Anyone been successful with alternate day fasting?

(25 Posts)
moosemama Thu 30-Jul-15 22:07:25

I tried 5:2 a few months back and couldn't get into the swing of it, plus eating the calorie allowance on fast days seemed to make me hungrier.

I did some more research and decided to try Krista Varady's every other day fasting instead. Started adf-ing last week and will be doing fast number six tomorrow.

I find not thinking about food at all, rather than obsessing about what I can have within the calorie allowance much easier to cope with and not eating at all seems less likely to kickstart hunger. (KV does say this is ok, although harder to maintain long-term for some.) I am having black coffee and water, but nothing else from after dinner on my eating day, till breakfast not the next day, but the next, iyswim. So essentially around a 36 hour fast each time. I've also found I'm eating a lot better on my eating days, because I am just not craving sugar and rubbish like I usually do. Not eating at all really really seems to make me notice all the times I would have eaten something just out of boredom, as a stress reaction or as a comfort, which is making me taking a long-hard look at my eating patterns.

The first three fasts were difficult due to tiredness (I was dead on my feet by tea time) both on the fasting and following day, but they've gradually got easier and yesterday's was a breeze.

I'm also interval training, with a bit of hiit thrown in on my eating days. (I know some really serious trainers prefer working out when fasting, but I am simply not fit enough to cope with that and feel it would be a massive step too far for m.)

I'm not weighing or measuring at the moment, because I want this to be primarily about improving my health and taking control of my bad eating habits. I will weigh-in eventually, probably at monthly intervals, as I am curious to know what sort of weight loss occurs, if any.

Last weigh-in about a week before I startedI was 13st 11lbs (at 5'7").

I'm thinking I will stick with this as long as I can, hopefully till I am at a healthy weight then reduce the number of fasts per week for maintenance.

Has anyone else had any success with adf and if so, how long did you keep doing it for?

Breadandwine Thu 30-Jul-15 22:29:40

Hi moose

Here's a thread on the Fast Day forum by a collection of ADFers.

Good that you've found something that works for you! smile

moosemama Thu 30-Jul-15 22:53:21

Thank you so much for that link Bread, I've been searching the net trying to find some online support, but hadn't come across anything specifically ADF related.

BigChocFrenzy Fri 31-Jul-15 12:23:35

MooseMama I would recommend that you have the 500 cals on fast days: Varady's human trials found this was the best system to both maximise fat loss and minimise loss of lean body mass, important for health and maintenance.

Also, there have been reports from some woman exercisers who have had problems with ADF and / or 16:8, due to being too tough.
They combined zero-cal FDs with intense exercise and after some months had problems such as periods stopping, feeling exhausted and unwell.
Women appear more sensitive to a prolonged tough fasting regime than men.

It is best to keep to what has been found safe in extensive human trials, i.e. Varady's classic ADF with 500-cal FDs.

moosemama Fri 31-Jul-15 19:55:02

Thanks for the info BigChoc and for your concern. I really appreciate you raising the issues as they are valid points to consider, but I have done a lot of reading into and around this and am happy to go ahead based on what I've read. I almost didn't do it after reading one particular blogger's analysis of the studies, for the very reasons you mention, but on investigating still further I found the bloggers viewpoint was somewhat biased and the situations that the women that had problems were in very different from my own and I was then happy to give it a go.

Varady has responded to people asking her directly via FB if it's ok to forgo the 500 cals and would it impair the process and she said it's fine, the only reason not to do it is that most people can't sustain it for long periods, as it's too restrictive. She made no mention of it adversely affecting the outcomes or being contraindicated in any way at all. As for minimising lean tissue loss, that's why I am doing resistance training on my eating days, which is something Varady also recommends. I wasn't going to go ahead with the zero cal fast unless Varady advocated it and she does.

With regard to the reports of problems with women fasting. Everything I've read indicates that the women that had problems were already fit and healthy, therefore had no weight to lose, hence their bodies being unable to sustain on such a large deficit, especially when coupled with intensive exercise. The other, anectdotal reports of women suffering have been via paelo/bodybuilding sites, where women are extremely restrictive on their eating days, as well as lifting heavy and working out on fast days. Again, those women have been fit and at very lean weights to start with, but trying to reduce their % body fat to extremely low levels. Having read some of their stories, I am not surprised they made themselves ill, they were pushing their bodies way too hard and I do agree that at that level, 0 cal adf and serious exercise affects men and women very differently.

I was also concerned about reports of lowered glucose tolerance in women. Further reading revealed the reduction in tolerance was only for the first post-fast meal and again, the subjects in the study were already at a healthy weight during the study.

Given that I have a ... ahem, rather large store of adipose tissue blush available for my body to consume, from what I've read, the issues some women have had with adf are unlikely to apply to me until such time as I reach a healthy, lean weight - which is a long way off at the moment. blush I don't intend to attempt carrying on with 0 cal adf once I am at a healthy bmi, but will switch to a different plan for maintenance. I have lost 4 stone before via mfp logging and exercise/JM shredding and am hoping that once I reach my goal, having confronted my poor eating habits, I will be able to switch to healthy eating and exercise with a much lower fasting frequency. I certainly don't intend to be doing this forever.

That said, I do have serious concerns for some people I've seen online that do this and are seemingly obsessive about their calorie intake on eating days. Varady said to eat normally and enjoy the occasional treat, which is sensible and what I've been doing (Healthy breakfast, decent lunch and evening meal with the odd treat thrown in occasionally. No calorie restriction, as I know roughly what I should be eating from previous weightloss via mfp logging, but trying to make healthier choices.). I have seen people online exclaiming that they have to do a double fast because they ate too much on their feeding day - eg, in one case saying they were going to do a two day fast because they'd eaten pizza. I find that extremely worrying and so dangerous in several, obvious, ways.

I really appreciate your input, am grateful for your concern and have genuine respect for your considerable knowledge of the subject. I promise, if at any time I feel it's not being beneficial and/or I am suffering by doing it, I will stop and have a re-think. As it is, at the moment it seems to be working for me and I am feeling much, much better than fine. Today is my 6th fast and I've, busy all day with no sign of tiredness at all. I am just starting to get tired now, which is reasonable and listening to my body means I am sitting down, feet-up, mnetting while dh is busy in the kitchen with the dcs.

milkandmarmite Fri 31-Jul-15 20:00:42

So, the idea is you eat normally on one day and eat nothing the next and so on? Do you have any idea how much you eat on your eating days? Interested in this approach..

moosemama Fri 31-Jul-15 20:25:34

You aren't supposed to calorie count on your eating days, just eat sensibly and allow yourself the occasional treat, but I know from logging before that what I'm eating is around my TDEE, which of course would differ for each person.

I would really recommend reading thoroughly around the subject before jumping in Krista Varady's FB page is a good place to start as is the website for her book. The majority of people are doing the alternate day fasts with a 500 cal intake on their fast days, but there are quite a few doing it with 0 cal fasts too.

BigChocFrenzy Fri 31-Jul-15 22:36:23

The 25% TDEE as optimal comes from one of Varady's human studies and is recommended, to retain lean mass, in her book. The study measured %fat loss and % lean mass loss at different %TDEE.
I've seen her FB saying zero cal is acceptable, but her own trial says not the best.

She says on FB that 90% of people don't need to count cals on NFDs for ADF. Implies that 10% of people may need to. A few on our threads had to, before they could lose on ADF.

I agree that someone with a lot of weight to lose does not have to worry so much about cals on FDs or NFDs with ADF or 5:2.
So long as you stop at warning signs that the WOE has become too much, especially periods stopping, you should be fine.

My concern is mostly with others reading these threads, because some women are so desperate to lose weight that they go to extremes with fasting and damage their health. Someone on another fasting thread has worried us all with a prolonged zero-cal fast, only ended after 4 days of vomitting.

Serious warning to everyone: don't fast if you have past or current EDs.
Varady, Mosely and others warn that noone with EDs should attempt fasting. Too dangerous for them.

After reading many, many research papers, I am a great fan of IF (Intermittent Fasting).
I was one of those who debunked the blanket warnings about fasting for women.

However, the science suggests - not proves - that women may be more sensitive, not just lean exercisers or those with EDs:

IF requires intermittent stressing that is sufficiently high to make the body resilient, but not so high that it damages health. Also sufficient recovery periods in between.

Stress is cumulative, so someone with stress from family, sleepless nights, job, emotional problems etc may find IF is one stress too many.

Another concern with zero cal FDs alternating with unlimited NFDs is that it is not recommended longterm. At some stage you need to learn moderate eating, for maintenance. Some people have done ADF for years, but with 25-50% TDEE on FDs. Varady suggests 3 x 1000-cal FDs for maintenance.

Anyway, good luck and just review, say every month, how well you feel.

BigChocFrenzy Fri 31-Jul-15 23:01:43

btw, all human trials check participants thoroughly before starting, to exclude anyone with health issues or EDs - including frequent bingeing.
Also, being in a study tends to change how people behave.
This is why Mosely and Varady both originally said eat what you want on NFDs.

After seeing in rl what some people eat, Mosely now has TDEE as a guideline for 5:2, because some people were eating back the deficit of 2 FDs.

In Varady's studies, her subjects ate 80-120% TDEE without counting, which gave a high weekly calorie deficit on ADF. As I mentioned, after thousands did her diet in rl, Varady now implies maybe 10% of people need to watch NFDs.

Our 5:2 threads found with ADF that e.g. a short woman of TDEE 1500 could easily average 2500+ cals on NFDs, hence needing to mfp on NFDs to lose.

moosemama Fri 31-Jul-15 23:15:51

I do understand, hence me advising the other poster to read about it thoroughly before even considering trying it out. Absolutely agree that no-one with any sort of disordered eating or ED should attempt IF. I also don't think any IF should be touted as a quick and easy way to lose weight. If done right, weightloss should be gradual, just as with any other weightloss programme. I do want and need to lose weight, but it's the other health benefits that interest me most.

I have read that evidence to date seems to suggest women are more sensitive to fasting than men, but haven't seen any evidence that it's damaging for obese women to adf. All the current advice seems to be that it's beneficial, in spite of them being more sensitive to the process. As I currently fall in that category I have weighed up the pros and cons and still want to give it a try. While I'm willing to accept women may be more sensitive - and it's therefore essential for us to listen to our bodies more than ever when IF-ing - I do think it's going to be those that are already lean and/or have EDs that are likely to have serious problems such as periods stopping and extreme exhaustion etc and we've already ascertained that they shouldn't be IF-ing in the first place.

Also agree about it being an additional stress. I am very fortunately in quite a good place at the moment <<touchwood<<, which is why I have the space, time and ability to do it. I doubt I could do it if I was working full time or had serious stress from other areas of my life.

I don't see my NFD as unlimited, just not so restrictive as they would be on a 'normal' weightloss programme. I can see how someone reading 'unlimited' could easliy be tempted to over-eat, but for me personally, it would feel wrong and I'm already finding I question myself when I find myself in the kitchen about to snack on a NFD, then choosing not to. This is based on me noticing when I felt like I wanted to eat during FD's on my first week and realising it's rarely because I'm genuinely hungry. So it's actually helping me address my bad eating habits, which is something I really need to do and I'm hoping will carry over into maintenance. That's just me personally though - I am so ready to do this, I have both the headspace and space in my life in general and it's the right time for me.

I've seen Varady's suggestion of 3 x 1,000 cal days for maintenance and will consider that and other options nearer the time. Ultimately I'd like to maintain using sensible eating and exercise, but given the obvious health benefits of IF in one form or another, I will probably do more research and find a plan that works for me and includes at least some IF.

I have no intention of being on it for years. I will carry on reading whatever I can around the subject and try to stay on top of any new studies and if any clear evidence does come up that this way of IF-ing is likely to be harmful to me personally I will stop. I will also continue listening to my body and whether or not it is happy for me to carry on, if that changes, again, it will be time to stop. If I don't have a reason to stop before, I will do so when I reach a healthy bmi.

Again, thank you for your input. It's really useful to be able to discuss it with people that know what they're talking about, which is really why I posted in the first place. flowers

moosemama Fri 31-Jul-15 23:20:38

Cross-posted. Thanks again.

Having mfp'd my way to a 4 stone loss a few years back and logging for a while this year to remind myself of the reality of portion size etc, I'm fairly sure I am eating within a reasonable range of my TDEE. I know from last time how easy it can be to go over without realising it if you're not logging. I'm not weighing in until I've been doing it for a month, but if I haven't lost at all or the loss is a lot less than expected, I will start mfp-ing again to see if I can work out why.

moosemama Sat 03-Oct-15 13:08:25

Just thought I'd update my experiences with adf.

I have, as of today, lost 13lbs. That's over 10 weeks. So weightloss hasn't been sudden or extreme, but is going in the right direction, which I'm actually happy about.

I'm not being mega-strict on my eating days and over the 10 weeks have both been on holiday for 10 days and have just had two weeks off, because I was ill and as I want to be sensible about this, felt it was unwise to continue fasting while I wasn't well. During that two weeks I have over-indulged in comfort food, so bearing that in mind, along with the possibility I may have gained a couple of pounds during that timeframe. I'd say I'm happy with my progress.

I weighed in when I got back off my holiday and at that point, purely based on a calculation of weightloss against weeks, it was about 1.75lbs per week. This has definitely slowed down since I have been home and not been as active though.

I'm giving myself this weekend to make sure I'm completely over the truly horrible virus my lovely dcs brought home from school and donated to me and then plan to get back into adf-ing on Monday.

Things I have noted:

I have found I am much more tired and foggy headed than usual during the couple of days leading up to and the first couple of days of my period, so I now eat my 500 kcals on fasting days that fall within that window, which definitely helps.

I definitely couldn't and wouldn't fast when feeling unwell. I can feel that my body needs and wants me to eat and I think it's really important to listen to that and give my body what it needs to heal.

I have also found that I no longer have the capacity to over-eat, as-in large meals, so on the odd occasion we've been out to eat on an eating day I've not been able to finish my main course, whereas previously I'd have had a main and dessert.

The only problem I personally have had with adf-ing is what to do if an event comes up on a fast day. At first I made myself miserable stressing about how to get back into the pattern and not wanting to have two eating days together etc, but I've learned not to be so obsessive about it and that missing one fast isn't the end of the world, so, given I don't really have all that many social occasions that involve food, now I just go with the flow.

I would say this woe suits me well, but as you can see - and I'm quite pleased about this, is not a way to try and drop a lot of weight quickly, but rather achieve slow weightloss whilst still enjoying a few treats. I actually enjoy my fast days, but would say for most people 5:2 is a much better option.

Plan going forward is to get over all the comfort food I've eaten in the last fortnight blush and get back into giving my body lots of healthy food with the occasional treat thrown in, which is what I was doing before. I'm particularly looking forward to trying out lots of new soup recipes, now the Autumn is here. I'm also planning to get back into working out and have mapped some new, longer dog-walking routes, so hopefully will be fighting fit in a few weeks 'time.

BigChocFrenzy Sun 04-Oct-15 11:41:41

Thanks for the update, Moose and well done on your SV.
You have important lifestyle NSVs: retraining your portion size and NFD consumption.
smile
Over 10 weeks, that is a safe rate of loss and is fairly typical for ADF with relaxed NFDs, holidays etc.
It sounds a sustainable WOL for you.

You've learned some things we also recommend on the main threads:
. Don't fast if you feel unwell
. Skip a fast day if it clashes with an important event: for sustainability, you need a reasonable social life.

Points I would add:

. For longterm sustainability and health, best to eat up to your 500 cals on FDs, to ensure sufficient nutrients.
The main human studies from Varady & co are for the 500 FDs; the few negative reports tend to be for zero-cal FDs. This is Mattson's advice too after his studies. Best to stick to what has been researched and what the science experts recommend.
Not surprising you found those 500 cals helped at totm.
In particular, hot thick soups are very comforting & sustainable for FDs in the colder weather

. Use the weight loss phase time to think about your maintenance plan.
Those who regain usually think they can "stop dieting" and wing it. Our mantra is:
If you return to your old WOL, you'll return to your old weight
Some ADFers do Varady's recommended 3 x 1000-cal mini-FDs; others go to 5:2
16:8 may not be enough if you still tend to exceed TDEE on NFDs

moosemama Sun 04-Oct-15 20:21:32

Thanks BigChoc.

I'm planning to start logging on MFP and sticking to TDEE on my NFDs now the holidays and few events we had planned are over and am also considering starting eating my 500 kcals now.

Not eating does stop me being hungry at all on FDs, whereas eating tends to kickstart a growly stomach, but my experiences around totm, have made me think I should. I haven't decided what's the best way to take them, but I suppose, with eating starting off my hunger, probably one meal in the evening would suit me best.

I'm thinking of going onto 5:2 for maintenance - although that's still a long way off, as I still have over two stone to lose, preferably three.

First fast, after being off it for a couple of weeks, tomorrow and I am really looking forward to it. Another thing I have learned is that my body simply doesn't like being stuffed with food. I think I was just so used to feeling like this that I didn't really connect it with my woe, but I felt so much better when adf-ing that the connection now seems obvious. Having two weeks off was actually really interesting, as I now know I prefer adf-ing as my woe and don't actually enjoy eating as much as I used to. Been to lunch at the IL's today and my MIL kept trying to put more on my plate. She couldn't get her head around why I only took a small plateful of veg, followed by a sliver of apple pie, but I really couldn't have eaten any more, whereas in the past I'd have loaded both my dinner plate and dessert bowl.

I have only have one event between now and Christmas and plan to take a weekend off for that, as it's an overnight thing and rare treat for dh and I. Other than that I will be adf-ing until I reach maintenance.

BigChocFrenzy Sun 04-Oct-15 20:51:19

Saving nearly all FD cals for the evening meal works very well for IF:
it brings the joint benefits of a zero-calorie phase for 18-22 hrs, plus a high-nutrient meal

Best to eat at least 2-3 hrs before bed, so your digestion has progressed some way. This avoids interference with the overnight fat-burning or with your sleep.

moosemama Sun 04-Oct-15 20:58:06

That sounds like a good plan. We tend to eat at 6.00 and I tend to go to bed at 10.30 ish, so it sounds like it would work quite well to just eat at the usual time with the rest of the family. Will give it a go this week and see how it works out.

I was reading that a lot of the benefits derived from fasting start to diminish past the 22-24 hour point, so it also makes sense to eat at that point, rather than carrying on overnight, which essentially gives you 36 hours or sometimes 40 if, like me, you often have to sort 3 dcs before getting your own breakfast.

Thanks again. flowers

MrsJorahMormont Thu 15-Oct-15 23:55:38

Very interesting thread, thanks.

BeanIontach Fri 16-Oct-15 16:28:42

I've been doing something much less extreme and it's had the same effect.

aiming for just under 1000 calories three days a week. mon,wed & fri or tues, thurs and sat depending what I have on. I've been doing it since august and I lost ten pounds in the first 3 weeks. Since then I've not lost any more but it's feeling so easy I just keep going with it.

I've name-chanced since I started that thread in weight loss chat but if anybody's interested I'll link it. There were a few of us who found 500 calories just too hard.

MrsJorahMormont Fri 16-Oct-15 16:30:43

Link would be good Bean. Do you have much weight to lose? I do sad

BeanIontach Fri 16-Oct-15 16:38:16

I'll link! I had about 18 pounds to lose but I'm only 156cm so I was pure barrel. I could lose another five - seven pounds easily around my belly and thighs, and my BACK!!! I always get a lovely shock in m&s changing rooms!

here's the link

I am wondering if I could do something more extreme just for a few weeks and then go back to what I'm doing now. I don't want to be starving myself indefinitely for the rest of my life but 1000c every second day is the easiest diet I've ever done.

katydye87 Fri 16-Oct-15 16:44:29

This sounds like quite an interesting type of diet but there is too much thinking involved for me. I would prefer a much easier diet plan to follow. I utterly would forget what type of day I should be on. !!!

Im having around 750 calories per day MAX but I eat the packs provided at 4 per day and thats it, very straight forward. x

BeanIontach Fri 16-Oct-15 16:45:54

This thread is inspiring me too. If I could go a little bit more extreme for say three weeks and lose 5lbs, then not have to be so extreme to keep it off, keep doin gwhat I'm doing now that would be worth it.

BeanIontach Fri 16-Oct-15 16:52:30

What packs? is that a commercially marketed way of staying under 750 cals?
I use a sachet of plain porridge with half skimmed milk and half water as a low cal 'meal replacement'.

BeanIontach Fri 16-Oct-15 16:54:06

ps, there're no rules with it. but it does make me eat more healthily.

HortonWho Sun 10-Jan-16 14:58:41

Just want to jump in on the 0 calorie fast day and that Krista Varady says it's "ok" by providing a direct quote from her book on the subject (she's discussing studies on mice). It's not. Unless you want to lose muscle along with fat:

"I tried 75% of normal caloric intake; 50%; even 0 % - a total fast. And the winner was 25%. At 25%, the mice has the maximum amount of weight loss with minimal level of muscle loss. In other words, they lost fat but not muscle. And retaining muscle while dieting is a must for health and long-term weight maintenance. also, at 25% of calories also produced the best improvement in risk factors for heart disease and type-2 diabetes."

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