Why Intermittent Fasting Isn’t Working For You

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Contrary to popular belief, intermittent fasting is not a magic method to lose weight. Many people see great results, but it’s entirely possible to go weeks or months without seeing any changes. You’re not alone if intermittent fasting isn’t working for you, so don’t be discouraged. This article will help you identify what you’re doing wrong and what changes to make. 

A Caloric Deficit Is Key

The primary aspect of any weight loss plan is a caloric deficit. This means you’re burning more calories than you consume on a daily basis. You might assume that fasting automatically puts you in a deficit, but this is not true. Fasting helps to set up a deficit but your caloric intake should be the main focus. 

So how do you set up a caloric deficit? The simplest method is to determine your TDEE, or total daily energy expenditure. This helps you understand how many calories you need to maintain your current weight. Subtracting calories from your maintenance calories will put you in a deficit. 

One pound of bodyweight is equivalent to 3500 excess calories. Knowing this, you’ll have to subtract 500 calories from your maintenance to lose one pound per week. If your goal is to lose two pounds every week, you’d subtract 1000 daily calories. 

Keep in mind that your TDEE won’t always be 100% accurate because the formula takes your activity level into account. You’ll likely have to underestimate your TDEE if you’re not losing weight despite subtracting daily calories. 

intermittent fasting calorie deficit

Incorporate Exercise

If you live a sedentary lifestyle, you should consider incorporating exercise into your daily routine. Exercise doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym and lift weights – it can be as simple as taking a 30-minute walk every day. This will help you set-up a caloric deficit while also being beneficial to your cardiovascular health and overall longevity. 

The time in which you exercise is more subjective than anything. Although some people swear by fasted workouts, the benefit will largely be the same if you exercise within your eating window. The main idea here is that you’re burning calories and contributing to your calorie deficit. 

While this won’t be the case for most people, it’s entirely possible to overdo exercise and burn more calories than necessary. Be mindful of the energy you burn while exercising and adjust your nutrition plan accordingly. Note, however, that you shouldn’t overcompensate with food just because you’re more active throughout the day. 

Below are some suggestions to help you increase your activity level: 

  • Add a lengthy walk to your daily routine.
  • Consider resistance training for a minimum of three days each week. 
  • Do some yoga at home by following YouTube videos. 
  • Go swimming at your local pool if they have free swim hours. 
  • Sign up for free sports clubs near your home, if available. 
  • Practice dancing with your partner(s) or friends. 

Truth be told, there’s a plethora of ways to add more exercise to your daily routine. If you’re relatively inactive to begin with, the key is to adopt an activity that doesn’t feel like a chore. Overall, exercise will help you set-up and maintain a calorie deficit if you’re struggling to do so through nutrition alone. 

Analyzing Your Diet

Dialing in your nutrition is often the hardest aspect when intermittent fasting. Many people assume they can eat as much as they want throughout their eating window, which often ends up being a mistake. As previously mentioned, fasting does not automatically put you in a calorie deficit – it only assists with doing so. 

Let’s put this into perspective. If you eat roughly 2,500 calories for maintenance prior to fasting, you can’t eat the same 2,500 calories while fasting and expect to see any weight loss. You’ll still need to shave off some calories, whether through food or exercise, to truly be in a deficit. 

Another issue is not realizing how many calories you’re actually consuming. The best way to avoid this problem is by weighing your foods and being mindful of nutrition labels. You can use an app like MyFitnessPal to track your foods and ensure you’re hitting your calorie goal for the day. It’s best not to guesstimate your caloric intake, especially if your diet varies greatly from day to day. 

You might be wondering how intermittent fasting helps set-up a deficit without forcing you into one. It helps because you’re less likely to indulge in excess calories outside of your eating window. For example, let’s say you eat a couple tablespoons of peanut butter every night as a treat, despite not actually being hungry. By fasting, you’re eliminating these unnecessary calories which contributes to the deficit. 

Below are some tips to be mindful of if you’re struggling with the nutritional aspect of intermittent fasting: 

  • Try to avoid empty calories like alcohol and soda as they provide little nutritional value. 
  • Replace heavily processed foods with healthier alternatives. 
  • Start tracking your calories and weighing your food if possible. 
  • Realize the difference between physical hunger and having an appetite. 

Common Misconceptions

The internet is flooded with success stories about people who lost weight with intermittent fasting. Reddit, for example, has plenty of communities where people share their stories and advice. Although this is great, the success of others usually creates misconceptions for those who are looking to get started. 

The following can be considered misleading information about fasting:

  1. You’re guaranteed to lose weight. 
  2. You’ll lose more weight by increasing how long you fast for. 
  3. It’s okay to eat as much as you’d like throughout your eating window. 
  4. You don’t need to track your calories. 
  5. Liquid calories don’t matter in your fasting window. 

Again, all five points above are considered misconceptions and should not be taken as advice. Anyone who preaches this information is assuming that fasting IS the solution as opposed to a lifestyle change that helps solve the problem. If you think of weight loss as a puzzle, note that intermittent fasting doesn’t automatically solve the puzzle – it just acts as a piece of the puzzle. 

To recap, the main reason intermittent fasting isn’t working for you is because you’re likely not in a caloric deficit. This guide outlines how to get on the right track and start seeing some results. Remember to keep track of your progress so you can fine-tune your plan and make changes when necessary.