Have you heard about the Alternate Day Diet? Itâ??s a new form of detox eating that promises weight loss and the re-awakening of anti-ageing genes.

And for the first time in a while, many nutritionists, dietitians and doctors are in agreement about the health benefits of this eating plan. Find out why itâ??s the latest go-to diet… 

The Alternate Day Diet in a nutshell 

Alternate Day Diet quite literally involves eating very little one day and the next day eating â??normally.â? Every second day you would fast with a maximum calorie intake of 500 calories for women and 600 to 800 calories for men and on the â??alternateâ? days you eat as you normally would. 

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Heath benefits 

Aside from shedding those stubborn kilos, evidence has shown that the Alternate Day Diet can also ensure a healthier, longer life.  Other benefits of the Alternate Day Diet include less pain and inflammation, a reduced risk for diabetes, lower risk of heart disease and even possibly a lower risk of dementia. 

Patrick Holford, international nutritional expert and founder of The Institute of Optimum Nutrition in the UK, agrees that eating between 500 and 800 calories on fasting days can have the added benefit of â??switchingâ? genes away from diabetes and heart disease, while also causing weight loss.

â??While I am not generally a fan of crash diets, because they are relatively unsustainable and compliance is a major issue, I believe that the alternate day diet is essentially a very low-GL diet. By cutting food intake so drastically that the body not only burns fat, but also doesnâ??t need to produce so much insulin. These may be the two conditions that bring insulin producing cells back to life,â? said Holford. 

He goes on to say that insulin seems to be the key here â?? because the less insulin you produce the better and therefore keeping your insulin level down is a vital key to good health.

â??A recent study of 64 000 people with diabetes by the American College of Cardiology found that the more insulin medication a person uses, the greater their risk for a cardiovascular event (death, heart attack or stroke),â? said Holford. 

â??What this recent research shows is that too much insulin switches on a diabetes and heart disease promoting gene. What you want to do is improve insulin sensitivity, and to eat in a way that means you need less insulin anyway. The best way to do that is to eat a low GL diet, cutting right back on carbohydrates which promotes insulin release,â? recommends Holford. 

Eating like our hunter-gather ancestors 

â??The idea of eating less every other day or having two or three very low-calorie days makes a lot of sense from an evolutionary perspective. After all, our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have had lean days and feast days on a regular basis,â? said Holford.

â??In order to trigger this change in genetic expression from alternate day dieting you need four weeks of eating every other day. After the first four weeks you can switch to two days eating normally, and one day off, eating no more than 500 to 800 calories. By eating normally I mean eating a low-GL, highly nutritious diet,â? said Holford.

Can you stomach it? 

â??Alternate Day Dieting is not for the faint hearted. If you do have diabetes or heart disease, or any other condition that might be adversely affected by big drops in blood sugar levels please check with your doctor first before embarking on this kind of approach,â? warns Holford. 

â??It is important to note that when following the Alternate Day Diet, not to get to the point where you are so hungry you go off the deep end and eat anything and everything since that defeats the purpose. It seems you need four weeks, one day on, one day off, to switch on the anti-ageing genes. This way of eating is also excellent for shifting unwanted weight,â? he said.

Holford tips for Alternate Day Dieting:

  • Keep yourself well hydrated. If you are hungry or thirsty drink water

  • Do not do strenuous exercise on your â??fastâ?? days although stretchingexercises and yoga good. 

Suggested meals for â??fastingâ? days:

  • A small bowl of porridge, made with water, plus seeds and berries. This can be split into a morning and evening portion. To stay within 800 calories have no more than a dessert spoon of seeds. 

  • An egg for breakfast with two oatcakes and a small bowl of soup in the afternoon.

  • Fruit (ideally berries, plums, cherries, a peach or half an apple) with a small amount of seeds or nuts throughout the day. The daily allowance for seeds is a tablespoon and of nuts is a small handful.

  • A thin slice of lean meat or fish (such as smoked salmon), with two oat cakes. To stay within 800 calories you need no more than 100 grams of meat or fish and a maximum of four oat cakes.

For further information on supplementing while following the Alternate Day Diet, visit www.holforddirect.co.za 

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.