3 Biggest Intermittent Fasting Mistakes
Intermittent fasting is simple, but people overcomplicate it. Intermittent fasting is not eating for a certain period and then eating for a certain period, simple right? Yeah, that’s true, but there are some still some common mistakes people make which can easily be avoided. Here are the three biggest mistakes y0u should keep in mind.
1. Not Eating Enough Quality Foods
Most people who try intermittent fasting end up cutting weight and rather rapidly.
It’s the perfect recipe for weight loss. Fewer calories increased insulin sensitivity and more energy both mentally and physically. But for many, the inability to eat as much can become a problem itself.
Remember, there’s a crucial difference between eating less and intermittent fasting.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some fantastic benefits to prolonged fasts where you abstain from food entirely for a few days and I enjoy doing this from time to time. Read about prolonged fasting benefits here.
With a prolonged fast autophagy increases, you increase your potential for neurogenesis (new brain cells) and much much more.
But when you start out it’s important to choose a reasonable and modest fasting window in order to be able to adapt to the change in your lifestyle. Moving too quick and adopting lengthy fasting schedules puts you at risk for undereating.
Undereating within the first week or so of fasting may allow you to lose a substantial amount of weight, but a lot of this weight will be water weight and furthermore, it’s just not a sustainable way to lose weight.
If you’re undereating on a consistent basis then you can be confident that this rate of progress will slow down, stagnant and it’s likely that you’ll look and feel the same if not worse than you previously did.
The benefits of fasting aren’t in the extra 2 hours you add onto your fast, the benefits come in doing 2 hours less for an extra week.
Remember, the far majority of your results are going to be from the food you’re actually eating. Fasting isn’t an excuse to eat junk food.
Always keep the hierarchy of needs in mind:
Calories -> Macronuteitns -> Micronutrients -> Timing (fasting) -> Supplementation
When you’re breaking your fast you may opt for unhealthy foods to satiate yourself. Sure, caloric dense foods can be a great way of getting your calories in, but you don’t want to forget to eat your vegetables.
It can be easy to undereat the proper amount of fibre, vitamins and minerals you need every day.
I think a great way to kill two birds with one stone is to find a way to use vegetables to “shuttle” in fat into your body.
A large salad with olive oil, apple cider vinegar and perhaps some nuts can be a great way of increasing your caloric intake and getting in some quality micronutrients and healthy fats your body needs.
3. Do Not Fear The Clock
Certain schedules of intermittent fasting will tell you to eat within an 8-hour eating window, some will tell you to eat within a 4-hour eating window.
One common mistake I find people making is fearing the clock. Yes, there’s a specific time you should be eating and there’s also a specific time you shouldn’t be eating, but you don’t need to stress over these times.
If you go over your eating window by 15 minutes, it’s not the end of the world. It will not make a difference in your progress unless that 15 minute was filled with ice cream, doughnuts and McDonald’s.
Here’s the boring sustainable talk you always get from me. Make your lifestyle changes sustainable. Stressing over a few minutes here and there is not going to turn into a sustainable habit.
You should be forgetting that you’re even doing intermittent fasting. That’s the goal people!
Pick a time, stick to it and if you mess up here and there don’t stress about it.
Yes, sometimes it can be good to have strict times you should be eating it. I think this can even be a good thing if you’re the type of person who responds well to order and routine, especially in the beginning stages.
My point is that if you do this long enough, as I have, you’re not going to be going by specific times anymore. Believe me, it’s rare for anyone who’s done intermittent fasting for years to count the hours strictly.
Over time you’ll learn what your body responds well to, when you should be eating and when you should be fasting.
Just like an experienced bodybuilder will learn how long they should be training for and how long they should be resting for without any input from the outside.
If you’re still new to intermittent fasting and you haven’t run into any issues I’ve been speaking about then be sure to read how to begin intermittent fasting for maximal fat loss.
3. What Counts As “Fasting”?
This is an important topic to cover and it’s one I go into depth in when I discuss which liquids are appropriate to have while fasting.
Some people will tell you that fasting isn’t fasting unless you’re only drinking water, others will tell you black coffee is okay and others will say that having some fat during a fast in your coffee (such as butter or MCT oil) is fine as it doesn’t provoke an insulin response to a great extent and still allows your body to get many of the benefits of fasting and stay in ketosis (fat burning).
Another liquid which is commonly brought up is artificial sweeteners.
Many artificial sweeteners are advertised as having zero calories and therefore this means they’re not going to spike insulin. Mark Sisson has written a detailed article covering whether artificial sweeteners elicit an insulin response.
The conclusion was that most don’t per se – some exacerbate the spike of insulin – but only when consumed with carbohydrates.
Artifical sweeteners are in a grey area. Generally, one or two is not going to do any harm, but I would avoid artificial sweeteners and diet sodas for other reasons such as the health of your gut microbiome. You don’t have to eliminate them, but there’s some convincing evidence that certain artificial sweeteners wreck havoc on your gut microbiota.
Many will say that artificial sweeteners are safe, others will say they cause cancer. A few per week is not going to kill you.
However, if they are consumed multiple times per day, then there’s some potential risk depending on who you ask.
Listen, a little cream or butter in your coffee is not going to ruin your fast. Yes, ideally you’re just fasting with water, but if a little butter or cream and coffee, in general, helps to blunt your appetite and keeps you fasting longer, then I think it’s a fantastic addition.
Try to not go overboard and never put in sugar into your coffee during your fast. There’s no getting around the significant rise of insulin from sugar consumption, even in small quantities.
For more on this exact topic I suggest reading about which liquids are appropriate for intermittent fasting:
Intermittent fasting is simple, but we overcomplicate it.
I think that by making sure you follow the above, intermittent fasting will be much easier to do consistently.
The main points I want you to take away here are that:
Intermittent fasting may cause you to undereat calories and/or undereat micronutrients from vegetables and fruit. Be sure to eat enough during your fast and choose a modest fasting window when beginning.
Don’t fear the clock. Having a riding schedule can be a great way to keep yourself accountable, but try not to become too anal about when you’re doing what.
Lastly, remember that you should never have any sugar in your coffee or eat a small snack while fasting. However, some dietary fat whether it be through butter, MCT oil or cream in your coffee is not a big deal, but this can become a big deal if you have 7 coffees per day.