I started Intermittent Fasting over 5 years ago now. It has helped me heal my gut, improve my energy levels and achieve my body recomposition goals. However, looking back on my 5 year Intermittent Fasting journey, there are 10 things I wish I knew when I had first started Intermittent Fasting in order to prevent some hiccups along the way.
To make sure you can avoid my mistakes, today I'm sharing 10 things I WISH I knew before I started Intermittent Fasting.
1. Longer Isn't Always Better
When you first start Intermittent Fasting, you feel amazing. I personally experienced immediate improvements in my sleep, bloating and body fat percentage. So it's natural to think that "if I feel great with a 16 hour fast, I'll probably feel even better with a 20 hour fast!". Although longer fasts can be used successfully, what I've found as a nutritionist is that most people have a hard time fitting in all of their nutrient needs with such a short eating window. This can lead to a reduction in muscle mass, feeling excessively hungry and reducing the metabolism.
2. You Won't Be Hungry
Before I started Intermittent Fasting, I was terrified of it. I thought that I would be hangry and annoyed during the entire 16 hour fasting period. This kept me from starting to incorporate Intermittent Fasting for years. It wasn't until my persistent bloating became so severe that I decided I had to start fasting... and to my surprise, I wasn't hungry! In fact, studies are showing that Intermittent Fasters don't tend to experience higher hunger levels.(1) In fact, Intermittent Fasting can result in reduced ghrelin (our hunger hormone). (1)
That is... when you eat the right types of meals during the eating window.
3. Start Slow With Exercise
Intermittent Fasting helps the body to transition to a fat burning state by naturally allowing the storing hormone, insulin, to dip down during the fast. However, the transition to burning fat as fuel can take between 3-14 days. During this time, emphasizing lower intensity exercises that prioritize burning fat vs. carbohydrates can help to make this transition much smoother. This includes walking, light swimming, light cycling and light resistance training.
4. You Can Ramp Back Up Your Exercise
Once the body has transitioned into using fat as fuel more efficiently (that first 3-14 days), it is possible to ramp your exercise intensity back up. This includes heavier strength training, sprint interval training and running. In fact, incorporating strength training specifically can help to accelerate your results with Intermittent Fasting by aiding in making the body more insulin sensitive. This is why I added in a 3 week resistance training program within the 21 Day Intermittent Fasting Program so that you can maximize your results with Intermittent Fasting.
5. What You Eat Matters
You can't just shorten your eating window with Intermittent Fasting and not address your meals. Especially if you have a weight loss goal in mind. If you break your fast with highly insulin spiking foods, like sugar or refined carbohydrates, this can completely reverse your progress with Intermittent Fasting. Instead, it's important to focus on protein, fat and fiber rich meals - which conveniently are what all the 21 Day Intermittent Fasting Program meals are based on!
6. Snacking Will Make You More Hungry
If you're hungry enough to snack in between your meals, then this is a sign that you did not eat enough protein or fat to trigger the satiety hormones from your previous meal. This means you are never eating until you are fully satisfied and will be constantly slightly hungry (which can trickle into the fasting window). Instead of relying on snacks, focus on getting enough protein for your body's needs at each of your 2-3 meals during your eating window.
7. Electrolytes Are Absolutely Essential
While the insulin levels drop during the fast, the body tends to release quite a bit of water and sodium. This loss in water and sodium can result in an electrolyte imbalance and lead to headaches or low energy. Replacing lost electrolytes during the fast and throughout the day can help to achieve an electrolyte balance... and avoid the headaches I experienced my first few days of Intermittent Fasting!
8. Poor Sleep Will Make You More Hungry
If you don't take your sleep seriously, you can wake up the next morning with increased hunger hormones, increased stress hormones and increased insulin resistance. This combination will lead you to feeling hungry and craving sugar during your fast. So make sure to hit the hay with enough time to get a full nights rest!
9. There's An Intermittent Fasting Transition Period
It can take a few days to a few weeks to break the habit of eating at certain times of the day. I found that even though I wasn't hungry, I was in the habit of making my first meal at 8am (2.5 hours before my eating window started). But sticking to my Intermittent Fasting schedule and making sure I had a fast and easy break-fast option on hand helped me to form a new Intermittent Fasting habit. Now, eating any earlier than 10:00am just doesn't cross my mind.
10. You Can Have A Social Life With Intermittent Fasting
Cue window shifting. Window shifting is the strategy I use to shift my eating window by 1-2 hours on the weekends to allow for dinner reservations, holiday parties or just getting together with friends. This strategy is crucial to the longevity of Intermittent Fasting. If you're too rigid with your fasting schedule, it can cause you to miss out on special times with friends and family, which ultimately will lead you to not using Intermittent Fasting at all.
Window shifting is one of my favorite longevity strategies in the 21 Day Intermittent Fasting Program to still reap the benefits of Intermittent Fasting while having a social life, too.