Can You Break a Fast Without Gaining Weight?

Intermittent fasting is a health trend with tangible results. A lot of people heard about it and jumped right in. However, when they decided they wanted to quit, they feared they'd experience weight gain after fasting. Luckily, you can quit intermittent fasting without putting on pounds.

Eat a healthy diet when breaking a fast.
Credit: OksanaKiian/iStock/GettyImages

Fasting for weight loss can be a lifelong diet change or it can be something you do until you hit your goal weight. However long you try the diet, you won't have to worry about gaining back all of the weight you lost.

Tip

You can avoid weight gain after your fasting diet is over by trying other methods of glucose stabilization. An option for improving glucose homeostasis is a low-fat, high-vegetable diet.

Intermittent Fasting at a Glance

Whether you want to lose weight or enjoy better health, there are several different ways to break up your fasting and feeding windows. Some people choose not to eat for 24-hour periods; others prefer breaking up the fasting periods throughout the day.

The authors of an article in the June 2014 issue of Integrative Medicine: A Clinician's Journal found that fasting for an entire day at a time is not the best fasting diet. That's because of the amount of time it takes for the metabolic responses to kick in. You won't see a significant change on the first day of intermittent fasting, but when done daily, fasting for weight lost is effective within a few days.

Integrative Medicine found that the best fasting diet required abstaining from food from 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. or at similar intervals. Those feeling particularly ambitious can stretch their fasting period until noon of the next day. And if you're worried about fasting for that long in the evening, there is room for light snacks between 5 p.m. and your bedtime.

Who Should Try Intermittent Fasting?

As with every diet, some populations are better suited to fasting for weight loss than others. If you are a healthy adult, you will likely do well with this diet. There are certain medical conditions you may have that you should be aware of before starting the diet, though.

On the other hand, some people generally shouldn't fast, as the Cleveland Clinic points out. Women who are pregnant, children, teenagers, individuals with Type 1 diabetes and those with eating disorders should avoid fasting. If you fall into these categories, fasting may be detrimental to your health.

For example, it may lower blood sugar to dangerous levels in people with diabetes. If you're pregnant, you have higher nutrient requirements. Therefore, fasting may not be safe as it can deprive your body of essential vitamins and minerals. Discuss intermittent fasting with your doctor to stay on the safe side and determine whether this dietary plan is right for you.

Read more: 12 DOs and DON'Ts of Intermittent Fasting

What Are the Side Effects?

There are a lot of significant effects of intermittent fasting on your body. Fasting is not just for weight loss; the best fasting diet can benefit your health. It may also improve cholesterol levels, aid in diabetes management and protect against heart disease.

In addition, a review from the August 2015 issue of the _Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic_s noted a reduction in glucose and insulin levels. This decrease in insulin levels may be the cause of the 3 to 8 percent reduction in body weight that the subjects experienced over eight weeks.

Of course, it's not all beneficial, so if you're fasting for weight loss, be aware. There are downsides, according to a study in the February 2018 issue of BMC Complementary Alternative Medicine. You may experience some of the negative side effects more intensely than others.

Watch out for adverse reactions, such as nausea, light headedness, fatigue, insomnia and back pain. While these side effects are ones to avoid, there's little evidence that the diet has any long-term side effects.

Fasting and Weight Loss

To understand how quitting intermittent fasting effects your overall weight, you first need to know how the it helps you lose weight. When you fast, you enter ketogenesis, according to a study from the January 2014 issue of Cell Metabolism. Ketogenesis improves metabolic function, causing your body to burn fat more effectively.

Fasting also improves stress resistance, which can have an affects on weight gain. A small study published in the February 2018 issue of Trials found that intermittent fasting may influence energy balance. These changes in energy expenditure and energy intake may play a role in its influence on weight loss. Additional research is needed to further assess the effects of fasting on metabolism.

The influence of intermittent fasting on glucose homeostasis still needs further research, notes a review in the July 2016 issue of Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care. There is preliminary evidence that it may improve the body's ability to maintain balanced glucose levels.

If this is the case, you might notice the improvement starting to fade away after you've been off the diet for a while. As you notice the effects, you'll want to make sure you try other methods for keeping your blood glucose levels within a healthy range.

Quitting Your Intermittent Fasting Diet

Overall, intermittent fasting helps you lose weight in the beginning, but after the initial weight loss, the diet is more about maintenance, according to a study in the February 2018 issue of Cureus. It's not something you have to quit unless you find it challenging to sustain. Or maybe you're just ready for a change. It's always important to follow a diet that's right for you.

On the other hand, if you want to quit fasting because of issues with the inconsistent energy levels, there may still be a solution for you. An option is to not stop intermittent fasting completely. You can instead limit your fasting periods to 12 hours a day. This will allow you to sleep through the majority of your fasting. And if you find you're still struggling, break up the time left over in the morning and night.

If you sleep for seven hours a day, you'd wait two and a half hours before eating each morning and stop eating two and a half hours before bed. But this still may be more than you want to do. That's OK — you don't have to gain weight after fasting. For instance, one of the reasons that intermittent fasting helps with weight loss is due to its affect on glucose levels, so you can focus on glucose homeostasis instead of fasting.

Maintaining Glucose Homeostasis

There are several ways you can improve glucose homeostasis to make up for any loss in improvements that you may have seen while on the intermittent fasting diet.

Saturated fats are related to insulin resistance, according to a study in the February 2014 issue of Journal of Education and Health Information. Therefore, they should be avoided if you're trying to maintain glucose homeostasis. While vegetable fats are better than animal fats, avoiding refined vegetable oils is also a good idea.

Or, you can try a low-fat vegetarian or vegan diet. These can also help you transition out of the intermittent fasting diet. You'll find that this type of regimen will help keep you at your ideal weight with fewer or different restrictions from your intermittent fasting diet. It may be a particularly intriguing option for those who are ready for a change. Plus, plant-based foods tend to be lower in calories, making it easier to keep the pounds off.

Read more: What Are Normal Blood Sugar Levels and What Happens if They're High?

Understanding Weight Loss and Maintenance

There are a lot of things you can do to maintain the effects of intermittent fasting on your body. But you don't have to start a new diet to maintain your weight. The best way to avoid weight gain is to understand how you gain weight.

Everyone has a number of calories they should consume daily based on their age, gender and activity levels. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that women who are in their 20s consume about 1,800 to 2,000 calories a day to maintain their weight.

To lose weight, a review in the March 2014 issue of the Journal of Research in Medicine Sciences suggests that the best method is eating fewer calories than your daily recommendation. If you're already at your target weight and want to quit fasting, then stick to your recommended daily calories. But if you're going to eat more than that, all you have to do is increase your activity levels.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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