Can you GAIN weight while fasting?

by Brad Pilon

“Can I gain weight while fasting?” – This is a common question I get from people who are curious about Eat Stop Eat.

The truth is, yes, you can gain weight even though you are fasting.

Fasting is an AMAZING way to create a calorie deficit, and as a result of this fact fasting is also a highly effective way to lose body fat, but it is NOT magic by any means.

As an example, lets say that you have been gaining weight for the last couple months (don’t freak out, remember..this is just an example).

Now, through a bunch of very scientific methods we figured out that you were overeating by about 30%.

In other words you were eating 30% more calories then you needed to stay weight stable.

Since you’ve been gaining weight you decide that its time to try out that “Eat Stop Eat” diet that everyone’s been raving about (shameless plug!).

After fasting twice a week, every week, for the last 7 weeks you are HORRIFIED to find that you GAINED 2 pounds.

How could this happen? Is that Brad Pilon a LIAR? Is fasting useless?…Or worse..did you RUIN your metabolism?

Well the answer may be much simpler than that.

It could be that the fasting worked INCREDIBLY well for you, and the two fasts a week managed to reduce the amount of calories you ate in a week by 22%.  A very impressive drop..but sadly it was not enough.

If you were previously overeating by 30% and fasting caused you to decrease the amount you ate by 22%, you are still left eating in a surplus (around 8% more than you need).

Like I said before, fasting isn’t magic. There is (an always will be) a need to eat responsibly when you do eat. This does not mean you have to avoid sugar or dairy products (see my last post) and to be honest, it doesn’t even mean you need to eat healthy (although I do recommend eating with variety). To lose weight, you just need to eat a little less.

This is where small changes come in to play.

If you are still overeating even though you are fasting then your best bet is to examine your diet to find small changes that you could make that will cause big results.

A couple small changes should get  you back down into a caloric deficit and help you lose weight.

It is EXTREMELY easy to overeat. Some people manage to overeat by thousands of calories every day. It is very difficult to under-eat by this amount for long periods of time – this is why I like fasting so much. But, if fasting isn’t getting you the results you want, then you still need to address the way you are eating even when you are not fasting.

Small changes…little reductions in intake…can have big results, ESPECIALLY if you are already fasting.

It may not be great Eat Stop Eat marketing, and it’s definitely not some MSN style cure all weight loss technique (ice water anyone?), but it’s honest and it’s true.



King January 28, 2009 at 9:57 am


Another aspect of this that everyone needs to consider is H20. While total calorie reduction may or may not be met, water is sometimes a forgotten factor. Your article on dieter’s edema provides some evidence of water’s influence on weight loss.

During the last five weeks I have fasted twice per week for 23 to 27 hours. I have weighted myself each day at the same time as a part of this experiment just to see what the scale will tell me. I have seen weight gain/loss of 3+ a number of times from one day to the next. Obviously it is physically impossible to add/lose that much lean or fat mass in that short of time, so water appears to be the missing variable.

If I eat foods that “encourage” the body to retain water then a bottle or two of water will take up temporary residence throughout my body. A pint of water weighs about a pound so if you are into drinking a lot of water and eating foods (when not on ESE) that attract water you will not see the weight loss results you expect. The good news is that by the end of each ESE fast the excess water weight has been lost along with some more body fat. The weight chart continues its downward trend and all is right with the ESE world.


billy January 28, 2009 at 10:04 pm

Aren’t there hormonal effects of fasting that make the weight loss benefits greater than just a simple caloric deficit alone?

Greg Lowe January 29, 2009 at 12:10 am

billy :Aren’t there hormonal effects of fasting that make the weight loss benefits greater than just a simple caloric deficit alone?

I primarily fast for this reason as well as giving my body a rest and chance to devote some energy to healing and cleansing the body. I read Joel Fuhrman’s Eating and Fasting for Health, or something like that. He makes a nice argument for how fasting allows the body to get rid of excess waste products in the body, though I think he means longer term fasting. I’m seeing good weight loss aid as well. I ended a fast yesterday and my sweet tooth would not take no for an answer. I ended the fast with a salad, but I dove into some Butterfingers bite size individual candies. Ate about 5 of em. Then some bread with jam. Mmmm.

Lani Muelrath January 29, 2009 at 2:36 am

Yes, you’re right Brad, food – or lack of it – isn’t as highly marketable as shakes and bars and supplements!

I suspect the situation you describe with calorie deficit is probably what explains what creates a weight loss situation with ESE for some and not for others; oftentimes I find in conversations with clients that they end up figuring this out for themselves.


Brad Pilon January 29, 2009 at 5:23 am

Hi Billy,

Yes for sure, but for the vast majority of people the biggest and most remarkable benefits will always come from the caloric deficit.


Brad Pilon January 29, 2009 at 5:23 am


Very well put.


Brad Pilon January 29, 2009 at 5:24 am


I totally agree. One of the themes of my seminar was that it’s “All about food, but has nothing to do with food”

Meaning there is so much personal relationship stuff we need to address with food before we can address the food itself.


Yavor Marichkov January 29, 2009 at 6:02 pm

It seems the biggest mistake we make when fasting is over eating. I sometimes catch myself ‘preparing’ for a fast with a big dinner. I should know better lol.


Jennifer January 29, 2009 at 11:32 pm

I fell in love with ESE because it freed me from the every 3 hours, tupperware, calorie counting crowd.

At some point I stopped losing weight. I probably hit the point where I was fairly lean and my body was protesting, but I stillwanted to be leaner.

So, I used fitday for a few days. I know, calorie counting. But it opened my eyes and I realized those handfuls on almonds were really adding up. I think most people underestimate how much they are really eating.

I cleaned up my act and things started moving in the right direction again.

Matt D January 30, 2009 at 7:49 am

hi brad,

While i dont plan on counting calories, i was wondering if you can tell me roughly how many calories i should eat on my non fasting days just so i can get an idea. I am 29 years old about 187lbs and at about 12-15% bodyfat and i also lift weights 3-4 times per week.My goal is to reach 7-9%. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

thanks again,
Matt D

Jeremy Reeves January 31, 2009 at 2:07 am


Jennifer you’re absolutely right about people underestimating how much they eat. I’m guilty of the same thing.

A good exercise is to do exactly what you said and count out every single little calorie..just to kind of “notice” how much you’re really eating.

For example I was just craving apple juice so I had about 4 ounces or so of it. That’s probably an extra 50-70 calories right there! Now if I did that 4 times today..that’s an extra 200-280 calories that I barely even noticed, which could be the difference between burning fat and gaining it!

And yes, almonds are a huge culprit of that. I try to limit myself to 1 small handful per day of nuts because they’re loaded w/ calories.

Jeremy Reeves

Dustin January 31, 2009 at 9:43 am

I think that this is the very idea that Brad’s trying to get people away from. Just eat as you normally would, fast 1-2 days per week, and see what happens. I’d say the only point you’d want to monitor calories would be if you’re fasting 2 days per week and not losing.

Lani Muelrath February 1, 2009 at 12:46 am

Hey Jennifer,

I think you were smart to do a spot check on the count. It gave you information – information that ended up being helpful to you.

There is nothing inherently “bad” about calorie counting, macro nutrient awareness, or any of the rest of it. They call an be used as positive tools to leverage our success. It is when it crosses over to OCD that preoccupation leads to misery – and becomes counter productive. I think you demonstrated a good use of these tools!


Matt D February 2, 2009 at 10:57 am

that is my proplem. I have been following ESE for about 6 months now fasting twice per week and i just have not lost much if at all. I know the obvious answer is to eat less but i was just hopeing for a reference point.

James February 2, 2009 at 10:15 pm

Hey Brad,

I working on going from 10% to 7% BF(low enough for me) and I’m curious about how your ESE nutrition plan was set up when you did the bodybuidling contest.

For example, did you eat say 2000 calories on non-fasting days (5-days a week) and 700 cals on fasting days (assuming fast ended at 7PM). Just how did you set it up? I’m interested in learning from your succes.


King February 3, 2009 at 9:37 am


A tag along question to Matt’s. A friend has been doing ESE (2x/week) for 4 weeks and she says she has gained 3 pounds (scale weight). In 6 weeks I’ve lost 10 pounds and we eat the same plant-based diet. She is working with hormone issues so what effect does the thyroid have in slowing down/speeding up the base metabolism both during the fed state and fasting state? I don’t remember seeing anything mentioned in the ESE information or related studies about the thyroid’s role in overall weight loss process.


Brad Pilon February 6, 2009 at 4:26 am

Hi King,

If it is a medically diagnosed condition (as opposed to the peri-hormonal issues that are popular these days) then it can have a very large effect on how the body operates. Diabetes would be a prime example of this. But no matter the issue, the answer to weight loss will always be “less” in a way that is manageable and enjoyable (or at least not painful).


Brad Pilon February 6, 2009 at 4:27 am


I didn’t use ESE for my contest (I competed before I did my masters). I ate progressively less and less calories, while progressively doing more and more exercise, combined with a whole lot of tanning and posing.

If I could do it all over again, I would use ESE.


Brad Pilon February 6, 2009 at 4:29 am

Matt D,

There is nothing wrong with tracking your calories for a small period of time to get an idea of how much you are eating and where the calories are coming from. But once you get this understanding, then its time to work within the confines of eating more or less, as opposed to specific amounts of calories.


Brad Pilon February 6, 2009 at 4:35 am


As usual, well put.


Brad Pilon February 6, 2009 at 4:36 am


I’ve had the same expereince with almonds…a couple handfuls and BAM your up like 800 Calories for the day. I’d rather a sandwich and maybe a coffee!


Brad Pilon February 6, 2009 at 4:37 am


Totally agree. You just have to pretend the fast never happened.


rick March 4, 2009 at 8:14 pm


I have been utilizing eat stop eat for alomost a year and have had great results (lost 10 stubborn pounds). Lately i have seen an increase in weight almost 6 pounds depending on when i weigh in. My training has actually picked up lately. Any similar experiences – i have even tried fasting three days instead of two. I can think of nothing nutrition wise that ihave been doing differently to cause weight gain.

Ron Alpert March 8, 2009 at 4:39 am

@Brad Pilon
I guess all of this can be lost on me if the notion of ‘eating too much’ goes unanswered. What measure do you have to determine roughly the ‘right amount’ of food to eat?

Brad Pilon March 20, 2009 at 10:13 pm

@Ron Alpert

The right amount of food is the amount that allows you to remain stable at a certain weight. Then, if you add in 1 or 2 fasts, you should be able to lose weight.

From my experience this has been the most effective approach.


Brad Pilon March 20, 2009 at 10:14 pm


If your training has picked up, then something else must have changed. Either you are less active when you are not training (sine wave theory) or there has been a small change in your nutrition that has gone unnoticed.


KrisBelucci June 2, 2009 at 11:26 am

da best. Keep it going! Thank you

Becca June 3, 2009 at 2:03 am

what if I fast from breakfast to dinner? Would that be beneficial at all?

Tyler Woodward September 16, 2010 at 6:33 pm

Hi, this is a very useful article. I’m seriously finding it difficult to lose my excess flab and cellulite right now and it’s motivating to read as much about the subject as possible. Do you think at any point there’ll be a reliable and affordable solution? Thank you so much for publishing my comment!

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