5 Biggest Intermittent Fasting Mistakes To Avoid

If you’ve read anything about intermittent fasting lately, you might think that it’s a new dieting technique that’s only recently been developed. It’s actually been in use for a few decades and there were fitness articles put out about IF (intermittent fasting) back in the 90’s.  By now it’s proven as a reliable dieting tool, but not everyone fasts properly. Below are the 5 biggest intermittent fasting mistakes that people do time and time again. If you’re making one of these mistakes you’re taking away from the benefits of intermittent fasting and could benefit by making a change.

Eating for Too Long

Many people rely on the 16:8 fasting technique, and to me, eight hours is just too much time to be eating to gain all the benefits from intermittent fasting. The eight-hour feeding window actually turns into your body getting nutrients for far longer than that because food takes time to break down. That means if you’re eating throughout that full eight-hour window, your body is likely digesting food and taking in nutrients for around 12 hours. That means you’re fasting for about 12 hours, which isn’t a whole lot at all.

To correct this issue make that feeding window shorter. Limit your window to three or four hours like with the Warrior diet to unlock more of those fasted benefits.

The Warrior Diet method is more difficult than 16:8 is, but if you can stick with it you’ll see a real boost from doing the program. Try a plan that includes just a single large meal at some point in your day, and maybe a snack or two shortly before or after and leave it at that until the next day.

This is going to be much more difficult than following the more lenient 16:8 plan, and for some people, 16:8 is enough to help them lose weight.

If that’s working for you it’s fine to stick with it, but you aren’t really getting the benefits of fasting. Instead, you’re just seeing the benefits of cutting calories. You’ll experience more significant benefits by fasting for longer. Give it a try to see what sort of results you can really achieve. You’ll be amazed at what intermittent fasting can do for you if you’re eating in a small enough window each day.

Not Committing And Taking The Easy Way Out Just So You Can Eat For Longer

One of the 5 biggest intermittent fasting mistakes is counting sleeping hours as part of your fasted hours. Doing this spells disaster for your fasting benefits because you’re depriving the body of food during an inactive period when caloric energy needs drop down dramatically. For true fasting effectiveness, you shouldn’t count any of the hours that you’re sleeping as part of your fast. Instead, skip over those hours, or set your fasted window during the most active hours of your day.

By fasting when you’re working hardest you’ll maximize the effects of fasting in your diet. Not only that, but you’ll free up your time to get that work done. Once you’re done working hard for the day take in some food during your recovery period.

This was the way that intermittent fasting was initially done. Fasting was done during the work portion of the day and feeding during the recovery portion. Make sure you’re not counting your recovery as fasting and you’ll be off to a more effective start toward seeing the real benefits of intermittent fasting.

Eating Junk

Close up of women eating a chocolate doughnut.

By far the biggest misuse of intermittent fasting is using it as a free pass to eat junk food for every feeding window. Will intermittent fasting allow you a bit more breathing room as far as the foods you eat during your diet? Sure. Does it give you a license to down a whole pack of Oreos every day? No, not unless you want to pack on the pounds at record speed!

Intermittent fasting will help reduce the amount of food you’re eating each day, and if you stick to a healthy diet you’re almost guaranteed to lose weight while using intermittent fasting.

The problem comes in when people use intermittent fasting to help them justify their poor eating habits. Don’t think of intermittent fasting as a type of diet, but a type of eating pattern instead. That means you still have to apply all your standard healthy diet eating rules while following a fasting plan, you just have to eat those healthy foods during your feed window instead of throughout the day.

If you can’t stick with your diet while eating all throughout the day, chances are good that you’ll still struggle with eating the right sorts of foods while fasting as well. There are no shortcuts with building a healthy diet. Work to be more disciplined about the food you eat today and you will have more success when you start intermittent fasting as well.

Taking BCAAs

Shaker and sports supplements. BCAAs, protein and creatine

BCAAs can be good when working to build muscle, but they’re counterproductive to use while following an intermittent fasting eating pattern. That’s why one of the 5 biggest intermittent fasting mistakes is taking these supplements, and I’m not just talking about during the fasted window either.

I know, some “fitness experts” talk about muscle deterioration and how the body burns up the muscles for energy while you fast. The truth is that this doesn’t happen to an extent that’s worth worrying about and it just doesn’t make sense to take BCAAs if you’re going to be fasting.

Just imagine how cavemen would have been long ago if they lost their muscle mass every time they went without food. They likely consumed just one or two meals a day and often went without food for days at a time. They would have been weak and feeble and would have gone extinct long ago. The body is better at adapting to low food situations than that.

BCAAs are good for aiding in recovery after a workout and helping with muscle growth, but they work against the benefits of intermittent fasting. Some of the most profound benefits of fasting come from a boost to your AMPK levels. AMPK and mTOR work against one another. When AMPK is high mTOR is low and vice versa. BCAAs are known for increasing mTOR levels, which means they’re lowering that AMPK that you should be getting by fasting. This cuts off many of your major benefits and it just leads to disappointment, so stop taking BCAAs if you’re following an IF routine.

Eating Too Few Proteins

Cooked chicken breast and salad

Getting enough protein is essential for maintaining your muscle mass, and you should be taking in quite a bit every day. If you’re restricting your eating window to a small number of hours you will likely struggle to eat enough protein to meet your body’s needs.

You should be eating around 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, or as much as 1.25 grams per pound of weight if you’re very lean. The trouble is that that’s a whole lot of protein to get in during one or two meals. For many men, that’s going to mean eating more than 200 g of protein per day.

If you’re relying on a short fasted diet you’ll have to really focus on meal prep to get enough protein from your food, or you’ll have to rely on protein shakes along with your meals to make sure you’re taking in enough. It’s challenging to get enough protein, but definitely doable.

Making sure you’re getting enough protein should help maintain your muscle mass while giving you what you need to build more muscle as well.

To give yourself the best chance at hitting protein goals focus on lean meats like turkey and chicken and rely on protein shakes. Legumes and dairy-based proteins work well too, but they really fill you up and will make eating enough protein during your own or two meals a challenge.

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5 Biggest Intermittent Fasting Mistakes Take Away

After reading through this overview of the 5 biggest intermittent fasting mistakes you’ve probably come across at least one mistake that you’re making. I know I was making a few of these mistakes myself before my research pointed them out.

If you are making one or more of these mistakes don’t panic. Just start working to correct them. By tightening up that fasting window, cutting out some of the junk and avoiding mistake supplements like BCAAs you can unlock more benefits of fasting and supercharge your weight loss.

It’s going to be harder to stick with your fasting plan when it’s strict, but it’s worth the effort and you’ll be glad you did when you start losing serious weight. Try these changes yourself and you’ll see just what I mean in no time at all.

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5 biggest intermittent fasting mistakes

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