Our understanding of intermittent fasting is still in its infancy stage. This is exciting because there is still so much to learn. What is the right daily fast length? How frequently should we do prolonged fasts?
The other side of an emerging science is that there are still many questions to be answered and misinformation to be clarified.
Let’s address seven of the most common intermittent fasting myths that I hear each week.
7 Intermittent Fasting Myths
Myth 1: I have to fast for 16 hours to lose weight.
Let’s start with the most common concern and frustration I hear. “I’ve tried 16:8 intermittent fasting, but it doesn’t work for me.” The 16:8 method of intermittent fasting is a 16-hour overnight fast and an 8-hour eating window.
There is nothing magical about 16 hours. Yes, it is the most researched style of fasting, but if it doesn’t fit your lifestyle and isn’t sustainable, then it’s not the right fit for you.
Would it surprise you to discover that most of my clients successfully lose weight with 12- to 16-hour overnight fasts. There is an eating window that will work for you. Don’t let someone else’s success with a 16-hour eating window discourage you because it just may not be right for you.
Myth 2: I can only have water during my fasting window.
There are several beverage options that you can have during your fasting hours. Unless you are doing a strict water-only fast.
Coffee lovers rejoice! You don’t have to skip your morning cup of coffee during your fasting window. Black coffee is okay during a fast. Coffee with a little bit of cream (less than 2 tablespoons, or about 50 calories) can work during your fasting window as well.
All types of tea, including black, herbal and green tea are okay during your fasting window.
Myth 3: I have to skip breakfast.
If you want to get technical, the first meal you eat after a fast is breakfast (break-fast). Okay, don’t roll your eyes just yet, hear me out.
If you decide to have a 10-hour eating window, you could have breakfast at 8 am and dinner at 6 pm. Does that sound reasonable? It does to me because it’s the window that I use every day. You may find another eating window that fits your lifestyle perfectly.
Myth 4: I need to eat every 2-3 hours to fuel my metabolism.
I 100% believed this and preached this for years. If you are a body builder or a competitive athlete who needs to gain muscle mass, then yes, you will need to eat this frequently to keep the body in an anabolic (fed) state.
Everyone else, we can go 4-5 hours in between meals and 14+ hours overnight and be just fine. I had a hard time accepting this. How could something I’ve preached for years be misguided?
We have hundreds of thousands of calories stored in our liver, muscles, and fat tissues. We would need to restrict calories drastically or do prolonged fasts (30+ hours) to really see a significant slowing of our metabolism.
This was a huge stress relief for me. I used to worry if I didn’t have a snack in my purse or car when I ran errands or was on a road trip. Now, I know that I’ll be alright if a meeting runs long or I can’t find a decent snack until I get home. It’s liberating.
Myth 5: Fasting will put me in starvation mode.
This myth is based on a truth. ‘Starvation mode’ is a term used to describe the body’s protective mechanism for a significant lack of calories. It’s a real condition.
What is happening is the brain and body are not receiving sufficient fuel (this can happen with diets lower than 1400 calories). When calorie intake dips too low, the body will adjust the metabolic rate. In starvation mode, the body also increases appetite and hunger signaling. The body simply wants more food and is protecting your energy from getting too low.
You might experience this if you restrict calories over a long period of time, or do an extended water fast. But no, this will not happen from a 16-hour overnight fast. At least, the science hasn’t demonstrated this yet.
Myth 6: Intermittent Fasting will make me overeat.
Depending on your eating window, you may find that your meals need to be larger for you to get sufficient calories for the day.
That said, if you are overeating at the end of each overnight fast, that is a red flag. Then, we should take a look at the foods that you are consuming at night and whether a smaller eating window would better suit your goals.
Myth 7: Intermittent Fasting alone should help me lose weight.
Just choosing a smaller eating window *might* help you lose weight. A recent study showed that participants that did a 16-hour overnight fast lost about 2 pounds of weight in 12 weeks.
What the study didn’t control for was what the participants were eating and how much. They only controlled for the eating window. For all we know, they could have been eating junk food all day.
You’ll hear me preach time and again that intermittent fasting is a tool. It is to be used in conjunction with good, quality nutrition, exercise, stress management and sleep optimization.
Do you have any intermittent fasting myths you want me to address? Email me.