Is it okay to fast on weekends?

Intermittent fasting has become an increasingly popular diet and lifestyle trend in recent years. Supporters claim it can help with weight loss, improve health, and simplify meal planning. The most common intermittent fasting approach involves fasting for 16-20 hours per day, every day. But some people find this challenging on weekends when social plans or changes to routine make consistent fasting difficult. So is it okay to fast on weekdays but take weekends off? Here is a comprehensive look at the evidence.

What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern that involves cycling between periods of fasting and eating. It doesn’t specify which foods to eat, just when you should eat them. The most popular IF approaches include:

  • 16/8 method: Fast for 16 hours per day, eating all meals within an 8 hour window.
  • 5:2 diet: Eat normally 5 days per week, fast or restrict calories to 500-600 calories the other 2 days.
  • Alternate day fasting: Fast every other day, eating normally on alternate days.
  • The Warrior Diet: Fast during the day, eat one large meal at night.

Regardless of the specific method, intermittent fasting requires going for extended periods without eating, shifting the body into a fasted state. This is different from typical eating patterns which rarely exceed 12 hours without food.

Benefits of intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting has been associated with a number of potential health benefits including:

  • Weight loss – By restricting the window of time for eating, IF can lead to an automatic reduction in calories and assist with weight loss and maintenance.
  • Improved insulin sensitivity – Fasting gives the body a break from digesting and metabolizing food, which can improve insulin function.
  • Anti-aging benefits – Fasting triggers autophagy, a cellular cleansing process that removes waste material and damaged cells.
  • Heart health – Fasting has been found to improve numerous markers for cardiovascular health including blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglycerides.
  • Boosted immune system – Short term fasting triggers regenerative processes that renew the immune system.
  • Brain function – IF may boost brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which supports neuron growth and improves cognitive functions.

Research into intermittent fasting is still emerging. But the evidence for its health benefits is promising. Achieving these benefits depends on fasting consistently and long enough to trigger the desired biological mechanisms.

Is it okay to fast only on weekdays?

Given the proposed benefits of fasting come from entering a fasted state for extended periods of time, taking entire days off from fasting could impact results. Here are a few points to consider:

  • Reduced fasting frequency – If fasting only 5 days per week on a 16/8 schedule, the weekly fasting hours are reduced from 112 hours to 80 hours, nearly 30% less time in a fasted state.
  • Metabolic switching – It takes time upon initiating fasting for the body to transition into fat burning mode. Having 2 days off per week could stall this metabolic adaptation.
  • Insulin sensitivity – Spiking insulin repeatedly over 2 days could reverse improvements in insulin sensitivity achieved during the week.
  • Circadian disruption – Fasting impacts circadian biology and hormones. Drastically shifting eating patterns between weekdays and weekends may disrupt optimal circadian function.

Based on these factors, fasting only on weekdays and eating normally on weekends is not likely to produce the full benefits linked to daily intermittent fasting. However, any fasting routine that reduces overall calories, portions, and eating frequency could still assist weight loss.

Tips for fasting on weekends

While fasting every day is ideal, having some flexibility on weekends may help with consistency and sustainability. Here are some ways to incorporate fasting on weekends without completely breaking the routine:

Shorten the fasting window

Rather than a full 16+ hour daily fast, try a 12-14 hour fast on weekend days. This still creates periods of calorie restriction and lowered insulin levels without requiring as drastic a change from weekday habits.

Add alternative fasting periods

If unable to fast for extended overnight periods on weekends, add in a few hours of fasting at other times such as an early dinner and breakfast the next morning. Or fast between meals rather than entire days.

Allow 1 cheat day per week

Stick to the regular weekday fasting schedule but take 1 weekend day off. This limits disruptions in metabolic adaptations while allowing some flexibility.

Eat in moderation on weekends

Don’t consider weekends a free pass to eat with complete abandon. Focus on healthy foods, reasonable portions, and avoiding snacking. This prevents spikes in calories and poor nutrition.

Get right back to fasting

If you do overindulge on weekends, don’t wait until Monday to restart fasting. Get back on your regular schedule as soon as possible.

Sample weekend fasting schedule

Here is one way to modify intermittent fasting and retain some of the benefits on weekends:

Weekday Fasting Schedule
Monday 16/8 fast
Tuesday 16/8 fast
Wednesday 16/8 fast
Thursday 16/8 fast
Friday 16/8 fast
Weekend Fasting Schedule
Saturday 12 hour fast
Sunday One 24 hour fast per week

This schedule keeps a daily fasting routine during the week along with a slightly modified 36 hour fast from dinner on Saturday until breakfast on Monday. The 12 hour fast on Saturdays also provides a calorie restriction benefit.

Other considerations with weekend fasting

Besides metabolic factors, there are additional considerations regarding fasting only on weekdays:

  • Social life – For many people weekends involve more social engagements where eating is part of the plans. Fasting may be more difficult to adhere to.
  • Stress management – Weekends are often people’s time to relax and indulge a bit. Rigid fasting could paradoxically create more stress.
  • Work schedules – Weekend routines and demands tend to differ from weekday schedules. The change of context could make consistent fasting harder to maintain.
  • Family time – Weekends frequently revolve around family activities and meals. Fasting could interfere with quality time together.

These practical constraints can undermine motivation and make intermittent fasting less sustainable in the long run. Allowing some flexibility on weekends may offset these issues.

Should you avoid fasting on weekends?

Research has yet to directly compare health outcomes from intermittent fasting on weekdays versus a full 7 day per week schedule. But based on what we know:

  • Daily fasting maximizes the potential metabolic benefits
  • Only fasting on weekdays compromises many of the key mechanisms
  • Complete fasting abstinence on weekends can disrupt fat burning adaptations
  • Reasonable modifications to allow some dietary indulgence may aid compliance

If doing a 16/8 style fast, the best advice is to try your best to be consistent 7 days per week. But an occasional slip up won’t completely ruin your progress. Stick to weekday fasting as often as realistically possible. Minimize calorie bombs on weekends without obsessive restriction. And get right back to your regular fasting routine when the weekend is over.

With determination and flexibility, intermittent fasting can be part of a sustainable healthy lifestyle. Consistency is ideal. But the journey is rarely perfect. Pay attention to your mindset, hormones, and metabolic cues. Reflect on when you feel your best while fasting and allow yourself to indulge on occasion. Finding this balance will help make IF work for you even on the weekends.


While research on intermittent fasting continues to evolve, the current evidence suggests there are significant health and weight loss benefits associated with daily fasting periods of 16 hours or longer. Limiting fasting to 5 days per week reduces the time spent in a fasted state as well as metabolic adaptations that occur with consistent daily fasting. However, remaining too rigid on weekends when life is less structured may backfire and damage motivation. Those new to IF may benefit from easing into fasting on weekends, either shortening the fasting period or allowing 1 day off per week. Getting right back into the regular fasting schedule after a day off also helps maintain results. With a sensible, flexible approach, intermittent fasting can produce excellent outcomes even with occasional weekend indulgences.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *