How to avoid common fasting mistakes (that beginners often make)
Fasting is a fantastic way to boost our weight loss efforts. It enables us to tap into our stored fat reserves and use them for energy instead of from the food that we would have normally eaten.
And it works really really well.
I’ve been practising intermittent fasting since I started my own weight loss journey back in 2016, and it’s something I’ve been coaching my clients on ever since.
But there are some key mistakes that I often see being made which cause people to see underwhelming results, or worse still… give up altogether saying that fasting is just too difficult, or doesn’t work for them!
So let’s find out what they are…
Table of Contents
1. Too much too soon
It’s easy and understandable to get all excited about your new health hack that’s going to help you to finally lose weight.
You dive straight into attempting a 18 or 24 hour fast, or even longer. You then really struggle with hunger because you are used to eating frequently for 14-16hrs a day, and so you quit …. You just can’t do it ! It’s far too difficult.
And sometimes it goes beyond this… because people who are starting to experiment with fasting are often on a big health kick, and are also starting exercising, and some form of restrictive dieting at the same time too.
It’s often just too much for people and they end up way too hungry and give up!
What if you start really slowly…. Just as you would do with exercise…
Perhaps start by delaying your breakfast by an hour each morning for a week, and then by 2 hours for another week. And not necessarily every day, maybe every other day.
Then start having your evening meal a little bit earlier to help extend that time of not eating.
Yes, you might see slower results…BUT if it means you can stick with it instead of quitting then your longer term success is much more likely.
Any reduction in your eating window to at least 12 hours allows time for digestive rest, and in doing so helps to improve the health of the gut microbiome and will help your hunger hormones and insulin levels to improve. Most of this time will be spent sleeping with a couple of hours either side.
Building up gradually eases you into the practice of fasting, giving you time to sit with these gradually extended periods of not eating.
2. Another common fasting mistakes is Fasting too frequently
You start to see great results with your fasting and so think … fantastic this is working….
The next seemingly logical leap is therefore… Some fasting is good, so ….. More must be better? Right ?
It’s completely possible to over do fasting.
I’ve seen this so often with my clients. It’s such an easy trap to fall into!
Fasting has so many positive effects on the body such as increasing your metabolism, helping you to burn fat.
But fasting for too long or too frequently has exactly the opposite effect.
And very much like chronic calorie restriction, your body will start to down regulate hormones like your thyroid which will slow down your metabolism.
You are going to feel lethargic, lose muscle strength, you might notice hair loss and start to feel, well just plain awful!
Women of reproductive age should be particularly careful and look into how to match fasting with their menstrual cycle, but should avoid any fasting in the week before their period, as this is a time when the female body is very sensitive to caloric intake as she prepares for the possibility of pregnancy.
So remember; some fasting is good but too much is definitely NOT better.
I would love to be able to give you a schedule for fasting but that’s just not possible in the context of this article. It depends on you as an individual, what your goals are, where you are currently with your health, your eating habits and your nutritional intake.
This is the support we offer in our online program so do check out the information on the website for more details about that.
3. Under eating
This is very much related to the last one, and sometimes occurs in combination with it.
For some people, fasting can cause appetite problems and you don’t eat enough.
Similarly, if you’re consciously restricting yourself when you do eat this is also not great because this kind of chronic calorie restriction isn’t good for you.
As before, you might feel lethargic, notice hair loss, decreased muscle mass and strength.
So when you do eat, remember, you’re nourishing your body, getting all those essential vitamins and minerals you need. Getting that protein that your body needs for growth and repair..
And focus on high quality… nutritionally dense food when you are eating!
Fasting is great but BUT you do need to ensure that you’re meeting your body’s nutritional needs when you do eat.
4. Over eating
Yes, I realise that 3 was under-eating… but overeating can be a problem too…
This is a really easy fasting mistakes most people make, and I’ve seen this time and time again.
You get to the point where you are just so hungry that you eat everything and anything in sight and end up just taking in far too much food overall and stall your weight loss.
This can happen because you have, as in number 1 done too much too soon and with simply not being used to fasting…. you get too hungry.
It also happens when you continue to eat a diet high in carbohydrate or processed food…. Lots of low nutrient dense foods means your body is not well nourished and so will drive you to eat more.
Poor food choices are also more likely to cause cravings and so make fasting that much harder to stick to than it would otherwise be.
Or for some it can be a reward thing… I’ve fasted for this long so now I can treat myself to this chocolate bar….
5. Using fasting as a punishment
For me… developing a positive mindset around our relationship with food is very important and I’ve seen a few people fall into a negative way of thinking when it comes to fasting.
It goes something like this:-
“I’ve completely fallen off the wagon this weekend and so I’m going to do a 72 hour fast”.
Can fasting be a useful tool to help us get back on track when we’ve fallen off the wagon… YES, absolutely.
But please, be kind to yourself and think of fasting as a useful tool, not as a punishment for doing something wrong.
6. Not Flipping The Metabolic switch
Weight loss occurs with fasting when your insulin levels are low and you’ve burned through your glycogen stores. This enables you to access your fat stores effectively.
We can call this change from burning carbohydrates to burning your fat stores “Flipping the metabolic switch”.
Your glycogen stores, which are in your liver are very easy for your body to access, and will always get used before you really start to burn significant amounts of fat.
If you are eating a diet high in carbs then you will continually be refilling your glycogen stores after every meal.
Therefore you’ll need to fast for longer in order to burn through those glycogen stores and flip that metabolic switch.
Compare that to if you’re eating a low carbohydrate diet where your glycogen stores are low, you’re going to flip that metabolic switch much faster and be burning fat far more quickly.
So in summary if you’re on a high carb diet, you’re going to have to fast for longer to get the same effects of someone on a low carb diet.
Which leads me neatly on to my …
Carb Dodging Tip to Avoid Fasting Mistakes
If you get your diet right first… fasting becomes far easier.
Matthew, who left this comment on one of my previous videos discovered this as well, as did the 350 people who liked his comment!
When you start a ketogenic diet, one of things you’ll notice in a short space of time is that the hunger you previously had before simply isn’t there.
That’s because the ketones themselves actually inhibit hunger…
Then if you follow the rule… “Only eat when you’re hungry”. You may find yourself falling into a pattern of regular fasting simply because you’re not hungry!
I often say that the ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting are like yin and yang. They perfectly complement each other.
The ketogenic diet creates the perfect environment for weight loss by manipulating WHAT we eat.
Intermittent fasting creates the perfect environment for weight loss by manipulating WHEN we eat.
Like all things we need to balance our time of fasting and time of feasting. A balance for cellular repair and cellular growth, for fat storage and fat burning.
Get your diet right to start with by eating nourishing real food. Remember that a low carb / keto diet can really help with this.
Start slowly and gradually adjust to periods of fasting. Mix up your fasting windows and avoid doing the same thing everyday.
Be patient… give yourself time… results will come….