Proponents of intermittent fasting claim it helps with weight loss and can boost energy and mood levels. But if you’ve decided to try limiting your eating to a certain timeframe and are having trouble adjusting to the plan.
It may be because this eating style is vastly different from your previous eating habits. You may also inadvertently be making mistakes which can make your transition more difficult.
Here are seven common mistakes people make while trying to adopt intermittent fasting and how to fix them:
Making Drastic Changes
If you normally eat every 3–4 hours and then suddenly shrink your eating period to an 8-hour window, you’ll likely feel hungry all the time and discouraged. “Some people quit if they start out by fasting for too many hours without an adjustment period from a previous eating style,” says Krista Varady, PhD, associate professor of kinesiology and nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago and author of “The Every-Other-Day Diet.” It may take 10 days to two weeks until you stop feeling hungry when you’re fasting.
The fix: Gradually stretch out the number of hours you go between meals until you reach a 12-hour eating window, suggests Varady. Then move to a 10-hour eating window and reduce by small increments until you reach your goal.
Overeating when your fast ends
“It can be easy to overeat when a fast ends either because you’re feeling ravenous or you justify to yourself that you’re making up for lost calories,” says Dr. Jason Fung, co-author of “The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-Day, and Extended Fasting.” But this can backfire if you’re fasting for weight loss and also cause other problems like stomach aches, notes Fung.
The fix: Plan ahead. Prepare a healthy meal that’s ready for you when your fast ends and make sure to eat whole ingredients when possible including healthy carbs like whole grains, lean protein and plenty of veggies, says Fung.
Drinking the wrong liquids
Most people drink water, black coffee or tea while they’re fasting. If you can’t stand your coffee black, you might add a splash of milk or a packet of sugar without considering that these things break your fast. “Keep the butter and coconut oil out of your coffee,” says Gin Stephens, author of “Delay, Don’t Deny: Living an Intermittent Fasting Lifestyle.”
It’s also important to “avoid any protein-filled liquids such as bone broth, because that can halt autophagy [the cellular process that breaks down and recycles damaged molecules], which you want to promote while fasting,” explains Stephens.
Similarly, you should also give up diet sodas. “You don’t want anything heavily sweetened, even if it’s calorie-free,” says Fung. “Zero-calorie sweeteners still have a negative effect on insulin levels, stimulating the appetite and making you want to eat.”
The fix: Track your hydration using an app like MyFitnessPal, which can help keep you accountable and stick to water, plain tea or black coffee while fasting.