This is part of our series on Alternate Day Fasting (ADF). You can find the first part here. This article will talk about how you should approach your feed days, how much to eat, what to eat, and when to eat it.
What should I eat?
Calories and Macros
Determine your maintenance calorie intake: you can use a rough estimate of 33kcal/kg of bodyweight, or an online calculator using something like the Harris-Benedict formula. Multiply that by two. Increase or decrease this amount according to your goals, and use it as a guideline with your usual macronutrient ratios. It’s important to adjust according to how you feel. For example, if you are looking flat and your training is suffering, then you might need to increase your carb intake. If you are craving things it may be an indication of something lacking in your diet.
Remember that you have increased metabolism, increased insulin sensitivity, and improved nutrient partitioning because of the fast. This means that although you will take in a large amount of calories, and in particular carbs, they will be used more efficiently. It also means that you may be able to achieve a favourable recomposition effect by eating twice your “maintenance” calories or more. If you’ve ever done a carb cycling diet, a cyclical keto diet, or some form of refeed, then you will be familiar with this idea already.
I think that a better approach is to set up your feed day with macro targets, rather than think about calories. A good starting point would be:
Protein – 2g/kg bodyweight
Carbs – 8g/kg
Fat – 1g/kg
Here we’re only counting the dominant macro in our foods. For example, that means we don’t count the protein in rice or pasta, and we don’t count the fat in fish or chicken. Note that if we assume all of our food sources contain only an additional 20% more calories from other macros then this gives us
1.2 * (4 * 2 + 4 * 8 + 9 * 1) = 58.8kcal/kg,
which is about right. Although the protein intake may seem low, remember that this is counting whole protein sources only. There is no need for particularly high protein since carbs are so plentiful, and you will get a lot of additional protein from carb sources too.
You should be eating nutrient dense, whole foods, for most of your meals. Remember that you haven’t eaten for an entire day, you’re in a defecit: not just calories, but vitamins, minerals, and fibre. If you have cravings for cakes, pastries, sweets, and other junk food then you can indulge yourself, but try and restrict it to the later part of the day when you aren’t ravenously hungry. That way you can still eat what you want and reap all of the benefits of ADF without feeling like you are binging.
Breaking the Fast
Your objectives for the first meal on the feed day are: replenish liver glycogen, decrease protein breakdown, increase protein synthesis, and begin replenishing muscle glycogen. Here’s a sample meal (without specifying amounts, because that will depend on your requirements):
Oats cooked and mixed with whey powder and some dark chocolate, served with cinnamon and honey. A pot of cottage cheese mixed with frozen berries and chopped banana.
Both the oats and fruit are carb sources with plenty of nutrients and fibre. The fruit and honey contain fructose, which will be used preferentially by the liver. The cottage cheese contains casein, which will decrease protein breakdown, while the whey increase protein synthesis. The dark chocolate is a source of good fats.
During the day you should be loading up on plenty of starchy carbs, with some protein. Limit your intake of fructose (and sucrose, which is 50% fructose) to fruits and moderate amounts of sugary cereals. Try to avoid glucose-fructose syrup (known as high fructose corn syrup in the USA) , which is used in drinks and junk food. A little bit of fructose will actually assist the carb load by sparing more glucose for use in the muscles and increasing total carbohydrate oxidation in the body.
Before you train you should consume some easily digested protein, like whey or BCAAs, with some simple carbs. Continue to take in protein and carbs throughout your training session. A useful guideline here is that for every hour of training you can absorb about 60g of glucose and 20g of fructose (or equivalently, 40g of glucose and 40g of sucrose).
A simple approach is to make up your training drink before you go to the gym, start drinking it before you head off, and sip on it while you train. Here’s an example of one I used:
400ml Pineapple juice (approximately 10g/100ml of carbs, with roughly half coming from fructose)
5g creatine monohydrate
After training you should get plenty of protein in, but there’s no rush. You don’t have to immediately choke down a whey shake as soon as you’re finished, you can have a whole food meal when you get back home. Try to get in most of your protein now.
The Rest of the Day
As the day goes on, fill up with more of the foods you really want. Pizzas, waffles, pancakes and ice cream are acceptable in moderation. Eat enough to satisfy your craving, but don’t stuff yourself. You can get most of your fat in now.
Although supplements are not necessary to benefit from ADF, you may improve your results by using them on a feed day.
Consider supplementing with a good multivitamin if you’re concerned that you aren’t getting adequate micronutrients because of the fast, although food should be your primary source.
Insulin enhances the transport of creatine into muscle. Since you’ll be taking in a lot of carbohydrates on a feed day, your insulin levels will be higher and this is the ideal time to load up on creatine. Start with 5-10g, and experiment with higher amounts, unless you experience side effects like gastric distress. Loading 20g of creatine, spread throughout the day, should work very well.
Muscle cells absorb more glucose when you supplement with cinnamon. Add it to any appropriate carb meals, you only need 1/2 a teaspoon to get the benefits, but you can experiment with more (don’t use it excessively though).
Carbohydrate ingestion increases the retention of orally supplemented L-Carnitine, with most of it likely to be taken up by muscle tissue. This should increase fatty acid oxidation and increase glycogen storage in muscle. Take 3g of L-Carnitine (or equivalent) at the start of the day to take advantage of this.