Alternate Day Diet: Is It Healthy?

The Alternate Day Diet promises to help you lose weight by restricting your calorie intake on alternate days. On Up Days, you can eat whatever you like in whatever quantities you need to feel satisfied, but on Down Days, you’re required to severely restrict your calorie intake. The Alternate Day Diet claims it can help you achieve long term weight loss without depriving you of your favorite foods or requiring drastic changes in diet and exercise levels. The Alternate Day Diet was invented by James B. Johnson, M.D., and it appears to have a number of health benefits.

How the Alternate Day Diet Was Developed

Dr. Johnson got the idea for the Alternate Day Diet from animal research that showed restricting calorie intake every other day caused dramatic long term weight loss. Dr. Johnson repeated these experiments with human subjects, and found that not only did his subjects lose weight, they also experienced relief from asthma, arthritis and type 2 diabetes. Dr. Johnson’s research also indicates that the Alternate Day Diet lowers blood pressure and can reduced oxidative cell damage from free radicals in the body.

How the Alternate Day Diet Works

The Alternate Day Diet works by severely restricting your calorie intake every other day. These restricted days are known as Down Days. On Up Days, you’re allow to eat as much as you need to feel satisfied. There are no restrictions on the food you can eat on your Up Days, meaning you won’t suffer from cravings or from feelings of deprivation on the Alternate Day Diet. 

For the first two weeks of the diet, you’ll restrict yourself to about 500 calories on your Down Days. Dr. Johnson recommends getting these calories from meal replacement shakes, since they’re nutritionally balanced and they make it easy to keep track of your calorie intake; after the first two weeks, you can switch to normal healthy food. After the first two weeks, you’ll eat 35% of your normal calorie intake on Down Days. In the long term, you can maintain your weight by eating 60% of your normal calorie intake on Down Days.

Is the Alternate Day Diet Healthy?

The Alternate Day Diet is healthy for most people. The Alternate Day Diet allows dieters to reduce overall calorie intake without giving up favorite foods. Recommended foods for this diet include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean meats and low fat dairy products. Research suggests that restricting your calorie intake on alternate days can boost your metabolism and lead to long term weight loss.

The Alternate Day Diet is a safe way for most dieters to enjoy the health benefits of weight loss, including increased cardiovascular health, relief from type 2 diabetes and arthritis symptoms. However, those with a history of disordered eating shouldn’t try the Alternate Day Diet, as it could trigger a resurgence of unhealthy eating patterns. Be careful not to overeat on Up Days if you try this diet; many dieters eat so many calories on Up Days that they cancel out the effects of restricting them on Down Days.


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