Intermittent fasting, popularly known as the IF diet, is a go-to weight loss trend. For those unfamiliar with this, it is a diet pattern that alternates between periods of abstaining from food and eating intentionally. While our bodies already do this when we sleep, IF stretches the fasting window by several more hours.
There are many popular intermittent fasting routines out there, like the 5:2 (5 days of eating and two days of fasting), the 18:6 method (18 hours of fasting and a 6-hour eating window), and the 16:8 method (where you fast for 16 hours a day and eat in the remaining 8-hour window). While you are free to include other dietary practices, like gluten-free or vegan diets, many people do not follow dietary restrictions as long as they stick to the fasting window.
Innumerable people use fasting as a way to lose weight. However, besides weight loss, IF has a lot of other benefits. Studies have shown that it improves brain function, reduces cardiovascular stress, promotes autophagy (self-healing), decreases inflammation, improves your gut’s health, and makes your body’s metabolism much more fluid.
However, as with any popular diet trend, a lot of misinformation is associated with IF. This incorrect information is misleading and dangerous, as it can harm your health. This article debunks ten myths about intermittent fasting; read on before you start your IF routine.
Myth 1: Intermittent Fasting Means That You Have To Skip Breakfast
It is a simplified statement about IF practice. If you adhere to IF, you may find it easier to have a large meal at night, so you do not need breakfast, and thus, skipping breakfast feels easy. However, it is not mandatory. With IF, you can plan your meal time with much more flexibility. If skipping dinner instead of breakfast works for you, well and good. The goal is to fast for only 16 hours per day. And if you are doing the 5:2 fast, you need not skip any meals for the first 5 days of the week.
Myth 2: Intermittent Fasting Is The New Miracle Remedy For Achieving Weight Loss
While you can employ intermittent fasting to ease your body into weight loss, it is by no means a guaranteed result. The only way to reduce your weight is to consume fewer calories than your body burns as fuel—in other words, to create a calorie deficit. If you eat more calories in your eating window than your body burns, your weight will not come down. It is also important to note that Body Mass Index, and not weight, is the best tool to study weight loss in any given population. If you are overweight, intermittent fasting will help you regulate and bring down your weight. If your weight is normal, you will not experience weight loss.
Myth 3: There is only one kind of IF Routine
This cannot be further from the truth. There are many different IF plans out there. For example, time-restricted eating plans (TRE) will divide your day into alternate periods of fasting and eating. You have the 16:8 pattern, where you fast for 16 hours daily and eat in the remaining 8-hour window. Then there are severe IF diets that employ eating windows ranging from 12 hours to 1 hour, known as the One Meal A Day plan (OMAD). You also have more Spartan IF diets when you eat on alternate days, known as ADF (alternate day fasting), where the fasting window stretches to more than 24 hours.
Myth 4: Intermittent Fasting Benefits Everyone
While intermittent fasting has a slew of benefits, it is not for everyone. Fasting will not be suitable for a person with an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia, for those who are underweight, and those who have a frail constitution. Again, a woman should not embark on intermittent fasting if she is pregnant or breastfeeding. Children in their developing years would be ill-advised to follow an intermittent fasting plan, even if they are overweight. As a rule of thumb, if you are planning to start intermittent fasting, let your doctor know and follow their advice on whether it is the right diet plan for you.
Myth 5: During Eating Windows, You Can Consume Anything
This is not true. Your eating window is not the time to consume large amounts of processed and junk food or even eat more to compensate for the meals you skipped. Therefore, you should be mindful of having a very balanced diet that gives you the required nourishment. You must eat lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. If you crave less nutritious foods, make sure you have them in small amounts. Binging on food is not recommended at any cost, no matter how much you crave processed and fatty foods.
Myth 6: Intermittent Fasting Might Impair Your Focus And Mental Alertness
This myth needs addressing. While there are a few adverse effects of Intermittent Fasting, like headaches, fatigue, and muscle cramps, studies have not pointed to IF bringing down your alertness or mental focus. With that being said, if you suddenly jump into an intermittent fasting routine without easing yourself into it, there may be a temporary drop in your focus or mental alertness. You may constantly think about food and have cravings that will distract you from the job at hand.
Experts recommend that if you are new to IF, start with a 12-hour fasting window where you can consume healthy food in the remaining 12-hour eating window. This will allow your body to adapt slowly to the new diet regimen without affecting your focus or alertness.
Myth 7: If You Follow Intermittent Fasting, It Will Slow Down Your Metabolism
This is untrue. If fasting is done for short periods of time, like in the 16:8 IF plan, it will boost your body’s metabolism and improve its adaptability. Metabolism is defined as the sum of all the different chemical processes taking place inside you. During a fast, your body gets the time, and the rest creates hormonal and chemical changes that will boost your metabolism. Studies have shown that regulators and markers of metabolism like HGH and norepinephrine get increased through fasting.
Fasting makes your body flexible in a metabolic sense, meaning that your body adapts swiftly to the source of fuel (either carbohydrates, protein, or fat) available at the moment most readily. Intermittent fasting streamlines your metabolism and makes it efficient.
Myth 8: You Will Overindulge In Food If You Follow Intermittent Fasting
A lot of people fear that if they follow intermittent fasting, they will give in to cravings and overindulge in binge eating. However, it is all about self-control. If you eat the right kinds of food, like lean protein, essential fats, whole grains, and recommended amounts of carbohydrates, you will feel satiated and not feel the need to overindulge during your eating windows. That being said, a lot of people experience a sense of urgency during eating windows, and the key here is to practice self-control and eat the right kinds of food.
Myth 9: You Have To Restrict Intake Of Water In Fasting Windows
Again, this is a myth that needs to be debunked. Restricting your water intake or drinking no water during fasting windows is bad. You must be mindful of consuming more water than usual in your fasting windows. Besides satiating your thirst, water contains micronutrients that your body surely needs. Because you are not eating during the fasting window, you may need to remember to have regular glasses of water. So be mindful of this aspect.
Myth 10: Your Body Will Get Into Starvation Mode During Intermittent Fasting
While there is no scientific proof of when your body goes into starvation mode, we can assure you that it does so only during prolonged fasting regimens. Because the most common IF plans are the 16:8, 5:2, and 12-hour plans, you can be assured that you won’t enter starvation mode by following these IF plans. But consult a doctor if you want to continue fasting for more than a day.
While studies have pointed to the benefits of fasting, which include weight loss, improved autophagy, and stable insulin and blood sugar levels, there are also some observed drawbacks, like a drop in metabolism and muscle loss.
There are many myths surrounding the practice of intermittent fasting. It is essential to understand that this diet method, like many others, may not be suitable for everyone and should be approached with caution. However, it has been shown to have many potential benefits, like improved weight loss, a better metabolism, and a reduction in chronic diseases. By understanding the myths and facts, you can make the right decision about whether or not intermittent fasting is suitable for you.
I recommend starting here to learn more about these types of fasting which are the MOST popular, starting with 16/8 Fasting, click on these guides below to learn more:
16/8 Fasting Guide, 14/10 Fasting Guide, 18/6 Fasting Guide, One Meal a Day Guide.
Also need help fasting? Check out these Top 6 Fasting Mobile Apps we recommend to help you on your journey.
Want to go on a Fasting or Health retreat with likeminded others? Check out our Fasting Retreats review page Here.