Losing weight is a difficult task, but the rewards of losing those excess pounds are considerable. Not only does shedding extra body fat build stronger esteem, but it also reduces the risk of developing a variety of diseases from heart disease to cancer.
If only it weren’t so hard for people to do! Could there be an easier way? A recent study showed that a new type of diet plan – an alternate day fasting diet – could be the answer for people who have problems sticking to a conventional diet.
Is this type of diet a good choice?
What is an Alternate Day Fasting Diet?
Alternate day fasting diets are nothing new. They involve eating three normal, calorie appropriate meals one day followed by a day where calories are cut by seventy-five percent.
Alternate day fasting plans may vary in how many calories are allowed on the fasting day. This pattern of alternating fasting days with non-fasting days is repeated until the desired amount of weight is lost.
True Alternate Day Fasting – The Study
Sixteen obese, otherwise healthy, participants followed an alternate day fasting diet for ten weeks. During the first two weeks, they ate a normal diet, but during the third through the sixth week, they followed an alternate-day fasting diet. On non-fasting days, they ate normally, while on fasting days they ate only a single meal – a lunch where calories were cut to a quarter of calculated energy requirements.
During the last four weeks, they made their own food selections. The results? At the end of the study, the researchers found that the participants had lost two to six times as much weight as would have been expected.
They had anticipated a weight loss of only around five pounds, but some subjects actually lost as much as thirty.
Why Was the Alternate Day Fast Successful?
After some adjustment to the change in eating habits, most of the study participants were able to adapt to the alternate day eating plan and didn’t feel deprived.
Being able to eat normally on alternate days could have its advantages since the body doesn’t sense starvation and slow down which often happens when calories are continuously restricted.
Keep in mind that this was a small study and it’s unclear whether this weight loss plan would work for everyone. Longer-term follow-up is also needed to see if the lost weight is regained over time.
The Alternate Day Fasting Diet: The Bottom Line?
The alternate day fasting results of this small study were impressive, but this type of diet plan has its drawbacks.
For long-term success, it’s important to establish healthy eating habits and it’s questionable as to whether such a drastic calorie reduction every other day is healthy. How long can such an eating plan be sustained?
The study also doesn’t mention what types of foods were eaten and whether the diet was nutritionally balanced. A diet of this nature could conceivably lead to nutritional deficiencies unless foods were properly selected.
Despite the impressive weight loss these participants experienced, it’s better, in the long run, to eat a consistently healthy diet every day and combine it with regular exercise. This is a tried and true formula that may not be as immediately gratifying but is more likely to lead to long-term, sustainable success.
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I’m a family practice physician with a strong interest in preventive medicine. I trained at the Medical College of Virginia where I earned a medical degree (M.D.) and a master’s degree after graduating with a double bachelor’s degree in biology and psychology.
My philosophy? Strive to be fit and fabulous at any age! I show people how to do that through my writing.
Read more about me here.