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Alternate Day Fasting: Schedule, Benefits, Risks, And More

Many people nowadays practice time-based intermittent fasting where you fast, usually overnight, for 12, 14, or even 16 hours. But what’s beyond that?

Beyond is ADF – alternate day fasting. It’s a frightening option to think of at first, especially if you’ve never tried even time-based intermittent fasting. There are several ways to approach this technique. You can fast completely every other day or consume only up to 500 calories. 

Actually, such a way of living is said to have a lot of benefits, and more free time to do what you love is only one of them. There might be health perks for not eating every other day, but there are drawbacks as well.

Some pre-existing health conditions also eliminate the possibility of trying ADF, so be very cautious and talk to your doctor before making the final decision.

Many people tend to try such diets temporarily without even researching them, later struggling with complications. Their main goal is just to lose weight, which maybe shouldn’t be the focus. You know what the focus should be?

Your health.

So, let’s see if alternate day fasting is for you, what it is, how to get used to it, and how to do it properly. In this article, you’ll find out all about ADF with scientific references for further reading.

Read More: 10 Intermittent Fasting Mistakes People Make And How To Avoid Them


What Is Alternate Day Fasting And Its Schedule?

The alternate day fasting schedule is quite easy to understand:

  • Day 1: You eat as usual, as much as you need to satisfy your needs
  • Day 2: You fast, eating up to 25% of your calorie needs or 500 calories
  • Day 3 = Day 1
  • Day 4 = Day 2
  • and so on.

As a result, you’re expected to eat around 50% less in a week than you would if you ate daily. On fasting days, tea, coffee, sparkling water, and other low to no-calorie beverages are acceptable.

Most research has been done on ADF methods that allow up to 500-700 calories on the fasting days (7). If you plan to fast completely on your fasting days, be sure to talk to your doctor first, ease into it, and you may need to fast less frequently than every other day.

Are ADF And Intermittent Fasting The Same?

ADF is a form of intermittent fasting, but a bit more extreme since you fast for around 36 hours instead of the regular 16:8 rule. Starters can fast for 14 hours, then for 16, and, if they want, they can move to ADF.

Both types of fasting have their advantages and disadvantages. Time-based IF (intermittent fasting) is great since you don’t have to plan your social life around the fasting days. You just stick to the same schedule every day. ADF is great because you restrict yourself only every other day, which may be easier to be consistent with.

To conclude, when you get used to ADF and if you approach this lifestyle wisely, the 36-hour alternate day fasting schedule can become a go-to plan for you. Just be sure to talk to your doctor before trying any type of fasting regimen.

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Key Takeaways For Complete Beginners

What is a 36-hour alternate day fasting schedule?

  • There are 2 types of days: feasting and fasting.
  • You follow a well-balanced healthy diet on fasting days.
  • You consume up to 500 kcal or 25% of your calorie needs on fasting days (1, 13, 9).
  • You’re allowed unsweetened low to no-calorie beverages on fasting days
  • To improve results, you engage in physical training of your choice.

36-Hour Alternate Day Fasting Schedule Benefits

ADF has lots of potential benefits, but they will only come after you adjust, so don’t wait for overnight results. Consistency and wisdom in your approaches are the magic.

So, what are the potential benefits of alternate day fasting?

  • Better Body Composition

ADF is believed to help your body regenerate better. Old cells and components are thought to be recycled and substituted by new ones, and stored fat is used for fuel (4).

  • Weight Loss

Although not everyone has found significant weight loss benefits from modified ADF compared to regular calorie deficit (6, 12), ADF helps some people shed pounds. This is logical since you are likely to reduce your weekly calorie intake a lot. By adding physical activity into the mix, you can get even better results.

Plus, one study did not see any overeating on the days participants were allowed to eat normally, suggesting that ADF doesn’t result in compensatory hunger (6), which is a common result of calorie restriction.

  • Better Hormonal Balance

ADF might help you regulate and improve the production of some hormones, including anabolic, mood-related, and sex hormones. Achieving a healthy weight can help balance many hormones and improve insulin sensitivity. Fasting may also increase secretion of HGH (human growth hormone), which plays key roles in body composition, metabolism, cellular repair, and muscle growth (8).

Read More: Intermittent Fasting Snacks: 10 Plus Healthy Bitings That Will Help You Stay On Track

  • Better Blood Sugar Levels

  • It is thought that when you train your body to be more versatile in terms of metabolism, blood sugar regulation becomes much easier for it. In addition, simply losing weight if you are overweight can help improve insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control.
  • Cancer Risk Reduction

There’s a hypothesis that intermittent fasting may help reduce the risk of some cancers. It may help improve the immune system, DNA repair, etc. by normalizing proteins responsible for those, but more research needs to be done to understand this (10).

Alternate Day Fasting Schedule For 36 Hours: Drawbacks And Cautions

Of course, the possible benefits are great, but there are possible drawbacks and cautions you must know about before thinking ADF is a magic wand:

  • Stress Levels Increase

Cortisol is not only involved in stress but also in transforming amino acids into carbs, which happens when you take up a keto diet or, well, fast. So at first you may experience higher stress levels (5). To help manage the effects of stress on your life, find a way to relieve stress that works for you.

  • Muscle Loss

If you’re an athlete and eat, say, 4,000 kcal a day, some of your muscles will be lost if you attempt to fast every other day. Eating 8,000 kcal during feasting days may cause hyperglycemia and isn’t a good idea.

  • Hyperglycemia

Elevated blood sugar may be another side effect of ADF, especially if you eat in excess during the feasting days. Make sure you adopt a balanced diet.

  • Others

You have to realize that fasting interferes with a lot of processes in your body. Tests have to be done with each individual to see if ADF is a good choice for them personally. There may be drawbacks that we still don’t know about.

For example, if you’re a fan of junk food and sweets, there’s no fasting type that will bring all the benefits mentioned above.

ADF Cautions

You should definitely find another way to eat healthier and/or lose weight other than fasting if you:

  • Are anemic
  • Are already underweight
  • Have diabetes (any type)
  • Take medications that affect blood sugar
  • Are working out hard
  • Pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to conceive

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Tips For Beginners Who Want To Try ADF

So, how to set up an alternate day fasting schedule? Here are some tips that will help you:

  • Remember That Results Are Individual

According to research, some people notice hunger reduction on fasting days, while others notice no change whatsoever (6).

  • Try The Modified Type First

Modified ADF is easier to get used to and be more consistent with (2).

  • Realize That The Diet Is Followed By Certain Biochemical Changes

To fast without discomfort, you should become more leptin and insulin sensitive and your body should start burning fat deposits for energy (11). This happens over time, so practice patience and listen to your body.

  • A Little Bit Of Physical Activity And Good Sleep Go A Long Way

To help your body out, engage in moderate physical activity. Even walking or cycling will work. Also, sleep for 7-9 hours at night, allowing your body to rest properly.

  • Eat More Medium-Chain Fatty Acids

Coconut oil as well as MCT oil, are said to help you get into ketosis (when your body uses fat for energy) and make the transition overall more effortless.

Give yourself time and take care of your body’s needs. Every change in your eating habits is a stress for your body, so it requires more love, care, and listening than usual. Inspect your hunger cues, notice the times when it’s not physical but emotional or psychological hunger, and you’ll hack the system.


Alternate day fasting can be an effective way to lose weight and stop obsessing over food whatsoever. But you need a wise approach to avoid the drawbacks. The possible benefits of the diet include blood sugar levels and hormone levels balance, better body composition, and more.

You don’t have to throw yourself into the restrictions from day 1. If you’re a beginner and want to try fasting, consider starting with intermittent fasting with a window of 14 or 16 hours. 16:8 is considered the best standard IF practice.

Then, you can go further and attempt to be consistent with the modified ADF. Make absolutely sure you can be consistent with the diet of your choice, and the results won’t make you wait for a long time.


This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!


  1. Alternate-day fasting and chronic disease prevention: a review of human and animal trials (2007, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  2. Alternate-day fasting in nonobese subjects: effects on body weight, body composition, and energy metabolism (2005, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  3. A randomized pilot study comparing zero-calorie alternate-day fasting to daily caloric restriction in adults with obesity (2016, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  4. Autophagy: cellular and molecular mechanisms (2010, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  5. Cortisol increases gluconeogenesis in humans: its role in the metabolic syndrome (2001, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  6. Dietary and physical activity adaptations to alternate day modified fasting: implications for optimal weight loss (2010, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  7. Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Health, Aging, and Disease (2019, nejm.org)
  8. Fasting enhances growth hormone secretion and amplifies the complex rhythms of growth hormone secretion in man. (1988, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  9. Intermittent Fasting and Human Metabolic Health (2015, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  10. Intermittent fasting from dawn to sunset for 30 consecutive days is associated with anticancer proteomic signature and upregulates key regulatory proteins of glucose and lipid metabolism, circadian clock, DNA repair, cytoskeleton remodeling, immune system and cognitive function in healthy subjects (2020, sciencedirect.com)
  11. Leptin therapy, insulin sensitivity, and glucose homeostasis (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  12. Long-term effects of 2 energy-restricted diets differing in glycemic load on dietary adherence, body composition, and metabolism in CALERIE: a 1-y randomized controlled trial (2007, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  13. Short-term modified alternate-day fasting: a novel dietary strategy for weight loss and cardioprotection in obese adults (2009, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  14. What is Diabetes? (n.d., cdc.gov)
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