Last Updated on June 14, 2022 by Lori Geurin
Intermittent fasting (IF) is all over the news. Not only is it popular, but it’s also a great way to lose weight and boost your health. IF is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of eating (feasting) and not eating (fasting). But, despite its popularity, there are many myths about intermittent fasting.
This article focuses on the most common myths related to fasting and the frequency of meals and snacks. Below we’ll uncover the truth, based on scientific evidence, and debunk the myths. So, let the fun begin…
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- Top Myths About Intermittent Fasting Debunked
- 1. Intermittent fasting causes muscle loss.
- 2. Skipping breakfast is bad for you and will make you gain weight.
- 3. You must eat small meals to keep your blood sugar under control.
- 4. Fasting increases cortisol levels.
- 5. You must eat often to speed up your metabolism.
- 6. Fasting puts you in ‘starvation mode’ and your body starts shutting down.
- 7. Eat more often to avoid hunger.
- Summary – The Truth About Intermittent Fasting
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Top Myths About Intermittent Fasting Debunked
1. Intermittent fasting causes muscle loss.
Some people believe when you fast our body burns muscle and uses it for fuel. And while this is true with dieting in general, there’s no evidence showing this happens with IF.
In fact, the evidence suggests intermittent fasting is far superior in this regard.
In one study, IF caused similar weight loss compared to daily caloric restriction, but showed much less muscle mass reduction. (1)
Even more impressive was a study on a group of intermittent fasters who ate one large meal in the evening. Their muscle mass actually increased in addition to many positive changes to their medical markers from IF. (2)
2. Skipping breakfast is bad for you and will make you gain weight.
How many times have you heard someone say, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”
Did you know this statement is not based on any scientific evidence? At all.
In fact, a 2014 randomized controlled trial compared a group of 283 overweight and obese adults eating breakfast vs. skipping breakfast. At the conclusion of the 16-week study, there was absolutely no difference in weight between the two groups. (3)
So, don’t believe the hype created by the breakfast cereal industry.
3. You must eat small meals to keep your blood sugar under control.
Despite what many diet ‘experts’ say, you don’t need to eat small meals during the day to support energy and be mentally efficient. And this is because blood sugar is well-regulated in healthy people.
Your blood sugar is controlled by ghrelin and other metabolic hormones. And it follows the eating patterns your body is used to.
Believe it or not, your body can quickly adapt to periods of fasting. You don’t have to eat often to control your blood sugar because it adjusts to your ‘entrained meal patterns’ just fine.
In fact, eating all those small meals and snacks causes continual insulin spikes throughout the day. This keeps your digestive system constantly working in overdrive. On the other hand, with fasting, your body gets a break.
Through the amazing process of autophagy, it recycles and cleans out old cells, renewing your body from the inside out.
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4. Fasting increases cortisol levels.
Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced in the adrenal glands.
Cortisol is often given a bad rap, but the truth is, it fulfills many important roles in the human body. It helps control blood sugar, thereby regulating metabolism. It also works as an anti-inflammatory and influences memory formation and blood pressure.
Cortisol is what gets you up and moving in the morning. (What’s that you say? You thought that was coffee’s job?) Trust me, I hear you.
One important study found short-term, or intermittent fasting caused cortisol to drop. (4)
So don’t worry about fasting increasing your cortisone. It simply is not true.
On to the next fasting myth…
5. You must eat often to speed up your metabolism.
Many people believe eating more often will stoke their metabolism, thereby causing them to lose weight.
Although your body does burn some calories (about 10%) when it is digesting food, it isn’t that much. This process is the thermic effect of food (TEC).
But, studies have shown the body will spend the same amount of calories whether you eat all your calories in 2, 3, 5, or 6 meals a day. Your total caloric intake and macronutrients are what matter. (5)
6. Fasting puts you in ‘starvation mode’ and your body starts shutting down.
So many people believe this myth.
It’s true that long-term weight loss can result in fewer calories burned. But, this will happen with whatever weight loss system you use (not merely IF).
In fact, short-term IF is shown to speed up metabolism! This is likely why many people have experienced success with intermittent fasting for weight loss.
Any sort of long-term weight loss is going to cause the body to burn fewer calories. And when you weigh less you have fewer calories to burn. That’s why, if you’ve tried losing weight on a point system, such as Weight Watchers after you’ve lost some weight, your points decrease.
(You may want to learn about clean fasting to improve your fasting results.)
7. Eat more often to avoid hunger.
Some people say eating snacks helps ease their hunger and diffuse cravings. And others find that eating less often keeps them satisfied longer. In this case, it seems they’re both right.
Several studies show mixed results.
In my opinion, these results are based on what our bodies have adapted to, not necessarily what is best. Before I discovered IF, I suffered from reactive hypoglycemia and I couldn’t make it throughout the day without eating at least every three hours or more.
But, I’ve been intermittent fasting for a couple of years now and my body is fat adapted. Mark Sisson, from Marksdailyapple.com, gives a great explanation of this in: What Does It Mean To Be Fat-Adapted?
But of course, like everything in life, our perspectives are shaped by personal experience.
Summary – The Truth About Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is a popular and effective way to lose weight and boost your health. As you can see there are many myths about fasting.
It’s good to know what they are so you can have fun with IF and not have to sweat the small stuff. Many people have been successful with fasting and you can be too!
Fasting intermittently has many benefits and can improve your health.
It’s good to know that fasting will not put you in starvation mode or increase your cortisol levels. You don’t need to eat more often to avoid hunger. In fact, most regular fasters find that they have fewer cravings and hunger.
Fasting doesn’t cause you to lose muscle and you will be fine if you skip breakfast. Promise.
I wrote an eBook all about my experience with intermittent fasting. This method allowed me to burn fat, lose weight (the effortless way) and be healthy….without feeling hungry. It even cured my reactive hypoglycemia! If you’d like to learn how I accomplished these great results, you can check out my book HERE!
Have you tried intermittent fasting? Have you heard any of these myths about fasting?
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