Like with any weight loss diet or routine, it’s incredibly important to research the facts on how the routine works and any tips or tricks to avoid. The same goes with intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is a food and lifestyle technique (much like the keto diet) that people are using to lose weight and support their health and well-being.
If you’re looking into utilizing this technique, there are some things you should know, especially when it comes to the dos and don’ts. This article dives into some great pointers to familiarize yourself with before embarking on your own journey so that you can avoid any intermittent fasting mistakes.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Before we begin: It’s important to note that intermittent fasting is not for everyone. Fasting requires not eating for prolonged periods of time, and for some, this may not be the ideal way of going about your fitness or weight loss goals. Please consult your doctor if you’re considering adopting this technique to see if it’s the right fit for you and your body.
Now, let’s go over the basics of intermittent fasting. There are several different ways of achieving your intermittent fasting schedule, including:1
- Meal skipping: If a structured plan isn’t your thing, then meal skipping may be the right plan for you. Your body is able to withstand a few hours without food, especially if it’s just a meal or two from time to time. This method is a little spontaneous and allows you the freedom to choose when to skip breakfast or lunch, essentially creating your own fasting window. (Just be sure to pack in the protein and health foods the next time you do eat.)2
- Eat stop eat: Eat stop eat involves a solid, 24-hour fast at least once or twice a week. This means that you wouldn’t eat from dinner on Tuesday 6:30PM until Wednesday at the same time.3
- The 16/8 method: This method involves fasting every day for at least 14 to 16 hours and restricting your eating window (a.k.a. “feeding window”) to about 8 to 10 hours. This prolonged fasting method can be as simple as fasting after dinner and skipping breakfast (i.e., if you finish your last meal in the evening, you wouldn’t eat until around noon the next day).4
- The 5:2 diet: This method requires eating normally for five days of the week and then restricting your calorie intake to about 500-600 calories for two days of the week (hence, the 5:2 name). One of the best parts of this method is that you’re able to pick and choose which days you fast on; there are no set rules.5
You know your body and its needs best. Your intermittent fasting plan should revolve around just that; whether it’s fat loss or gaining muscle mass. Be sure to consult your physician before making any dietary changes – they can help you pick the plan that’s best for you and your goals.
Can Intermittent Fasting Lead To Weight Loss?
While many diet techniques focus on how much food or what kind of foods you should be eating (for example, like keto), intermittent fasting is a little different. Rather than what or how, when is the primary focus of this weight loss trend.6 This affects your body fat and weight on a molecular level. This is because when you eat fewer meals, your calorie intake is reduced, which may lead to faster weight loss results.7
However, the important thing to note with intermittent fasting is that while you’re eating less and reducing your calorie intake, weight loss becomes harder to achieve if your eating periods are spent binge eating all of the calories you didn’t eat while fasting (but more on this later).
Hunger Pangs And What To Do About Them
It’s fairly common to experience hunger pangs while fasting, especially when you’re first starting out. But if you can’t focus on everyday tasks because hunger seems to be gnawing away at you, here are some tips about how to handle them:
- Fill up with water: Drinking enough water can do wonders when it comes to feeling less hungry. If you’re fasting in the morning, try and drink around 32 ounces of water (or seltzer or mineral water). Continue to hydrate every 30 to 60 minutes in order to keep the hunger pangs at bay.8
- Fill up more during your eating window: This makes perfect sense when you think about it. By filling up on more protein and calories during your eating window, the easier your fasting window will be. If you find yourself with persistent hunger pangs, try rounding out your meals a little more during your next eating window.
- Try some caffeine: It may seem odd, but caffeine is allowed during your fasting window. (This is because a cup of black coffee doesn’t carry too many calories, if any.) If you don’t drink your coffee black, you may want to start, or at least get used to using stevia or a dash of unsweetened almond milk that won’t add many calories to your beverage.9 Otherwise, your blood sugar level can spike during your fasted state. This may not seem like a big deal, but if it becomes a regular habit, it could inhibit your weight loss goals. This is because sugar causes your insulin levels to spike while fasting causes them to decrease; fasting helps balance out your insulin sensitivity and your body to regulate sugar.
- Chew gum: Again, watch out for sugar or artificial sweeteners in gum that could cause you to inadvertently break your fast. Chewing gum is a great way to get your mind off of those hunger pangs until you’re able to eat again.
Common Intermittent Fasting Mistakes That Lead To Weight Gain
Mapping out your eating window or fasting period with your particular plan is important, especially when it comes to losing weight. Many people often find themselves gaining weight while intermittent fasting. If that’s the exact opposite of what you want to achieve, here are a few things to be cautious of or consider so you can avoid an intermittent fasting mistake:
- Consuming too much during your eating window: Intermittent fasting is all about burning calories, so beware of eating too much sugar during your windows, and be especially cognizant of how much you’re eating when you’ve been fasting and exercising. Too many calories can have the opposite effect of your desired weight loss goal.10 (Fasting can also increase your cortisol levels, causing you to become stressed and further contributing to weight gain, so make sure you’re still exercising.)
- Not eating enough food: Likewise, not eating enough or eating fewer calories during a meal can have the same effect. Why? As discussed above, it’s much easier to watch your caloric intake if you’re shooting for the same amount every day. However, eating a smaller meal during one eating window as a way to only eat a few calories, but then binging in the next, can cause your caloric intake to skyrocket and, thus, contribute to weight gain.
- Is the method you chose right for you?: This can be a tricky one. If you find yourself gaining unwanted weight while intermittent fasting, it could be because your method just isn’t working for your body. Take some time to reassess in order to come back ready to flourish.
It’s very important to eat across multiple food groups, getting enough calories and nutritious foods (like healthy fats instead of processed foods or junk food) in order to power through fasting hours. So, if you’re thinking about calorie restriction, think again. Intermittent fasting is all about striking the right balance. And it bears repeating here: if you’re considering intermittent fasting but are unsure where to begin, please consult your physician for advice.
Before You Go
Understanding how intermittent fasting protocol works and the many effects it has on the body before you begin your own intermittent fasting journey is crucial, and is why consulting your doctor before starting may help you in the long run.11 Taking the time to research potential tips and tricks so that you can get the most out of this strategy, whether it’s focusing on your body weight through fat loss or just cutting back on your calories, will help you feel more prepared. Once you find an intermittent fasting technique that’s right for you, get started, stay smart, and the rest will follow.