10 IF mistakes all women should avoid

Intermittent fasting consistently ranks among the most popular weight-loss diets, and for good reasons – it works!

Ongoing research consistently affirms that various fasting techniques, including intermittent fasting (IF) can help improve your health and increase longevity by improving insulin sensitivity, which helps to repair cells and improves your ability to metabolise fat while reducing fat storage.

But IF can also go wrong when you don’t follow the correct guidelines. In this article, nutritional therapy practitioner and certified personal and group trainer Sasha Kuznetsova reveals 10 common mistakes to avoid when following an IF diet.

READ MORE | Is The 16:8 Intermittent Fasting Method The Best Way To Improve Your Health And Body?

Her journey to IF

More people are choosing to follow the IF trend but not everyone has the same experience.

When IF goes wrong, we can end up eating everything in sight at 3 pm, gaining a bunch of weight and, often, quitting.

But your IF journey can also be a huge success, like mine was. As a bikini competitor, I ate six lean meals a day. It felt like a life-consuming plan of endless food prep and cleaning, constant eating, and carting my prepared meals to every party.

Eventually, I said to myself, “what am I doing? This is insane! There has to be a different way to live healthy and happy!”

That’s when I decided to try fasting. This approach to eating offers many health benefits and comes in various variants.

READ MORE | Mom Loses 10kg In 12 Weeks To Earn Top Spot In USN Body Makeover Challenge

Evidence-based benefits

The main evidence-based health benefits of fasting include weight loss and various beneficial hormonal changes that promote improved health.

These include improving insulin sensitivity and lower insulin levels and an increase in human growth hormone (HGH), which positively affects muscle growth and recovery and benefits bone density.

We also experience a shift in gene expression due to enhanced cellular repair. Furthermore, fasting decreases inflammation and oxidative stress, which are leading causes of many diseases and ageing, and improves your brain and heart health by lowering blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol.

Your fasting options include:

  1. Intermittent fasting: You fast for fewer than 24 hours. The most common approach is the 16:8 method where you eat all your meals within an eight-hour window. This method is the most popular and best for fasting rookies.
  2. The 5:2 method: You eat what you typically eat five days of the week and restrict your calorie intake to 500–600 for two days of the week.
  3. Alternate-day method: Eat every other day.
  4. Spontaneous meal skipping: Skip meals randomly when you are busy or simply not hungry.
  5. Stop-eat-stop method: Fast for 24 hours, once or twice per week.
  6. One meal a day (OMAD) fasting: You eat a single meal each day.
  7. Extended fasting: Irregularly fast for longer than 36 hours. Popular durations include 2-day fasts. This plan is best for someone who already has experience with fasting.

READ MORE | 8 Myths That Undermine Your Weight Loss

10 lessons learnt

Through a process of trial and error, I have dialled in my approach and now coach my clients to help them succeed with intermittent fasting.

I made numerous mistakes on the journey to find the right approach to fasting, which I share in this article to help you avoid them.

#1. Jumping straight in

When we’re excited to try a new approach, we often jump right into it. However, it takes your body time to get used to going without food for that long. This often leads to horrible choices for your first meal after the fast and you tend to overeat.

The best way to start an IF diet is to ease into it. Push your first meal out by one hour every week and your system will adjust to your new eating schedule.

#2. You didn’t correct your blood sugar first

If you are a sugarholic and aim to lose weight with an IF diet, you’re in for a rough time. Intermittent fasting is a horrible idea for those with unbalanced blood sugar. If that is you, expect mood swings, afternoon energy crashes and “hangriness”. Sugar gives the body a short-lived burst of energy and then the body crashes. It is tough to follow a time-restricted eating plan and go for long periods without food for someone dependent on sugar for energy.

You must first address your cravings and dependency on sugar and simple carbs for quick energy. You need to eliminate sweets gradually from your diet and teach your body to run on more sustainable fuel like fat. Once you achieve that, then you are ready to expand your fasting time progressively.

#3. Poor food choices

Many people think that if you restrict your feeding time, you can eat anything you want and as much as you wish. Pizza and doughnuts for the win! Unfortunately, this free-for-all approach will leave you feeling terrible with mood swings, cravings and rollercoaster energy levels. And eating too many calories in a day will cause weight gain, even if you eat all your calories in one meal.

You still have to remain mindful of what you eat. Fill your plate with plants, high-quality animal protein and good fats, and stay away from refined sugars!

#4. Under-eating

On the other end of the scale, you can end up not eating enough calories and starving your body. Eating less than 1200 calories in your restricted window is not healthy. The idea behind intermittent fasting is to eat your required daily calorie intake within that period to support your weight and energy targets but in shorter feeding windows. This structure allows your body to run on stored fat. (metabolic switching) between meals. If you starve your body, you can sabotage your metabolic rate, and you can start breaking down muscle tissue instead of burning fat.

#5. Not sleeping enough

Don’t skip on quality ZZZs. Without adequate sleep each night, you won’t have enough energy to make healthy choices, and it will send your hunger hormones (leptin and ghrelin) out of wack. Leptin mediates long-term energy balance and tells your body when you are full. Ghrelin tells your body you are hungry. A lack of sufficient sleep increases ghrelin levels and suppresses leptin, leading to increased hunger and appetite. The bottom line is, get quality sleep!

#6. Lack of variety

Don’t become the main character from Groundhog Day by eating the same meal or following the exact schedule every day. Your body will adapt pretty quickly to this lack of variety. Make sure you keep it guessing all the time by eating different foods and changing up your fasting window.

#7. You didn’t hydrate properly

When you fast, the body is not taking in water from food, so you must drink extra fluid. Drink to thirst by always having water with you. Without sufficient water on hand, you will likely experience hunger, cramps and headaches, which will make it harder for you to stick to the plan.

#8. You skip the resistance training

To keep your metabolism at an optimal level, you have to maintain your muscle mass, girl! The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn every day. The best time to exercise is when you have the most energy, ideally when glycogen levels are topped up. Avoid hard workouts during an extended fast.

#9. You broke the fast too early

It is easy to unknowingly interrupt your fast. Did you know that even a little taste of sweetness can trigger the insulin response? What a bummer! Even toothpaste can have that effect. Keep an eye out for hidden sugars in your vitamins, supplements and mouthwash.

#10. You chose the wrong fasting method for your lifestyle

If you are an athlete and train six days a week but choose the alternative fasting method, it will be hard to train on the days that you fast. Think about your lifestyle and what fasting method will support it best.

From a practical implementation perspective, do not allow intermittent fasting to consume your whole life. Fasting should make your life easier because you should spend less time on food prep and more on other important things like your family, friends and getting active.

By Sasha Kuznetsova

About the author

Sasha  is a nutritional therapy practitioner, a certified personal and group trainer and an ex-pro athlete and bikini champion with a lifelong passion for holistic living. She has helped hundreds of women for the past 15 years to get in the best shape of their lives. She created the Ageless Girl Guide System that hacks into the bio-individuality of every client so they can achieve their wellness goals with minimum effort and keep them. Her European wellness mentality is refreshing and helps clients achieve great results without feeling deprived. Connect with Sasha on @agelessgirlguide and www.yourfitwithsasha.com

This contribution was created in partnership with FITposium, an annual educational and inspirational seminar focused on success in the fitness modelling and entrepreneurial industry. Held in Arizona in the US, this workshop features a variety of sessions to prepare fitness talents with everything they need to know to enter the market and succeed. For more info, visit fitposium.com.

Author: Pedro van Gaalen

When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

When he's not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He's worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

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