Once a Week Day-long Fasting Beats Ongoing Low Calorie Diets

Ayurveda believes that a day-long fast on a weekly basis is a healthy lifestyle habit. Recent research confirms this with an interesting twist.

The study shows that a 2 day fast is more effective than a week long low calorie diet. You lose more weight by fasting for 2 days, followed by 5 days of normal eating than compared to eating 7 days on a moderately calorie restricted diet*.

This makes sense from an Ayurvedic point of view. When you eat as little as possible for a day or two, your Agni (digestive enzymes) burns up Ama (undigested food residue in the gut). By removing Ama, your entire digestive system and metabolism operates more efficiently. If practiced on a regular basis, the Ama in the gut is significantly reduced. Subsequently, Agni will burn off excess tissues including fat.

However, if you fast for longer periods, or eat a calorie restricted diet for days on end, your body actually begins to rev down you entire metabolism into survival mode. Your body’s innate intelligence thinks that the consistently low-nutrient diet is due to a period of famine. As a result, your Agni actually pares down. You will become less hungry, and adapt to lower energy use. You might even become more tired or listless. You will lose weight, but slowly. Your metabolism slows down and your fat cells are slowly depleted of their content to provide you with extra calories. However, if you return to your previous diet of excess, your body will quickly rebuild your fat cells to their original store potential. The consequence is that you put back all those pounds you just lost!

Keeping Agni strong while eating a calorie restrictive diet is not easy. We have to trick the body into thinking that there is plenty of food to digest when there isn’t. When a low calorie diet is combined with moderate physical exercise, Agni is stimulated and the body’s intelligence allows fat cells to be used as fuel. Not only this, but fat cells are transformed into muscle cells, which require more energy to sustain their inherent heat thus helping to shift the body’s energy resources away from storage (fat) to heat (muscle).

Eating a restrictive diet for long periods without combined physical exercise will only cause fat cells to reduce slowly in size, whereas combining this diet with moderate exercise will permit fat cells to convert into muscle cells. So when you return to a less restrictive diet, your fat cells will fill, but there will be less of them, so you return to a healthier weight instead of rebounding back to the old heavy you.

Restrictive diets are hard to stick to for obvious reasons. Ayurveda uses regular day long fasts as a solution to the above dilemmas. Depending on your health needs, and your body type, the frequency and severity of day fasts should vary between 1 day per week to 1 day per month:

Kapha types (heavy build) and people who are overweight can opt for a 1-day-long fast on a weekly basis. This will help to stimulate Agni (digestive enzymes and catabolic metabolism), remove Ama (toxins) from the gut, and reduce excess tissue mass (water retention, excess fat tissue etc). Best is to avoid foods altogether and just consume warm liquids. Some people do well just drinking hot water, with a dash of lemon; others prefer ginger tea. If you can’t handle one day with no foods at all, try a thin vegetable soup, or soup stock.

Pitta types (medium build, tendency to heat related problem like acidity, burning, skin rashes, excess hunger and sweating) can benefit from a 1-day-long fast every two weeks. Fast on warm liquids in the winter and non-acidic fruit juices or carrot juice in the summer. This will help keep Agni strong and the gut clean from Ama build up.

Vata types (skiny build, tendency to suffer from deficiencies, coldness and dryness, nervous system problems) can fast for 1 day every month to keep their Agni strong and guts clean from Ama build up. Best to use hot water with a dash of lemon, or thin soups.

*See the full news article.


14 thoughts on “Once a Week Day-long Fasting Beats Ongoing Low Calorie Diets

  1. Fasting is always being considered as a very useful to treat numerous diseases. Thank you for providing a detail story on the benefits of fasting.


  2. Hi Alex,
    First of all, thanks for a great blog! I am 20 years old, a typical pitta (with some kapha) and I have recently learnt that I have a billion food sensitivities, candida, a leaky gut etc. Learning more about ayurveda, I’ve realised this was bound to happen sooner or later due to my lifestyle (which I have now started to change). I am being treated somewhat by a naturopath, and taking the recommended supplements/changing my diet. I have however not managed to get rid off any allergies yet (3 months along the line), rather, it seems as I’ve gotten more of them. Since I’ve now become more interested in ayurveda, I am wondering what an ayurvedic treatment of these problems would be like, and if there are any supplements recommended. I really hope you’ll have time to reply!
    Best wishes, Anna

  3. Alex, do you think Vatas can be ok doing a 1 day a week of liquid foods (carrot/beet/ginger juice and almond milk with a date and spices) and then 1 day a month on just water? Or is 1 day a week still too much for Vatas?

  4. First of all, thank you!
    I have been studying Ayurveda at a small gurukula in Berkeley California called, Vedika Global (www.vedikaglobal.org) for almost 3 years now. Through following an Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle I have completely healed my body from irritable bowel disease (ulcerative colitis) and have also conquered an 11 year battle with depression. My school is very traditional in every sense. Our first year of studies are dedicated to self healing and adopting proper dinnacharia and rittucharia. How can one heal another if one is not healed himself? We learn directly from the ancient texts, and our teacher is from a long lineage of Ayurvedic healers from India. There is so much junk around the Internet today that claims to be Ayurvedically sound, but most of it is bogus. I just happened to stumble upon your website yesterday, and was pleasantly surprised at how accurately you present authentic ayurveda in your writings. I will be sharing your blog with my classmates and teachers to show an example of how somebody can westernize the concepts of Ayurveda without watering down the juice. Thanks again for your time and energy. If you are ever in California, you are welcome to come to our school for a warm bowl of kitcheri and a steaming cup of spiced milk ( not together of course… Virud ahar) 😉
    Thanks again,

    • Mahi,

      Thanks for you generous comment. I am so pleased that you feel that way. I will certainly check out your school and would love to come by for a warm bowl of your kichadi. Well, no plans to export to California yet, but you never know! If my band becomes famous… who knows.

      Take care, Namaste. Alex.

    • If you have the habit of doing moderate exercise on a regular basis, then yes, it is compatible with the fast day. Otherwise, it is best to limit exercise to mild activities.

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