Is Intermittent Fasting (IF) a good idea for weight loss? If you don’t eat every two to four hours, you go into starvation mode, right? Wrong! Keep reading to see this and other Intermittent Fasting facts and myths.
I had been following an Intermittent Fasting protocol for almost a year. As a result, I lost 23 lbs. Then, last March, I went to Florida for two months to be with my mom, who had just been diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer.
While I was there with her, I continued following my 16:8 IF Protocol. I didn’t realize it, but my mom had been observing my eating patterns. After a few days, she just went off on me:
“You’re not eating!”
“That’s not healthy!”
“All you do is drink green tea all day!”
“You’re going to get sick!”
“How will you ever get enough nutrients in your body???”
“I’m just waiting to see when you’re going to pass out!”
“This is insane!”
The funny thing is that I had only been skipping breakfast. Many people do the same, without the intention of following an Intermittent Fasting protocol. In fact, many others fast for more than 16 hours. Some extend their fast to 24 hours, 3 days, 1 week, 1 month even!
INTERMITTENT FASTING FACTS AND MYTHS
While I went over many of these Intermittent Fasting facts and myths with my mother, I’ve added a couple more to this list. These additional ones have come up through conversations with my readers.
MYTH #1: YOU’RE STARVING YOURSELF
I think this is the most common thing those of us who fast hear from people who don’t know the benefits. I know, I used to be one of those people until I learned more about Intermittent Fasting.
We’ve all been told that, when you’ve gone too long without eating, your body goes into starvation mode. According to this theory, your body starts storing fat because it will need it as fuel later when you’re “starving” it.
You’re also likely going to slow your metabolism when “starving” because your body is trying to save as much energy as possible for the period of famine.
So, we’re told to eat every 2-4 hours, 3 meals and 2-3 snacks every day. This will prevent us from packing up the fat from “starvation mode.”
There is such a thing as “starvation mode,” but it doesn’t happen after 2-4 hours. It doesn’t even happen after 24 hours of fasting! It takes much, much longer than that to go into starvation mode. You can read more about that here.
Eating every few hours, on the other hand, doesn’t allow your body the time to dip into burning fat for fuel. You’re basically continuously using your short-term storage of energy. And if you consume more energy than you can expend in that short period of time, you just add to your long-term fat stores.
Another thing to consider is that our bodies were made to eat when food was available. Our ancestors couldn’t just walk into a grocery store or save food for weeks without spoiling. They experienced feast and famine. There’s no way they would’ve been able to hunt and gather after a period of famine if our bodies didn’t have a mechanism of fueling our brain and muscles without food.
MYTH #2: YOU’RE NOT GETTING ENOUGH NUTRIENTS
Another myth about Intermittent Fasting is that you’re not getting enough nutrients if you’re going so many hours without eating.
This may be true if you don’t eat nutritious foods during your feeding (or feasting) periods. But not if you’re eating a nutritious and clean diet.
Whether it’s keto, paleo, or simply making the point to not eat processed foods. If you eat nutritious foods, there’s no reason for you to be malnourished. I talk more about what to eat during IF in this post.
If you’re worried about the calorie deficit, as I used to be before I learned about IF, don’t be. The point of IF is to create a calorie deficit that allows your body to burn stored fat.
Are deficits in vitamins and minerals your concern?
Fasting for shorter periods, like 24 hours or less, should not be a problem. Even if you’re doing alternate day fasting throughout the week. You’re still eating to absorb nutrients.
However, when fasting for extended periods, especially several days, or more than one week, it is recommended that you take a multivitamin to prevent deficiencies.
MYTH #3: YOUR BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS WILL PLUMMET IF YOU GO SO MANY HOURS WITHOUT EATING
You may have experienced this in the past, or you may have seen somebody experience it. After going without breakfast, or many hours without eating, you feel queasy, you feel weak, you may even feel like you’re ready to pass out.
When your body is used to eating every 2-4 hours, it gives you cues to feed it again when its usual feeding time arrives. This also happens even if you eat less frequently. However, our bodies are made to regulate blood sugar much more effectively than that. Don’t you go for many more hours without eating when you sleep at night?
Our liver stores sugar (glycogen for energy) and when it runs out, it begins producing its own sugar through a process called gluconeogenesis. The liver uses stored fat for this mechanism. So, our blood sugar levels actually stay stable, even when we’re fasting.
Of course, if you’re taking meds or have certain conditions, then this normal mechanism may not happen. Consult your doctor before starting an IF regimen.
MYTH #4: YOU’LL JUST END UP OVEREATING AFTER FASTING
Have you ever been hangry? When you finally have the opportunity to eat, you inhale everything in sight.
Hunger has been found to be more mental than physical. Now I’m not talking about hunger that occurs because you have no food available to eat. That is true hunger. I’m talking about the hunger you feel after not eating for a few hours.
You feel it, right?
But, have you ever been so busy that you forget to eat? If it were physical, you would still be hungry at the usual time on those days you are distracted.
Studies have found that appetite actually decreases for people after an extended fast.
No joke, I used to have breakfast, and I couldn’t make it to noon without a morning snack or two many years ago. Now, it doesn’t even cross my mind until the 16 hour fast is ending. Sometimes, if I’m distracted, I even go a couple extra hours before I feel hungry.
But, that is only one piece of the puzzle. Studies have also found that you may overeat after fasting, but the overeating doesn’t compensate for the amount of food you would’ve eaten if you didn’t fast. In the end, you’re still eating less overall, when you fast.
I can tell you that this is what I love the most about Intermittent Fasting. This is the reason I don’t feel deprived. I’ve always been a big eater and diets that restrict the amount of food I eat have never been sustainable for me. Because I’ve made a conscious effort to eat healthily, I can now eat as much as I want to feel satisfied after a fast.
When I fast, I don’t feel deprived because I’m only postponing when I eat. I’m not depriving myself of things I love, like goat cheese.
MYTH #5: YOU’RE INSANE
I used to say this to friends and family who did those “crazy diets” with 500 calories daily throughout a week. They weren’t even fasting for more than 12 hours!
If you’re going to fast and then eat junk, then it is crazy in my opinion. But, the fact is that people have been fasting for health and religious reasons for centuries. When you put it under that context, it doesn’t seem insane anymore, right?
With all the benefits associated with Intermittent Fasting, are you sure you don’t want to give it a try?
MYTH #6: ONLY MEN CAN BENEFIT FROM FASTING
I’ve read several times that IF benefits men more than women. Some people go as far as saying that women shouldn’t do it.
I wrote an entire post about Intermittent Fasting and Women because of this. The fact is that IF is not a one size fits all solution, nothing is.
Some women feel that their hormones are completely thrown off. Others feel the same benefits as men. I’m one of those who has benefited from IF. But, then again, some men have tried IF and had problems with it.
In a study comparing men and women following an alternate day IF protocol for 3 weeks, they found differences between men and women. Men had better glucose and insulin response than women.
Isn’t that the case with almost everything? When it comes to weight loss, men have the edge on women. Are you not going to try it because you won’t achieve the benefits as quickly as a man would?
Give it a try, go into it gradually, and see how you react. If it’s not for you, then try something else. If it is, then great! Keep at it.
One last thing, if you have struggled with eating disorders, you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, your weight and body fat percentage are too low, or you’re on certain meds IF is not for you. This is the reason it’s important to always consult your doctor before starting an IF regimen.
MYTH #7: IF YOU FAST, YOU SHOULD DO IT FROM DINNER TO LUNCH, SKIP BREAKFAST
You’ve probably seen article after article of people who fast saying that they skip breakfast. This might lead you to believe that fasting in the morning is the only way to get the benefits.
There are several reasons why people who fast skip breakfast. Let’s take a look:
- They have a traditional schedule, working from 9 AM to 5 PM and fasting while they sleep is most convenient.
- They are the busiest at work in the morning, which gets their mind off food. This, again, makes it easier to keep their fast.
- The hormone, ghrelin, which signals hunger, is lower after you’ve slept. So again, it’s easier to fast throughout the morning.
While these reasons are all true for some, your schedule may not allow for you to fast through breakfast time.
Maybe you can only work out at 5 AM. Perhaps you work the graveyard shift. It’s also possible that you always skip breakfast, but you have a breakfast event coming up when you’re scheduled to fast.
You will still receive the benefits of fasting, regardless of the time period you choose for that fast. Check out this post to decide how to schedule your fast.
MYTH #8: YOU’RE GOING TO LOSE MUSCLE
A lot of people believe that you’re going to lose muscle if you fast because you’re not providing your body with the energy it needs to develop or maintain muscle mass.
Your body stores energy in two ways when you eat. One way is to turn it into sugar (glucose) for immediate energy expenditure. The other way is to store it as fat for later energy expenditure.
When you fast, your body dips into the fat stores for the necessary energy after it has used up the glucose. It does not skip the fat to move onto muscle burning because it’s designed to first use the two main energy sources first.
In my first Intermittent Fasting post, I mentioned the three most common types of IF. Two of those three types of Intermittent Fasting are used by bodybuilders. If fasting made you lose muscle, do you think that serious bodybuilders would apply it? I don’t think so.
For you to start burning muscle for energy, your body fat percentage has to be really low. Like 4% body fat low. If you fall under this category, then Intermittent Fasting is not for you.
FINAL THOUGHTS ABOUT INTERMITTENT FASTING FACTS AND MYTHS
Intermittent Fasting is an easy-to-follow protocol that has many health benefits. If you are looking to try a weight loss regimen that doesn’t make you feel deprived of food groups, is cheap, but most importantly, improves how you feel and look, then give it a try.
Even though fasting has been practiced for centuries, it is still misunderstood today. Some people choose to not share that they’re fasting. Others share it with everybody, including the Intermittent Fasting facts and myths. However you decide to do it, always remember that it’s your body and your decision. When your health concerns decrease and your waist gets smaller, people might then try it themselves.
Comment below and let me know what is your approach to dealing with Intermittent Fasting myths and facts.