Alternate-Day Fasting Diet
Alternate-day fasting is another version of the intermittent fasting diet, which sits alongside the 5:2 diet and the time-restricted fasting diets. The alternate-day fasting diet does exactly what it says on the tin – you fast every other day.
The very simplest version of the diet is to eat normally one day, and eat nothing the next, and repeat. While easy to understand, it’s much more difficult to follow. It certainly works, by reducing your calorie intake over the course of the week to promote weight loss.
However, having no calories at all every other day can be a mental struggle and it’s not as a sustainable in the long run. If you’re looking for a quick fix, then it’s a good place to start, but if your looking for a lifestyle change, you may wish to try to a modified version instead.
Alternate-Day Fasting Options
That’s why different variations of the alternate-day method have cropped up – ones that are far easier to sustain and therefore help with long-term weight loss. Most of the modified versions of the diet combine elements of other versions of intermittent-fasting plans.
Many alternate-day diets will swap between normal calorie days and low-calorie days. This is essentially the same as the 5:2 diet, but with more days of lower-calorie eating. You can either stick to a strict pattern of every other day, regardless of what day it falls on, or you can opt for a 4:3 week, so you end up with two higher-calorie days in a row.
If you’re not following a modified version of the plan, then your fast days are more like true fasts, though it’s still advisable to have calorie-free drinks, while avoiding actual food. This can sometimes be used as a starting point for an alternate-day diet to kick start your weight loss, before settling into a more sustainable low-calorie fasting day plan.
Just as with the 5:2 diet, fasting days are normally restricted to just 500 calories. You may also wish to combine this with a time-restricted fasting pattern, eating your calorie allowance within an eating window of time, so that your body is allowed to enter a true fasted state for longer on your alternate days.
The alternate-day diet has proved popular thanks to its simplicity. Also, it means that you never feel deprived as you can indulge every other day. However, it is worth bearing in mind that it’s not wise to binge on feast day as this will first mean that you’re still taking in a lot of calories from unhealthy sources. Secondly, you’re also not addressing any underlying issues that you might have with food choices. It is always better to consider your overall meals and make sure that they are balanced on feast days, even if you’re not actually counting the calories.
Pros and Cons of Alternate-Day Fasting
It can be difficult to pick which is the right version of intermittent fasting for you. With time-restricted fasting patterns, your body adapts to learn when it’s eating window is and when it’s in fast mode. As it’s the same every day, it can work optimally within the fasting window. With the 5:2 diet, you don’t feel deprived or limited, as you are only having to cope with two days a week where you eat less and still have great results.
Alternate-day dieting isn’t easy, at least at first. You may suffer more with hunger than on the other plans. This is because you are eating a restricted number of calories on a more regular basis. Because each day is different, it is harder for your body to adapt to the pattern. This is why they can be harder to stick to on a long-term basis and why more people fall off the plan.
The overwhelming hunger can lead to overeating on alternate days to compensate for under eating on fasting days. It takes a lot of willpower to stick to the strict diet program of every-other-day eating and fasting. Also, you might find it harder to fit in regular exercise on the alternate-day diet if you’re struggling with low energy. While there are significant benefits to fasted exercise, it does depend on how well you adapt to the demands of alternate-day fasts.
Another point to consider if whether you need to take regular medication that has to be taken with food – if this is the case then speak to your GP before undergoing any form of regular fasting pattern. There are, however, plenty of positives to an alternate-day fasting diet. For example, you will definitely find that you lose weight if you stick to the plan.
You are massively reducing your calorie intake, so even if you make no other changes other than to introduce lower-calorie days on alternate days, you will be eating less and therefore losing weight. You might find the concept of alternate-day fasting easier to cope with mentally than more traditional diets that reduce calories every day. Knowing that you can still eat treats and larger meals every other day can help give you the willpower to get through the low-calorie days.
It can also be a good diet for those who are quite sociable. You can still go out for dinner with friends, order what you want and have a drink if you like – just plan it for an eating day. You know that the next day you know you will only be having 500 calories, which means that you can enjoy your meal out knowing that you’re not ruining your diet.
Meal Prep And Planning
Having a set routine like alternate-day fasting can be helpful in planning and preparing meals, which is often a key element to a successful diet. One of the main reasons why we fail at a diet plan is not having the right, healthy foods to hand – instead opting for quick access junk food to fill the gap. These are usually high in calories and often undo any calorie deficit built up on fasting days.
At the start of each week, try marking out which are your eating days and which are your fasting day. You can then plan what you are going to eat on each day. For every eating day, try and plan in three main meals and two snacks, which are balanced with lots of healthy options.
One of the most popular styles of eating for those looking to lose weight and be in optimal health is the Mediterranean diet. It is considered very healthy, even by NHS in the UK. It is a diet that is rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish and healthy fats, like olive oil. It includes some meat and dairy, but not as much as the standard westernised diets.
By following the Mediterranean diet on your eating days, you can reap the benefits, such as a healthier heart, improved brain health and increased energy levels. For your fasting days, still try and stick to the principles of a Mediterranean diet, but make sure that your meals are calorie counted to stick within your dietary restrictions.
By planning all your meals in advance, you can ensure that your fridge and cupboards are stocked up with foods that will help you succeed in your dieting goals. It also helps if you set a budget for your food shopping, so that you can ensure that the alternate-day diet works for you financially as well as physically.
Keep track of your food’s calories
One of the key parts to the alternate-day fasting diet, at least the modified version, is to actually know what 500 calories looks like. It can add up very quickly. For example, a tablespoon of oil when cooking can add over 100 calories! By the time you add sugar to your tea, or dressing to your salad, you could very easily go over the calorie limit, and defeat the point of following a fasting plan. Therefore, you need to get clued-up on counting your calories!
The easiest way to start is to use a calorie tracker. These let you input all of your food for the day and tell you how much you’ve eaten using its large database of over 11 million foods. You can see how many calories are in certain foods, but it’s all part of the learning journey. If a food you want isn’t in the database, you will need to get used to reading packaging to determine how many calories are in each product.
You will also need to pay attention to the serving size as the calories on the front of a food packet can be misleading – it might be per portion, with six portions available, but those portion might be tiny. Apps such as MyFitnessPal will help you track your calorie intake.
The alternate-day fasting diet looks to be a successful diet plan if followed correctly. It’s a strict diet but it has many benefits and it will bring you great weight loss results. It’s a flexible diet and unlike some diets where you have to diet every day and watch your calorie intake every day, the alternate-day diet lets you feast every second day so you can still enjoy your favourite meals on a regular basis.
The alternate-day diet yields great weight loss results as you are only consuming 500 calories per day every other day. If you put that into account and fasting only 3 days per week for Males/females you will lose 4,500 calories per week. That’s approximately 1-2 pounds per week! As with any new diet I highly recommend you see your GP first.
If you have been successful with the alternate-day diet or any other diet please leave a comment as I would love to read your story on your weight loss journey. Thank you.
Shawn Founder Of Weight Loss Pro