA Nutrition Center at Tufts University who wasn’t involved in the study.
For example, fasting can improve the body’s ability to use the hormone insulin to transform sugars into energy, a process that can help reduce blood sugar and prevent diabetes, Roberts said by email.
But there isn’t enough safety information about alternate day fasting to recommend it as a regular way of eating to maintain a healthy weight or for weight loss, Roberts said.
“My preferred option to be honest is not to recommend alternate day fasting per se but to use occasional daily fasting as a toolbox option that some people may find helpful,” Roberts said. “A small percentage of people wanting to lose weight may find it helpful, but we don’t yet know the long-term safety to recommend it with comfort.”
SOURCE: bit.ly/341MXUZ Cell Metabolism, online August 27, 2019.
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Intermittent Fasting and Alternate Day Fasting: Pros, Cons, and Guide
Fasting is a dieting trend with a recent surge in popularity.
There are several ways to go about fasting, each with their own unique variations – mostly related to durations of fasting/feeding periods.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
- Intermittent fasting involves one daily “feeding window,” typically 4-8 hours long.
What Is Every Other Day Fasting?
- Alternate day fasting means that you would not eat after every other day of normal eating or after every two days of eating normally.
Each approach operates around the central tenet of reducing total calorie intake to produce weight loss.
Is one approach better than the other? Is fasting better than regular dieting with daily calorie restriction? Should I fast if I also want to workout? Can I eat/drink anything during the fast – like coffee?
Where do I even start? Let’s dive in!
How to do Intermittent Fasting
Also sometimes referred to as, “lean gains.” First things, first, how do you do it?
When to eat when fasting
To get started, think about how each of your days goes and figure out when would be the best times to NOT eat.
In the US in particular, we like to eat all the time, so don’t think about when you want to eat – focus on the not. For most people, they skip breakfast and eat in the early or late afternoon.
However, if you are someone who wakes up starving, there’s no firm rule that says you absolutely cannot eat breakfast. Ipso facto, if you want to pig out before bed, that’s an option as well.
The early to late afternoon is typical because most people aren’t super hungry in the morning and can make it through the first few hours pretty easily, then they don’t want to be hungry when trying to get to sleep, so the feeding period ends a few hours prior to sleep.
To start off, just pick a few days out of the week and “test” it out.
Then go into the second week with a full plan. During at least the first few days, use a wider feeding window, like 8 hours.
This way, it is really only like half of the day that you have to endure the fast since you are sleeping for ~8 hours as well. Gradually, work that down to 7 hours, to 6 hours, 5 hours, then finally 4 hours or even 3 hours.
Some people stick with the 8-hour feeding window, and that can work just fine as well. When most people talk about this, they refer to it as a ratio that adds up to 24, such as 16:8 for 16-hour fasts or 20:4 for 20-hour fasts.
During the feeding period, you can eat “as much as you want.” However, this isn’t a scientific fact.
In reality, if you pack in 10,000 Calories of ice cream in a 4 hour period, you’re probably going to gain weight.
However, also, in reality, eating 8 and a half containers of Ben and Jerrys in 4 hours (that’s 1 container every 30 minutes) is not something you probably want to do.
Well, at least not more than once. Okay, twice. Per week.
How does intermittent fasting work?
One of the ways IF works is by reducing the total amount of food intake.
Because you can only eat so much before getting full and losing the desire to eat, the net result is reduced total weekly calorie intake.
However, instead of traditional diets with moderate calorie reduction over the course of an entire day, and you feeling like you’re hungry all day, intermittent fasting keeps you down right stuffed for a few hours each day.
For many, this improves compliance because they can stick to the feeding windows, whereas “grazing” on a moderate continuous calorie-restricted diet effectively ruins the diet. More on the “how it works” later!
How to do Alternate Day Fasting
Alternate day fasting is similar to intermittent fasting, except that instead of fasting daily, only 3-4 days per week are fasting days.
Hold on – don’t get too excited about this yet! The fasting days are a little more extreme, and you can’t pig out on normal days. However, you may not even want to (see HOW section!).
Alternate day fasting is what it sounds like. You fast on alternating days, so to get started, you again want to consider what days would be best for fasting.
If your office does bagel Fridays, and you love bagels, don’t pick Friday. If you and your family like to go out to eat on Saturdays, don’t pick Saturdays. If your mother-in-law has terrible cooking and is always hosting big family dinners on Wednesday, pick Wednesday!
The fasting days are not always total fasts. They can be just very-low-calorie days with one meal.
On fasting days, calories are between 0 and 800 for the whole day. Early on in your process, go ahead and eat the meal for a little nutrition and satiety.
When you start getting comfortable with fasting, try the whole day! You may find it liberating to not need to worry about eating at any time during the day. Likewise, if you’re not anticipating that one coveted meal, your mind is free to do other, more enjoyable or more productive things.
On your non-fasting days, consume a normal amount of food. Don’t go overboard and pig out like this is a 24-hour feeding window on an intermittent fasting diet.
You can’t do a lot of damage in 4 hours, but a 24-hour all-you-can-eat buffet will definitely eliminate any benefits of the fast if you try to eat it all.
What Types of Food Should I Eat on an Intermittent Fasting Diet or Alternate Day Fasting Diet?
The fasting evangelists like to say, “eat whatever you want!” However, from a scientific and clinical perspective, that strategy is far from optimal.
“Whatever dietary strategy or nutritional approach you subscribed to prior to implementing specific diet patterns, such as fasting (or even the opposite – eating every 3-4 hours or 6 small meals per day), you will probably want to continue eating those sorts of foods during your intermittent fasting or alternate-day fasting diet.”
It’s difficult to make too many big changes at one time. That’s not saying you can’t – if you think you can, more power to you.
When we’re considering what is optimal, this is going to be something with an emphasis on protein. High-carb or low-carb is still debatable, and perhaps even a moot point if you’re fasting (have I mentioned the HOW section?), but you can use either approach.
Protein and intermittent fasting
Okay, here’s the deal with protein. Unless it becomes impossible – which it pretty much doesn’t unless you’re fasting all day – you should be eating at least 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.
When it comes to weight change, the number one factor is total calorie intake; the number two factor is protein.
Higher protein diets consistently produce greater fat loss and with better muscle retention than low protein diets, ESPECIALLY when accompanied by calorie restriction.
Conversely, you cannot overeat on protein!
Consuming an extra 800 calories as protein in addition to maintenance level calories does not increase body weight or body fat. If fasting causes you to eat a low-protein diet, I hate to say it, you will probably lose weight, but you still won’t be happy with the way you look.
Why? If you lose muscle tissue at the same rate that you lose fat tissue, you maintain the same fat to muscle ratio. Thus, you’re left with the same proportion of fat sitting on top of your muscles and will still look fat – skinny fat if body weight is “normal.”
Think about the coveted abdominals. If fat is covering the abs, you can’t see them and don’t have a fit appearance.
Likewise, not having any abs to see in the first place gets you the same result. Even if you don’t want more muscle, you need protein to maintain the muscle that is already there!
One popular question about eating during a fast that is related. A little more detail on this in the HOW section, but what can you eat during a fast?
Technically, you’re not supposed to consume anything but water. A few things people get lenient on are BCAA/EAA supplements, black coffee, and ketone supplements or MCT/coconut oil.
Amino acid supplements all contain calories, but we (supplement companies) are not supposed to list them on supplement facts panels because they aren’t intact protein.
In fact, they contain the same amount of calories per gram as protein, which is 4. Technically, they do break a fast, but it’s pretty negligible in terms of weight loss. Discussed in the HOW section (are you sick of this yet?), this may be less negligible for other health or longevity benefits.
Coffee, MCT oil, and ketones all contain calories as well. Black coffee has ~10 calories, so it is quite negligible for all facets (coffee actually tends to improve long term health).
MCTs and ketones
MCTs/ketones “induce fasting” by increasing blood ketones, but this is artificial fasting. All of that being said, it’s not a big deal if you have a serving of BCAA, MCT, coffee, or ketones once during your fast.
Black coffee, I would even say you can drink liberally as your increase in metabolic rate from the caffeine will offset the calories coffee contains.
Diet drinks are mostly okay as well. Some artificial sweeteners can create an insulin or glucose spike, but it is minor. They are sucralose, saccharin, and aspartame. Some sugar alcohols have the same effect, particularly maltitol and sorbitol.
And then there always seems to be this question that goes hand-in-hand with fasting…
Should I go Keto?
Here’s the fact of the matter. You likely will drift into ketosis just by fasting, so no, you don’t need to consume a ketogenic diet on feeding days/windows.
If your goals are strictly weight loss and maintaining your fasting diet, keto-adaptation can make the fasting periods seem easier because your body is already willing and able to use fat (body fat) as fuel.
This results in less intense and/or less rapid onset of “OMG I’m starving” sensations. Consuming proteins and fats, instead of carbohydrates, also help improve your satiety all by themselves, so it may encourage you to eat less without you realizing it – something called autoregulation. If you get full sooner, you eat less.
Is it a Bad Idea to Fast if I am an Athlete?
The quick answer here is yes, but that’s not always true. Fasting strategically can actually benefit athletic performance.
Of course, if you’re fasting heading into a race or competition, you’re going to suck.
If you’re fasting for a while after or before a training session, you may actually enhance the adaptations to exercise depending on the type of exercise and several other factors.
One simplified concept is that fasting before a training session makes the training session more difficult.
If we know anything about training, it needs to be tough in order to be effective (there are exceptions, but generally speaking). You will undoubtedly feel your training become more difficult if you don’t have the energy (calories) to perform the exercise.
Now, there is a careful balance to be had here because yes, you may enhance some adaptations like mitochondrial biogenesis, fat loss, or efficiency with fasting, but you are also limiting your total exercise volume and intensity.
In broad strokes, you maintain the balance by doing your high-intensity exercise (sprints, some weight training) while fed and your lower-intensity work (general running, cycling, cardio, etc. or dynamic effort weight lifting) while fasting (fed is fine as well here).
This is basically the concept of one of our other articles on carbohydrate periodization, but in that case, it is more of a carbohydrate fast than a total fast. This may be something you can work into a competitive season or reserve for the offseason, but it is a legitimate strategy.
If you’re someone who is active, but not competitive, these types of things are less important. You may still exercise, but there’s no need to fret over timing of exercise relative to when you eat.
Also, like any other diet, fasting diets are MUCH MORE EFFECTIVE when accompanied by an exercise routine. Caps lock warranted – it is a big difference. Don’t forget your resistance training if you’re shooting for optimal!
If you’re somewhere in between competitive athlete and casual exerciser, it’s probably worth it for you to try and time your exercise and fasting appropriately.
In other words, if you consider exercise in the top 3 of your lifestyle priorities, follow the general rules laid out 2 paragraphs ago. You will be bummed if your runs get more difficult or can’t quite do as many reps as you could before.
How Does Intermittent And Alternate Day Fasting Work?
Magic! Just kidding. The HOW section is here at last! We kind of already gave it away, but here is the big reveal!
For weight reduction and fat loss, fasting works by reducing total calorie intake.
Yup, same as regular dieting. Are you disappointed? Don’t be! There are a few other things to talk about here. Calorie reduction is just the main function.
Fasting is basically equal to normal dieting for weight loss when total calorie intake is controlled in a laboratory setting.
Similarly, alternate day fasting and intermittent fasting are equally effective in proportion to the degree of calorie restriction. However, there are a few benefits unique to fasting. One of which is control.
Fasting helps teach the dieter self-control and reduces cravings to overeat (1).
If you’ve ever tried a traditional diet it usually feels like what you’re supposed to eat is never enough, so even when you eat, you want to eat more.
Conversely, on intermittent fasting or alternate-day fasting, you’re hungry for a while, then full, then hungry, then full.
By “teaching your body” that it is fine to be hungry for a little while because food is on its way soon, it becomes easier to maintain your sanity. This isn’t the technical way that it works, but this is what you will likely experience and observe.
As for the technical aspects… Fasting can improve glucose and insulin homeostasis.
The fasting period, and the repetition of those periods over time, “teaches the body” to have better control of blood glucose levels (2). This may be weakly associated with body weight, but it has greater implications for overall health and longevity.
This may be due to mild keto-adaptation and the ability to utilize ketones and fats as a fuel source. In a glucose dominated metabolism – such as with a normal or high carb diet with continuous but low-calorie intake – there is little need to “fat-adapt.”
However, when body fat is virtually the only fuel available, there is an improvement of mitochondrial health, mitochondrial biogenesis, sirtuin activation, circadian rhythm, respiratory chain function, cyclic AMP activity, inflammation status, and other interesting mechanisms that ultimately result in increased longevity (3, 4, 5, 6).
This is one of the reasons some perceive it to be okay to consume ketones or MCTs.
This probably is not a big deal, but if you’re really trying to fast, don’t eat them – just let your natural ketone production do its thing, it will happen even if you eat carbs during your feeding periods (starvation ketosis with fasting vs. nutritional ketosis with MCTs/keto diets).
For athletes, and in particular, endurance athletes, fasting has its own unique set of potential upsides.
This may be near entirely attributed to loss of body fat (which was 11% greater in the fasting group), but one study found fasting to significantly improve exercise economy.
One interesting bit is this improved economy occurred at several intensities ranging from 50% VO2Max to 70% VO2Max and at threshold. Energy expenditure during exercise was reduced after the fasting period by over 10%, and heart rate was reduced by over 7 beats per minute.
This was accompanied by reduced blood lactate and athletes’ perceived exertion (7). Take this with a grain of salt, though, as this study had over 30% calorie restriction but no control group.
For other athletes, we don’t currently know of any benefits other than fat loss and possibly improved endurance. However, this may come at the cost of lost muscle mass – just like “normal” calorie restriction.
To offset some of the loss, BCAA may be supplemented during a fast to increase anabolic signaling to offset the highly upregulated catabolic signals from fasting.
This may help maintain more muscle, which will be beneficial in the long run, without adding many calories.
Should I Incorporate Fasting into My Diet?
Is it a diet or just not eating?
- In most cases, fasting can’t hurt. If you start slow, it’s not all that difficult. The difficulty of resisting food during the day is one of just a few cons to fasting, and it gets easy fairly quickly.
- The second and only other drawback is the potential to compromise increasing lean muscle tissue. When energy status is low, the body doesn’t form new muscle tissues and may actually break some existing muscle tissue down. For the majority of endurance athletes, this is not a big deal.
However, for many, the pros far outweigh the cons.
Fasting, despite how hard it may sound if you’ve never tried it, ends up being more enjoyable than traditional dieting.
One of the biggest issues with weight loss diets is compliance – most give up early or cheat too much to be successful. With the defined parameters and simple rules of fasting, it’s easier to find success.
In addition, the extended fasting periods may confer some long-term benefits to health and lifespan.
For some, and under the right conditions, performance can be enhanced as well. If you’ve been thinking about giving it a shot, it’s probably best to just go ahead and give it a go!
Bhutani, S., Klempel, M. C., Kroeger, C. M., Aggour, E., Calvo, Y., Trepanowski, J. F., … & Varady, K. A. (2013). Effect of exercising while fasting on eating behaviors and food intake. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 10(1), 50.
Anson, R. M., Guo, Z., de Cabo, R., Iyun, T., Rios, M., Hagepanos, A., … & Mattson, M. P. (2003). Intermittent fasting dissociates beneficial effects of dietary restriction on glucose metabolism and neuronal resistance to injury from calorie intake. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 100(10), 6216-6220.
Chausse, B., Vieira-Lara, M. A., Sanchez, A. B., Medeiros, M. H., & Kowaltowski, A. J. (2015). Intermittent fasting results in tissue-specific changes in bioenergetics and redox state. PLoS One, 10(3), e0120413.
Nisoli, E., Tonello, C., Cardile, A., Cozzi, V., Bracale, R., Tedesco, L., … & Moncada, S. (2005). Calorie restriction promotes mitochondrial biogenesis by inducing the expression of eNOS. Science, 310(5746), 314-317.
Zhu, Y., Yan, Y., Gius, D. R., & Vassilopoulos, A. (2013). Metabolic regulation of Sirtuins upon fasting and the implication for cancer. Current opinion in oncology, 25(6), 630.
Longo, V. D., & Panda, S. (2016). Fasting, circadian rhythms, and time-restricted feeding in healthy lifespan. Cell metabolism, 23(6), 1048-1059.
Pons, V., Riera, J., Capó, X., Martorell, M., Sureda, A., Tur, J. A., … & Pons, A. (2018). Calorie restriction regime enhances physical performance of trained athletes. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 15(1), 12.
The alternate-day fasting thing is very popular right now. This gist of it is, basically, feast and famine. You starve one day, then feast the next. Proponents claim that alternate-day fasting will lead to weight loss, as well as a number of other benefits.
As a physician researcher, alternate-day fasting annoys and alarms me. I preach sensible intake of real foods as part of a lifelong approach to health. I also depend on scientific evidence to guide my counseling. So, I welcomed this yearlong study comparing alternate-day fasting with more common calorie restriction.
Some data on alternate-day fasting
Researchers divided 100 obese study volunteers (mostly African-American women, without other major medical issues) into three groups:
- one group followed an alternate fasting plan, which meant on the fasting day they would eat only 25% of their caloric needs and on the non-fasting day they’d eat a little bit more (125% of their caloric needs per day)
- a second group ate 75% of their caloric needs per day, every day
- a third group ate the way they typically did, for six months.
The two diet groups received counseling as well as all foods provided. This “weight loss” period was followed by another six months of “weight maintenance” and observations.
Both diet groups lost about 5.5% of their body weight (12 pounds) by month six, and both regained about 1.8% (four pounds) by month 12, and had significant improvements in blood pressure, blood sugar, insulin, and inflammatory proteins when compared to the people who ate their normal diets.
At the end of the 12 months, there was only one difference between the two diet groups: the alternate fasting day group had a significant elevation in low density lipoprotein (LDL), an increase of 11.5 mg/dl as compared to the daily calorie restriction group. LDL is known as a risk factor for heart attacks and strokes, so that’s not good.
And how would this alternate-day fasting work in real life?
This was a very small study to begin with, and, more importantly, there was a fairly significant dropout rate. Only 69% of subjects stayed to the end, which decreases the power of the findings. Twelve people quit the alternate-day fasting group, with almost half citing dissatisfaction with the diet. By comparison, 10 people quit the daily calorie restriction group, and none cited dissatisfaction with diet, only personal reasons and scheduling conflicts (eight quit the control group for the same reasons).
It’s not surprising that people disliked alternate-day fasting. Previous studies have reported that people felt uncomfortably hungry and irritable on fasting days, and that they didn’t get accustomed to these discomforts. Interestingly, in this study, over time people in the fasting group ate more on fasting days and less on feasting days. So basically by the end of the study they were eating similarly to the calorie restriction group.
The authors note more limitations. The control group did not receive food, counseling, or the same attention from the study personnel, potential factors that could affect their results, besides how they ate. And this study can’t tell us about the potential benefits for people who have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes because the study didn’t include individuals with those conditions
Usually at this point we say something like “more studies of this approach are needed,” but I won’t. There’s already plenty of evidence supporting a common-sense lifestyle approach to weight loss: ample intake of fruits and veggies, healthy fats, lean proteins, and plenty of exercise. From apples to zucchini, there are over a hundred “real” foods you can eat endlessly, enjoy, and yes, still lose weight.
I would advise against spending any more money on fad diet books. Or processed carbs, for that matter. Rather, hit the fresh or frozen produce aisle, or farmer’s market, and go crazy. Then go exercise. Do that, say, for the rest of your life, and you will be fine. No one got fat eating broccoli, folks. (That said, if you tend to binge or stress-eat sugary or starchy foods, and you feel like you can’t control your habit, talk to your doctor, because that is a separate issue to be addressed.)
Effect of Alternate-Day Fasting on Weight Loss, Weight Maintenance, and Cardioprotection Among Metabolically Healthy Obese Adults: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Internal Medicine, Published online May 1, 2017.
Alternate-day fasting in nonobese subjects: effects on body weight, body composition, and energy metabolism. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, January 2005.
This is exactly the way your plate will look during true alternate day fasting.
This study is not just about alternate day fasting aka ADF. It is about “true alternate day fasting” – What is that? Well, it’s not an official medical term, yet, but if you hadn’t read about “alternate day fasting” regimens at the SuppVersity before, you’d probably think that an “alternate day fast” would be a full fast as in “not eating anything” every 48h – like in “Monday, don’t eat; Tuesday, eat regularly, Wednesday, don’t eat; Thursday, eat regularly…” As of now, only a handful of rodent studies tested (quite successfully, though) these “true alternate fasting” regimen, while human studies often used reduced, but never no energy intakes on the fasting days.
That’s until now, though! Scientists from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus randomized decently healthy, but obese adults BMI 30 kg/m², age 18-55) to either (a) a zero-calorie ADF (n = 14) or chronically energy reduced (CR | -400 kcal/day, n = 12) diet for 8 weeks. Outcomes were measured at the end of the 8-week intervention and after 24 weeks of unsupervised follow-up.
Don’t forget to build muscle & strength. Fat loss alone is not enough to look good naked
Tri- or Multi-Set Training for Body Recomp.?
Alternating Squat & Blood Pressure – Productive?
Pre-Exhaustion Exhausts Your Growth Potential
Exercise not Intensity Variation for Max. Gains
Battle the Rope to Become Ripped and Strong
Study Indicates Cut the Volume Make the Gains! What is important to understand is that the study diets were not designed to produce comparable energy deficits. Now, at first sight, this may sound stupid, but eventually, this and the 24-week unsupervised follow-up make the study more practically relevant with respect to the actually relevant research question: Is ADF better than a standard-of-care weight loss diet (moderate daily CR)? The existing difference between the two diets which had identical macronutrient profiles (55% carbohydrate, 15% protein, and 30% fat) is described as follows:
- CR participants were provided a diet that produced a -28% (that was more than intended) deficit from estimated energy requirements (considered a standard-of-care weight loss diet at the time the study was designed).
- ADF participants were provided a diet but instructed to fast on alternate days. On fed days, they were provided a diet estimated to meet estimated energy requirements, which was supplemented with ad libitum (as much as they wanted) access to five to seven optional food modules (200 kcal each). ADF participants were permitted to eat as much as they wished on fed days, but were not encouraged to eat all food provided. On fast days, ADF participants were instructed to begin their fast after the evening meal the preceding day, and to consume only water, calorie-free beverages, and bouillon/stock cube soup.
The subjects’ individual daily energy and macronutrient intakes were calculated based on food return
using PROnutra software (Viocare Technologies Inc., Princeton NJ). Estimated energy deficits were calculated by subtracting estimated daily EI from estimated daily energy requirements.
Table 1: Mean daily energy and macronutrient intake on fast and fed days over 8 weeks in ADF (Catenacci. 2016); corresponding data for weeks 9-32 not available.
What about adherence? At least for the first 8 weeks, the subjects’ adherence was – within the limits of accuracy values from a non-metabolic-ward study have – excellent. 44.4 kcal/day, that’s almost nothing and not really that surprising. After all, studies have shown that, eventually, many people feel it’s easier to simply eat nothing than to eat in moderation or less than would be necessary to be satiated. Which leads me to my personal experience (N=1 + friends) that confirms: one of the biggest strengths of any intermittent fasting regimen (ADF or classic IF) is that they are easier to adhere to than regular diets with identical calorie refeeds; and thus eventually back to the study which found the previously hinted at benefits in form of maximal fat, minimal muscle loss and no changes in resting metabolic rate (RMR) only after the not as tightly controlled 24-week weeks of unsupervised follow-up – the real-world part of the study, as I would like to call it. When the scientists say that the subjects in the fasting (ADF) group “achieved a 376 kcal/day greater energy deficit” (Catenacci. 2016) we thus have every reason to be skeptical of the accuracy of this value. Providing a range of 200-500 kcal would probably be more “accurate” – and if we further assume that the real value is on the lower side, it’s also not surprising that “there were no significant between-group differences in change in weight (mean +/- SE; ADF 28.2 +/- 0.9 kg, CR 27.1 +/- 1.0 kg)” (ibid.)
Figure 1: Changes in body composition (%) during the initial tightly controlled 8 weeks and at the end of the subsequent “real-world” uncontrolled 24 weeks, i.e. at the end of the 32 weeks (Catenacci. 2016).
With that being said, who cares if the relevant real world results, i.e. the reduction in fat mass and the ill effects on lean mass after the 24 weeks of unsupervised follow-up speak a clear language: ADF kicks CR’s ass, or, in non-acronym English, if you simply don’t eat every other day, this is a highly effective real-world compatible weight loss tool, one that will have sign. better effects on your body composition (fat to lean mass ratio) than regular dieting where you reduce your energy intake by the same X% every day!
Figure 1: Absolute (see below for explanation) advantage in changes of body composition in the ADF group (left) and changes in resting metabolic rate (in kcal/d) in the controlled early and uncontrolled follow-up (Catenaccio. 2016).
And the best is yet to come: Not only did the subjects in the ADF group lose more fat and less muscle (the values in Figure 2, left are absolutes, i.e. the fat mass values are extra percent body fat loss, while the lean mass value is an extra percent gained in the latter 24 weeks, the “real-world” phase), the subjects in the ADF group also experienced sign. increases in BDNF, the brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which decreased in the CR group who thus could not longer benefit of its beneficial effects on brain health and its ability to regulation the subjects’ energy balance (Xu. 2003; Bariohay. 2005; An. 2015); and these effects on the energy balance, respectively the resting metabolic rate (RMR), show: Unlike the subjects in the CR group, the ADF subjects didn’t suffer the statistically significant RMR decrease of -111.6 +/- 36.9 kcal/day reduction we see in the CR group (ADF: -16.2 6 +/- 36.6 kcal/d).
Against that background, it is also not surprising that the study at hand suggests that ADF dieting is also less likely to cause / promote the dreaded yo-yo effect: With the total fat mass (%) declining and the lean mass (%) inclining only in the ADF, yet not in the CR group where the body composition kept deteriorating in the 24 weeks of unsupervised follow-up, I previously called “the real-world phase”.
Chronic Energy Deficits Make Athletes Fat – The Longer You Starve, the Fatter You Get. No Matter What the Calories-in-VS-Calories-Out Equ. Says – With true alternative day fasting (this is what the study at hand suggests but only future studies will prove), the dreaded decline in RMR and increase in body fat (in the study at hand that’s +1.2 kg total and +0.8kg trunk fat in the CR group) hopefully won’t happen.
The subjects lost only 2.4% body fat, why’s that so exciting if they started at >40%? Well, what is exciting is that even though the ADF diet was clearly not optimally designed (e.g. way too little protein on both fasting and feasting days), there was a fundamental difference in the diets’ effects on the subjects’ body composition during the “real-world test”, i.e. the 24 weeks of unsupervised. A difference that tells you a lot about which regimen is going to yield the better results for the majority of you and your clients: the alternative day fast.
Follow-up studies will now have to (a) identify the underlying mechanism that explains the ADF advantage (of which I personally believe that it is mostly an increased adherence to ADF | remember: the best diet won’t help you lose weight if you can’t adhere to it), and (b) modify the fasting regimen (e.g. protein modified fast with say 150g protein on the fasting day + the little fat and carbs that come from the protein source and optional veggies) and/or the macro-nutrient profiles on the feasting days and in the CR group from being simply stupid (namely 55% carbohydrate, 15% protein, and 30% fat) to a ratio that would promote fat loss and lean mass retention | Comment on Facebook! References:
- An, Juan Ji, et al. “Discrete BDNF neurons in the paraventricular hypothalamus control feeding and energy expenditure.” Cell metabolism 22.1 (2015): 175-188.
- Bariohay, Bruno, et al. “Brain-derived neurotrophic factor plays a role as an anorexigenic factor in the dorsal vagal complex.” Endocrinology 146.12 (2005): 5612-5620.
- Catenacci, Victoria A., et al. “A randomized pilot study comparing zero‐calorie alternate‐day fasting to daily caloric restriction in adults with obesity.” Obesity 24.9 (2016): 1874-1883.
- Xu, Baoji, et al. “Brain-derived neurotrophic factor regulates energy balance downstream of melanocortin-4 receptor.” Nature neuroscience 6.7 (2003): 736-742.
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In recent years, there has been a surge of studies looking at the biologic effects of different kinds of fasting diets in both animal models and humans. These diets include continuous calorie restriction, intermittent fasting, and alternate-day fasting (ADF).
Now, the largest study of its kind to look at the effects of strict ADF in healthy people has shown a number of health benefits. The findings were reported this week in the journal Cell Metabolism.
“Strict ADF is one of the most extreme diet interventions, and it has not been sufficiently investigated within randomized controlled trials,” says Frank Madeo, a professor of the Institute of Molecular Biosciences at Karl-Franzens University of Graz in Austria.
“In this study, we aimed to explore a broad range of parameters, from physiological to molecular measures. If ADF and other dietary interventions differ in their physiological and molecular effects, complex studies are needed in humans that compare different diets.”
In this randomized controlled trial, the participants alternated between 36 hours of zero-calorie intake with 12 hours of unlimited eating. 60 participants were enrolled for four weeks and randomized to either an ADF or an ad libitum control group, the latter of which could eat as much as they wanted. Participants in both groups were all of normal weight and were healthy. To ensure that the people in the ADF group did not take in any calories during fast days, they underwent continuous glucose monitoring. They were also asked to fill in diaries documenting their fasting days. Periodically, the participants had to go to a research facility, where they were instructed on whether to follow ADF or their usual diet, but other than that they lived their normal, everyday lives.
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Additionally, the researchers studied a group of 30 people who had already practiced more than six months of strict ADF previous to the study enrollment. They compared them to normal, healthy controls who had no fasting experience. For this ADF cohort, the main focus was to examine the long-term safety of the intervention.
“We found that on average, during the 12 hours when they could eat normally, the participants in the ADF group compensated for some of the calories lost from the fasting, but not all,” says Harald Sourij, a professor at the Medical University of Graz. “Overall, they reached a mean calorie restriction of about 35% and lost an average of 7.7 pounds (3.5 kilograms) during four weeks of ADF.”
The investigators found several biological effects in the ADF group:
- The participants had fluctuating downregulation of amino acids, in particular the amino acid methionine. Amino acid restriction has been shown to cause lifespan extension in rodents.
- They had continuous upregulation of ketone bodies, even on nonfasting days. This has been shown to promote health in various contexts.
- They had reduced levels of sICAM-1, a marker linked to age-associated disease and inflammation.
- They had lowered levels of triiodothyronine without impaired thyroid gland function. Previously, lowered levels of this hormone have been linked to longevity in humans.
- They had lowered levels of cholesterol.
- They had a reduction of lipotoxic android trunk fat mass—commonly known as belly fat.
“Why exactly calorie restriction and fasting induce so many beneficial effects is not fully clear yet,” says Thomas Pieber, head of endocrinology at the Medical University of Graz. “The elegant thing about strict ADF is that it doesn’t require participants to count their meals and calories: they just don’t eat anything for one day.”
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The investigators point to other benefits that ADF may have, compared with continuous calorie restriction. Previous studies have suggested calorie-restrictive diets can result in malnutrition and a decrease in immune function. In contrast, even after six months of ADF, the immune function in the participants appeared to be stable.
“The reason might be due to evolutionary biology,” Madeo explains. “Our physiology is familiar with periods of starvation followed by food excesses. It might also be that continuous low-calorie intake hinders the induction of the age-protective autophagy program, which is switched on during fasting breaks.”
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Despite the benefits, the researchers say they do not recommend ADF as a general nutrition scheme for everybody. “We feel that it is a good regime for some months for obese people to cut weight, or it might even be a useful clinical intervention in diseases driven by inflammation,” Madeo says. “However, further research is needed before it can be applied in daily practice. Additionally, we advise people not to fast if they have a viral infection, because the immune system probably requires immediate energy to fight viruses. Hence, it is important to consult a doctor before any harsh dietary regime is undertaken.”
In the future, the researchers plan to study the effects of strict ADF in different groups of people including people with obesity and diabetes. They also plan to compare ADF to other dietary interventions and to further explore the molecular mechanisms in animal models.
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What is Alternate-Day Fasting, and is it Even Safe? Here’s What Nutritionists Have to Say
Let’s get real for a sec: The thought of any kind of fasting diet sounds like the exact opposite of fun (and is likely making your stomach growl at the mere thought of it). And yet, it seems to be the weight-loss trend that just won’t go away (think: OMAD, and the 5:2 diet).
Now, there seems to be another type of intermittent fasting—alternate-day fasting—that’s been making headlines recently. And while the name definitely suggests some longer stretches of time without eating, it’s not totally clear what the diet’s all about. Here’s what experts have to say about alternate-day fasting—and (spoiler!) it’s definitely nothing good.
What is alternate-day fasting?
Alternate-day fasting (aka, ADF), is basically a type of intermittent fasting (IF)—a practice in which you alternate between periods of regular eating and fasting (not eating, or severely restricting calorie content). Depending on the IF program, you can fast for a few hours, or a full day or longer.
ADF, in particular, is considered one of the most extreme forms of intermittent fasting. In a new study published in the journal Cell Metabolism, ADF is defined as “strict 36-h periods without caloric intake (‘fast days’) followed by 12-h intervals with ad libitum food consumption (‘feast days’).”
Essentially, that boils down to not eating anything for 36-hours (basically a day and a half), and then eating whatever you want for the remaining 12 hours in the 48-hour cycle. “It’s eating one day and not eating on another day,” Keri Gans, a New York-based RDN, tells Health.
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Are there any benefits to alternate-day fasting?
So back to that new research in the journal Cell Metabolism: According to the results of a clinical trial which involved 90 participants, ADF can reduce caloric intake—as much as 37% on average. This means that the amount of calories consumed by participants overall went down, likely because they spent every other day fasting.
Because of this, Gans says that ADF could potentially help someone lose weight, in a very specific circumstance. “If someone was eating anything they wanted seven days a week and now they’re 50%” of the time, it could help them lose weight, Gans explains.
However, she’s quick to point out that there are other ways to lose weight—and that she definitely doesn’t recommend it for weight loss. Instead, Gans recommends that someone learn more about portion control, instead of focusing on deprivation, which is what the ADF diet emphasizes.
As far as other health benefits go, the study also showed that those who followed the plan for six months had lower levels of LDL cholesterol (often called the “bad” cholesterol, since it can lead to build up in your arteries, per the US National Library of Medicine) triglycerides (a type of fat that can increase your risk of heart disease, again, per the NLM) compared to those who ate normally.
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Is alternate-day fasting safe?
Let’s be clear: Even the study authors suggest that even healthy people should only try ADF through consultations with physicians. That means it’s definitely not something to be taken lightly.
“First, missing out on important nutrients your body needs—this is even for healthy individuals,” says Gans. The diet can result in a “total lack of energy,” Gans says, which is easy to understand given that your body needs food for energy. Gans likens ADF (or any fasting diet, really) to “trying to run a car without gasoline.” Dehydration is also a concern with ADF. According to Gans, we get a good amount of our daily water intake from food—therefore, refraining from food all day can lead to dehydration. Intermittent fasting overall can also lead to muscle loss, poor sleep, and rebound overeating.
Gans also explains that ADF (and more extreme forms of IF) can be especially harmful if you take medicine to manage an ongoing health problem. “If you’re taking medications, you should never not eat throughout the day,” Gans says, explaining that if you take medications on an empty stomach you can induce a headache or upset your gastrointestinal tract.
Safety aside, ADF can also interfere with your overall wellness—that means your mental and social health, too. Gans says it’s important to understand the consequences of adhering to an ADF diet, one of which is not being able to partake in social celebrations that involve food a whopping 50% of the time, not to mention the fact that a strict diet can force you to focus on your eating habits in an unhealthy way, which can be especially dangerous for those with a history of disordered eating.
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So, should you try alternate-day fasting?
Honestly, it doesn’t come highly recommended. “There’s so many other ways you can lose weight without starving,” Abby Langer, RD, a Toronto-based nutritionist tells Health.
Langer adds that, health risks aside, ADF is far too intense, which makes it even less sustainable—and therefore possibly harder to stick to for long-term, sustained weight loss, which should focus on simple adjustments you’re willing to live with for a long time, even after you hit your weight-loss goals.
Still, if you’re dying to try it out, it’s best to do so with a doctor’s guidance. But just be aware: ADF is likely not the long-term weight-loss solution you’re looking for, and there are other, healthier ways to lose weight (like eating a balanced diet filled with whole foods and exercising a bit) that are actually nutritionist-approved.
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Alternate Day Fasting – How To Do It Right To Get The Best Results
Alternate day fasting or ADF is one of the most popular diet weight loss programs today, not just among fitness buffs but also doctors and nutritionists who point out that it is safe. Of course, this is not the first weight loss program you’ve come across. So is there anything about this diet that sets it apart from the rest?
Since there are a lot of crash and weight loss diets around, one might be tempted to dismiss this. But a closer look will show that the ADF diet is different from the typical diet, which is why it is more effective.
What is Alternate Day Fasting Actually?
As the name suggests, ADF is an every other day diet wherein you fast every other day and eat whatever you like the next day. There are many versions of ADF but the most common is limiting consumption to 500 calories when you’re fasting. Apart from losing weight, ADF also reduces your risk of diabetes and heart disease.
And that is really all there is to the ADF diet. This alone goes to show how different it is from other weight loss programs. With other diets, you need to eat only specific types of foods and your calorie intake needs to be limited daily. However with the ADF that will not be necessary since you fast on alternate days.
How Alternate Fasting Works
As an intermittent fasting diet, ADF is as simple as it gets. As stated above you just need to fast one day (500 calories maximum) and eat whatever you like the next day. Fast again the next day, eat and so on.
ADF lets you drink whatever you want: ideally, it should be calorie-free such as tea, unsweetened tea, and water. Depending on the ADF diet you’re on, you may also be allowed on fasting days to consume 500 calories or 25% of your body’s energy needs.
To get results you need to go on this diet for at least a few weeks. It will only take a week or two before you notice the difference. You’re going to lose weight and burn calories, but as the following will show the ADF diet is not the same as other weight loss programs for several reasons.
ADF and Hunger
The biggest question that users ask about ADF – or any diet for that matter – is how hungry it’s going to make them feel. With ADF you won’t feel as hungry. In fact, many of those who go on this diet end up having reduced appetites. One reason for this is that ADF produces a favorable response from the leptin hormone which is involved in satiety, and the ghrelin hormone, which is for hunger.
The positive effect of ADF is not limited to people, however, as clinical studies on animals have proven it to be just as effective. What studies have indicated is that ADF reduces the effect of hunger hormones and boosts that of satiety more effectively than other diets.
ADF also does not generate the compensatory hunger, where one has the urge to eat after going on a restricted diet. What makes ADF even more practical for overweight people is how quickly it allows your body to adjust. For a lot of people, the hunger cravings on fasting day disappear after just a couple of weeks. Some of those who regularly go on diets also don’t need a lot of adjustment.
Bottom line: the ADF diet won’t starve you. A lot of the other weight loss programs suffer from this, which is why people have a hard time sticking with it. With ADF you probably won’t have any problem getting used to it.
Is It Safe?
Fasting every other day is safe as is the ADF diet. Because its approach is different from other diets, it doesn’t lead to food binges and has long term benefits. The alternate day approach is effective because it’s easier on your body.
The ADF diet is safe for most people including those who are overweight. However, you should consult a doctor if you have an eating disorder or other medical conditions. Pregnant women, children, and lactating mothers should not go on a diet without consulting a doctor.
So is ADF safe? Yes, this weight loss program is safer than most. Provided you don’t have any medical conditions or taking special medications, there won’t be any serious side effects.
Alternate Day Fasting Benefits
Alternate day fasting provides a lot of benefits, and you get the same benefits whether you eat small meals or at lunch and dinner. While there are several versions to choose from, the 500 calorie fasting day is the most suitable for most as it is easier than fasting for long periods.
The benefits of ADF do not end there, however, as ADF also preserves muscle mass. One of the most common problems with dieting is you end up losing both weight and mass. If you’re working out and building muscles, losing all that muscle tissue forces you to start over again.
Preserving muscle mass not only benefits bodybuilders but everyone in general because losing both fat and mass cuts down the calories you’re burning. If you’re on a diet you definitely do not want that.
What makes ADF efficient is it does not lead to thermogenesis or commonly known as starvation mode. Crash diets and most weight loss programs cause your resting metabolic rate to go down. The effect of thermogenesis is: when your body’s calorie intake is drastically reduced, your body begins limiting the calories burned.
When this happens, your body’s ability to lose weight is reduced and you start to feel weak. This is what makes ADF different from the rest because it doesn’t cause this drop. A head to head comparison will show that ADF is indeed more effective than regular diets.
If two people were to go on an 8-week diet, one on ADF and the other restricting their calorie intake, the resting metabolic rate difference will be significant. With ADF, the reduction is only 1%, whereas with calorie restrictive diets it is 6%. While the main benefit of ADF is weight loss, there are many other reasons why you may consider going on the ADF diet.
1. Reduces Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is the most common diabetes in America, and several health complications can arise from this condition. However, exercise and diet can help. ADF is especially useful when it comes to minimizing the many risk factors among those who are overweight. ADF is also most effective when it comes to reducing resistance to insulin and keeping insulin levels manageable.
Not does this reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, but it also means you’re less vulnerable to heart disease and cancer. ADF also cuts down insulin levels by up to 30% in prediabetic cases so the health benefits are real.
2. Reduces Heart Risk
ADF is also the ideal diet for those who are overweight, as they are the ones most vulnerable to heart attacks. Studies have indicated that men and women who are on the ADF lose weight more rapidly than those who are on other diets. Apart from lowering your risk for cardiovascular diseases, ADF also provides other benefits such as the following.
- Lowers blood pressure
- Reduces your waistline
- Cuts down triglycerides by up to 30%
- Lowers bad cholesterol levels.
A lesser known benefit of ADF is autophagy, where old cell components are recycled. Autophagy is an important process and helps your body fight off diseases like cancer, heart ailments, and various infections.
The positive effects of autophagy have been proven in both humans and animals. What research has shown is that autophagy also lowers the risk of tumors and aging. Autophagy also increases the lifespan of worm, yeasts, and flies, but more research is needed to determine if this is also the case with humans.
What has been proven in cell studies is that autophagy has properties that can revitalize your body. An ADF diet also stimulates changes that are good for your body and cut down oxidative damage.
These are just some of the more common benefits, and we have not even mentioned the other benefits such as increased mobility, flexibility, and greater self-confidence.
Alternate Day Fasting and Weight Loss
The every other day diet is very good for weight loss as you can lose up to 8% of your body weight in less than 3 months. The diet works for people of all ages but is especially potent among middle aged individuals. Not only do you lose weight, but ADF also reduces belly fat.
Another reason to try ADF is that it is very effective preserving muscle mass and calorie intake. Part of the reason is people find it easier to follow the diet since it does not require you to fast for prolonged periods.
The problem with prolonged fasting is as soon as your diet ends, you’ll feel the urge to go on an eating binge. With ADF there is no such craving because you can eat whatever you want every other day.
Weight loss is always more effective when you exercise, and that is the case with ADF. When you work out and go on an ADF diet you’ll double the number of pounds you lose. Even more impressive is you will lose up to six times the weight while working out alone.
What if Normal Weight People Follow This Diet?
The alternate day diet is for those who want or need to lose weight. For normal weight people, an ADF diet will reduce your risk of a heart attack and other diseases related to being overweight.
Normal weight people will also lose fat and reduce insulin, though there might be a few hunger pangs depending on what ADF version you use. If you don’t need to lose a lot of weight though, ADF may not be for you and you’ll want to just exercise and stick to a healthy diet.
If you opt for an ADF diet you will benefit in other ways. If you’re on ADF for 3 weeks and you will notice that it reduces fat mass and insulin levels as well. Someone on ADF for 12 weeks, on the other hand, reduces their risk of getting a heart attack.
Even so, ADF gives your body sufficient amount of calories so you lose weight. This might not seem possible given the fact that you only fast every other day, but it does work.
What to Drink and Eat
Alternate day fasting results will depend on the food and drinks you consume. The good thing about ADF is you can eat or drink whatever you want s long as it does not exceed the 500 calorie limit.
While drinks with calories are not frowned upon, it’s better to stick with no calorie drinks so you’ll be able to save those calories for the food. Speaking of food, you may eat 2 to 3 meals during fasting day or a single large meal, it really depends on you.
You can eat whatever you like, but because your calorie intake is only 500 your diet should consist of protein rich foods as it will fill you up quickly. Here some foods that you may want to consume during fasting days:
- Lean meat salad
- Soup and fruit
- Lean meat with vegetables
- Grilled fish
- Vegetables and eggs
There is also an assortment of recipes online with less than 500 calories which you can try out. Because you can eat anything you want it is tempting to binge on the days when you’re not fasting. But since you’re limited to only 500 calories, it is better to go with healthy snacks that will fill you up.
Alternate day fasting may seem like your typical diet, but it’s actually very effective. Compared to other diets which limit your calorie intake, the ADF is easier to follow because it doesn’t feel like you’re starving.