Intermittent fasting is gaining popularity with every passing day due to the immense benefits it promises. There are several kinds of intermittent fasting (IF) routines, and one has to choose the most conducive schedule to get the maximum results. Alternate day fasting is one such promising IF program with many advantages.
Alternate day fasting, or ADF, involves cycling between days of fasting and normal eating. For example, you eat on day one, fast on day two, and eat normally again on day three. The dieter will repeat this schedule for the desired period.
ADF is a simple fasting plan that is easy to follow and helps you lose weight. The best thing about an alternate-day fast is that you can tailor it according to your lifestyle.
- Alternate day fasting (ADF) is a type of intermittent fasting that involves cycling between days of fasting and normal eating.
- ADF is easy to follow and can be tailored to fit a person’s lifestyle. One example of an ADF schedule is to fast on Monday, eat normally on Tuesday, fast on Wednesday, and so on.
- On non-fasting days, a person can eat whatever they want, but it is recommended to follow a balanced diet. On fasting days, it is recommended to consume 500 calories spread out throughout the day.
- To help manage hunger pangs during ADF, a person can stay hydrated, plan their meals, and modify their fasting days by eating 500 calories. It is also important to listen to the body’s signals and find activities to keep oneself distracted.
How to Practice Alternate Day Fasting?
Here’s what an alternate-day fasting regimen generally looks like:
- Monday: Fast
- Tuesday: Eat normally
- Wednesday: Fast
- Thursday: Eat normally
- Friday: Fast
- Saturday: Eat normally
- Sunday: Fast
This schedule deprives your body of food for longer on a single stretch than more popular IF plans like 16/8.
Here’s a golden tip for tipping the scales in your favor. Consume 500 calories on the fast day of an ADF plan, but do not consume it in a single sitting. Space them out, so your body doesn’t stop producing ketones.
Without any food, you would feel light-headed, hungry, and groggy. Consuming 500 calories on fast days allows you to reap all the advantages of ADF without going too hard on yourself.
Meal Plan and Fasting Schedule For Alternate Day Fasting
Here’s how you can structure and plan your meals while following alternate-day fasting:
On non-fasting days, you can eat when and what you want. However, it is advisable to follow a balanced diet as it will keep you satiated for longer, give you energy, and help you avoid binge eating. Furthermore, you can have hydrating drinks like unsweetened tea, water, and coffee on fasting days.
Plans your meals depending on what works for you. You could eat more early in the morning or late at night and experiment with three big meals or more frequent smaller meals.
Here is a sample ADF meal plan:
- 5-8 PM: Coffee or tea as per your preference
- 10 PM (breakfast): Sandwich or a veggie wrap with a fruit
- 2 PM (lunch): Veggies, brown rice, and chicken
- 4 PM (snack): Nuts
- 6 PM (dinner): Wheat Pasta, soup, and salad
- 8 PM (snack): Almonds and a chocolate bar
How to Deal with Hunger Pangs During Alternate Day Fasting
It is tough to go one day without food. However, these tips can help you sail through your day:
- Drink a lot of water to keep yourself hydrated
- Keep yourself distracted by watching a movie, playing a game, reading a book, or whatever works for you
- Eat high-quality, nutritious food during the eating days
You might experience hunger pangs and encounter mental fog, irritation, a growling stomach, or lightheadedness during the first week of alternate-day fasting. Therefore, you must be determined, focused, and balanced in your approach when practicing alternate-day fasting.
Tips To Conquer Alternate Day Fasting
Here is how to master ADF:
1. Understand Your Body Signals
Listen to your body. Feeling irritated, hungry, and tired for a prolonged period will ensure you do not stick to the ADF diet. You could distract yourself with different activities if you experience any or all of these symptoms.
2. Plan Your Meals
Meal planning can help you manage your days better. Plus, it can keep you from binging on junk food when you are hungry.
3. Stay Hydrated
It is vital to keep yourself hydrated while intermittent fasting. Drinking water at regular intervals is hard, but you can always keep a bottle at hand and sip from it regularly. You should drink at least a gallon of water each day.
4. Modification of Fasting Days
Eat 500 calories on fasting days to make the ADF regimen manageable. It helps your body cope with hunger.
5. Know Why You Are Doing It
You need to be clear about your goals for alternate-day fasting. If you can chart your purpose, alternate-day fasting can be a great experience and help you stay motivated.
The best thing about alternate-day fasting is that it can be tailored to suit your needs. What you drink and eat, how your meals are structured, your hunger management tricks, and your success metrics are entirely up to you.
6. Enjoy Your Food
It is not enough to have filling and nutritious foods; you also need to enjoy the food. It can be challenging to stay in the right mindset when you’re on an advanced diet plan, like alternate-day fasting. Eat the food you love to maintain sanity.
Health Benefits of Alternate-Day Fasting
Besides weight loss, alternate-day fasting has the following benefits:
1. Lowers Diabetes Risk
Fasting reduces fasting insulin and glucose, improving insulin resistance, sensitivity, and HBA1c (sugar in your hemoglobin). It reduces your risk of contracting type 2 diabetes. 
2. Reduced Risk of Heart Disease
Fasting can help drop LDL and triglyceride levels, thus improving your lipid profile and cholesterol levels. Alternate-day fasting will improve heart health by regulating blood pressure, reducing cardiovascular risk, and reducing inflammation. 
3. Weight Loss
Alternate-day fasting helps in weight loss by reducing calorie intake. 
Is It Safe To Practice Alternate Day Fasting?
Alternate-day fasting is safe, but it might not suit everyone. Here, the fasting window is 36 hours, which includes two nights and an entire day in between, and is much longer than a conventional 24-hour fast, which only runs for a day and night. Here are the people who should avoid ADF:
- Folks in the underweight BMI category
- Individuals dealing with anemia
- People with eating disorders, diabetes, or thyroid issues
- People on medications, like those affecting blood pressure and blood glucose levels
- Breastfeeding, pregnant or conceiving women
- Highly physically active people
- Those under 18 years of age, especially teenagers
Calorie restrictions might impede the menstrual cycle in women. Because of their sensitivity to energy changes, women will have a higher stress response while starting an alternate-day intermittent fasting program. Women can begin with the 12/12 fasting schedule and gradually work toward alternate-day intermittent fasting.
As alternate-day fasting is a rigorous practice, it will demand a lot from you. If you feel unsure about the extended fasting window, you can start small with other, less challenging intermittent fasting methods.
Drawbacks of Alternate Day Fasting
Alternate-day fasting comes with a few riders you must watch out for:
1. Tendency To Overeat
Immediately after a fast day, you might feel super hungry and eat a lot of food. It is expected in the ADF beginner stages and will take some time to get used to. You will eventually know what and how much to eat.
2. Forgetting That Food Is Enjoyable
In your quest to lose weight with alternate-day intermittent fasting, do not forget to eat wholesome food and enjoy your meals.
Explore your options with alternate day fasting; if you feel it is not for you, there are many other, less intense intermittent fasting plans.
3. Grumpy, Sleepy, Dopey Feelings
You will likely have reduced energy levels due to severely cutting down on calories during your ADF fast days. It will also affect your thinking ability and mood. But not to worry; these are temporary feelings and will pass.
Alternate Day Fasting vs. Other Intermittent Fasting Plans
Let’s look at how ADF stacks up against other intermittent fasting schedules.
1. ADF vs. Intermittent Fasting 16/8
On the 16/8 IF plan, the 16-hour fast is followed by an eight-hour feeding window. The fasting period is much shorter than ADF. You do not need to count calories in most IF fasting plans.
The 16/8 IF plan is an excellent program to enter the intermittent fasting lifestyle. If it feels too hard, try 12/12 or 14/10 intermittent fasting.
2. Warrior Diet vs. ADF Fasting
The warrior diet is characterized by twenty hours of fasting with a four-hour eating window in a day. It is a difficult-to-follow diet plan as you must eat all your calories in a four-hour window. Nonetheless, the fasting time on this program is shorter than ADF.
3. 5:2 Fasting vs. ADF Fasting
With this intermittent fasting method, you eat normally five days a week and fast for the remaining two. Furthermore, you should not fast for two consecutive days. It is similar to the ADF plan, but eating food every day except for two days a week could better fit your lifestyle.
4. One Meal A Day vs. ADF fasting
On the one-meal-a-day plan, you must fast for 23 hours and consume all your calories in the final hour of the day. The OMAD is more time restrictive than the alternate-day fasting plan.
5. Water Fasting vs. Alternate Day Fasting
Water fasting is an extreme form of fasting where you consume only water in a 24-72 hour window. It is not a sustainable fasting plan, and you could easily fall ill. Health experts generally do not recommend water fasting.
How long should I do ADF?
Your alternate-day fasting goals will determine the length of the plan. After you accomplish your goals, switch to a less severe fasting plan like the 14/10 to keep harvesting the benefits of fasting.
How much weight loss is possible with ADF?
Depending on your activity levels and calorie deficit, you can expect a 4–8% body weight reduction over 6–8 weeks of fasting.
What will happen if I stop ADF?
If you return to your previous eating habits, you will most likely lose the benefits you obtained from ADF. Switch to a healthier lifestyle to retain your progress.
The ADF plan has been effective for its practitioners. Many people consider it a lifestyle choice instead of a diet they must follow.
If you like the inherent simplicity of eating one day and fasting the next and can make do with 500 calories on your fasting days, give alternate-day intermittent fasting a shot. It will help you lose weight and achieve your health goals. On the other hand, if you find it difficult, there are many easier fasting plans out there for you.
- Sathananthan, Matheni, et al. “Six And 12 Weeks of Caloric Restriction Increases Β Cell Function and Lowers Fasting and Postprandial Glucose Concentrations in People With Type 2 Diabetes.” OUP Academic, 1 Sept. 2015.
- “Impact of Intermittent Fasting on the Lipid Profile: Assessment Associated With Diet and Weight Loss – PubMed.” PubMed, 1 Apr. 2018.
- J. van Hees, Anneke M., et al. “Fasting and Postprandial Remnant-Like Particle Cholesterol Concentrations in Obese Participants Are Associated With Plasma Triglycerides, Insulin Resistance, and Body Fat Distribution.” OUP Academic, 1 Dec.