Intermittent fasting is the process by which calories are restricted not only by what one eats but more importantly WHEN one eats. When done property Intermittent Fasting has significant health benefits in addition to weight loss (‘Secret’ Benefits of Intermittent Fasting). Intermittent Fasting in particular unlocks the Fat Burning system which allows the body to shift energy sources from the GLUCOSE to the KETONE energy system. Activating the Ketone system is the magic to rapidly burning fat.
But doing intermittent fasting properly is NOT easy. Here are some of the common mistakes that people make attempting to use Intermittent Fasting for weight loss.
- Not Drinking Enough Water
I cannot say this enough. When you put your body into Ketosis (Do you Drink Enough?) as a result of Intermittent Fasting (IF) toxins are released, primarily from fat. This is a healthy by-product of Intermittent Fasting, but it can lead to side effects such as headaches especially in the first few days. Water is an absolute necessity to assist the body in flushing out these toxins from your system.
In addition, activating the FAT Burning Engine requires more water as it is used more heavily as part of the Ketosis cycle at the cellular level. For more information on how much water check out Do you Drink Enough?.
- An Excuse to Make Poor Food Choices
Some people think that Intermittent fasting is a magic solution to solve their weight loss or other health problems. Intermittent Fasting is very effective in itself but the food you eat is AS important and the fast itself. In particular some individuals I have worked with consume too many carbs or proteins to keep their bodies in Ketosis, thereby offsetting the benefits and creating additional problems such as food cravings and on-going headaches.
During Intermittent Fasting your body becomes more sensitive to the glucose/insulin cycle. I recommend that one consume whole, ideally organic, foods only while on intermittent fasting. Reduce the carbs, and yes that includes wine and beer. The key is to avoid reactivating the Glucose (Insulin) cycle which is caused by the over consumption of glucose or protein.
I have had clients who were “sugar junkies” before starting my program and have rediscovered how sweet vegetables and fruit can be once they have cleared their palettes and systems of sugar.
- Stress and Sleep Issues
High stress is a problem in successfully using Intermittent Fasting to lose weight. When one is in high stress cortisol is produced (the fight / flight hormone). While cortisol is very effective in short bursts, over the long-term higher cortisol leads to weight gain … the body literally hands on to fat to protect itself.
While stressors are unavoidable how one handles them is COMPLETELY in your control. I have a number of approaches that I use with my clients that helps them better address how they respond to stress. Much of my approach is adopted from Mindful Meditation, started by Jon Kabat Zinn. It is a simple approach using the breath, posture and being mindfully present that can have a huge impact on stress when practiced on a regular basis.
Sleep can also have a huge impact. In particular, poor sleep effects ones hormone levels which in turn causes your body to hang onto fat and drive an increase in appetite for sugar and carbs. It also leads to an increase in inflammation.
- Not Tracking the Right Metrics
Successfully using IF to lose weight requires a careful review of the key metrics to ensure that you are in fact in ketosis, which is the main benefit of intermittent fasting. Not measuring the right metrics can lead to needless discouragement and more importantly not making the “course corrections” in diet and other supports to ensure an effective IF program.
The obvious metric that most people use to measure “success” is body weight as well as key physical metrics (stomach, hips, thighs, etc.) The problem with using these basic measurements is that they can be misleading particularly in the early phases. I have seen a number of cases where a client of mine is not “moving on the scale” but is in fact losing fat while holding onto water. This can be an indication of a fatty liver and in some cases requires additional supports, like supplements, to assist in the detoxification process.
There are a number of ways to measure Ketones. The most common is one that tracks Ketones in the urine, while inexpensive these can overstate/understate the level of ketosis in the body. It is the level in the blood not urine that indicates the true level of ketosis. There are a number of devices that can measure both ketones and glucose levels that are very effective.
Alternative Measurement Approaches
The approach that I use with my clients uses body impedance measurement. This allows me to identify the changes weekly in weight loss broken down by type (fat, water, muscle, other). This provides a very accurate indicator of the changes in weight and whether one is burning fat or not without taking blood.
- Failure to Plan
This is perhaps one of the least obvious but one of the most common reasons. You really have to plan out your meals well in advance depending on what type of fasting program you are using (sign up for the Ultimate Guide to Intermittent Fasting for more details). I cannot tell you how often I hear some of my clients concerns about how to handle upcoming corporate dinner parties or family celebrations.
You cannot be shy about your program, let your host know that you are on a program with a restricted diet program. I have found that restaurants are, for the most part, very happy to handle requests as well.
I hope this was a useful guide to what NOT to do and how to succeed in your weight loss journey.