Fasting diets may see positive changes in health for some – but for others, they can be more than counterproductive. Dietitian Susie Burrell reveals five common signs that you should stop intermittent fasting.
Few diets have received the attention that intermittent fasting has in recent years – the name given to a range of different regimes that either suggest periods of strict calorie restriction, or committing to an extended period of time without eating. Indeed it has been shown that there are numerous health benefits associated with incorporating some type of fasting in your weekly routine.
In saying that, diets do not work for everyone, and while some people notice distinct changes in weight, energy levels and appetite when they fast regularly, there are also some people for which fasting simply does not work. This may be due to a number of factors including hormones, physiology or even the psychological effects of fasting. But here are five of the most common signs that fasting may no longer be right for you…
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1. You weight is not budging
While weight loss is not the primary outcome associated with fasting, a significant change to food routine (along with caloric restriction secondary to fewer meals), will often result in moderate weight loss of one to two kilos a month. As is the case with any diet though, as the body readjusts to the new regime, weight loss tends to slow over time.
In particular, for those who are especially active with not a lot of extra weight to lose, fasting regimes may simply have too few calories to adequately fuel the body. In this instance, metabolism will slow to deal with insufficient calories, halting weight loss. So if you are active and do not have much weight to lose, it may be time to try eating more or fast less to get your metabolism pumping.
2. You are not feeling hungry in the morning
Hunger is a powerful indicator of what is going on with your metabolism, and fasting in the morning can be a great way to become reunited with hunger early in the day. Over time though, ignoring this hunger in an attempt to prolong fasting can have the reverse effect, with the body slowing metabolic rate to help deal with the lack of calories. So if you have been fasting for some time, and no longer experience hunger every three to four hours, nor feel distinct hunger an hour or two after waking, it may be suggesting that delaying eating until late morning is not the best thing for your body or metabolism.
3. You are imposing strict food rules
Relatively strict fasting regimes in which calories are tightly regulated may yield more dramatic results, but the down side of this, which can also occur when you limit eating times is that you can play mind games about calorie intake and ways you can compensate for it. For example: saving all your calories to binge at one meal, or becoming obsessed with eating low calorie foods to fend off your hunger pains through the day. If you find that fasting is causing your approach to eating to become dysfunctional, it may be time to resume normal eating habits.
4. Your body is not recovering and you are constantly feeling tired
There is a big difference physiologically between individuals who move minimally, and those who are burning a significant number of extra calories from both training and plenty of movement. For these individuals, extreme calorie restriction from low calorie fasting days, or avoiding meals when you are actually hungry but it is not time to eat, is likely to be doing more harm than good when it comes to optimally fueling your body and helping it to recover when daily sessions form part of your regular routine. This means if your body is constantly tired and heavy, or you cannot get enough sleep, dietary restriction via fasting is unlikely to be helping your body perform at its best.
5. You are binge eating
The downside of eating an extremely low calorie diet, or even banning food until a certain time, is that it can play havoc with blood glucose control – especially if you have underlying hormonal issues such as insulin resistance or hypoglycemia. Here, extended periods of time without food, or eating very few calories can leave you susceptible to low blood glucose levels which can trigger extreme cravings, hunger and even binge eating. So if you manage to maintain your fast all day, before snacking and binging all afternoon, it is time to ditch the fast.
Susie Burrell is a dietitian and nutritionist and holds a Master’s Degree in Coaching Psychology. Susie is the resident dietitian on Channel 7’s Sunrise and has been a dietitian in Sydney for more than 20 years.