Sticking to a diet can be difficult because day after day of counting every calorie and depriving yourself of your favorite foods is arduous.
You might be able to stick to your diet for a few days or even a few weeks, but then find that temptation strikes, and you fall off track.
Fortunately, a unique dieting strategy enables you to lose weight while still regularly allowing yourself to indulge and enjoy your favorite foods.
The alternate-day fasting plan alternates periods of fasting with periods during which you eat at will. Alternate-day fasting, in particular, is a useful weight-loss strategy that also offers a variety of health benefits.
What is Alternate Day Fasting?
Siobhan Harris of WebMD has explained that alternate-day fasting is a diet pattern in which you eat whatever you want for a day and then limit yourself to about 500 calories the following day, alternating this pattern over the course of your diet.(1)
Harris summarized the results of recent research about alternate-day fasting and reported that as long as you adhere to your fasting days, you can mostly eat whatever you want without consequence on the alternate days.
What the Research Says about Alternate-Day Fasting
Recent research has shown that alternate-day fasting is effective.
Researchers for a 2016 publication of the journal Obesity compared the impact of alternate day fasting to that of a standard calorie restricted diet on a group of young and middle-aged adults who met weight criteria for obesity.(2)
After eight weeks, individuals following the alternate-day fasting diet lost an average of 18 pounds, whereas those following the low-calorie diet lost almost 16 pounds, on average, suggesting that alternate-day fasting is as effective as, if not slightly more effective than, standard low-calorie plans.
The individuals in the alternate day fasting group consumed an average of 2,566 calories on their non-fasting days, so they were indeed able to enjoy food throughout the diet.
Earlier research has also found alternate-day fasting to be beneficial for weight loss.
In 2015, researchers for Nutrition Reviews analyzed the results of multiple studies concerned with the relationship between alternate-day fasting and weight loss.(3)
They found that in studies lasting between three and 12 weeks, individuals who utilized alternate-day fasting diet plans lost an average of 3 to 7 percent of their body weight and lost between 6.6 and 12.1 pounds of fat.
You can rest assured that alternate day fasting is an effective weight-loss strategy, based on the available research.
Effects on Metabolism
If you are concerned that alternate-day fasting might slow your metabolism, the results of a study in a 2005 edition of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition will give you peace of mind.
Participants in this study fasted every other day for 22 days, and study results indicated that their resting metabolic rates did not significantly change as a result of the alternate-day fasting.(4)
In fact, on day 22, the subjects experienced an increase in fat burn, equivalent to at least 15 grams per day.
It appears that alternate-day fasting can induce weight loss without a negative impact on the metabolism.
Comparisons to Low-Calorie Diets
The research suggests that alternate day fasting might be more effective than following a low-calorie diet.
A 2016 report in Obesity Science & Practice analyzed the results of 28 different studies and found that low-calorie diets and alternate day fasting tended to produce similar levels of total weight loss, but alternate day fasting, on the whole, resulted in a more significant loss of body fat.(5)
It appears that alternate-day fasting might burn fat more effectively than calorie-restriction.
Impact on Health
In addition to promoting fat burn and overall weight loss, alternate-day fasting has health benefits.
In a review of three different studies, researchers for a 2015 edition of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that two of the studies indicated that alternate day fasting reduced the risk of heart disease and diabetes.(6)
Alternate-day fasting can reduce your disease risk and help you to meet your weight-loss goals.
This dieting strategy allows you to reward yourself for fasting for a day by eating whatever you choose the following day.
Because this diet plan gives you plenty of days to indulge and eat what you want, it might be easier to stick to it.
You can research the Internet for specific alternate day fasting strategies.
Some alternate-day fasting programs involve eating at will on “feast” days and consuming only zero-calorie beverages such as water and unsweetened tea on fasting days, whereas other programs might permit consuming up to 500 calories worth of low-calorie foods such as fruits and vegetables on fasting days.
Choose a plan that works for you, and alternate-day fasting can help you to stick to your diet and meet your weight-loss and fitness goals without depriving yourself.