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Alternate Day Fasting: Good or Not?

Bri obtained her Masters in Nutrition Education from American University.

What is Alternate Day Fasting (ADF)?

Alternate Day Fasting (ADF) is a modified intermittent fasting diet. This diet is quite popular right now due to its claim to help lose weight fast. The premise of ADF is essentially feast and famine. (Tello, M., 2017) Individuals eat between 0 to 500 or 600 calories on their “fast” day, and eat ad libitum on their “feast” day. (Kalam, G., 2019) The most popular version of this diet is called “The Every Other Day Diet” by Dr. Krista Varady, who has conducted most of the studies on ADF. (Healthline, 2020) Some studies suggest that when individuals adhere to this diet they can decrease their body fat between 3 and 7 percent. (Kalam, F. et al, 2021) Studies also suggest that this diet can help lower metabolic disease risk and increase fullness. Weight loss following this diet typically contributes to the individual eating less calories than they were before. This deficit will eventually lead to weight loss. (Healthline, 2020)

Studies on ADF typically follow short-term intervention periods, no longer than 3 months. After 3 months, adherence to the diet begins to drop off. (Kalam, F. et al, 2021) Individuals who often try ADF usually do so in conjunction with low carbohydrate diets as well. This is also reflected in the literature. Studies typically follow an ADF low carbohydrate diet that consists of 30% carbohydrates, 35% protein, and 35% fat. (Kalam,F. et al, 2021)

Thoughts and Opinions

My primary concern for this diet is ensuring that individuals are getting the proper amount of nutrients in their diet. There is a general guideline in terms of what percentage of which macronutrients to consume; however, this does not mean that people understand what that means. During many studies (i.e. study by Kalam, F. et al), participants are provided nutritional counseling. My concern lies with individuals outside of studies that attempt this diet. Are they eating a variety of foods on their feast days? Are they consuming fruits and vegetables, or candy and ice cream? This diet provides a lot of freedom that can be interpreted widely. If a diet says you “can eat whatever you want” on a feast day, individuals will do just that.

The primary complaint during studies is that participants feel very hungry on their fasting days and also highly irritable. I believe this is what leads to the decrease in adherence around 3 months into the diet. Not only this, but many studies also see a significant drop in participants which can skew results of a study. Participants often cite dissatisfaction with the diet as the reason for dropout. (Tello, M., 2017) For this reason, I would say that this diet is not a diet anyone can sustain long-term, much less for a lifetime. To put it in non-professional terms: it seems completely miserable.

Trying ADF (Opinion and Thoughts)

Personally, I have never attempted any type of intermittent fasting or ADF, but I have many friends who have. Having a background in exercise science and the military, I have seen many individuals attempt diets so they can “make weight” or “perform better”, using intermittent fasting as one of these diets. I had many friends and acquaintances complain about how tired they get on these diets or how irritable they feel towards other people. On one specific occasion a friend said he felt he was starving himself just so he could make a specific weight. Understanding the research and seeing many people I know attempt this diet, I know for sure it is something I never will try. I will also never recommend anyone to try it unless prescribed by their physician and are under supervision.

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