For the past few years, intermittent fasting has become a popular dietary approach in the realm of weight loss and health. In fact, tons of people have already embraced it as a medium to staying fit and healthy. But, while the majority of the population seems to have received a lot of benefits, for some people, IF doesn’t seem to hold what it claims. Either because of an underlying disease or a common mistake, frustration and disappointments always lie ahead.
But despite the pros and cons, this approach seems to be effective in the fitness community as a primary tool for achieving the desired weight. And if you’re one of those health enthusiasts who’s decided to give intermittent fasting a try, then this article is for you.
Below are 15 common intermittent fasting mistakes that, when avoided, will make your journey less of a hassle.
Top Intermittent Fasting Mistakes Every Beginner Should Avoid
1. Forgetting Your Personal Medical Clearance
Before trying anything like fasting, it’s always a safe move to get your medical clearance first. After all, fasting isn’t for everyone… especially when certain medical conditions are present.
Diabetes, GI ulcers, and metabolic disorders — these are examples of common diseases that may affect your body’s response to physiologic stress, especially on a diet. So consult your local physician first. It’ll act as your safety valve.
2. Choosing The Wrong Plan
Many dieters jump straight into a 20 hour fast, only to find themselves giving up the next day.
Why would that be?
The problem is (conditioning aside) each person possesses different thresholds of hunger. And what works for person A might not work for person B. So instead of charging head on towards a whole day of food abstinence like most people do, it’s best to pick the right type of intermittent fasting that fits your individual profile.
As discussed in our article guide about IF, you can see that it consists of various variations. And whether it’s the 16:4, alternate day, 20:4, or 2 times weekly — success will greatly depend on the method that suits your lifestyle. So if abstinence from food for 16 hours a day or twice a week works perfectly for you, then congratulations — you found the right fit that will last a lifetime.
3. Not Tracking Your Food Intake
This is a very common mistake you’ll see anywhere.
Enthusiasts have this notion that IF is a special pill that magically induces weight loss and bypasses the law of thermodynamics. But the reality is, you can’t trick mother nature. Calories still count, and they always will. But that doesn’t mean getting too anal about the numbers. Simply remembering serving portions of your daily food intake will do the trick — a cup of potatoes, a serving of chicken, or 2-3 tablespoons of oil are common measurements that need a week of practice to get used to. And once habits are established — things will get efficient.
4. Binging During Eating Window
Another common scenario is binging like in an eat-all-you-can buffet once the feeding window kicks in.
It’s understandable. The pain of being food-deprived for hours makes you salivate at the sight of your long-awaited first meal of the day. But mind you, this will be the perfect time to mentally toughen up and build resilience against stressors. So don’t let this chance slip. It’s the perfect experience to get stronger mentally and physically.
5. Eating Junk Instead of Healthy Food
While it might be fun to eat all kinds of junk during your eating window without gaining fat (provided it’s still within caloric maintenance), this pattern will definitely defeat the purpose of fasting.
Fasting isn’t a free ticket for a junk-all-you-can feast every night, it’s primarily a dietary method to stay healthy and allow the body (your guts) some rest. So try to use it for what it really is, and not as an excuse to give in to your cravings. Perhaps a slice of cake or 2 servings of ice cream will suffice, but 10 pieces of donuts as your primary carbohydrate source might be going overboard. So as much as possible try to keep the junk to a minimum, and mainly stick to whole foods.
6. Giving Up Too Early
Just like in mistake #2, giving up too early might be caused by choosing the wrong type of fasting for you. But if everything is fine and no comorbidities are found in your medical check-up, then it’s all about biting the bullet and accepting the fact that staying healthy and lean comes with hard work and discipline.
After all, you won’t be suffering for too long. It will take at least 3 weeks for your body to adapt to a new eating pattern. And once you get past that point — just enjoy the faces people make when they see you eating a whole chicken without getting fat.
7. Drinking The Wrong Liquids
When it comes to liquids, people often make the mistake of drinking coffee or tea filled with sugar. While coffee in itself isn’t a no-no in IF, sugar and calorie-laden ingredients are. This is because you’re trying to stimulate as little insulin as possible during the fasted state.
So avoid things containing table sugar, honey, or cream. Instead, stick to brewed coffee and tea. You can even add 1 or 2 servings of stevia if you’re after sweetness. Or even better, try some infused water recipes like lemon or cucumber.
8. Not Exercising
While it might seem tempting to just stay inactive, it’s always better to include some form of physical activity while fasting. Doing so will accomplish two main things:
Increase in metabolism
It’s an established fact that exercise stimulates metabolism. And as blood circulation increases together with hormone production — fat loss begins.
These are one of the various natural reactions of the body to exercise, and performing it on a fasted state increases its effectiveness.
Nobody likes feeling hungry, but unfortunately during the adjustment period of IF, hunger will be your daily companion (at least during fasting hours). So a good way to blunt it and keep it at bay is through exercise. By the time you’re done with your workout, it won’t be long until you finally get to eat your long waited meal of the day.
9. Being Too Anal About Your Schedule
It’s a good habit to always stick to timing and schedule, after all, discipline will get you a long way. But sometimes being excessively strict with meal timing won’t make things enjoyable. Instead, allow some flexibility every now and then. Breaking the fast early or even for the whole day (especially during a family day) is acceptable. This will help you release some mental tension while still allowing time to adjust. After all, if weight management is the goal, in the grand scheme of things calorie intake is what really matters. Just make sure not to go overboard with those extra meals.
10. Not Staying Busy
It’s always a better idea to stay busy during fasting hours. This will provide some distraction from thinking about food and instead focus on things that need to be done.
In fact, the fasting window is the perfect time to stay proactive. Exercise as mentioned earlier is a good way to kill off time. You can even try to do other things, like finishing tasks for work, study, etc. And by the time feeding hours kick in, you’ll get to appreciate more your larger than usual meals after a long day of hard work and perseverance.
11. Abuse Stimulants
While coffee acts as a good stimulant for weight loss as well as a nice drink to sip in when food-deprived, going overboard may not be a wise decision. Especially when taking multiple shots of espresso in a day (unless you want to burn out your adrenal glands).
Instead, try to limit coffee intake to 1 expresso a day or a few cups of brewed one. It will save you future medical expenses.
12. Being Afraid of Hunger
Hunger is a sensation everybody is afraid of. In fact, anybody wants to avoid hunger. But when it comes to fasting, it’s one of the major barriers you’re supposed to overcome. After all, this dietary pattern isn’t just for losing weight, but to toughen up your mind too. Consider it a form of training to overcome life’s challenges.
Perhaps what you’re really afraid of is getting some form of disease like an ulcer from skipping meals?
Relax. If your medical clearance says you’re essentially healthy, you’ll be fine. What you may be experiencing are some side effects from growing up eating every 3-5 hours a day for the last, perhaps 20 years?
13. Eating Too Little
While the majority of the people fall in the category of overeating during feeding hours, some individuals tend to undereat too often.
It’s a core principle to decrease calories if trying to lose weight, but if brought down too low, things won’t get better either, why?
Because the body will begin to enter metabolic slowdown, meaning, it will try to preserve as much energy as possible. And if weight loss is your goal, it’s one thing to be avoided. So try not to go overboard with eating a salad at night, instead, give your tummy larger meals or snacks that will put you just slightly below maintenance.
14. Not getting Enough Sleep
The last but not the least is the importance of sleep. A serious matter that most people tend to overlook.
The problem is that when you don’t sleep enough, hormones such as cortisol (the hormone that helps you lose weight) and insulin (the one responsible for weight gain) are secreted at the wrong time. Normally, during fasting, cortisol should go up while insulin goes down. But when there is a lack of sleep, these are both high throughout the day, and instead of burning fat, you’ll end up losing muscle tissue while being prone to weight gain. And to make matters worse, hunger and cravings for junk also kick in — a cocktail almost impossible to resist.
So try to get enough sleep at night. Preferably at least 5-8 hours or more, depending on how many hours you personally need in order to function during the day. It’s an investment-worthy of your time.
Now that you’re aware of these common intermittent fasting mistakes, work on them one by one. In a matter of days, you’ll be able to enjoy it and see its effects on your weight.