It was 2010 when I first heard about using fasting for better health and weight loss, and I thought the idea was nuts. Fast forward ten years, and I wrote a book detailing the many benefits of fasting. Every beginner comes into this practice with their own thoughts and ideas. Some of them are accurate, and some are not. This blog post discusses what things beginners get wrong when they start intermittent fasting.
Beginner Fasting Mistakes – At-A-Glance
- Equates Fasting with Starvation. To your body, daily fasting periods are viewed as welcomed breaks from the energy-demanding process of digesting food.
- Don’t Replenish Electrolytes. If your body is running low, you may feel tired and moody and experience muscle cramps and trouble sleeping.
- Think They Can Eat Anything. If you only eat for 8 hours a day, but the foods you eat are high-carb junk foods, you can gain weight and increase health risks.
- Allow Calorie Creep. While a small amount of cream in coffee can take the edge off hunger, multiple cups cause calories to creep up too high, blocking progress.
- Do Too Much Too Soon. Let your body adapt to fasting by starting with a short 12:12 fast.
- Look At It as An Unhealthy Practice. Periods of fasting act as good stress for your body. Much like lifting weights at the gym puts positive stress on your muscles.
Things EVERY Beginner to Fasting Does Wrong [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn…
- Mistakes that beginners make when they start fasting.
- Why your body reacts the way it does when these mistakes are made.
- Simple solutions to get you back on the path to weight loss!
Equates Fasting with Starvation
The first misconception about fasting is that it is voluntary starvation, and who would blame someone for thinking this way? We were raised in the three-meal-a-day culture that told us that a healthy life was built on breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you skipped one of these meals, you’d kick your body into starvation mode and ruin your metabolism.
It is certainly possible to go overboard with extended fasting. However, a fast that simply shortens your daily eating window is viewed by your body as a welcomed break from the energy-demanding process of digesting food.
This rest period provides your body the time it needs to tend to general housekeeping tasks and restock substances necessary for maintenance and repair. To best understand the restorative nature of a fast, think of fasting as a restaurant after hours.
When the restaurant is full of customers, the workers are busy serving food, and there’s no time to clean up or restock the shelves. When the restaurant closes, and the customers have all gone, the staff has time to complete their chores.
Don’t Replenish Electrolytes
Another thing that is easy to overlook when you start fasting is the need to support your body with electrolytes. Certain electrolytes like magnesium, potassium, and sodium regulate vital functions, from fluid balance to nerve and muscle activity. Your body naturally loses electrolytes when fasting.
If your body is running low, you may feel tired and moody and experience muscle cramps and trouble sleeping. So, as you reduce the number of hours you eat, you’ll want to add these micronutrients to avoid dehydration and deficiencies. This is done by drinking high-quality bone broth, eating mineral-rich foods like leafy greens, nuts, and seeds, or taking an electrolyte supplement.
Another mistake beginners make is thinking that fasting gives you the freedom to eat anything you want once your eating window opens up.
Think They Can Eat Anything
Intermittent fasting naturally reduces the calories you consume throughout the day, helping you lose weight and maintain healthy blood sugar and insulin levels. However, it is not a magic eraser that wipes out the health consequences of a poor diet. In other words, if you only eat for eight hours a day, but the foods you eat are high-carb junk foods, you can gain weight and set yourself up for diabetes and other health conditions.
You’ll help your body to lose weight and stay healthy by choosing low-carb/high-fat foods during your eating window. These foods keep blood sugar and insulin levels low. When those factors are low, there is less harm from inflammation, easier release of fat from fat cells, and natural hunger control.
Allow Calorie Creep
For the purists, a fast means no calories are consumed. But we just learned that some foods, namely ones that are pure fat, don’t significantly raise the fat-storing hormone insulin. Therefore, consuming a little bit of them during your fasting window can help take the edge off of hunger without jeopardizing your long-term success.
This seems like a great thing, but it is also an easy trap for beginners to fall into that I call calorie creep. For example, many people like to have coffee with cream in the morning when they are fasting. Because cream consists mainly of fat, it has little impact on your insulin level, so consuming it will not knock your body out of fat-burning mode.
However, fat has calories, and calories are energy. Your body will use those easily accessed calories before returning to the less-accessible calories stored in your fat cells. If you have three cups of coffee over the course of a morning and add cream to each of those cups, then your calories are creeping up too high, providing your body with a consistent energy source instead of burning it from body storage.
Do Too Much Too Soon
Many people are drawn to fasting for the weight loss benefit, and it has proven to be an effective tool for achieving that goal. Knowing this fact can make you determined to jump in with both feet and try a full day of fasting right out of the gate. However, this too-much-too-soon approach will leave you feeling anxious and battling hunger.
If you are new to fasting, you’ll be happiest with your experience if you start with 12:12 fasting, meaning that you split your day down the middle with a 12-hour eating window and a 12-hour fasting period. When you feel comfortable at that level, you can shorten your eating window to eight hours, which is where the weight loss and health benefits of fasting really start to show.
Look At It as An Unhealthy Practice
Another common misconception of fasting is that it is an unhealthy practice. In fact, if you tell someone that you are thinking about fasting, they may give you a sideways look.
We have touched on ways that fasting can be done wrong. However, when done correctly, your body views periods of fasting as good stress. For example, when you lift weights at the gym, you put stress on your muscles. This is good stress, and your muscles respond by getting stronger.
Your body undergoes a similar stress-strengthening reaction when you fast. This positive stress reaction is referred to as hormesis, a term that more-or-less means “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Hormesis triggers a host of adaptive responses that protect your cells, repair damage, and strengthen metabolic pathways and processes.
The bottom line is that fasting is not starvation and is not a free pass to eat whatever you want. But, when you give your body time to adapt to fasting, give it the electrolytes it needs to feel good, and avoid calorie creep, you’ll find that it is a valuable tool for weight loss and better health.
Thank you for reading and have a wonderful week!