Intermittent fasting is exactly what the name states: fasting for shorter periods that usually do not extend 24 hours. The length of your fasting really depends on your goals, your gender, your exercise routine and your experience. You can learn more about the different types of intermittent fasting here.
There are a variety of reasons that someone may choose to fast, but the majority of people will try fasting for weight loss. However, regular intermittent fasting has been shown to have benefits for a host of other reasons, especially digestive issues such as IBS and SIBO, as well providing help with diabetes.
Note: you should always speak with a healthcare professional before changing your diet while living with diabetes.
Yet, with so many people trying intermittent fasting, I still see many mistakes, especially for beginners, or those that have been on the fasting train for a while without changing their routine.
Here are the 6 most common intermittent fasting mistakes I see in my practice:
1. Starting cold-turkey
If you’re used to eating dinner late in the evening and immediately eating breakfast upon waking, then starting with a 16:8 fasting window isn’t going to cut it.
If you want to try fasting, I suggest starting with a 12-hour fast. That means, if you finish eating dinner at 8pm, your first meal would be at 8am. Weekly, work yourself up to a longer fast, whether that’s daily, weekdays only, or adding in a 24-hour fast once per week and sticking with a normal routine for the rest of it.
2. Not eating enough during your window
While IF can be used as a weight loss tool, we need to ensure that you are still consuming enough calories and macronutrients to nourish your body. Even if you are only eating for a few hours per day, it is important to incorporate healthy fats, protein and quality carbohydrates to fit your physical activity each day.
Speak to a personal trainer to find out your Basal Metabolic Rate. This is the amount of calories that your body needs if it just “netflix and chilled” all day long. This will be the minimum amount of calories that you will need each day.
3. Not *actually* fasting
Many people will “fast” by starting their morning with a bulletproof coffee, a protein shake, or some other liquid that has no sugar. While this is still beneficial, especially if you’re prone to blood-sugar issues, it isn’t technically fasting. Here, your digestive system doesn’t get the same rest it needs - you still have to break down fats and proteins.
That said, I’m a firm believer that true intermittent fasting just isn’t made for everyone, particularly women who struggle with hormonal problems. So if you need that bulletproof coffee, chat with a nutritionist or your health-care practitioner to see if there are other changes you can make!
4. Eating [literally] anything during your eating window
Yes, having a specific window of opportunity for meal times will usually mean you cut down on your daily caloric intake. However, choose wisely! Go for home cooked rather than store bought or takeout. And be sure to add in lots of veggies.
5. Not listening to your hunger cues (especially women)
Yes, when we first begin intermittent fasting, we may find that we’re feeling a little hungry throughout the day. If you slowly start fasting (i.e. begin at 12 hours and work your way to 16 or full-day fasts), it will usually make it easier to transition.
However, the trouble arises when we start feeling “starving” a few hours before our eating window, and we ignore it. This is particularly important for women to recognize in relation to their cycle. Our bodies are hungry for a reason, and if we begin to feel light-headed, nauseous, or extremely fatigued, it’s time to cut your fast short.
6. Working out outside of your eating widow.
It is important to fuel up after your workout! However, we run into problems if you like to workout first thing in the morning, and don’t start eating until at least noon.
If this sounds like you, try to start your fasting earlier in the evening and start your eating window earlier. This can also help from eating too closely to dinner, which can impact our rest!