Intermittent Fasting has become one of the most talked about lifestyle choices in recent years. There is a growing list of health benefits. These benefits include weight loss, an improved metabolism, energy and mood boosts, lower risks of diabetes and even a longer life.
IF comes in multiple forms, such as the 5:2 diet (eat normally for five days and ‘fast’ for the other two, with an extremely low calorific intake), the 16:8 diet (eat all of your food within an 8-hour window daily) or Eat Stop Eat which involves a complete 24 hour fast once or twice a week.
While there are obvious benefits to Intermittent Fasting, many make mistakes when first dipping their toe into the water. Below is a list of the most common of those mistakes:
When starting out with intermittent fasting you should choose the type of plan that you know you can stick to. If you’re the type of person who goes to the gym daily, you might not want to use a plan where you cut out food for one or two days a week. You might work strange hours and not be able to keep up with the fact that you need to eat all of days intake within an eight-hour window. Look at the different plans and see which suits you and your lifestyle the most.
Much of the food that you normally consume during your fasting window will naturally contain water. Therefore, it is much easier to become dehydrated during your fasting window. Ensure to drink at least the recommended 6 to 8 glasses of water a day. This will help stave off headaches, cramps, with the added benefit that more water can reduce your hunger. See the hydration for health leaflet from the NHS for more on this important topic.
If you’re moving from eating regularly to intermittent fasting, you could make more gradual changes at first. This avoids any negative effects with a sudden shift to IF. For example, if you are used to eating throughout the day, but plan to embark on the 16:8 diet, can start with a wider window and fine tune from there. Maybe start by only eating within a 12-hour window at first, then slowly reduce that to eight. If you go too extreme from the start, it might put you off, and you’ll stop. The gradual approach will make it more likely that you will stick to the plan – and get the biggest benefits.
One of the reasons these intermittent fasting lifestyle works is that they will naturally see your calorie consumption decline. Food that you would have eaten outside the time window, is now not consumed. It is important that you don’t try and cram all those extra meals and snacks into your eating window. If you binge eat during the window – you are effectively eating the same number of calories as usual, and you won’t reap the benefits of intermittent fasting.
It’s important on days when you are allowing yourself a limited amount of calories (such as when you practise the 5:2 diet) that you are consuming the right foods. You want to have a diet that gives you the right balance of nutrients and food groups. If you eat fatty or refined foods, or lots of sugar, you could be left extra hungry, craving more food, or even feeling unwell. That is before we even get to the horrible effects on your health that come from processed food.
Foods such as lean proteins, nuts, unrefined grains, fruits, and vegetables are all recommended. It can be a clever idea to ensure you are eating at home on these days.
One of the reasons that fasts can work is that there is a lack of insulin release in the fasting hours. Sweeteners, for example, will create an insulin release, even though there is little to no calories. Having a black coffee can be a fantastic way of bridging the gap when fasting but popping a sweetener into it can have a negative effect. Tablets with a sugar coating can also have the same effect.
Whenever you start a new lifestyle or diet, it can be easy to be hard on yourself if you have a day when you feel you’ve failed. Getting over that failure can be tough and can lead people to giving up entirely. If you do have a day where you eat more than you wanted to, or had food outside of a window, just accept it for what it was. And then get back into the routine the next day.
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