Interest in intermittent fasting (IF) has skyrocketed recently, which means that more people are trying it and more people are making mistakes along the way. These common intermittent fasting mistakes can derail people’s journey with fasting. They can also interrupt the array of benefits intermittent fasting can have, from improved cardiovascular function to lowering blood pressure to better digestion and even improved brain function. You can learn more about how I use intermittent fasting to cure my uncomfortable and unattractive bloating in this article.
Here are some common mistakes people make while trying intermittent fasting and how to avoid them.
- Mistake #1 of 7
Intermittent Fasting Mistake #1 of 7
#1 Too Much Too Soon
Too much, too soon. Once people are introduced to intermittent fasting and its many benefits, they are eager to dive in. Instead of easing in, they jump straight to trying long 24 hour fasts, and this mistake can lead to overwhelming hunger, frustration and a quick end to their trial of IF.
Intermittent fasting is a powerful tool to help your body rest and repair, and it has been used throughout many cultures in human history. While it may be natural to the human body, it won’t be natural to your body if you haven’t spent a lifetime practicing it. IF can be a lifelong practice, but only if you give yourself time to adjust.
I practice the 16:8 method, which is 16 hours of fasting (8 of that while I’m sleeping) and and 8-hour eating window. There are many ways to practice IF, but I’ve found this works best for me, and it’s also very simple to ease into. Start slowly by increasing the amount of time you don’t eat around your sleep schedule. Since you’re already fasting while you sleep, wait an extra hour in the morning from when you would normally eat breakfast. Or eat your last meal a little earlier than you normally would. Gradually increase the amount of time that you are not eating until you get to a timeframe that works for you.
- Mistake #2 of 7
Intermittent Fasting Mistake #2 of 7
2. Being too militant
Being too militant. Some people are so determined to “do it right” that they are rigid in their eating schedule. Instead of listening to their body, they make the mistake of being ruled by the clock. This can lead to mental fatigue around intermittent fasting and decreases the possibility that it will become a lifelong habit.
While IF is a physical process, where we choose not to eat in order to give our bodies a chance to repair and rejuvenate, it is also a mental exercise. It is a choice to fast, and when you rigidly follow the clock, you’re taking the choice away and inviting burnout. And if you normally don’t eat after 8:00pm but you don’t finish eating until 8:15, don’t worry, it won’t undo your efforts.
Fasting is also not the same as starving. If you’re famished, then eat! That may be what you need today, and tomorrow you can try again and see how it goes. As you practice IF more, you’ll start to learn the difference between the ghrelin hormonal cycles of hunger that pass easily and the very real need to eat soon. Don’t push yourself too fast. See Mistake #1.
- Mistake #3 of 7
Intermittent Fasting Mistake #3 of 7
3. Not eating enough during the eating window
Not eating enough during the eating window. While intermittent fasting can be used in conjunction with a weight loss goal, it is not in itself a diet. It is a mistake to use IF as a form of purposeful calorie restriction. And if you have ever had or suspect you may have an eating disorder, I do not suggest intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting gives your body time to repair and clean out the cellular junk that is hanging around. That will lead to better function of all your body’s systems, and it is important to support this with enough food to replenish and rebuild. Choose good, whole foods with lots of nutrient density, and your body will get better at signaling when you have had enough and you will get better at listening. You may find that you eat less than you did before naturally, without having to be restrictive and regimented from the start.
- Mistake #4 of 7
Intermittent Fasting Mistake #4 of 7
4. Using IF as an excuse to eat crap
Using IF as an excuse to eat crap. Intermittent fasting has so many health benefits, and it would be a huge mistake to throw all that away by eating a lot of processed, junky food. IF can help mitigate the effects of a bad diet, but it is definitely not a reason to let go and eat all the junk you can think of.
Intermittent fasting does help increase your metabolic flexibility, and that makes you better able to handle the occasional pizza party, Chinese buffet or birthday cake bash without ill effects. Eating like that every day will still harm you in the long run, IF or no.
- Mistake #5 of 7
Intermittent Fasting Mistake #5 of 7
5. Not drinking enough water
Not drinking enough water. All that cellular junk that you’re giving your body time to get rid of has to be flushed out. By making the mistake of not drinking enough water, you could make things worse for yourself, as all that cellular trash is just floating around inside and can’t get out!
Make sure to drink lots of water during your fasting window. You’ll stay hydrated and detoxify at the same time. You can incorporate other no-calorie drinks as well, including herbal tea, apple cider vinegar, and I add ConcenTrace Trace Mineral Drops to my water. This, along with a well-balanced diet, ensures that I replenish any minerals that are also flushed out during the process.
Black coffee has some controversy. Some people love it for it’s fat-burning effect, others say the caffeine can set off your insulin response, effectively taking you out of fasting mode. I personally drink black coffee during my fasting window, but I’m careful about how much and I make sure to compensate with extra water, because many people are…
- Mistake #6 of 7
Intermittent Fasting Mistake #6 of 7
6. Drinking too much coffee.
Drinking too much coffee. A lot of people, including myself, choose to extend their sleeping fasting window by skipping breakfast and not eating until lunch. For those of us who are coffee drinkers, we can still incorporate coffee during our morning routine without breaking our fast, provided the coffee is black and we don’t make the mistake of drinking too much.
The caffeine buzz of multiple cups of coffee is a two-edged sword. Research has shown it can have great fat-burning effects, along with appetite suppressant qualities. That would seem to fit right in with IF, and I believe it can. The problem comes when you drink too much. Aside from the controversy over whether caffeine will set off your insulin response, coffee is definitely a diuretic. With no food coming in (which contains the majority of the water most people take in) and too much water going out from all the coffee, you can easily become dehydrated. And that is definitely a big mistake.
- Mistake #7 of 7
Intermittent Fasting Mistake #7 of 7
7. Thinking that small amounts of caloric foods don’t count
Thinking that small amounts of caloric foods don’t count. I’ve seen lots of people who think that a little bit of cream or sugar in their coffee or a protein supplement or even juicing doesn’t count as eating and can be included while fasting. This mistake will throw you right out of the fasting state, and you might as well not be fasting at all.
Any amount of fat, protein or carbohydrate will set off a metabolic response and begin the digestion process. Once that starts, you’re not fasting any more, and the benefits of the fasting window end. The jury is still out on artificial sweeteners. Some people think they set off the insulin response and others say no. I say that most of the artificial sweeteners out there are no good for you anyway, so get used to drinking your coffee black while you’re fasting!
Intermittent Fasting Mistakes Conclusion
Avoid these common mistakes and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying the benefits of regular intermittent fasting! Let us know in the comments below if you have tried IF and how it works for you. If there are any other pitfalls you have to share to help out other readers, make sure to leave those in the comments, too. To read how a normal day of intermittent fasting works for me and how I ended years of bloating, check out my post Intermittent Fasting for Women with Bloating.
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Founder Advantage Meals
Angela earned her Master's Degree in Holistic Nutrition 14 years ago and began her lifelong journey of nutrition and wellness learning. She began keto meal planning and cooking over a decade ago when she began working with local clients who were under the direct supervision of a medical doctor. Angela is the author of No Cook Keto, the easiest keto meal plan available.
Disclaimer: I am neither a licensed nutritionist nor medical professional. I never prescribe diets. I only share my personal experiences and those of my clients for informational purposes only. Nutrition details are provided for informational purposes only, and should not be considered medical nutritional data. You should consult your medical professional before making any major changes in the way you eat.