A new health trend on the rise is intermittent fasting, or IF. What is it? IF is NOT a diet, but rather a modified timed approach to our eating schedule. IF does not specifically restrict you from eating certain foods, that is up to you, but it involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting. IF has many health benefits such as weight loss, anti-aging and inflammatory benefits, lowering of glucose, insulin and high liver functions and promoting a cell healing process.
Many people fast in blocks of 10, 12, 16 or 18 hours at a time. During the time in which you fast, you restrict yourself from all food, only allowing yourself to drink black coffee, teas and any other drink which does not contain calories. Then, during the time in which your fast ends until your fast begins again, you can eat anything you want, and however much you want. However, it is important not to get carried away. For instance, it is not effective, nor is it a good idea to fast for 12 hours and then binge pizza, chips, cookies and sodas for the remaining 12 hours- you will not see results and you will feel very sick and bloated. It is encouraged to keep a healthy, nutritious and balanced diet.
Below is an example of a typical IF eating: fasting schedule:
In this particular article, we will go over the 7 most common mistakes people make while intermittently fasting and what you can do to avoid them.
1. Making sudden, drastic changes
If you normally eat every 3-4 hours, suddenly fasting for 12-16 hours will be HARD! You will feel hungry, or even hangry, all the time and you will probably be more tempted to give up.
The fix: Allow yourself to gradually lengthen you fasting windows. If you are a beginner, first try an 8 hour fast. Once you feel more comfortable, increase your fasting window to 10 hours, then 14 hours, and so on.
2. Overeating when your fast ends
When you are hungry, you might be tempted to overeat to make up for the time you spent not eating. If you are fasting for weight loss, overeating can counteract your fast, meaning that you probably will not see any benefits.
The fix: Prepare a healthy meal before you open your fast. Especially because you are not going to be eating for a significant amount of time, be sure that you prepare a well-balanced meal with protein, healthy fats, healthy carbs, whole grains and plenty of fruits and vegetables
3. Drinking the wrong liquids
While fasting, the 3 main permitted drinks are water, tea (unsweetened) and BLACK coffee. If you absolutely cannot drink black coffee, you may try adding a small splash of low-fat milk or a packet of sugar, but keep in mind that this does take you out of a true fasting state.
Additionally, protein-packed liquids, such as bone broth, should not be consumed as this stops the process in which your cells break down and recycle damaged parts; this is one of the things you want to promote while fasting.
Stay far away from things which say “sugar-free” or “zero-calorie”. These drinks contain artificial sweeteners which have a negative effect on your insulin levels, causing you to feel hungry.
The fix: The rule is that if you want to truly gain all the benefits of fasting mentioned at the beginning of the article, stick to drinks that have no calories, sugar, protein or fats, such as water, tea and black coffee. Anything else will be breaking your fast and will quickly lead to hunger.
4. Overindulging on unhealthy foods
Just as we discussed the negative effects of over eating when your fast ends, taking in foods with too many carbs, fats and calories during your fast can also work against you and counterbalance your fast, thus preventing you from seeing the results you are working so hard towards. In addition, this also deprives your body of many essential nutrients.
The fix: Try to slowly change your eating habits and meal prep with healthy and nutritious foods before hand, if possible, so that when your fast ends, you are not tempted to run straight to carbs and processed foods out of hunger.
5. Being sedentary
Many people refuse to go to the gym without a snack because they are afraid of fainting or losing power mid-workout. However, it is important to remember that while a pre-workout snack or drink might boost our workouts, our bodies do have plenty of energy in the form of fat to power us through our workouts without that snack or drink.
The fix: You should always listen to your body. If you know you absolutely cannot exercise without having a snack before/after, which is completely normal for many people, schedule your fasting/exercising timings accordingly. Try planning your workouts during your eating windows so that you can eat and drink what you need before and after your workout to ensure you are working out effectively.
6. Letting fasting rule your life
When you first start your fast strong and determined, you may be more inclined to turn down dinners with friends/coworkers or skip going to an important party because you are fasting. This will definitely lead to frustration which can cause you to quit early on or just be very unhappy.
The fix: Similar to adjusting your fasting cycles with your workout schedules, you can always adjust your fasting cycle with events in your life. Intermittent fasting is a lifestyle, not a diet, and therefore it can be flexible.
7. Giving up too early
Intermittent fasting is not easy. You are training your body to eat less or stop eating when you normally do eat. This will probably cause you to feel hungry, or hangry, all the time. You might also feel frustrated, irritated and tired more often than you prefer. Just remember that with any major modifications, it will take your body time to adjust and that these feelings will decrease over time to where intermittent fasting becomes second nature.
The fix: As with any lifestyle modification, the beginning is always the hardest. Keep reminding yourself that the constant cravings, fatigue and feelings of hunger will quickly decrease over the course of 1-2 weeks. However, if you have been intermittently fasting over a couple of weeks and are still feeling miserable, you might need to change up your routine/calorie and water intake until you find what fits best for you.
Intermittent fasting is a new lifestyle modification which is quickly gaining popularity from health care professionals, nutritionists and dietitians, fitness trainers/coaches and the many, many people who have seen significant health and weight loss results from it. It is a big change to your currently lifestyle, so it will be challenging at first. However, if you try to avoid these 7 mistakes, and even seek support from the IF community, you will surely overcome the challenges quickly and will be an IF professional in no time.
If you have any questions or need more individualized guidance, feel free to reach out to one of our providers here at Delta Gastroenterology!
Call our office at 662-280-8222 or email [email protected] if you have questions.
Ulric Duncan MD, Diplomate of Obesity Medicine
9140 Highway 51 North
Southaven MS 38671
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Written by Zeenat Mirza