Alternate Day Fasting – A Practical Guide
- January 03, 2021
Alternate day fasting is a style of fasting that has grown in popularity over the past couple of years. I will be the first to admit, I thought fasting was for crazy people. I remember when we first started out keto journey and hearing the 2 Keto Dudes, talking about fasting. Erika and I looked at each other and said, there is no way we are doing that. Fast forward 6 months into our keto lifestyle and we were intermittent fasting. It came naturally as we became fat adapted and the hunger abated.
We have now been living a ketogenic lifestyle for over 3 years and fasting is a tool we have in our keto tool belt. 2020 has seen us adopt some more alternate day fasting and develop an alternate day fasting schedule that works for our lifestyle.
What is fasting?
If you are new to fasting, you may be thinking it’s a crazy notion. Our whole lives has been about eating 3 square meals a day plus snacks. I remember being told breakfast is the most important meal of the day, don’t you? It’s also the easiest meal to skip, for me.
So, you might be thinking, what exactly is fasting? Fasting is having a period of time in your day when you are not consuming any food or calories. Technically, we all have a period of fasting when we are asleep.
People who chose to fast, attempt to push their fasting window beyond just the fasting we do while sleeping. This may look like a fasting window that is 16 hours or more. There a several different styles of fasting including intermittent fasting, one meal a day (OMAD), alternate day fasting and extending fasting.
Intermittent fasting can often happen naturally for people living a keto lifestyle. Many will do a 16:8 or 18:6 version of intermittent fasting. This means a 16 or 18 hour fasting window with a 8 or 6 hour eating window. It’s common with this style to consume two meals a day within this eating window.
OMAD is consuming one meal a day and usually means you have had a fasting window between 22-24 hours. We ended up doing OMAD for a few months about 8 months into our keto lifestyle, it felt natural as we were just not that hungry. OMAD is a great fasting strategy but we would recommend mixing up your fasting routine to increase your metabolic flexibility.
Extended fasting is usually a multiple day fast. Anything past about 48 hours would generally fall into extending fasting.
The fasting gurus, Dr Jason Fung and Megan Ramos, are known to be adovcates for mixing things up. Making sure you have feasting days and fasting days. Don’t restrict your calories on your feasting days. They can say it much better than I can, so check out this article by Megan.
Fasting and keto
It is not required to include fasting as part of your ketogenic lifestyle and many don’t. It is also not required to be keto to have a fasting schedule.
Despite all of this, they seem to really compliment each other. Fasting is reported to be easier when you live a ketogenic lifestyle. You tend to feel less hungry when you live a ketogenic lifestyle, which can make fasting an easier transition. People that live a ketogenic lifestyle, often naturally fast because the hunger is much less.
What is Alternate day fasting?
So you might be thinking, so what is alternate day fasting then? The best way to describe alternate day fasting is that you have a day where you eat and the next day you don’t eat. At all. Many who implement this style of fasting choose to have their non eating days on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and eating days on Tuesday, Thursday and the weekend.
How to do alternate day fasting?
It seems simple right? Have days were you eat and days where you don’t. On a surface level it really is that easy. Choose the days in the week where you don’t eat and consume your food on your eating days.
There are some things that you may want to consider when attempting an alternate fasting schedule. We have found electrolytes to be really important. We felt so much better when we started adding some electrolytes to our water. The electrolytes we like to use in our water are fasting drops from Keto Chow. We like them because they are unsweetened and the formula is designed for fasting and has more sodium. When you are not consuming food, it is easy for you to get low in salt, so make sure you get your electrolytes right. It will make you feel much better during your fasts.
Once we started adding these drops to our water, we didn’t have that headachy feeling during our fasts anymore. We also found we didn’t get the hunger pains as much as when we weren’t using them.
Alternate day fasting schedule
A typical alternate day fasting schedule
As already mentioned above, many who implement an alternate day fasting schedule have their fasting days as Monday, Wednesday and Friday and their eating days as Tuesday, Thursday and the weekend. The general consensus is to consume food as you normally would on your eating days, or even feast on those days. You don’t want to be restricting on your eating days as this can lead your body into a starvation mode.
This style of fasting would usually result in around 3×36 hour fasts a week, which would result in over 110 hours fasted depending on how long you fast between dinner on Saturday night and your first meal on Sunday.
What our alternate day fasting schedule looks like
Whilst we loved the idea of alternate day fasting, we were concerned about our ability to stick to this kind of schedule when we had social events on. We are definitely not the kind of people that can attend a meal with friends or a get together and fast. It would be an unrealistic pressure to put on ourselves. We also wanted to come up with a fasting schedule that felt achievable, flexible and included enough fasting hours to have a similar effect to alternate day fasting.
So, we decided to focus on a strategy that was more about a total number of hours fasted per week. In January 2020 we implemented a fasting goal of 120 hours fasted per week. How we got to those 120 hours was up to us. The benefit of this is it allowed us the flexibility to alter things when we had something on.
So each week, we would both sit down with our calendar and work out what days we would fast and what days we would eat. The breakdown ended up being something that looked a bit like this:
- 2×36 hour fasts a week
- 1×24 hour fast a week
- 2×16 hour fasts a week
Since we started adopting some fasting into our keto lifestyle, we have been using an app called life. Life allows us to track our fasting. It is really simple to use, you just hit start fast and stop fast. Even if you forget to start it when we stopped eating, you can edit the start and end times if needed. This app has been a really useful way of tracking our hours fasted each week so we can reach our 120 hour goal.
Benefits of alternate day fasting – our experience
We have noticed quite a few benefits with implementing the alternate day fasting method and surprisingly, not all of them are health related.
It took us about a week of adopting this alternate day fasting schedule to notice the improvement in our energy levels. I will be the first to admit, the first couple of 36 hours were a bit rough. We felt low on energy and the hunger was pretty strong. We didn’t feel sick or unwell, but just a general lack of energy. This was obviously just our body adapting to us changing something. We also hadn’t implemented a longer fast in quite a while, so I think our fasting muscle had weakened.
By the time we came around to our third 36 hour fast, we felt amazing. It sounds ridiculous, but I just felt so clear headed and full of energy. Both of us get a lot of work done when we were in that state. We had more energy on our fasting days then we did on our eating days. Again, sounds ridiculous.
Once we had built our fasting muscle, this was about a week in, we felt less hungry on both the fasting days and the feasting days. We couldn’t eat as much as you think we would need to and we also had much less hunger pangs on the fasting days. Overall, the whole thing got easier the deeper into the month of January we got.
Now, you will often hear me say, higher ketones does not mean faster or better weight loss. I will also say, we are not doing this fasting strategy for weight loss either. What I will say is, I like how I feel when I am measuring higher ketones. I measured a 4 and a 5 ketone level in January and it coincided with really high energy levels and amazing moods. I felt so happy and energetic when I was getting these readings.
It is amazing how much time we spend preparing food, thinking about food and eating food. When you have a day where you consume no food, you all of a sudden have so much more time on your hands. On our fasting days, we get so much done. I even came home one day and Erika had cleaned the house on her lunch break. It’s a great combination of time and energy levels. Believe me, it is wonderful.
Eating three meals a day costs money. Guess what costs no money? Fasting. We have definitely saved money on our grocery shopping in the month of January. One of the objections to the keto lifestyle is that it can be expensive. Obviously, that depends on the foods you are choosing to consume on your keto lifestyle, but it definitely can be expensive. If you are able to incorporate some fasting into your keto lifestyle, it definitely will save you some money.
What we consume when fasting
It seems really obvious what you consume when fasting, NOTHING. I will say it is not always that easy. It’s one of the most common questions we see in the keto community, what can I have on a fast? What will break my fast? The simple answer to this question is anything with calories will break your fast. It’s never that simple though.
For us, it’s about what will help us maintain the fast and achieve our goals. Fasting and keto is always about what works for you. This is what works for us.
What I consume on a fast
What Erika consumes on a fast
Erika would find it very difficult to not have her coffee during a fast. She decided the best way to consume it is with a 1-2 teaspoons of cream. Otherwise, we generally consume the same things.
- Coffee with 1-2 teaspoons of cream
- Sparkling mineral water
- Ultima electrolytes
- Keto Chow fasting drops
Our overall experience with alternate day fasting
As mentioned already, we have been feeling great and have loved the energy that alternate day fasting has given us. We like the 120 hours fasted goal a week as it allows us some flexibility. The key for anything for us, is feeling like we are able to achieve our goals. If we did it any other way, we would struggle more and feel like we have failed.
I will also note some not so great things about alternate day fasting schedule. The higher ketones I achieve when doing alternate day fasting also means two things for me. Keto breath and keto dreams.
Keto breath can be common when you are producing ketones and it is usually acetone on the breath. This was my biggest concern and I asked in our facebook group, Aussie Low Carb Community if anyone had a suggestion to help with it. The best suggestion was gargling some bi-carb soda. This has definitely improved the keto breath for me.
Keto dreams really kick in for me when my ketones are high. For me they are really vivid dreams that are very strange and weird. They usually involve people that have been one my mind just before I go to bed.
Overall, our experience has been really positive. We have felt great, found a schedule that works for us and feel we can continue some form of alternate day fasting in 2020. February is already here and we have been continuing with our form of alternate day fasting into this month.
We hope this article has given you a practical guide to alternate day fasting and gives you the confidence to find the fasting schedule that works best for you.