ADF Side Effect - Headache

Day 6, Feast Day #3

Much like on my second feast day, I woke up to a headache this morning. Super fun. On Tuesday, my second feast day, the headache lasted all day, despite taking some ibuprofen in the afternoon. When I do get a headache, it is typically from caffeine withdrawal or eye strain and is cured with caffeine or sleep respectively. I may be fasting every other day, but I am not giving up my daily morning cup of coffee, so it likely isn't caffeine withdrawal. I am thinking it is related to ADF.

Zach did an internet search and found forums where other people starting an ADF diet also experienced headaches. I seemed to draw the short stick, since Zach isn't experiencing this symptom at all. There are some theories floating around about why these headaches are happening, namely: dehydration, not eating, and sugar or carbohydrate withdrawal.

I do not think this is related to dehydration at all. I have been drinking copious amounts of water and herbal tea on fast days to stave off hunger. Yesterday I consumed: a 10 oz cup of mild roast coffee, a 10 oz cup of strawberry pomegranate tea, two 10 oz cups of ginger tea, a 16 oz cup of rooibos tea followed by a 10 oz cup of rooibos tea, two 12 oz cups of mint tea, and four 12 oz cups of water. That is 138 US ounces or the equivalent of over 4 liters and over one US gallon. That is a lot of liquid, and doesn't include the fluids in all the vegetables and the bowl of soup I had for lunch. Clear pee = hydrated.

Now, not eating seems like a much more likely reason for the headaches. The Mayo Clinic lists "skipping meals" as a cause for headaches. Additionally the Physician's Desk Reference cites skipping meals or not eating for an extended period as a trigger for both migraine and tension headaches

Previous to starting ADF, I was used to not only eating three meals a day, but lots of small snacks during my day. Moving to one small meal a day has been a big habit shift for me. From what I have read from other people experiencing this problem, the headaches often go away after a couple weeks or can be remedied with splitting the day's calorie allotment between two meals instead of the one. I may need to try two tiny meals in hopes of skipping my fasting hangover if this doesn't stop on its own. However, consuming multiple meals will cut the time I am actually going without food and might not give me all the benefits I am seeking from intermittent fasting.

As for sugar withdrawal, that could certainly be an explanation too. I have been keeping a food diary on MyFitnessPal.com and with their mobile app and it calculated that for my height & weight I should ingest about 34 grams of sugar a day. Now for the harsh reality: my approximate average sugar intake on my last two fast days was 33 grams. In comparison, on my last two feast days I ingested a disgusting 126 grams of sugar on average. Yes, I ate some sweets during my feast, including chocolate chip pancakes and beer for a meal. My two baseline days of calorie counting were at an average of 115 grams of sugar per day too. Holy diabetes, Batman! I knew I had a sweet tooth, but that is just kind of gross.To give you a better picture, 126 grams of sugar is over 30 sugar cubes.

In research done with rats, scientists have also found that rats show signs similar to opioid-dependence when their sugary diet is suddenly limited, suggesting there is such a thing as sugar addiction in rats. However, there is also newer research showing that there is no scientific support that the sugar dependency seen in animal models occurs in human trials. This study clearly hasn't made its way into the wikipedia article on this. 

So the jury is out on whether these headaches are from not eating for awhile, from sugar cravings, or something else. Hopefully it goes away soon. Either way, I should probably make an effort to not eat as much sugar since my insides might just be rivers of cornsyrup from years of not tracking my sugar intake and my apparent mouthlust for sucrose.


  1. "Mouthlust" would be a great band name.

  2. Yeah it would. Too bad the most musical talent I have is playing Rockband and karaoke Cher impressions.

  3. Have you tried supplementing Magnesium?

    Saw your link on the ADF thread over at the MDA forum...

  4. No, but I just looked up the research on that and that sounds like a promising idea. Thanks so much, Sondra! Magnesium is also not something MyFitnessPal tracks, so I might need it anyway.

  5. I've done ADF twice (in my 2nd time right now), and I think it works great; however, yes, the headache(s) are an uncomfortable side effect. I've just let them run their course and they go away in about a week. I take a multivitamin too, but not consistently. Did you ever try the Mg, and did it work for you?

  6. I did try the Mg. It did work quickly to relieve the headache but my stomach felt a little uneasy about it. So a trade off. The stomach bloating/tenderness might have been just eating after a fast day, however.

  7. A headache or cephalalgia is pain anywhere in the region of the head or neck. It can be a symptom of a number of different conditions of the head and neck. Get More Info