Are You Making These Fasting Mistakes?

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Steer clear of fasting-porn that fills the internet

Fasting entered the fitness ecosystem like a hand to a drowning man.

People who were tired of counting calories, restricting diets, and forcing themselves not to eat the cookie, saw fasting as a great approach to lose weight in a way that works for them.

The logic behind fasting as a weight-loss approach is simple — “Since you need to have a calorie deficit to lose weight, eating within a window makes it easier to eat less and hit your designated calories,” says Charlie Seltzer, MD, weight-loss physician, and certified personal trainer.

But the fasting trend goes beyond weight loss. Even people like Jack Dorsey, who don’t have visible weight to lose, adopt extreme one-meal-a-day (OMAD) diets.


Well, the most plausible explanation is that it fits well with our schedules. It allows people to skip meals when they’re busy and otherwise eat out of obligation.

It lowers blood pressure according to Cleveland HeartLab.

And to top it all off, it slows down aging with cellular autophagy by clearing damaged cells and making room for healthy ones.

But even after so many positive benefits, there are things you need to take care of before joining the trend.

The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread?

Fasting is not exactly a magic wand that makes your diet problems go away.

Diabetic patients, pregnant women, children, etc should at least consult a doctor before going for fasting, if not avoid it completely.

Moreover, there are other factors you should consider even if your doctor gives you a go-ahead.

Food Is Not Just Fuel

For many of us, food is more than fuel — we’re attached to it emotionally.

So if you’re romantic about the concept of 3–5 meals a day and all the social benefits that come along with it, you’ll find fasting difficult than it has to be.

If you find yourself in this situation, it’s best to take things slow. Try skipping breakfast tomorrow and see what you feel like.

The psychological effects of fasting are often more important than physiological ones.

It’s Not a Pass for an Eight-Hour Buffet

If you’re starting out, or if you don’t eat enough satiating, high-protein items, you can feel hungry, or worse, hangry.

Let’s assume you eat your breakfast at 8 in the morning and dinner at 10 in the night. Your fasting window is 10 hours. But if you factor in a morning tea, a piece of fruit, or midnight snacks, then your fasting window can be less than 8 hours.

Thus, going from an 8:16 regime to a 16:8 regime then will make you hungry. Even if you stick to the 16-hour fast, you’ll probably be starving for food.

But you’ve to realize this: the majority of these cravings don’t come out of hunger, they come out the habit of regular feeding.

And as a result of not getting the habitual dopamine hit from food, you can go crazy in your eating window. Worse, you can use your fast as an excuse to eat whatever you want.

This defeats the whole purpose of fasting.

How to fix this: Take it slow. Start with a 12-hour fast and then progress to 16 hours over a few weeks. Once your body adapts to the new routine, you’ll find it easier to resist emotional and physical impulses.

Fasting and Exercise

I’ve been a morning person for as long as I can remember. And one of the first things I do in the morning is exercise.

This was the biggest challenge in my intermittent fasting journey. I’d workout at 7 am and then wait till at least 11 am to eat. Between 7 and 11 am, I’d feel tired, have brain fog, and be much less productive.

How to fix this: If you’re someone who has the same schedule, try to work out at the end of your fasting window. If you break your fast at noon, then workout at 11 am and then have a protein-rich meal after that.

Even better, keep your workouts during your eating window. If you workout before your last meal, for example, you won’t have to worry about the side-effects I mentioned.

But, if you cannot skip your morning workouts, I have good news.

Over a period of time, I’ve become used to it.

Unless you’re an endurance athlete or bodybuilder, you shouldn’t worry about working out on an empty stomach.

Low Blood Sugar

This has been my personal fear and a point of debate amongst many intermittent fasting ‘experts.’

Let’s understand why this happens.

When you fast long enough, your body starts using ketones as fuel instead of glucose. When this happens, you can get the keto flu. Common symptoms of the keto flu are light-headedness and headaches.

Interestingly, these are also symptoms of hypoglycemia. When people hear this, they freak out.

But the key is that it’s not diabetic in nature and thus not a threat to your health.

These symptoms are common, but in my experience, they only happen in two cases:

  • You’re not used to fasting

  • You’re fasting longer than you usually do

For example, I don’t eat until 11 every day but I don’t feel the symptoms of the keto flu. On the other hand, I do feel these on my weekly 24-hour fast.

How to fix this:

  • First, if you’re not sure, or feel extremely fatigued — eat. Fasting is not a race and there’s no leaderboard. Do what feels right.

  • Don’t rush into fasting. Keto flu usually is a sign that your body is not ready. I, for example, get these symptoms after 18–20 hours of fasting and if I can’t get rid of them, I eat some nuts. Even after months of intermittent fasting, my body is not ready for a 24-hour fast. Trust me, it takes time.

  • Drink more water. And when you think you’ve drunk enough, drink some more.

  • Try putting some salt in your water to increase sodium intake.

  • Have green tea or black coffee.

  • Have bulletproof coffee

Don’t Listen to the Clock, Listen to Your Body

Fasting can quickly turn into a rigid, rule-based diet that treats the clock at the Almighty.

While there’s a lot to be said about discipline in that sense, you have to listen to your bodies.

Every day is different for all of us. Depending on how much stress you’re going through, how much sleep you got last night, how rested you feel, and how happy you are, your diet needs to adapt.

Placing rules on your diet for the sake of it is not healthy.

There are days when I eat an hour before my fasting window ends because I can’t focus.

Cut yourself some slack when you think you need it.

Final Thought

There’s no single best diet for humans. Everyone has different needs.

The same principle applies to intermittent fasting. Listen to your body and adapt accordingly. Make efforts to structure your diet according to your lifestyle.

In the end, fasting should feel like a slight challenge but not an insurmountable mountain.

Please don’t consider this as medical advice. Consult a doctor before making major diet.

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Written on September 12, 2020