Fasting is a practice that has been practiced for thousands of years for both religious and for improving health-related conditions. Fasting is simply going for a period of time of no calories containing foods or beverages. Research continues to show the health benefits of fasting. With so many people trying different strategies of fasting, one of the most popular strategies for fasting is a form of daily fasting, called intermittent fasting.
Intermittent Fasting is where you are eating in a smaller eating window, where your body is getting more time to rest and digest, while you eat only during a specified time window. Some examples of intermittent fasting are skipping breakfast and only having black coffee or tea (no cream and no sugar) and not having your first meal until noon, and then having your last meal at dinner with no snacking after. This is an example of 16/8 style fasting, where 16 hours of the day are spent fasting and 8 are spent eating. Other examples include 20/4, 14/6, or 12/12. Different styles can be chosen for different individuals based on their schedules, goals, and individual health conditions.
During the time you are fasting, research has shown that your body can start to regenerate and replace damaged cells all across your body.
Fasting can help lower blood sugar and insulin, boost natural human growth hormone release, and help provide more mental clarity from a more stable blood sugar balance.
With all this being said, there are a couple of mistakes I see people make. Avoid these fasting mistakes in order to have better health and better results with intermittent fasting.
- Avoid Junk Food– Intermittent fasting (IF) doesn’t give you a free pass to eat whatever you want during your eating window. Aim for healthy fats, lean proteins, and plenty of vegetables.
- Not eating enough calories. If your goal is to maintain your weight but just improve a health condition, you need to make sure you are making up for the extra calories you missed by the meal or meals that you skipped by fasting. If your goal is to lose weight with intermittent fasting, lowering calories by avoiding a breakfast or dinner meal can be a strategy to lose weight by lowering calories. While lowering calories for weight loss, make sure you are doing this gradually by lowering your maintenance calories by only 500 calories per day. Going into a calorie deficit slowly and gradually will have your body adjust gentler and will allow you not to have negative metabolism consequences when you resume eating your normal maintenance calories again.
- Not drinking enough water– While you are only eating during a specific window during IF, that doesn’t mean you can’t drink plain water during that time. You should be drinking water throughout the fast to maintain a healthy hydration balance. A good rule of thumb is to take your body weight and divide it in half and to drink that amount daily in ounces of water. This could be anywhere from 60-100ounces daily.
- Becoming nutrient deficient-This also goes hand in hand with eating junk and reducing calories. When you are fasting you have to be more cognizant of what your food intake is going to be and what supplements you are going to take during your fasting window to make sure you are adequately depositing nutrients into your body’s metabolic reserve.
- Reduce Stress Levels. Fasting long-term has been shown to increase stress hormones like cortisol to help with fuel partitioning. If you are doing daily intermittent fasting, you should try your best to avoid stressful situations. Start your day with gratitude, movement, time with kids and family. You should always try and get 7-8 hours of quality sleep, but this is even more important while fasting. If you haven’t slept well the night before, your satiety hormones will be through the roof, and this will make your fasting window even more stressful and difficult.
- Not getting enough protein and fat in your eating window. With longer times without food, your body and mind need adequate satiating and nourishing protein and fats to stay full longer, and to provide mental clarity for the times you are not fasting.
- Overeating during the eating window. When you first start intermittent fasting you may be tempted to eat a lot during your 6-8 hour eating window in order to stockpile food and nutrients. While I do recommend eating your baseline calories during your eating window, don’t overdo it! Your eating window is not a free excuse to go to an all-you-can-eat buffet. Eat until you are 80% full, and don’t overeat until you feel uncomfortable. It’s a lot harder to overeat healthy fats and proteins than it is to overeat refined carbohydrates and sugars. Track your calories on a food tracker when you first get started to make sure you are still eating enough calories for your health-related goals.
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