Intermittent fasting is a scientifically proven method to alter and improve your metabolic fitness to achieve benefits such as better sleep, better memory, reduced inflammation and increased lifespan. But while it is a positive nutritional strategy for many, strong supporting habits need to be in place to achieve your personal health goals with fasting.
As a strategy for eating, making sure your fasting meals are made thoughtfully and with hearty ingredients is critical when creating a sustainable fasting plan. Nutrition is the foundation for our bodies’ ability to function, and it’s imperative to prioritize clean, healthy fasting foods.
Here are five common nutritional mistakes you could be making on your intermittent fasting journey.
Not drinking enough fluids
It’s no secret that proper hydration is essential for the body to operate at its highest levels. Electrolytes help your body’s processes run smoothly, and a big change to your typical eating schedule can drastically reduce the amount of fluids and electrolytes your body is used to having for fuel. Most people get a lot of water from the food they eat, and, when they switch to fasting, can get more easily dehydrated and develop headaches.
Here are a few intermittent fasting hacks to keep in mind when it comes to incorporating fluids into your day:
- It’s a healthy goal to aim for 100 ounces of fluids each day.
- Contrary to some advice, coffee, tea, sparkling water and no-sugar drink mixes will not break your fast. Have them when you need them.
- Building better habits, or “dirty fasting,” is more important than restricting yourself completely, which, in the end, is usually unsustainable. For example, having just a splash of milk in your coffee instead of drinking it black is ok.
- If drinking bone broth will help you extend your fast four hours, then have it!
- If you’re still using bone broth, creamer, etc., limit your intake to 50 calories or less.
- Make small, sustainable changes. There is no big, sparkly secret to becoming a fasting pro. Consistency and making the next best decision is the way through.
Not choosing healthy fasting foods
Eliminating processed fluff is a healthy choice in any diet, but is especially important for a healthy intermittent fasting transition. However, you don’t have to think of this change as an all-or-nothing overhaul. Start with simple steps to fuel your body with healthy fasting foods:
- Begin by spacing your meals apart within your eating window and stop snacking between or after them. Getting your timing right is a great first step toward maintaining your larger plan.
- Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Choosing fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, seafood, dairy and other food groups will ensure you’re filling yourself with the most wholesome, nutrient-dense energy during your eating windows.
- Minimize packaged, processed foods, hydrogenated fats and fast foods to eliminate unnecessary empty nutrition.
- Stick to “fat, fiber, filling.” Fat is satiating, fiber helps your body regulate hunger and blood sugar, and filling foods will sustain you through longer fasting periods. You need a balance of protein, fat, fiber and carbs to give your body what it needs to function for longer periods.
Eating too much during your window
When the alarm sounds and it’s time to fuel up, it’s easy to assume a free-for-all mentality. However, on an intermittent fasting schedule, keeping your mindset in check is critical. By giving in and indulging aimlessly during your feeding window, you can negate your hard work of fasting.
To keep yourself on track, try these intermittent fasting tips when it’s time to eat:
- Take the opportunity to eat attentively. Eat slowly, take small bites, and fully experience your meals during the limited time you’ve allotted for meals.
- Put away distractions like your phone or the TV. Remaining fully focused on your meals helps you to appreciate the food and nourishment you’re fuelling yourself with and helps you remain conscious of when your body feels satisfied and full.
- Reframe your mindset to think of mealtimes as special experiences for yourself and a way to treat your body for providing you with the energy and functions you need to live a full life. This is your time not to be distracted or on auto-pilot and is a welcome break during an otherwise busy day.
- Avoid starting your meals or breaking your fasts with carbohydrate-rich foods. Focus instead on choices that are relatively high in fat and protein. This will help reduce the insulin spike, and also make it easier not to overeat.
Not eating enough during your window
On the other hand, IF is not a restrictive “diet,” it’s a strategic way of eating, so too much limitation on what or how you eat can have negative effects, as well.
Rather than eating diet foods when you have the opportunity to feast, try a more holistic strategy to make sure you’re getting the proper intake of nutrients during the day:
- Eat healthy fasting meals you find satisfying and nurturing.
- Don’t overly restrict calories.
- Limit calorie consumption to full meals instead of snacking.
- If you prefer to eat smaller portions, an Alternate Day Fast may be right for you.
Mistaking cravings for hunger
Understanding the difference between these two brain functions can help you determine the next best step toward achieving your intermittent fasting goals.
Hunger is a signal in your brain that you’re in need of sustenance. It’s the physical feelings of grumbling, rumbling and pangs in your gut that indicate your body needs fuel. Cravings, on the other hand, are urges driven by your brain and create desires for specific foods, snacks and unnecessary indulgences.
So test yourself: Figuratively offer yourself an apple. If you wouldn’t eat it in the moment, it’s just a craving.
Hunger and cravings are natural parts of fasting and eating, and it’s essential to be prepared to navigate both throughout your day of intermittent fasting. Having coaching assistance and support for appetite regulation will help you understand and stay on top of your body’s signals and on track according to your unique intermittent fasting plan.
Need a little push to get started and stay on track? Our metabolic fitness plans include a first-of-its-kind fasting aid known as Citravarin and 1:1 access to a coach who understands the psychology of cravings and how to support you as you work toward achieving your intermittent fasting goals.