If you've tried intermittent fasting (IF), you've probably noticed some changes, both in your energy and focus and on the scale. But like any other diet or lifestyle change, IF often comes with a period of plateau following those initial results, and figuring out how to break through can be challenging. Karen Cooney, a registered dietitian for The Vitamin Shoppe, told POPSUGAR exactly what to do when IF stops working, so you can keep making progress toward your goals.
First, you need to evaluate what you're eating. "The main reason IF may stop working for someone is because they feel it gives them a license to eat anything — mostly junk foods," Karen explained. Because IF is an eating pattern rather than a diet, you aren't given a list of specific foods to eat or avoid. "You obviously can eat more when doing IF than other types of diets, but if you overindulge on unhealthy foods while doing it, you will stop the weight loss and possibly put on fat," she said.
But while you don't want to load up on junk, you still need to get enough calories to make IF successful. "If you're in a caloric deficit for too long, your body will hold on to what you eat," Karen said. "You need to make sure you're giving your body the energy and nutrients it needs." To do this, she recommends reevaluating how much you're eating during your IF window, with a focus on quality nutrients over processed foods. Karen also stressed the importance of getting enough protein, since it helps maintain muscle mass, which will prevent your metabolism from slowing down.
Finally, consider changing things up. "Switch up your feeding window, or you can switch to alternate days fasting," Karen told POPSUGAR. "At the very least, incorporate one non-fasting day to help reset your metabolism." Just be sure to avoid something called refeeding syndrome, in which you eat too much too quickly after fasting. "While fasting, your electrolyte levels (like sodium, magnesium, and potassium) change as well as other hormones like insulin," she said. "If you refeed too quickly, it can abruptly alter these levels causing symptoms like fatigue, weakness, confusion, high blood pressure, and more."
When practicing IF, Karen suggests supplementing with electrolytes to help keep your body's levels stabilized and prevent you from falling into a refeeding cycle, which can leave you feeling crummy and less likely to stick to your plan.