Depending on what you hope to achieve by alternate day fasting, there are a few ways to approach it.
If your main goal is weight loss, then you have two options. You can either completely refrain from eating on fasting days, which is the fastest way to lose weight. Or if you find this too hard, you can opt to eat roughly 500 calories on your fasting days to help keep your hunger at bay but still have a substantial enough caloric deficit to induce weight loss.
Personally, I find it just easier to not eat anything at all because once I start eating, it’s a slippery slope for me. Not only is counting calories a hassle and an inexact science, but once I start eating, there’s always the temptation to eat more. It’s very easy to unconsciously convince yourself that it’s okay to eat just a little more because you probably haven’t eaten 500 calories yet, when in fact, you’re already over 500 calories. Or you could accidentally sabotage your efforts to lose weight by just simply being really bad at counting calories. Even after trying numerous caloric restriction diets over the years, I have no real confidence in my counting ability. On a 2000 calorie diet, I think I could easily be off by as much as 500 calories. But if you simply decide that you’re not going to eat anything, then there’s no two bits about it. No food enters your mouth. Fullstop. There’s no ambiguity to deal with. Caloric intake: 0
If your main goal is health benefits, meaning detox and healing of your body, or health benefits and weight loss, then the only way to go is to completely refrain from eating on fasting days. This will give your digestive system a complete rest and a chance to heal your body.
If you have a cut or gash or wound on your skin, you know that for it to heal quickly and properly, it’s of the utmost importance to first clean the wound before bandaging. Similarly, if your digestive tract has any cuts or nicks that need to heal, the wound has to be clean for it to be given a chance to heal. If you’re constantly consuming food, it’s akin to putting dirt in your wound. It’s never going to heal.
Therefore, if you’re looking to heal your digestive tract, then it’s imperative that you completely refrain from eating on fasting days. While it might be harder for you, the benefits are well worth the extra effort.
Dry vs. Wet
There is one more decision to make when completely refraining from eating. Do you also want to completely refrain from drinking water?
Dry fasting is refraining from not only eating but also drinking. Some people believe that one day of dry fasting is the equivalent of three days of wet fasting. I’ll explain this concept in more detail in a separate post, but personally, I find that I have absolutely no issues with dry fasting during the winter. As I sweat very little, my body requires very little water. In fact, I often feel no thirst whatsoever. For me, it takes no extra willpower or effort to dry fast during the winter.