Intermittent Fasting But NOT LOSING WEIGHT
Check out my client Jordan’s transformation where he lost a whole bunch of fat through the right diet and exercise.
If you started intermittent fasting and you aren’t seeing the results that you were expecting, don’t give up hope, because you’re not alone.
A lot of people start fasting with the perceived notion that it’s going to be a piece of cake, an easy ride, with no road bumps along the way.
But, the truth is that there are road bumps and just by making a couple of mistakes with your fasting plan you can completely plateau, stop losing weight and stop burning fat.
So, I want to go over exactly why you may have stopped burning fat with your intermittent fasting plan and what you can do to get that fat loss started again.
#1 Cutting calories too low
The first reason that I want to start with is one that catches people by surprise and causes them to hit plateaus even though they know they’re eating fewer calories than they’re burning.
It is that they are cutting calories too low without incorporating refeed days or even refeed weeks.
You see, with intermittent fasting there’s a good chance that you’ll be in a calorie deficit just by limiting the amount of time that you can eat during the day.
If you’re practising a 16/8 intermittent fasting protocol, that means that you’re only allowed to eat 8 hours of the day. When you try to cut calories further during your eating window you can wind up with a very large deficit.
While aggressive reductions in your daily calories that are around 30 per cent or more subtracted from your maintenance levels, aren’t by themselves a problem. They are if you don’t set them up correctly.
This is because of metabolic compensation. Your body will adapt to a very sharp drop in the number of calories you’re taking in with a sharp drop in your metabolism.
This could lead to less weight loss than what you would expect by lowering calories to a certain point.
In fact, some studies show that metabolic compensation can explain around 67 per cent of the instances where there is less weight loss than what is expected. (1)
To avoid this, if you are cutting calories in a more aggressive way you need to incorporate refeeds.
You can do this by keeping your calories under 30 per cent from maintenance 4 to 5 days per week, and then you would incorporate a couple of days per week where you make sure to bring your calories back to maintenance levels.
These “refeed days” will help keep your metabolism elevated, ultimately helping you continue to burn fat.
You can also do this by keeping your calories under 30 per cent from maintenance for 2 weeks and then cycling in 2 weeks of keeping your calories at maintenance.
This was proven to help slow the decline in metabolic rate while dieting. (2)
Remember you would cycle between an aggressive reduction in calories and regular maintenance levels within the framework of your intermittent fasting plan.
So, you would still be eating all of your calories within your 8-hour window regardless of whether you were eating at maintenance for that day or at a 30 per cent deficit.
#2 Not readjusting calories and macros
While cutting calories too low too fast can lead to a backlash from your metabolism, another mistake is never readjusting calories and macros for weight already lost.
That’s right. If you’ve already lost weight from intermittent fasting you may need to lower your caloric intake more to lose even more weight.
Just by losing weight you’ll be doing less work and burning fewer calories to upkeep your body throughout the day.
You have to take that into account and re-evaluate your calories and macros every couple of weeks and especially when you hit plateaus.
But, before you start cutting calories you want to make sure that you’re not accidentally throwing yourself out of your fast without knowing it.
Now with this, there are more minor mistakes and more extreme mistakes.
- Taking branch chain amino acids
An example of a minor mistake is taking branch chain amino acids in the middle of your fast to prevent muscle loss.
Two major benefits that you’re going to get from fasting are lower insulin levels and improved insulin sensitivity. While you’re fasting your insulin levels tend to be very low.
The problem is that branch chain amino acids contain leucine and studies show that leucine will spike your insulin levels. (3)
This is why a post-workout protein shake doesn’t even have to contain carbs to spike your insulin levels, leucine will help do this on its own.
2. Adding cream to your coffee
Now, this would be a minor mistake, that I wouldn’t really see preventing fat loss on its own. Another minor mistake is adding cream to your coffee.
That cream will most likely add under a hundred calories to your coffee, but that will be enough to technically knock you out of your fast.
Again this alone will not prevent fat loss, but of course, this does depend on how much cream you add and what type of creamer you use. Some creamers are loaded with a lot more calories and sugar than others.
One last minor mistake before we jump into the major ones is having artificial sweeteners throughout the day. Many people will use artificial sweeteners to hold them over while fasting.
It lets them feel like they’re taking in calories when they’re really not.
But, the problem is that studies show that many artificial sweeteners can have a very similar effect on insulin levels as a matching dose of glucose. (4)
Again, one of the main reasons we are doing intermittent fasting, to begin with, is to lower insulin levels.
The good news is that stevia has shown in studies to not affect the insulin response in the same way, especially when compared to artificial sweeteners like aspartame and regular table sugar.
So the bottom line is that if you want to add a sweetener with no calories during your fast you should go with stevia.
1. Not considering drinking calories
Now, the major mistake that you can make in regard to throwing yourself out of your fast is not considering the calories that you’re drinking in general. While this may sound like common sense to some of you a lot of people get this really wrong.
When you’re fasting it doesn’t mean that you can drink what you want as long as you’re not eating. It means you want to aim to have no calories at all. Regardless of whether those calories come from food or from beverages.
Ideally, you would want to limit yourself to drinking either water, black coffee, or unsweetened tea.
2. Overeating after completing fasting
The next mistake you might be making is overeating once you’re done fasting.
Even though intermittent fasting can help you take control of fat-burning hormones like insulin, for fat loss to occur you don’t only need your hormones in check, but you also need to be in a calorie deficit.
Many people, especially those that just start fasting for the first time, don’t realize that fasting isn’t a magical solution for getting around having to eat less to burn fat.
The reality is that fasting is an eating pattern that sets up your diet in a way that makes it easier to eat less, but that doesn’t mean that it makes it mandatory to do so.
I’m not going to spend too much time telling you that if you’re eating things like french fries, pizza, and ice cream, as soon as you break your fast you’re probably going to overeat and gain weight rather than lose it.
I think this is common sense for most people, but what’s not common sense to most people is that your body will be working against you if you do not break your fast correctly.
You see, when your fast is over you’re going to feel hungry. While you’re fasting, your body will be low on sources of energy like dietary carbohydrates and fats.
So, by the time that your fast is over your body will be craving high carbohydrate foods that are loaded with sugar as well as fattening foods loaded with calories.
This is because your body already knows that greasy high-fat foods and sweet high sugar foods provide the quickest way to take in massive amounts of calories in the shortest amount of time possible.
So, if you break your fast with no plan at all, there’s a huge chance that you’ll start uncontrollably reaching for whatever junk food you can get your hands on.
To avoid this from happening you have to turn off that inner voice that says, “I’m so hungry, that only a bowl full of ice cream or a pie of pizza will help me feel full and satisfied.”
While this voice may sound ridiculous right now, when you’re in that moment right after you haven’t eaten for 16 hours, it’s very hard to resist the temptation of that voice without a plan.
To successfully resist this temptation, you should break your fast with a meal that’s high in vegetables, preferably at least 1 to 2 cups, and also high in protein.
The vegetables and protein have a low dietary energy density, which basically means that they fill your stomach up with a small number of calories and this has been shown in studies to help people limit their daily caloric intake and lose weight. (7)
So, now rather than fighting with the thoughts of eating sugary sweets and greasy fattening food, you’ll notice those thoughts naturally fade away as you satisfy your hunger with a healthy high veggie, high protein meal.
This way, even if you do cave in and eat some junk food afterwards you’ll eat way less before you’re full, thereby helping you keep your calories low.
The key to consistently beating your hunger after a fast is speed.
If you have to stand there preparing a meal from scratch after your fast is over, you’ll probably be snacking the whole time that your prepping that meal, which will pretty much defeat the whole purpose.
Instead, you want to have a meal ready to go before your fast is over. You also want to have easy options like microwavable veggies, hard-boiled eggs, and packets of tuna ready to go, in case you don’t have a meal pre-prepped.
Once you have that filling meal, keeping calories low during the rest of your eating window should become a lot easier and more manageable. Let’s move on to the next reason why you’re having trouble and that’s because you chose the wrong eating window.
#3 Choosing the wrong eating window
A simple example of this is starting with the warrior diet which requires a 20-hour fast before you’ve nailed down a regular 16-hour fast.
I think it’s pretty obvious to most people that jumping into a longer fast without experience can lead to some binge-like behaviour once the fast is over.
This is especially true with even longer fasts like the one meal a day diet. You can also make this mistake by choosing an eating pattern that just doesn’t fit your lifestyle.
For example, if you set up your 16/8 fast the same way that most people do, you skip breakfast and start eating at 1 pm. That means you have to stop eating by 9 pm.
Now, this is fine for some people, but if you are a late-night eater it might work way better for you to end your fast at 4 o’clock since it’ll allow you to eat until 12 in the morning.
The bottom line here is that you want to set up your fast around your preferences and your schedule, not someone else’s.
If you have trouble avoiding late-night munching then set up your schedule to be able to eat late at night to make your life that much easier.
But aside from that, many women don’t know that some of them will do better with shorter fasting cycles.
Women’s bodies are especially sensitive to changes in calories and changes in eating patterns. Fasting too often or for too long can lead to a lack of energy, irregular periods, poor bone health, and other negative effects.
For this reason, some women may benefit more by fasting about 12 to 16 hours every other day rather than every day. Keep in mind though, that different people will handle fasting differently.
Some women can fast 16 hours every day with no problems, meanwhile, others are not so lucky. In either case, the point remains the same: choose the right feeding to a fast ratio based on your body.
Finally, the last reason why you’re not burning fat from your fasting plan is that you’ve cut down on exercise, you’re doing the wrong type of exercise, or you’re simply not exercising at all. Let’s start with cutting down on exercise.
Many people are under the impression that they won’t be able to work out without eating some kind of meal beforehand, and especially not without eating any meal at all for the entire day.
This makes them overcomplicate the scheduling of their workout which oftentimes leads to missed training sessions.
For example, instead of scheduling their workout in the morning like they normally would, they schedule it after work, after they’ve already eaten their first meal.
The problem is that after work they start finding excuses to not go.
So, they would be way better off continuing their habit of exercising in the morning, the only difference would be that now they would just be doing it in a fasted state.
There’s plenty of energy available in the form of stored body fat for fasted workouts.
Even though in the beginning you may feel low on energy and tired, by practising fasted training over time you will develop the ability to push yourself hard in the gym without the need for a meal before working out.
Even though I wouldn’t say that skipping a pre-workout meal is the ideal strategy for muscle growth, for fat loss fasted training can provide much more pros than cons.
Especially if you have a post-workout protein shake or a post-workout meal soon after your workout to help get some amino acids into your bloodstream and spike up protein synthesis rates.
With all that said, delaying your workout and missing a couple of workouts is nowhere near as bad as not working out at all or doing the wrong types of workouts.
If you’re only doing cardio to help speed up fat loss while intermittent fasting, then you can bet that you’re doing the wrong types of workouts to preserve muscle mass. While you can do cardio, weight training is much more important to maintain muscle during a cut.
But, even doing a cardio-based program is better than not exercising at all while intermittent fasting. This happens more often than you would think because there are a lot of people out there that try the diet-only approach to fat loss.
Couple this with the belief that many people have that you shouldn’t exercise without eating something.
The big problem with not exercising is that just like any other diet plan that cuts calories if you’re fasting you’ll be much more likely to lose muscle mass without incorporating some resistance training into your routine.
On the other hand, by lifting weights at least 3 times a week you’ll be able to maintain as much muscle as possible while cutting (8).
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(1) “Changes in metabolic rate explained on average 67% of the less-than-expected weight loss”
(2) Matador Study: 2 weeks on/ 2 weeks off is better than continuous calorie restriction
(3) “leucine acutely stimulates insulin secretion”
(4) “The effect of Acesulfame K on insulin secretion was similar to that observed by injecting or infusing the same doses of glucose”
(5) “Stevia preloads significantly lowered postprandial glucose levels” “and postprandial insulin levels compared to both aspartame and sucrose preloads”
(6) “Stevia does not affect in acute glycemic and insulin responses to OGTT in obese patients.”
(7) Lower DED should be considered a prevention strategy for obesity
(8) resistance exercise training during weight loss may have a positive effect on subsequent weight maintenance by preserving muscle mass, strength fitness, and REE