If you’re like most people, chances are you’ve tried many diets but found them challenging to stick with long-term. If so, you’re not alone. Diets don’t work, and they can leave you feeling frustrated and cause you to give up on weight loss altogether. But never fear, there are practical, scientifically proven ways to shed those stubborn pounds for good. And one of them is the Eat-Stop-Eat fasting protocol.
What Is the Eat-Stop-Eat Protocol?
Eat Stop Eat is an intermittent fasting method developed by Brad Pilon, which involves fasting twice a week for weight loss. Pilon started this plan while researching intermittent fasting as a graduate student at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. On this protocol, your fasts last 24-hours and can be on non-consecutive days. The 24-hour fasting plan allows you to eat something every day. For example, enjoy your evening dinner, and then fast until dinner the following day. You won’t have to change the foods you eat, and Pillar claims this is the main reason for success. “The simple truth is that it’s very hard to change the way you eat. The Eat Stop Eat method is the simplest way to eat and to live that will help you lose weight and keep it off.” Pilon recognizes this plan is controversial, so we’ll cover the potential benefits and downsides to the Eat Stop Eat method.
The Eat Stop Eat Method and Fat Loss
When you try to lose weight, there are numerous factors involved, and one of those is your calorie consumption. You don’t want to restrict calories to lose weight, but a moderate calorie deficit is essential. If you fast twice a week, it may be a more sustainable way to reduce your caloric consumption than restricting your daily calorie intake. Time-restricted eating helps you eat less overall, which means you consume fewer calories. Some studies show intermittent fasting can preserve your lean muscle mass. 24-hour plans like the Eat Stop Eat diet restricts your calories only twice weekly, which can be far less stressful than counting your calories at every meal.
When you don’t fast, your body gets fuel from carbohydrates you eat throughout the day. When you fast for 12 plus hours, your body depletes its glucose stores and shifts to burning fat for energy. This metabolic shift is called ketosis. Studies show a metabolic shift specifically targets fat cells, which helps you lose weight. Fasting for 12 hours can trigger a metabolic shift. A metabolic shift can occur after just 12 hours of fasting, but your body may take longer to switch. The Eat-Stop-Eat claims that a 24-hour fast will make it more likely you’ll enter a ketogenic state. But, there’s no evidence to support the claim.
What Happens During a 24-Hour Fast
Currently, there’s minimal research on the metabolic impact of 24-hour fasting. The FEEL GOOD trial found a 24 hour fast decreased 20+ metabolites. Although they couldn’t find specific health outcomes, researchers hypothesized that repeated decrease in these metabolites may reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes. Researchers say there is the potential to decrease your insulin resistance and increase fat metabolism and cognitive performance.
Potential Side Effects
Avoid the Eat-Stop-Eat method if:
- You’re currently underweight or struggle to meet your daily nutrient recommendations.
- You have a history of disordered eating behaviors.
- You are pregnant or trying to conceive.
- You have diabetes or challenges with controlling your blood sugar.
- You are under 18 or over 65.
Fasting for 24 hours puts you at a higher risk for dehydration, especially if you are very active because vegetables and fruits make up a significant portion of your daily water intake. When you don’t eat vegetables and fruit for 24-hours, you need to remember to drink even more water, and it’s too easy to forget to drink liquids outside of mealtimes. A terrific way to avoid dehydration is to stay hydrated with water and electrolytes throughout the day – electrolyte-infused water is a good option. If you don’t like plain water, you can add lemon juice for flavor.
Fasting for 24 hours could increase your risk of constipation. You need 25-38g of fiber daily to stay regular. So fill your bowl or plate with whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruits during your eating window to stay regular.
Long-term fasting can trigger unhealthy habits or binge eating in some people, especially those who have experienced disordered eating in the past. Be mindful of your comfort level with the length of your fast and notice if your fasting schedule triggers unhealthy eating. As with any intermittent fasting plan, you need to eat responsibly outside of the fasting window, consuming healthy, whole foods in moderation to get the most benefit.
Pros and Cons Compared With Other Fasting Protocols
Eat Stop Eat
- Pros: Easier to adopt, no calorie counting.
- Cons: Increased risk for dehydration, hunger, and nutrient deficiencies.
16:8 Fasting: Fast for 16 hours, eat for 8
- Pros: Effective strategy to lose weight, burn fat, improve metabolic health. Don’t have to count calories.
- Cons: May interfere with social life.
5:2 Fasting: Eat as you typically would for five days, limit calories to 500kcal for two days.
- Pros: Easier to adopt, doesn’t impact your social life.
- Cons: Have to count calories.
Should You Try the Eat-Stop-Eat Fast?
There’s no research to suggest the Eat Stop Eat diet plan is more effective than any other intermittent fasting method. You may find the protocol is easier to sustain since it allows you to have at least one meal daily. Intermittent fasting schedules aren’t one-size-fits-all. It’s ultimately up to you to decide what works best for your body and fits most comfortably into your life.