If you are an intermittent fasting beginner, or even if you are experienced, here are the most common intermittent fasting mistakes you should avoid.
Top 17 Intermittent Fasting Mistakes Even Experienced Fasters Make
I consulted with a group of experienced intermittent fasters to find out what they thought were the most common intermittent fasting mistakes. I loved the answers I received. Many of them I would have included in this list, but some will surprise you.
1. Starting With Unrealistic Expectations
Many people start with intermittent fasting to lose weight for example. More often than not, they hope to lose a lot of weight fast. However, intermittent fasting is not a crash diet. Once you learn how to do it right, you WILL lose weight. However, it will be most likely be a slow process. I have gone through months where I lose only 1 or 2 pounds. Then, I lose 2 pounds within a week. It takes time and perseverance. Read my post Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss: 7 Tips to Help You Achieve the Results You Want for more help with intermittent fasting for weight loss.
How Fast Will You Lose Weight?
Most women lose around 3 pounds a month and that is after finding the intermittent fasting method that is most effective for them. Remember that a weight loss of 1 pound a week requires a calorie deficit of around 3,000 calories. Now, I don’t know if you realize that, but that is almost the equivalent of 2 full days without food! Many people have unrealistic expectations because they don’t realize what it takes to lose weight.
2. Not Preparing For Intermittent Fasting
Jumping right in is better than not doing anything. However, it’s an excellent idea to prepare for intermittent fasting to increase your chances of success.
My two favorite approaches to prepare for intermittent fasting are:
- Modified fasting: I talk a lot about modified fasting on my blog. A modified fast is a short period during which you are severely restricting your calorie intake (using consuming around 40-50% your regular calorie intake). It will help you kick start the healing process and make fasting easier.
- Fewer carbs: Most of us do better on fewer carbs. You may notice that too many carbs increase your appetite. If that’s you, start preparing for intermittent fasting by consuming fewer carbs or even going on the keto diet for a week or two before starting intermittent fasting.
3. Not Building Up Slowly
It may not be a good idea to start with the OMAD Diet (One Meal A Day). At least, I wouldn’t recommend it. Instead, I suggest you build up gradually by starting with a 14-hour fasting window (after doing a modified fast or the keto diet for a week). Build up slowly as you gain in confidence.
4. Picking the Wrong Intermittent Fasting Method
It may be that you are fasting too long or not fasting long enough. Both can be counterproductive. If you fast too long, you may cause hormonal disruptions (particularly if you are a woman). If you don’t fast long enough, you may never enter ketosis, which is important for weight loss and to teach your body to become metabolically flexible. It’s important to experiment with the different intermittent fasting methods to fin the right one for you. Read my post How to Decide Which Intermittent Fasting Method Is Best for You for more guidance.
Also, don’t forget the quiz What Is Your Fasting Personality?
If you are anything like me, you may just start your intermittent fasting journey by jumping in the 16:8 method and decide to quit because you are not losing any weight. Let me just emphasize that if weight loss is your goal and you are not losing weight on the 16:8 method, you may need to extend your fasting window. Moreover, I recommend you practice a modified fast once a month for a few months at first. It will decrease your chance of wanting to quit.
6. Thinking of Intermittent Fasting as a “Diet”
Many people start intermittent fasting thinking they will go back to their regular eating after losing some extra weight. Intermittent fasting is not a “diet”, it’s a lifestyle. The benefits extend beyond weight loss and chances are, you will feel so good, you will want to continue anyway. However, if you decide to go back to 3 square meals a day plus snacks, you will most likely lose any progress you made and gain back the weight you lost.
7. Breaking Your Fast Unintentionallly
Now, what I will tell you here may be a bit controversial. Most experienced fasters are very strict about what constitutes “clean fasting”.
If you want to practice clean fasting, you may only have water, black coffee, black tea or herbal tea, lemon water or apple cider vinegar with water. Nothing else!
If you are practicing keto fasting, you may have some healthy fats and test your blood glucose to see how your body is reacting. That’s what I do. For example, I decided that life is too short for black coffee, so I have some full-fat coconut milk and zero calorie sweetener in my coffee. If I feel too hungry, I sometimes eat a tablespoon of coconut oil. I like to test my glucose and my ketones to monitor my progress. If your glucose is the same before and after your fatty coffee, you are good to go! No need to drink your coffee black!
Use my affiliate link to get a 15% discount on the Keto-Mojo (the monitor I use to measure my glucose and my ketones).
8. Picking the Wrong Foods to Break Your Fast
The main thing to remember is that you should break your fast with the most nutritious foods possible. Also preferably without combining fasts and carbs. I created a post and a video to help you pick the right foods to break your fast, it’s called 15 Best Foods to Break Your Fast. I enjoy a Power Shake and a large salad every day when I break my fast.
9. Eating Too Much During Your Eating Window
Many people find they have a tendency to binge when they start eating again after their fast. Make sure you are not stuffing yourself every chance you get and snacking constantly. Sit down to eat. Learn to listen to your body’s cues and eat when you are hungry. If you want to lose weight, understand that calories do matter even if you are practicing intermittent fasting. You most likely won’t have to count calories because restricting your eating window will allow you to naturally decrease your calorie intake. However, if you are stuffing yourself for 8 hours, you most likely won’t lose any weight.
Calorie Deficit for Weight Loss
To lose 1 pound a week, you need a calorie deficit of 3,000 calories. Now, I don’t know if you realize, but that’s almost the equivalent of two full days without food! I find that underestimating how much one is eating is the most common reason for not losing weight. Yes, some don’t lose weight because they don’t eat enough, but I don’t think that this happens very often. The most likely culprit is eating more than you think and having unrealistic expectations.
10. Not Drinking Enough Water
Many people forget to drink when they don’t eat (even when they do eat for that matter). Make sure you stay hydrated by drinking half your body weight in pounds in ounces of water. For example, if you weight 160 pounds, drink 80 ounces of water.
11. Telling Everyone About Intermittent Fasting
It’s normal to want to talk about something new you are excited to learn. However, understand that many people may not approve of intermittent fasting. They may try to discourage you and talk you out of trying it. Some misinformed friends may feel it will wreck your hormones or put you on the path to disordered eating. Read my post Is Intermittent Fasting Bad for You to make sure you practice intermittent fasting safely.
12. Never Switching Things Up
Finding the best intermittent fasting method for you will most likely require some experimentation. Once you experience to results you are looking for, you may still find it beneficial to switch things up a little once in a while. For example, if like me, you find that the Warrior Diet is optimal, you may still benefit from a 24 hour fast once in a while. Or maybe a modified fast a few times a year. It’s often a good idea to keep changing between methods once in a while.
13. Eating Too Many Carbs
A moderate amount of carbs (between 50 and 200 grams a day) is optimal for most women. If you eat more than 200 grams a day on a regular, you may find it harder to fast. I sometimes take a break from intermittent fasting one day during the weekend. That one day, I may eat paleo pancakes for breakfast, put honey in my coffee, have desserts, etc. I probably go over 200 grams of carbs and every time, I find it harder to fast the following day. Keeping your carb intake lower will make fasting easier.
If fasting is to hard, your hunger is affecting your behavior and you feel you can’t keep going, try testing your ketones to see if you are producing any ketones. Ketosis is what makes fasting doable. If you are not achieving ketosis, you need to eat fewer carbs.
14. Not Learning to Differentiate Between Hunger Signals
I like to emphasize that fasting is not just about shutting down your hunger signals. It’s about learning to differentiate between them. With practice, you will notice the difference between regular hunger, which is just a bit of an uncomfortable feeling in your belly and hunger that you should honor, which makes you feel weak or ravenous.
Some days, I can go without eating until 5 pm, because I feel great and the hunger doesn’t bother me. Other days, I decide to eat an avocado or a full salad for lunch because I don’t feel so well and I can’t keep it up. I can do this confidently now, because practice has enabled me to feel the difference.
15. Focusing Strictly On Weight Loss
As I mentioned already, intermittent fasting has many benefits that extend beyond weight loss. It will help you feel more energetic and focused. It may improve your sleep, your mood, and your longevity.
From NeuroScienceNews: “Evidence is accumulating that eating in a 6-hour period and fasting for 18 hours can trigger a metabolic switch from glucose-based to ketone-based energy, with increased stress resistance, increased longevity, and a decreased incidence of diseases, including cancer and obesity.”
Moreover, when it comes to weight loss, the scale is not everything. You may lose inches, but no pounds. Your face may look slimmer before the weight comes off. Our bodies are complex and choosing to focus on pounds lost can be detrimental.
16. Comparing Yourself to Others
It may take you longer than you expect to reach your goals. If you see someone else getting more obvious results than you are, it doesn’t mean that intermittent fasting isn’t working for you. It simply means that your body is reacting differently. Learn to focus on what you are achieving and don’t let other people’s successes discourage you.
17. Eating Junk Food Instead of Nutrient-Dense Foods
Whether you practice intermittent fasting or not, choosing your foods wisely is always important. Consuming whole foods, rich in nutrients will support optimal health. I recommend you make vegetables the bulk of your diet. Add-in protein, healthy fats, grains and legumes as needed.