woman holding scales-alternate day fasting diet

The Alternate Day Diet could unlock the way to weight loss, a longer life and health benefits. Read on to find out how!

The big buzz in the dieting world, Alternate Day Fasting promises a diet you only have to follow every other day. Wouldn't it be great knowing you can indulge in that slice of cake tomorrow - guilt-free!

It has risen to new prominence recently thanks to the American plastic surgeon Dr James Johnson's recent book The Alternate Day Diet.

But what does alternate day fasting really mean?

Unlike most diets with a plan to follow day in, day out, on alternate day or intermittent fasting diets you'll have one completely normal day followed by a day of eating much less.

Some alternate day fasting diets suggest two days of fasting a week instead (the 5:2 day fasting diet, for example), and 'fasting' can mean anything from total abstinence to half of your recommended daily intake. Dr Johnson's book recommends eating 20% of your normal calorie intake (that's just 400 calories for the average woman).

But the principle is the same - it doesn't matter what you eat on either day, as long as you fast.

So, what are the benefits? The idea that restricting calories leads to weight loss and health benefits including longer life has been around for decades, but intermittent fasting makes it much easier to work into normal life.

Fasting intermittently places just enough stress on the body to trigger SIRT1, the 'skinny gene'. This speeds up your metabolism, releases fat to be used as energy, and turns off another gene that controls fat storage. In the long term, it's actually harder for your body to store fat.

Studies show that it could also have a positive effect against conditions including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer's.

Intrigued? Find out more about alternate day fasting and how it could help you...

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What are the pros?

What are the pros?

Even if you eat so much on ?normal? days that you don?t lose weight, the potential health benefits still stand. Fasting could also help break bad eating habits - you?ll know what hunger really feels like and stop eating for the wrong reasons. You may also feel less deprived if you know you can eat whatever you like the next day. It also means you won?t have to worry about needing special food at parties or family occasions. Find more weight loss tips

And the cons?

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And the cons?

Hunger! Even if you allow yourself half your usual recommended intake (1000 calories for the average woman) you could still find yourself distractingly hungry. There?s also the possibility of bingeing on ?feast? days, and you?re likely to come unstuck if your ?normal? diet isn?t healthy. Very low calorie intakes may not be suitable for some people, for example people with diabetes or on certain medications. Find more diet plans

How much weight loss can I expect?

How much weight loss can I expect?

If weight loss is your number one aim, you?ll need to limit yourself to 20% of your usual calories on fast days. During normal days, try to stick to fruit and veg, lean protein and whole grains. Surprisingly, most people don?t pig out enough on ?feast? days to undo their hard work, so you can expect to lose around 1-2lb a week plus more at the start as your body adapts. Find more weight loss tips

Will it work for me?

Will it work for me?

It?s down to you to decide what you prefer ? being a little hungry all the time and missing out on your favourite foods (as with most diets) or being ravenous a little of the time! Find more diet tips

Tips for successful fasting

(Image credit: Gareth Morgans)

Tips for successful fasting

Make sure you take in enough salt ? it?s so prevalent in a lot of foods that on fast days you may feel weak. Tinned tomato juice, cheese and fish in olive oil are all good sources of salt and important minerals like potassium and calcium. On fast days, choose low GI options that?ll keep you feeling fuller for longer ? and you?ll be amazed at the amount of salad and veg you can eat for very few calories. Find more diet plans