Consider Alternate Day Fasting For Weight Loss & Lower Disease Risk

Consider Alternate Day Fasting For Weight Loss & Lower Disease Risk

Dietitians love to tell this joke about fasting: It may or may uot extend your life, but it will certainly make your life feel longer.

It is true that exerting some restraint around food can be challenging at first, especially if we are in the habit of social eating. With a little practice, it can become automatic and the benefits are enormous.

The beauty of short-duration fasting (also known as intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating) is that there are many variations and you can mold it to your needs.  Naturally, some consistency is necessary, but when you take a closer look at intermittent fasting you realize that it’s really just a way of providing structure to your eating in a world that has gone completely off the rails.

Recent surveys report that people are literally eating all day long, rarely taking a break from snacking, grazing, and sipping on calorie-filled foods and beverages. Intermittent fasting is an alternative that can improve fat burning, reduce diabetes risk, lower inflammation, decrease heart attacks, and help you manage your weight.

Most people are attracted to intermittent fasting as a way of creating a calorie deficit so that they reduce body fat over time. Reviews show that a variety of intermittent fasting protocols (such as eating only during a 4 or 8-hour window daily) led to an average weight loss of up to a 1.5 pounds a week.

Possibly one of the most compelling fasting protocols is alternate day fasting (ADF) in which you eat only one small meal totaling about 500 calories on two non-consecutive days a week and then eat normally on the other five days of the week. In a 12-week ADF study, obese volunteers lost an average 3.2 kg of body fat more than a control group.

Another study found statistically equal amounts of weight loss in obese subjects who followed either an ADF protocol or a low-calorie diet for one year. Both groups lost a significant amount of weight with the ADF group dropping 6% of body weight and the low-calorie group losing 5.3%. The ADF protocol appeared to be harder to stick to than the low-calorie group with 38% of participants

This study highlighted one of the problems with ADF and weight loss in general: There were relatively high dropout rates in the entire study, with participants assigned to the fasting group having the lowest completion (38% dropped out compared to 29% in the low-calorie diet group). For people who don’t take to ADF, a time-restricted eating protocol may be more up your alley:

Try confining your eating to a 12-hour window to start with (such as 7 am to 7 pm or 10 am to 10 pm if you’re a late riser). Have 3 to 4 meals during that time frame. Research suggests that allowing at least 4 hours between meals is ideal for metabolic function because the liver is on a circadian rhythm of 4 hours.

Shorter eating windows can be used, however, for people who are new to healthy eating or struggle with hunger and appetite, the 12-hour eating window is recommended.


Davis, C., et al. Intermittent Energy Restriction and Weight Loss: A Systematic Review. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2016. 70, 292-299.

Tinsely, G., et al. Intermittent Fasting Programs and Their Effect on Body Composition: Implications for Weight Restricted Sports. Strength and Conditioning Research. 2015. 35(5), 60- 71.

Trepanowski, J., et al. Effect of Alternate-Day Fasting on Weight Loss, Weight Maintenance, and Cardioprotection Among Metabolically Healthy Obese Adults. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2017. 177(7):930-938.

Varady, K. Intermittent Fasting Vs. Daily Calorie Restriction: Which Diet Regimen is More Effective For Weight Loss? Obesity Reviews. 2011. 12, e593-e60