Calories in, calories out – that’s all we need to remember for weight loss, right?
To an extent, that’s correct. But for most people, it’s easier said than done. Getting into a calorie deficit is the hardest part of any diet, but one new study suggests fasting every other day may be the best method for slashing body fat.
In fact, alternate-day fasting led to over half a stone of weight loss (7.7 pounds) in just four weeks.
Fasting is all the rage nowadays, although humans have always practised it. Intermittent fasting is particularly popular, as is continuously cutting back on calories (a long term fast).
But one specific kind looks as if it could be the best yet.
Alternate-day fasting was put under the spotlight in a new study. People involved in the study alternated:
- 36 hours of zero-calorie intake
- 12 hours of unlimited eating
After four weeks, there were some pretty impressive findings.
Harald Sourij, one of the study’s authors said: “”Overall, they reached a mean calorie restriction of about 35% and lost an average of 3.5 kg [7.7 lb] during four weeks of ADF (alternate-day fasting).”
The benefits of fasting every other day
As well as greater weight loss, those following an alternate-day fast also experienced general health benefits:
- Reduced risk of disease and inflammation
- Lowered levels of triiodothyronine – this is linked to longevity in humans
- Lower cholesterol levels
- Less abdominal fat
Counting calories in every single meal, in order to hit your deficit, can be quite tricky. This method of fasting is arguably easier, though.
Thomas Pieber, Head of Endocrinology at the Medical University of Graz said: “The elegant thing about alternate-day fasting is that it doesn’t require participants to count their meals and calories: they just don’t eat anything for one day.”
This might seem like an unnatural way to go about dieting, but you do have the the backing of evolutionary biology at least.
Frank Madeo, Professor at Karl-Franzens University said: “Our physiology is familiar with periods of starvation followed by food excesses.”
What are the disadvantages of fasting?
Despite the benefits, scientists say they do not recommend fasting for everyone.
Madeo says: “We feel that it is a good regime for some months for obese people to cut weight, or it might even be a useful clinical intervention in diseases driven by inflammation.
“However, further research is needed before it can be applied in daily practice. Additionally, we advise people not to fast if they have a viral infection, because the immune system probably requires immediate energy to fight viruses. Hence, it is important to consult a doctor before any harsh dietary regime is undertaken.”