Maximize Intermittent Fasting by Understanding its Limitations

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Take it from someone who’s done it before: Intermittent fasting is not a cure-all to your weight loss goals.

About two years ago, I embarked on a fasting journey to lose some weight the “easy way.” I found it difficult to keep off the pounds using conventional methods alone, which is why intermittent fasting seemed like the obvious solution. It was popular, easy to do, and considered to be one of the best ways to boost your body’s natural health. So, of course I jumped right in.

My problem? Lack of research.

While I was on my 18:6 plan (18 hours fasting, 6 hours eating), I didn’t do a single shred of research about how I was supposed to exercise, what I should eat, or when I should stop. I figured that the weight loss would just follow, and I wouldn’t need to do any extra work.

My previous job had me standing in the same position for eight hours a day. The muscles in my back slowly started to atrophy, and after about one year of intermittent fasting, my rhomboids were so weak that they hurt continuously. It has been more than a year since then, and I’m still struggling with chronic pain and muscle regrowth.

If you think fasting is a “get thin quick” scheme, I’ll burst your bubble right now.

You’re wrong.

While fasting is a powerful tool, it can also be extremely detrimental to your health when used improperly.

Let me be clear: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with intermittent fasting. In fact, I still use it on occasion. But, in my bum-rush strategy to lose weight fast, I overlooked a lot of the important research that makes it work.

Let me spare you 26 months of muscle spasms. Here are four critical things you need to know about intermittent fasting:

4 Things to Know Before You Try Intermittent Fasting

Don’t be like me. Do your research on intermittent fasting long before you give it a try.

1You Need to Exercise

Exercise is by far the most important element of intermittent fasting. And I learned this the hard way.

A large study published in JAWA shows that fasting leads to significant muscle loss in the majority of participants, sometimes negating the positive weight loss benefits. If you’re not exercising during your fasts, you may risk shrinking a lot more than just your waistline.

Try timing your workouts for the very beginning or the very end of your fast. Focus specifically on weightlifting and resistance training instead of cardio, which can be more difficult on an empty stomach. 

If you work out very frequently or live an active lifestyle, don’t go more than 16 hours without eating.

2Think Twice if You’re Looking to Start a Family

If you’re thinking about starting a family, intermittent fasting shouldn’t even be a part of the conversation. Studies show that women fasting during the month of Ramadan have altered menstrual cycles that dramatically affect their hormones and fertility. Additionally, long-term fasting increases cortisol, which is a stress hormone capable of preventing pregnancy.

While this factor won’t be a problem for everyone, it will certainly affect some. Keep your fertility in mind while weighing your fasting options.

3You’ll Need to Watch Your Mental Health

Scientific research proves that intermittent fasting can lead to eating disorders down the line — especially for those who have struggled with them in the past.

If you have a history of anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia, or another type of food disorder, it would be a good idea to chat with your doctor before launching into a fasting program.

4Don’t Shoot for the Moon

In the later stages of my intermittent fasting, I went a solid 37 hours without eating — before passing out, that is.

Recent studies have found that long-term fasting can reduce the effectiveness of your thyroid hormones, which help to manage weight over time. In addition, passing out from blood sugar crashes can lead to a variety of problems, including:

  • Seizures

  • Comas

  • Death

It might not seem all that serious to you, but low blood sugar can be deadly. Don’t sacrifice your blood sugar for the sake of proving a point. If you feel a crash coming, are weak, or feel shaky, get food into your body ASAP.

A Final Thought

I want to reiterate again that I have nothing against intermittent fasting as a lifestyle choice. I believe the concept works great for the well-informed, becoming a powerful solution to many physical ailments. Just please, please do your research. Your future self will thank you.

Tags: exercise, healthy, Healthy Eating, Mental Health, fertility

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Written By

Meagan Shelley

Meagan is a professional writer in VA that specializes in content marketing. See Full Bio

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