By Dr Joe
A friend asked me the other day; do you count count calories on intermittent fasting, hence this article.
A lot of the intermittent fasting plans do not come with counting calories as part of the deal. That’s part of the attraction to intermittent fasting (IF) as a weight management tool.
Answer to the question: should I count calories when doing intermittent fasting? Answer: No, you don’t have to.
When you count calories, dieting just gets a little more tasking shall we say. As someone once told me, calorie counting makes you become crazy and obsessive. You agonize over every morsel of food that goes inside your mouth.
You want to know how much calories you have in that morsel of food. It doesn’t matter whether it is fat, carbs or protein. You become quite anal about calories within. Splitting hairs, if you like.
I’m not saying knowing calories during intermittent fasting is not important. But what you don’t want to do is obsess over it and make mountain out of a molehill every time you eat. Simple visual estimation is just as good as trying to be too precise.
Weight loss as an endeavour is tasking enough. Adding the mathematical element of counting calories during intermittent fasting just makes it even more tasking.
Some people think you have to count calories on your eating days or eating window. You don’t have to. You can if you want to. It won’t do you any harm to count calories if it gives you further reassurance and confidence.
But for most people doing intermittent fasting, they don’t bother to count calories when they have to eat. They just eat sensibly and avoid over-indulging. You really should not try to compensate for the days or hours you skipped meals.
You won’t be doing yourself any favours and in fact would be making nonsense of the idea in the first place. I’d like to think you are serious about weight loss and weight stability, so why ruin it?
If you are doing intermittent fasting and not losing weight, then there’s a good chance you are doing compensatory eating. Compensatory eating is one of the reasons intermittent fasting won’t work for you. Don’t do it and indeed it’s not necessary to do it at all.
By compensatory eating, I am referring to making up for “lost time” in terms of food quantity during your eating window or eating days. It’s pointless consuming 2300 calories in one meal, for instance, just because you skipped a meal or two.
You will be turning the tide against you if you do that. You are supposed to be saving on calories when you do intermittent fasting. Remember, intermittent fasting is a weight loss tool. Use it to your advantage NOT against you.
The only plan that may require you to watch calories is the 5:2 diet. The 5:2 diet or Fast Diet as it is called requires you to consume 20% of your daily calorie requirements for 2 days of the week. So, if your daily calorie requirement is 2500 Calories, you would have to consume 20% of 2500 on 2 days of the week i.e 500 Calories.
The remaining 5 days require you to eat normally and one expects you to employ common sense approach and not go overboard with your meals on your full eating days.
The other intermittent fasting IF plans don’t involve calorie counting. Just eat sensibly in your “eating days” or “eating window” and you will be fine. Let’s keep it simple, folks!
Do you get used to intermittent fasting?
I will admit that when you jump straight in to intermittent fasting, it can be a little tricky because it is a new venture that your body is not used to, so your body is likely to protest.
When you first start intermittent fasting, your fasting period can produce side effects like headache, poor concentration, dizziness and of course hunger and a ravenous appetite in anticipation of your eating time.
All of those symptoms are evolutionary. It’s your body revolting and asking for the calories you are denying it. Fear not, those undesirable side effects will go away sooner than you think, so long as you stick with it – the plan that is.
As I write this article, I am currently fasting. I am 16 hours into my fast and I am not feeling it. Because intermittent fasting is something I practise every now and again, my body has become used to it.
I am not losing concentration. If anything, I am quite focused. Hopefully, this is reflected in the quality of this article. So, if you pick up any errors right here, blame it on the fast, okay 🙂 🙂 😛 That’s one of the benefits once you get used to intermittent fasting.
In time your body will get used to the routine of intermittent fasting and you will be surprised at how quickly you’ll adapt. Just give it a week or two and your body will become used to intermittent fasting.
That is why it’s always a good idea to arm yourself with a resource that will guide you on how to get used to intermittent fasting as a way of life.
For instance, Brad Pilon, author and promoter of Eat Stop Eat eases you into intermittent fasting in a gentle way. Even though he professes 24-hour fasting model, he doesn’t expect you to jump in and not eat for 24 hours straightaway.
Brad expects you gently ease your way in by fasting for the number of hours you are comfortable with and you gradually increase the fasting window as you gain more experience.
That way your body will be adjusting itself and be more adaptive to the new eating schedule. That kind of flexibility helps and no calories to count, Yippee!
Suggested further reading:
How to Avoid Complicated Diet Rules and Prevent Rebound Weight GAIN