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Not losing weight on intermittent fasting? These 5 reasons might be why

The reasons why intermittent fasting isn't working for you

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When intermittent fasting went mainstream around 2018, many thought it was just another diet fad that would come and go. However, it’s clear that intermittent fasting eating patterns are here to stay; encompassing an eating pattern that humans have practiced for centuries. Dating back to the primal era, our ancestors often ate only when food was available, keeping meals within a specific window instead of our modern-day approach to eating multiple times a day.

Intermittent fasting helps condense your daily calories into a period, often between 8 to 10 hours, helping to keep your insulin levels at bay. This eating pattern challenges the “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” myth — one that has been told for centuries by our parents and grandparents. But the process can take time to master, especially if you’re used to eating 3 to 6 times a day. If you’re not losing weight with intermittent fasting, consider tweaking these 5 things to achieve your desired results.

5 things to do if intermittent fasting is not working

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One of the most important principles to understand about intermittent fasting is that there is no right or wrong approach to this eating pattern. Each person’s hormones vary and will respond differently to fasting. With this in mind, you’ll want to make small adjustments, slowly tweaking your fasting routine until you find what works for you. Not only can you change what you eat and how much you eat within your eating window, but you can also adjust eating window times to work for your schedule, such as the classic 16/8 or 20/4 intermittent fasting routines.

Fasting pattern

Perhaps the most obvious factor to consider if you’re not losing weight with intermittent fasting is your fasting pattern. When you first begin intermittent fasting, chances are you gradually had to adjust to not eating breakfast, slowly pushing your fasting pattern from 12 hours to 13, 14, etc. Although a 12-hour fast may have produced weight loss initially, this fasting period may not be long enough as your body adapts. If intermittent fasting is not working as you’d like, consider fasting for longer periods a few days per week. For example, an OMAD routine is a great option to jumpstart your metabolism once or twice a week.

Meal timing

Another factor to consider is the timing of your meals, which is not the same as your fasting pattern. A 16-hour fast followed by an 8-hour eating window could involve two meals (for example: lunch at noon, dinner completed by 8 pm, and fasting from 8 pm to 12 pm again the following day. Yet, another person could approach the same 16/8 pattern but consume their meals at 2 pm and 10 pm instead. If you aren’t losing weight with intermittent fasting, changing your meal timing could help break a plateau. Consuming food too close to your bedtime could stall your loss, so shifting your meal timing earlier could be beneficial.

Amount of calories consumed

Intermittent fasting is a powerful tool to keep in your belt, but it is not a “miracle pill”. Weight loss still occurs from a sustained calorie deficit over a prolonged period. If you’re struggling to lose weight with intermittent fasting, consider tracking your macros to see how many calories you’re consuming. Consuming too many (or too few) calories could leave your body struggling to burn fat. When calculating your calorie goal, be sure to account for any calories consumed from exercise.

Drinks during fasting

During your fasting window, it is important not to consume any calories to keep your body in fat-burning mode. Are you consuming any hidden calories during your fast or consuming anything that could cause a spike in blood sugar? Some examples of common culprits include artificial sweeteners added to tea or coffee, creamer, or gum/sugar-free candies. Even no-calorie sweeteners can produce a glycemic response, interfering with the effectiveness of your fast.

Exercise routine

When combined with a healthy, well-rounded diet, exercise is a powerful tool that can help enhance the results of your intermittent fasting routine. Regular cardiovascular exercise (such as walking) along with a weight-lifting routine can help you burn fat and gain muscle to support your weight loss. A recent study found that participants who exercised during a fasting window (on an empty stomach) burned more fat than compared to those who exercised two hours after eating.

Although exercising on a fast seems to challenge the “norm”, it might be what you need to kickstart some weight loss during a plateau. Our bodies adapt surprisingly well to new routines, so be patient with yourself as your body learns to utilize fat for fuel during your workouts.

Emily Caldwell
Emily is a freelance writer with a special focus on health, fitness, lifestyle, food, and nutrition topics. She holds a B.S…
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