Are you struggling with losing weight and staying healthy? Do you need a safe and natural way to keep your digestive system in check and watch your food portion?

Are you tired of taking pills for weight loss and watching your condition revert almost immediately after you stop using said pills? Are you looking for a more natural and sustainable fix to your health challenges?

Maybe you skip a meal here and there in the bid to lose weight, stay fit, and finally sit without supporting your waist, but you’ve hardly witnessed any positive changes. Don’t you think it’s about time to change that?

Here’s a quick fix for you: Try Intermittent fasting (IF). A surefire way to build the healthy lifestyle of your dreams is through intermittent fasting.

Several types of intermittent fasting exist. They are:

  • Overnight fasting,
  • choose-your-day fasting,
  • time-restricted fasting,
  • whole-day fasting,
  • alternate-day fasting
  • and more!

Because of its suggestive health benefits, intermittent fasting is on the rise in the media, entertainment news, and basically, anywhere you can find people. So, how can you decipher the facts from the stream of opinions littered on the internet?

We’ve got you covered.

In this article, we’ll be dissecting, explaining, and dishing out all you need to know about alternate-day fasting. You’ll finally learn how to lead a healthier lifestyle and smash your health goals with this form of intermittent fasting.

Before we get to all that, what is alternate-day fasting? Only one way to find out: keep reading!

What is Alternate-Day Fasting?

We all know fasting as not consuming food for however long or short we want, but scientists define fasting as abstaining from food for long enough, to raise the body’s level of a compound called ketone. Ketones are produced when your liver breaks down fats for your cells to use as an alternate energy source.

On to the topic of the day, the term alternate-day fasting (ADF), also known as every-other-day dieting, is self-explanatory and already gives you an idea of what this form of intermittent fasting is all about. Alternate-day fasting requires you to fast every other day (i.e. switch or alternate between fasting and non-fasting days).

But, there’s more to this than merely fasting. During your fast days, you do not necessarily starve yourself throughout the day and pat yourself on the back.

Instead, you should consume approximately 25% (approximately 500 kcal) of your usual intake, and on your feast days, you can enjoy your healthy food as usual. With alternate-day fasting, you get to flip your metabolic switch. So, instead of storing excess glucose in your liver, you begin to burn off fat for fuel.

This flip gives rise to weight loss and a wealth of other health benefits you’ll learn about soon. It’s not enough to just know about alternate-day fasting. You need to acquaint yourself with schedules, diets, meal plans, and other aspects of this lifestyle that can help you enjoy the process and reap the benefits available.

Alternate-Day Fasting Schedule

It can be a bit challenging to find an alternate-day fasting schedule that fits into your personal setting and lifestyle. The good news is, there are a ton of alternate-day fasting schedules to choose from.

For each schedule, take note of the number of calories to intake and the effect they have on the risk of chronic health conditions, like heart disease. Here are a couple of schedules you can look into:

Alternate-Day Fasting

ADF is a modified form of fasting that alternates between four calorie-restriction days (500 for women and 600 men) and three “feast days.” A simple analogy for this schedule is Fast, Feast, Fast, Feast, and so on.

Schedule

Sunday: Fast day (500 calories for women and 600 calories for men)

Monday: Healthy feast day

Tuesday: Fast day (500 calories for women and 600 calories for men)

Wednesday: Healthy feast day

Thursday: Fast day (500 calories for women and 600 calories for men)

Friday: Healthy feast day

Saturday: Fast day (500 calories for women and 600 calories for men)

5:2 Fast

The 5:2 diet is a popular version of alternate-day fasting that involves five “feast days” and two calorie-restricting days (500 calories for women and 600 calories for men). You can always decide which two days would be your preferred fasting days.

Schedule

Sunday: Healthy feast day

Monday: Fast (500 calories for women and 600 calories for men)

Tuesday: Healthy feast day

Wednesday: Healthy feast day

Thursday: Healthy feast day

Friday: Fast (500 calories for women and 600 calories for men)

Saturday: Healthy feast day

Eat-Stop-Eat

This form of alternate-day fasting requires you fast for 24 hours either once or twice a week. You're probably wondering how to fast for a day. You may decide to fast from 7 a.m. one day to 7 a.m. the next day. Make sure to eat a wholesome meal prior to your fast as well as another healthy meal upon it’s conclusion.

Schedule

Sunday: Healthy feast day

Monday: Fast from 7 a.m. to 7 a.m. Tuesday

Tuesday: Healthy feast day

Wednesday: Fast from 7 a.m. to 7 a.m. Thursday

Thursday: Healthy feast day

Friday: Healthy feast day

Saturday: Healthy feast day

36:12 Fast

36:12 fast is the extreme sport of all other forms of alternate-day fasting. It is sometimes called zero-calorie alternate-day fasting. It requires switching off between 36 hours of zero-calorie intake and 12 hours of unbarred healthy feasting.

In simple terms, you can eat breakfast when you wake up, then enjoy your healthy feast within a 12-hour window. After, you’ll fast for 36 hours till the next feasting window comes. Extreme don’t you think?

Schedule

Sunday: Healthy feast between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Monday: Fast day

Tuesday: Healthy feast between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Wednesday: Fast day

Thursday: Healthy feast between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Friday: Fast day

Saturday: Healthy feast between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Keep in mind, you can always tweak these schedules at any point to fit into your personal lifestyle.

Alternate-Day Fasting Diets

After looking at the alternate-day fasting schedules, your mind (or stomach) might wander to your fridge to absentmindedly calculate how many calories you have in there, and how well to pair them up for fast and feast days. Well, wonder no more. Here are a few pointers for you to try out:

Alternate-day Fasting

Food and Drink Ideas on Feast Days

During these days, you can eat whatever you want, but be mindful of your calorie intake. Always make sure to reduce your major calories. For drinks, you can enjoy protein drinks or shakes and water. Protein drinks are very filling as well as nourishing. They can be an adequate and convenient source of fuel, especially when loaded with sweeteners or sugar.

Food and Drink Ideas on Fast Days

In addition to following the 500 for women, and 600 for men “calorie rule,” you can enjoy as many zero-calorie beverages as you wish. During fast days, aim for 50 grams of protein and low-calorie vegetables to help you feel full for longer. One example of this combination is a salad with beans or grilled chicken.

5:2 Fast

Food and Drink Ideas on Feast Days

Ensure you’re staying healthy with your choices to enjoy greater benefits from this fast. Healthy means lean proteins, fewer processed foods, whole grains, fruits, and veggies! Remember, always eat your colors, and do not forget to stay hydrated with water.

Food and Drink Ideas on Fast Days

For this method, your best bet would be to choose high-protein foods that can sustain you for longer. You definitely can not go wrong with trying to stick to the 50-gram-per-day-rule. Ensure you drink tons of water, so you can remain hydrated.

Eat-Stop-Eat

Food and Drink Ideas on Feast Days

As usual, you can eat whatever you’d like to eat, but remember, healthy choices should be your priority. Do not forget your best friend when it comes to staying hydrated - water.

Food and Drink Ideas on Fast Days

For this method, you can only have two options: Water and zero-calorie beverages. Luckily, you can have as much as you want!

36:12 Fast

Food and Drink Ideas on Feast Days

You know the drill: There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to your food choices on feast days. But, the healthier your choices, the greater your benefits. So, choose health and hydration as always!

Food and Drink Ideas on Fast Days

To keep dehydration at bay, drink plenty of water. You can also enjoy as many zero-calorie beverages as you’d like, but that’s all you can have. You can also aim for 64 ounces (8 glasses) of water during fast days. You can also add some fat, like MCT oil, to your coffee.

Benefits of Fasting Every Other Day

Just like you enjoy the benefits of having your teeth healthy and strong when you brush with fluoride toothpaste, all other healthy activities have peculiar benefits you receive from them. With that being said, alternate-day fasting is not an exception.

Quickly, let’s go over the benefits of fasting every other day:

Benefit #1: Reduces Inflammation

Fasting for over 24 hours may reduce oxidative stress in cells, which can reduce inflammation. Inflammation is a beneficial immune response. If acute, it helps the body ward off diseases and fights infection. However, chronic inflammation can cause destruction to the body, leading to a variety of unwanted conditions. It is suggested that inflammation may be a result of people eating too much and too often, which may potentially be curbed by intermittent fasting.

Benefit #2: Heightens Brain Functions

Alternate-day fasting is a surefire way to get those brain juices pumping. Alternate-day fasting may even delay aging, which is considered a major risk factor for neurological diseases. The function of alternate-day fasting in reducing inflammation may also be beneficial to the brain.

It keeps the brain healthy and reduces the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases. ADF may also facilitate communication within your brain by promoting cell repair and formation, which helps stimulate the proper functioning of the brain.

Benefit #3: Heals Digestion Issues

Beyond its benefits to your brain, ADF may also improve gut health. It can help positively balance the population of beneficial gut flora that keeps metabolic syndrome at bay.

During a fast, you give your gut a break from several energy-intensive works, like assimilating and digesting food. It also reduces postprandial endotoxemia, which has been shown to increase the risk for insulin resistance and obesity. That’s how fasting can shave a few inches off your waist.

Benefit #4: Boosts the Immunity

Autophagy is a cell surveillance or security system that helps boost your immune system and alternate-day fasting activates this cellular process. In addition, studies have shown that fasting may improve multiple sclerosis symptoms in mice. When patients with rheumatoid arthritis participated in the Ramadan fast, they usually reported they felt better after.

Benefit #5: Aids Weight Loss

A study found that participants who consumed less than 35% of calories lost about 4.5% of their body weight after engaging in the 36:12 fast diet for over 4 weeks. One way to get the most out of your fasting, in terms of weight loss, is to combine it with regular exercise. According to research, when you combine endurance exercises with alternate-day fasting, you could lose more weight than fasting alone.

It's about time you keep that waistline in check with a bit of ADF and exercise.

Alternate-Day Fasting Results

A small study of 60 healthy participants randomly either engaged in alternate-day fasting (36:12 Fast) or consuming daily regimen of food as usual. The ADF participants who reduced their weekly calories by an average of 37% lost around 7.7 lb (3.5 kg), while the other group reduced their calories by an average of 8.2% and lost around 0.44 lb (0.2 kg).

The difference is clear. With alternate-day fasting, you can lose more weight than you normally would if you stick to your usual eating habits. ADF can also reduce your calorie intake, according to a May 2020 study. Although older studies suggest that ADF can reduce hunger cues over time, it's not well-supported. According to a 2017 study, fasting every other day does not necessarily improve overall health success more than calorie-restriction. So, a less restrictive form of intermittent fasting may still be able to get work done as ADF would.

There are also reports where people combined ADF with endurance exercises, like weight-lifting, and experienced successful results. The trick is to find what works best for you and to stick with it.

Alternate-Day Fasting and Hunger: Is It Safe For You?

Alternate-day fasting is too good to be true, right? It sounds like every dieter's dream: You eat anything of your choice today, you fast the next day, and repeat.

It's expected that you would wonder, is this even safe? How can I deal with hunger? We have your answers ready.

For starters, ADF is not recommended for children, those who are pregnant or lactating, people with rare disorders like Gilbert Syndrome, and people with eating disorders.

For most people, alternate-day fasting is one of the safest and natural ways to lose weight and stay healthy for the short-term. But in the long-term, ADF may not be beneficial, especially for long term weight loss.

Here's why. It's nearly impossible to stick to a 500 or 600-calorie diet for a day. Even a well-balanced, hearty breakfast would set you way above that mark. Alternate-day fasting leads to a huge calorie deficit that causes a reduction in your energy levels and can push your body over the edge into "starvation mode." Your body, in a bid to sustain itself, will then hold on to more calories, which slows your weight loss.

Fasting also creates bouts of hunger that may push you to overeat. Hunger, fatigue, shaky hands, lightheadedness, and other symptoms of chronic food restriction are common symptoms of alternate-day fasting. If you do not want to constantly remain in a state of hunger, you may want to modify your ADF diet or steer clear completely.

Another thing is, eating as you will every other day is not beneficial for your heart and body health, especially if you don't follow the healthy route. We suggest you do not throw major lifestyle changes at your body and expect it to adjust in a hurry. Make those small changes - with the help of a qualified physician - over the long-term and you'll be able to sustain it.

Our Final Thoughts

After exploring all the pros and cons of alternate-day fasting, you may still be interested in trying this naturalistic diet regimen out.

“When you do any type of fast, part of the benefits come from mildly stressing your body; just like when you lift weights, you damage the muscle to make it stronger. With fasting, you are stressing out the body, but it gets stronger in response,” explains Robin Foroutan, a registered dietitian nutritionist specializing in holistic healing modalities, integrative medicine, and functional medicine.

So, if you are already under a lot of stress, you may not see any benefits from fasting every other day. With alternate-day fasting, you can expect to be well on your way towards reaching your health goals. It is relatively easy to stick to, unlike the traditional calorie-restricted diets that may feel almost impossible and draining to keep up with. So, have fun experimenting with the different ADF diets until you settle with one that works best for you. As always, be sure to consult with a medical professional or nutritionist before altering your dietary regimen to be sure it is right for you.

With that being said, keep chasing those health goals! Are you ready to make the switch to alternate-day fasting?