Intermittent Fasting Mistakes People Make – Know Before You Start

Intermittent fasting mistake

“Why is intermittent fasting not working for me?” is a question we often hear. Others say that they have been seeing results for a while, but now it’s not working. It’s easy to blame yourself for a lack of self-control and consistency. However, you could also be making too many mistakes in your journey. 

Whether you are already into intermittent fasting or are planning to start soon, here are seven major mistakes to avoid. 

Eating Unhealthy Food 

Intermittent fasting is not a diet per se. Most people choose it over other weight loss programs because it’s based on when you eat, not what you take. Except for an IF method like the 5:2, most intermittent fasting protocols don’t involve counting calories or making major dietary changes. That’s a good thing for those who find counting calories stressful. 

However, this is not an excuse to fill your eating days with all the calorie-laden foods you can think of. While it’s not a diet program, the way intermittent fasting works is by promoting weight loss through fat burning. 

Don’t expect to see significant changes soon if your body is still burning through the calories you were overloaded with from your last meal. Any intermittent fasting method is best complemented with a healthy diet for optimal results. 

Choosing the Wrong Intermittent Fasting Method 

Another common mistake people make is thinking that intermittent fasting is one-size-fits-all. There are over ten approaches to intermittent fasting for different people’s goals and personalities. A method that seems so popular with everyone else may not necessarily offer the same results. 

Start by understanding the different methods of intermittent fasting. Next, narrow down to an approach that aligns with your goals, lifestyle, plus work and family needs. A plan that lets you schedule the fasting phase when you’re off work is ideal if your job requires lots of energy. Another consideration is whether you need to be at the family dinner. 

Going Super Hard, So Soon  

Intermittent fasting may help you lose seven to eleven pounds in roughly ten weeks. As impressive as these figures appear, don’t make the mistake of jumping into an extreme fasting plan too soon.

You don’t want to jump from a routine of three or four meals per day with snacks in between right into a 24-hour fast. You may be able to pull through the first day or two. But you’ll be battling extreme hunger, lightheadedness, and anxiety, all of which might make your experience even more challenging. 

As a beginner, you’ll be happiest to start with easy intermittent fasting methods before leveling up to medium and extreme plans. The 12:12 and 5:2 fasting methods are among the best intermittent fasting methods for beginners. Intermediates and experts may consider advanced fasting plans like the 14:10, 16:8, and alternate-day fasting (ADF).

Not Eating Enough During Non-Fasting Days 

Binge-eating is a pitfall you must avoid once you start intermittent fasting. But equally important is ensuring you get enough calories during your eating window.

The main goal when intermittent fasting is to boost metabolism and fat burning. Regularly eating fewer calories than your body needs will not automatically force it to start burning fat.

On the contrary, this may trigger starvation mode, where the body decides to hold onto whatever fat cells are available. When this happens, you stop losing weight, leading to frustrations and the possibility of binge eating. 

The number of calories you should eat when intermittent fasting depends on your age and activity level. That’s why engaging a dietitian for proper nutritional guidance is essential. The rule of thumb, however, is not to go below 1200 calories daily unless you’re doing the 5:2 IF approach. 

Expecting Instant Results (even When Done Alone)

We see this mistake, particularly among people who expect positive feedback on the scale after each fasting session. It’s possible to see results as soon as you start intermittent fasting. But this heavily depends on various factors, including your current weight, metabolic rate, and activity level. 

In addition, you may have to wait a while longer, especially if your metabolism has taken a toll from years of bad food choices. 

Our advice is to consider intermittent fasting as a tool to complement your overall weight loss or fitness strategy. Consider coupling it with other big changes that collectively lead to better health, like exercising regularly and improving your sleep hygiene. 

Night Grazing 

Intermittent fasting is largely time-centered. There’s no best time to fast when doing this type of fast. But research shows that aligning your fast with your circadian rhythm offers the most benefits. 

The circadian rhythm refers to various patterns that work behind the scenes to cause physical, mental, and behavioral changes in the body. They include hormonal activity, digestion, body temperature, and the sleep-wake cycle. 

A master clock called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) controls all circadian rhythms. It tells the cells how to act, depending on the time of the day. For instance, in the evening hours, there is an increase in the hormone melatonin, which prepares your body to sleep. This is followed by a decrease in insulin levels and core temperature. 

That said, that late-night meal or snack tells your system to keep the insulin levels up against the circadian rhythm. 

Several animal studies have shown that eating against the circadian rhythm leads to weight gain. Although not all human studies support this theory, it’s evident that late eaters often make poor food choices and eat more calories as well. 

Lastly, Trying to Be Super Duper Perfect 

It’s safe to say that everyone who has done intermittent fasting has made mistakes at some point. In most cases, your perfectionist tendencies will be your major pitfalls in your weight loss journey. As a beginner, there are times when it will feel impossible to go on without that little chocolate bar. 

Fasting causes an increase in cortisol levels (stress hormone), especially during a longer fast. If that emergency snack can help you calm down, we’d encourage you to have it so long as you get back on track. As you get used to fasting, you’ll realize that these pick-me-up snacks mid-fast will no longer be necessary. 

Last Updated on February 15, 2023

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