Alternate Day Fasting Diet Put To The Test

August 12, 2012

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After watching Horizon, a programme on TV  last week about alternate day fasting, called Eat Fast and Live Longer, I have decided to give it a try.

Here is the Horizon programme “Eat, Fast And Live Longer”

As a middle aged man, I struggle sometimes to keep weight off my midriff.

The programme was presented by Michael Mosley and he met several dieters and researchers who claim that fasting can actually be good for your health and can help prevent the onset of age related diseases like alzheimer’s, cancer and dementia.

Apparently, calorie restriction in animal tests have revealed that the animals subjected to the restrictions live significantly longer than animals without any restrictions, significantly longer.

Washington University is at the heart of this new science. Professor Luigi Fontana has studied a group of people over the last 10 years who restrict calories every day. Professor Luigi also claims that abdominal fat is particularly bad and can lead to cardiovascular related diseases.

Dr Valtor Longo is the director of the longevity institute in California and is studying ageing. He demonstrated how mice, that have been genetically modified with a low IGF1 growth hormone, live  on average 40% longer than normal mice and are less susceptible to diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

When the body is subjected to calorie restriction, the growth hormone IGF1 is lowered and the body starts to repair its own cells and DNA damage is more likely to get fixed.

To lower IGF1, calories and protein must be restricted and one of the best ways to accomplish this is by fasting.

Dr Valtor Longo claims that just a few days of fasting can jolt the body into self repairing cells.

One of the main problems with fasting is that it is an extremely difficult thing to do – it’s not easy to stop eating for a few days.

Cue Dr Krista A Varady from Chicago who is studying ageing and has come up with a way of making fasting more palatable called Alternate Day Fasting.

Alternate day fasting involves restricting calories on alternate days to 400 – 500 calories for women and 500 – 600 calories for men – these days are called “Fast days”. On the days in between fast days you can eat anything that you like.

However caution is needed especially amongst pregnant women and people with medical conditions.

Finally in the TV programme, Professor Mark Mattson from Baltimore, who is a leading expert on the ageing brain, said that intermittent fasting or energy restriction can delay the onset of alzeimers, dementia and memory loss.

He demonstrated that in the brains of fasting mice, new brain cells were actually created.

Michael Mosley opted to replace the alternate day fasting with a 5/2  diet, which is eat anything for 5 days and fast using the low calorie diet of approximately 500 calories for 2 days. The 5/2 diet was recommended by Professor Mark Mattson.

Note – the fasting days should not be consecutive days, but spread apart for example Monday and Wednesday.

So armed with this new information, I intend to give the 5/2 alternate day fasting a try and see how it affects my health and well being.

Reports and diet information to follow.

See the guide below to find out how many calories are in the foods listed – see item packets for more accurate figures.

Food Measure Calories Per Serving
Chopped tomatoes 100g                                22
Boiled egg                                70
Brocolli 1/2 cup boiled                                37
Apple red delicious – average                              127
Banana                              172
Tin of Baked Beans – Heinz 415g Full Tin                              303
Red Kidney Beans In Water, Tesco 1 Can/420g                              391
Potatoes, Baked, Flesh & Skin 1 Med/180g                              245
Banana Fresh, Weighed Without Skin 1 Med/150g                              143
Sweet Corn, Green Giant 1 Can/200g                              140
Apricots, Dried, Sundora 1 Serving/50g                                83
Pear, Average, Raw 1 Med/170g                                68
Orange 1 Med/160g                                59
Garden Peas, Bird’s Eye 1 Serving/85g                                53
Sweet Potatoes, Boiled in Water 100g                                87
Potatoes, New, Boiled in Salted Water 100g                                53
Cherries, Black, Raw 100g                                51
Apples, Eating, Raw 1 Med/112g                                53
Mango, Raw 225g                                60
Blueberries, Raw 100g                                60
Kiwi Fruit 100g                                49
Onions, Raw 100g                                36
Peach, Raw 1 Med/110g                                36
Plums 100g 36
Satsumas 100g 36
Cauliflower, Raw 100g 34
Broccoli, Green, Raw 100g 33
Peppers, Capsicum, Red Raw 100g 32
Carrots, Young, Raw 100g 30
Broccoli, Raw 100g 30
Strawberries, Raw 100g 27
Melon, Average 100g 24
Green Beans, French Beans Boiled in Unsalted Water 100g 22
Courgette, Raw 100g 18
Grapes, Average 100g 17
Tomato, Raw 1 Med/85g 14
Tomatoes – tinned 100g 22
Lettuce, Average, Raw 100g 13
Mushrooms, Common, Raw 100g 13
Cucumber, Raw 100g 10
Green Cabbage 100g 21
White Cabbage 100g 27
Savoy Cabbage 100g 26
Fish
Scampi, Breaded, Average 1 Serving/255g 565
Mackerel Fillets Smoked Average 1 Serving/60g 200
Salmon Fillet, Aldi 1 Fillet/100g 198
Cod Fillet, Battered, Average 1 Fillet/90g 158
Sardines Grilled 3 Sardines/75g 146
Fishcakes, Frozen, Average 1 Cake/85g 112
Tuna Chunks, in Brine, Sainsbury’s ½ Tin/93g 105
Shark, Raw 1 Serving/100g 102
Haddock Fillet, Smoked, Youngs 1 Fillet/100g 98
Langoustine, Raw, Average 1 Serving/100g 90
Lobster, Boiled 2 Tbsp Meat/85g 88
Shrimp, Boiled, Average 1 Serving/60g 70
Prawns, Boiled 20 Prawns/60g 59
Crab, Sticks, Tesco 3 Sticks/45g 45
Mussels, Boiled, Average 5 Mussels/35g 36
Meat
Back Bacon 100g 304
Beaf Sausage 100g 252
Chicken Breast Roasted 100g 171
Chicken Breast Skinless Fillet 100g 117
Fillet Steak Cooked 100g 191
Sainsbury’s Beef Gravy 100g 56
Cooked Sliced Ham – Tesco’s 100g 115
Lamb Kebab – Sainsbury’s Greek Style 100g 255
Lamb Chop – Asda 100g 246
Pork Chop – Asda 100g 260
Pork Sausage 100g 304
Sliced Roast Beef 100g 136
Roast Lamb – Leg 100g 237

 

Day 1 – fast day.

Having well stocked myself up last night with a fish and chip supper, I am going to start the first fast day today.

My thinking is that I would like to last the day as long as possible without any food and when I begin to feel hungry, I will use up some of my 500 calorie daily allowance.

It’s now 14.15 in the afternoon and so far I haven’t eaten anything. I feel quite hungry, so I am going to have a boiled egg and 100 grams of seedless black grapes – total calories 89 + 66 = 155. Please bear in mind that the calorie chart above is only a general indicator – for exact calories see the individual packets of items purchased.

Lunch

My first lunch on this diet

This small snack has just taken the edge of my hunger and I only have to wait 3.5 hours until my evening meal, when I will have almost 350 calories to play with – bring it on!

One tip here is to invest in some scales similar to the image shown below  – that way you will be able to measure out 100 grams exactly, so that you can keep a tally of your daily calories.

Scales

These scales are great for counting the calories

 

For my evening meal, I opted for grilled mackerel and steamed cabbage and carrots – total calories 272 for the mackerel, 21 for the cabbage and 30 for the carrots giving a grand total of 323 calories.

This takes my total calorie intake for today to 478 calories. I also have had some black tea and a black coffee, so I’m still under the target of 500 calories.

For the first day, I feel ok and the second meal again, just took the edge off the hunger, so I”m fine.

Mackeral meal

My second meal of the day - mackerel and vege

 

Day 2 – fast day. I made the mistake of fasting two days consecutively :-) , but the fast days should be spread apart ie Tuesday and Thursday.

Felt a bit peckish this morning and couldn’t have really started the day without at least something to eat, so I decided on a boiled egg and cup of green tea – approx 90 calories.

I also had a cup of black coffee with a smidgeon of sugar to keep my caffeine levels up – coming off caffeine as well as calorie restricting would be too much for me.

For lunch I had a tin of plum tomatoes, which I mashed in a pan with a potato masher and added 1 teaspoon of vegetable bouillon and one teaspoon of mixed dried italian herbs – approx 90 calories.

I heated the mixture up and made a sort of tomato soup, which I must admit was really tasty. My energy levels are still good and I have been quite active today. I still have 300 calories left for today, which I intend to use up.

A little thought, which is keeping me going is that tomorrow I can eat what the hell I want for the next 5 days! – I have been conjoring up some delicious ideas in my head.

Home made tomato soup

Home made tomato soup

 

For my final meal of the 2nd fast day, I opted for a tin of albacore tuna (147 calories) and salad, which comprised of a tomato, spring onions, cress, a little gem lettuce and a good squirt of 70% reduced calorie salad cream. This comes in well below my remaining 300 calories for today, which is great.

I must admit this meal really raised my spirits and I certainly don’t feel hungry or like I’ve been fasting.

All in all, I have found this diet very manageable so far, and the great thing is for the next 5 days there will be no dieting – yea hah!

Albacore tuna salad

My final meal of the two day fast - albacore tuna salad

 

Week 2 – fast day one

Well here we are again for another two days of fasting!

I’ve been doing a bit of research into low calorie foods that make you feel full, however I haven’t put any of them into practice yet.

Generally, I find the first fast day relatively easy until the end of the day, when I start to feel hungry.

I also added some rice cakes to my daily fast day (29 calories each) – these make excellent snacks especially with a cup of tea or coffee.

Rice cakes make an excellent snack

Rice cakes make an excellent snack

 

I started my my first fast day with a rice cake and cup of black tea.

For lunch I went for my tried and tested tomato soup, which is quite filling. Apparently soups are renowned by dieters for making you feel full. It’s got something to do with the bulk and volume of them.

For my evening meal I had boiled egg with a tuna salad, similar to the one I did last week – with lashings of low cal salad cream.

Some good low calorie foods to make you feel full are fat free popcorn, apples, sweet potato, fresh green vegetables, peanut butter (teaspoon), soups and beans.

Apples apparently are a great appetite suppressant – the bulky fibre fills up your stomach and turns off the appetite control hormones. Will try this tomorrow by having one for breakfast!

Update 30th August 2012

Things were a bit hectic today, so I couldn’t spend too much time preparing food.

I opted for a boiled egg for breakfast and another one for lunch.

For my evening meal I had a tin of albacore tuna, a small tin of mussels in garlic sauce and some steamed vegetables – carrot, broccoli and green cabbage.

Tuna and vegetables

Simple and fast - tuna, mussels and steamed vege

 

Total calories for today approx 500 calories.

I found the diet today relatively easy – there were a few hunger points just before meal times, but the small meals just took the edge of the pain. It’s reassuring to know that tomorrow is a feed day, so that’s something to look forward to.

Update 23/09/12

It’s been a few weeks now since I started on this diet and to honest the last couple of weeks, I have only managed one fast day per week due to circumstances beyond my control.

However, even with only one fast day per week, I have noticed an improvement in my weight and general sense of well being. Last week I overdid my fast day and only had one meal of tuna and steamed vegetables, which I won’t be repeating – 300 calories in total for that day!  It’s ok to spread out the 500 calories throughout the day, so tomorrow I will have two boiled eggs for breakfast then some fish and steamed vegetables in the evening.

I also find that on my fast day I get some really good greens into my system – you can eat lots of greens and fresh vegetables because there are virtually no calories them. Obviously potatoes and some other vege can have more calories than others, but generally green vegetables and carrots are low in calories.

        

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Bella August 13, 2012 at 3:33 pm

This makes perfect sense to me and I have also decided to give it a go! Be interesting to see what changes it makes!

Reply

Rob August 16, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Keep it up! I look forward to more updates. Which days of the week are you doing?

Reply

Ianadmin August 16, 2012 at 7:47 pm

Hi Rob

I’m doing Monday and Tuesday, so I don’t have to cut back at the weekend. Plus I indulge myself more over the weekend, so it’s easier to lay of the food a bit straight afterwards.

Thanks for following

Wag

Reply

Anna August 16, 2012 at 8:21 pm

Good luck. I saw the programme and feel really inspired as well. It’ll be good to see your postings and monitor your progress alongside my own. Thanks!

Reply

Jan August 18, 2012 at 11:40 am

I’m a hefty 170kg 53 year old man who watched Dr. Mosley’s excellent Horizon program. I too have decided that it’s this far and no further.
I’m most impressed by the content of your blog – it is the 1st blog I’ve ever read. Thanks for taking the time to put your findings down

Reply

mk August 20, 2012 at 2:02 am

Just saw the programme and tried looking for some guides, would love to see more updates on what to eat on fasting days and your overall progress.

Thanks.

Reply

Frank August 20, 2012 at 11:57 am

Giving it a go as well though doing Tuesday and Thursday and having full allowance in the morning. Does it have to be sequential days? Haven’t found the fasting difficult. Doing it to try and lower BP and cholesterol and get rid of my belly. Going to have bloods checked after a month to see if it is making any difference.

Reply

Ianadmin August 20, 2012 at 6:10 pm

I think the idea is to have two consecutive days rather than spacing them out. Alternatively, you could do every other day as a fasting day, but that would be too extreme for me.

Reply

Ianadmin August 21, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Hi Frank

I made a mistake and thought the fasting days were to be consecutive, but in fact they are supposed to be non-consecutive. Sorry for the confusion.

By Jennifer Smith

• “With the 5:2 diet, you can eat whatever you like five days a week — so-called feeding days. On the two “fasting days” you eat 500 calories if you are a woman, or 600 calories if you are a man.”
• “It doesn’t matter which days are spent “feeding” and which “fasting”, as long as the fasting days are non-consecutive and you stick to the 5:2 ratio.”

Reply

Miashco August 20, 2012 at 1:14 pm

I think some people are missing the point with this diet and should read the book by James B. Johnson and Donald R. Laub – “Alternate-Day Diet: Turn on Your “Skinny Gene,” Shed the Pounds, and Live a Longer and Healthierlife”. This gives a ton of scientific research based background as well as good old fashioned common sense advice on eating as well as som einteresting advice regarding vitamins, vegetarianism, etc. Some common mistakes that people are making is to “pig out” on “normal” days and to fast for two days in a row instead of doing it on an alternate day basis. This will make it moer likely that weight loss will occur and that the diet is kept to over a long period of time. The full health benefits will only work if this routine is maintained contnuously.

Reply

Ianadmin August 20, 2012 at 6:12 pm

In the programme, it suggested that by following the two day fast, the dieter would automatically start to eat less on the normal days, which is what I have found so far after the initial pig out on the day following the first two fast days.

Reply

Keith Rogers August 20, 2012 at 7:00 pm

According to Michael Mosley’s article in The Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/9480451/The-52-diet-can-it-help-you-lose-weight-and-live-longer.html) it’s fine “as long as the fasting days are non-consecutive”.

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Ianadmin August 21, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Actually, well spotted Keith. From the programme on TV, this wasn’t very clear. To be honest, I’m really relieved to hear that the fasting days are spread apart and was finding the second consecutive fasting day a nightmare :-) Thanks for posting that.

Reply

Rob August 24, 2012 at 3:53 am

Hi Wag, I’ve started too now, Tuesday’s and Thursdays. Backed up with an hour of brisk walking most days and Tennis on Wednesdays. It’s four-thirty on Friday morning now and I’ve been driven from bed by my hunger and the smell of bread from my bread maker! I made a mistake and did the first two days on 500 cals not 600. I’m already thinking about what to spend next weeks extra cals on! Glad to see you’ve reverted to non-consecutive days. The programme was indeed not clear about that, but Dr Mosley is on twitter and I read a clarification in one of his posts. Cheers and keep going!

Reply

John Nevill August 25, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Anyone got any ideas about exercise on fast days. An hour of CV workout is worth about 600 cals so effectively the day’s intake would be around zero. Should the daily intake be increased or just use fast days for rest I wonder?

Reply

Ianadmin August 28, 2012 at 4:00 pm

I guess that if you exercise as well on a fast day it will aid weight loss. I think common sense must be applied here – I wouldn’t recommend running a marathon on a fast day or anything like that.

Reply

Joe Higham January 9, 2013 at 8:04 pm

Hi

Looks interesting, but I’d be even more interested to know what’s happened? We are – as of today – January 9th 2013 ….. yet I see no update, and so wonder did/is it work(ing)?

Thanks

Reply

Ianadmin April 16, 2013 at 8:30 am

I’m still doing the fast day, but usually only one day per week. I find this works best for me and my lifestyle. It really has helped me keep control over my weight. Surprisingly, on the none fast days I have found that I have stopped over eating so much.

Reply

Chris hulten February 17, 2013 at 8:34 am

This sounds great! So after lots of opinions the two fasting days are not supposed to be consecutve? Why? Is it dangarous/Unhealthy? I would love to see some follow up info from ths blogger. Plse give us some news!!!

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Ianadmin April 16, 2013 at 8:27 am

The two fasting days are not supposed to be consecutive – I am just following the guidelines from the video. I supposed if you’re only consuming up to 600 calories in a day and you make the next day a fast day as well, you’ll start to run out of energy.

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Joe April 23, 2013 at 12:27 pm

I’ve been doing 4:3 for about a month now. I don’t care about my weight because that’s totally irrelevant. What counts is how much body fat I have. Using calorie restriction and low-carb, before I learnt about fasting, I did get down to below 20% but now I eat whatever I want 4 days a week and 1 meal of 500 cals on the other days. I’m down under 15% now so I’ve lost somewhere around 3-4% in a month. My goal is around 10%.

It wasn’t that easy at first and at times it still isn’t but on normal days I don’t go wild. I did at first a little but now I find that sometimes I even have to make myself eat on my feed days.

The question that I have is:

I thought that the 500-600 cals had to be taken in one meal and not spread through the day. Perhaps I thought so because one is more like fasting than the other. Am I wrong about this? Can I spread the cals throughout the day and have the same effect on my IGF1?

Reply

Ianadmin April 27, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Hi Joe

I believe that you can take the 500 – 600 calories on a fast day how you like. You can either eat the whole lot in one meal or you can divide the calories up into smaller meals and eat them at your leisure.

Reply

sam July 22, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Hi Wag,

So how’s it going? Nothing since April..

I’m 63, 5’8″, 147 lbs. I have only lost about 6-7 pounds in four months, doing 5-2. Still, I’m OK with it because I didn’t need to lose that much. But I did need to lose the midriff fat. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to make much headway there. Nonetheless, I feel better, and along with my bicycle riding, my endurance has risen and hopefully my IGF is coming down. (Neither my doc nor the lab guy had heard of IGF-1, or how to measure it.)

-Sam
(Midwest, USA)

Reply

Wag July 23, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Still going strong Sam, but am only doing the diet one day per week – it’s keeping the weight off though, so I’ll be sticking with this diet for the foreseeable future. Nice to more people are benefitting too – keep up the good work.

Reply

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