Intermittent fasting is a simple fat-loss strategy that involves shortening the hours in which you consume your daily calories. It is a tool that anyone can use to accelerate fat loss, but there are some mistakes that can make it harder than it has to be. In this post, I’ll discuss six common intermittent fasting mistakes.
The 6 Mistakes At-A-Glance
- Trying to do too much too soon
- Eating a diet high in carbs (particularly refined carbs)
- Expecting too much from fasting alone
- Calorie creep (common with coffee drinkers)
- Eating too late at night
- Poor lifestyle habits (i.e. sleep, stress)
6 Common Intermittent Fasting Mistakes [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn…
- Six common intermittent fasting mistakes.
- Effective ways to fix or avoid those mistakes.
- Practical methods for achieving success!
Mistake # 1: Too Much, Too Soon
The first mistake is trying to do too much too soon. If you spend any time on social media, it is hard to avoid testimonials from people who have lost weight using intermittent fasting. This proof may encourage you to give it a try yourself, but if you jump right into a 16-hour fast or longer, you may find yourself battling hunger and anxiety.
If you’re new to fasting, you’ll be happiest with your experience if you start with a shorter fasting period.
One of my most popular YouTube videos is three ways to do intermittent fasting, ranging from easy to extreme. The easy version is 12:12 intermittent fasting. It involves splitting your day down the middle with a 12-hour eating window and a 12-hour fasting period.
This is a great entry level starting point that will provide benefits and that you can easily build on as your diet and comfort level improves.
Mistake #2: Eating a High-Carb Diet
The second mistake is continuing to eat a high-carb diet. In particular, a diet that contains refined carbs like bread, energy bars, pasta, and sweetened drinks or soda. These foods cause your blood sugar levels to rise and then fall which makes it hard to go for long periods without food.
When your blood sugar dips, your body does not have readily accessible energy available. Because your metabolism is running on carbs, you crave carbs.
You’ll find that your comfort level with fasting increases dramatically when you switch your metabolism from being a good sugar burner to being a good fat burner. You do that by adhering to a low-carb diet.
Low-carb diets work because they rob the body of those quick-burning carbs. This forces it to get adapt to burning fat for fuel. When your body has made that transition, blood sugar levels stay steady. If there is no energy coming in from food, your body pulls the energy it needs from body fat.
Mistake #3: Expecting Too Much
Adapting to a fat-burning diet leads me into the third mistake, which is expecting too much from intermittent fasting alone.
While it is possible to see weight loss results right away when you start intermittent fasting, fasting results can stall if you eat a poor diet or you have a metabolism that has been slowed due to years of poor food choices. It is best to look at intermittent fasting as a tool to enhance your weight loss strategy.
Having said that, intermittent fasting can have positive health and weight loss effects in anyone, even those among us that carry some metabolic debt from the past. If you avoid these next three mistakes, you can get the most out of intermittent fasting.
Mistake #4: Calorie Creep
A common mistake that I see is what I will call calorie creep. For the purists out there, a fast means that no calories are consumed. However, many people like to have coffee with cream or other fats in the mornings that they are fasting.
On my second YouTube channel that I run with my husband, we tested coffee with cream and other fats to see how they would affect our fast. Basically what we found was even though the coffees contained calories that our body’s needed to burn, they did not move us out of fat-burning mode making them ok to consume.
It is important to note that we tested one serving of fat in a cup of coffee over a two-hour period. If you are drinking three or four cups of coffee each morning and adding cream to each cup, your calories are creeping up to a point where your body’s energy needs are being met, making it unnecessary to pull energy out of body fat.
Mistake #5: Eating Too Late at Night
Another mistake is eating too late into the evening. While research is just starting to show up on the best time to intermittent fast, the indications seem to be that fasting in accordance with your natural circadian rhythm gives you the most benefit (1).
In the evening hours, your circadian clock influences the production of hormones that prepare you for restorative sleep. Eating three or four hours before bed can work against this hormonal balance.
Melatonin is a hormone that helps your body prepare for sleep. As it increases in the evening hours, it triggers a decrease in the production of insulin by your pancreas. Since insulin is needed to lower blood sugar, a late meal could cause your blood sugar level to stay elevated throughout the nighttime hours (2).
That late-night meal will also cause blood flow to be directed to the digestive tract, which keeps your core temperature elevated, making it hard for you to drop into the deep sleep needed for repair and restoration.
Mistake #6: Poor Lifestyle Issues
That ties into the final mistake to discuss which is lifestyle issues that lead to poor sleep or high stress. These factors make it difficult for your body to burn fat.
Poor sleep increases the production of cortisol which is commonly referred to as your stress hormone.
Chronic stress along with poor sleep results in chronically high levels of cortisol. As cortisol increases, so does your blood glucose level, which acts as a barrier to fat loss.
You can do all of the right things when it comes to intermittent fasting, but if your stress level is high and your sleep is poor, your body will not be able to burn the fat that you’re hoping to lose.
Thanks for reading! I hope that was helpful. I will see you next week!
- Hutchison, Amy T., et al. “Time‐Restricted Feeding Improves Glucose Tolerance in Men at Risk for Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized Crossover Trial.” Obesity (2019).
- Mulder, Hindrik, et al. “Melatonin receptors in pancreatic islets: good morning to a novel type 2 diabetes gene.” Diabetologia 52.7 (2009): 1240-1249.
About the Author
Dr. Becky Gillaspy, DC graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991.