Intermittent fasting is a type of diet that involves going extended periods without eating. Because you’re not eating for long stretches of time, you will likely see some weight loss as a result. However, everyone responds to fasts and diets differently. While some people may see drastic results after the first few weeks, others may struggle with seeing any change in their appearance or numbers on the scale.
There are many potential reasons you are not losing weight on intermittent fasting, including not eating enough calories overall, not being in a calorie deficit, not following the protocol correctly, not getting enough sleep or exercise, or being resistant to weight loss.
If you do not see the results you want on IF, there are a few things you need to check before abandoning this healthy eating strategy. Read on to find out why you aren’t losing weight on intermittent fasting and how you can tweak your routine, so it works for you.
Reasons for Not Losing Weight on Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting can be hard to do correctly and ineffective if you’re not losing weight. It’s important to figure out why you’re not losing weight and consult with a doctor or nutritionist.
1. You’re Eating Too Many Calories
There are many reasons you might not be losing weight on intermittent fasting, which is why it’s important to keep an eye on your caloric intake. If you’re not watching what you eat, you can easily consume more calories than before and still lose weight—but this may be because you’re eating too many calories instead of because intermittent fasting is a lousy diet plan.
Intermittent fasting is probably the best diet plan out there because it’s extremely flexible, meaning that you don’t have to count calories or deprive yourself of any specific food groups (in fact, there’s no food group that should be off-limits).
But if your caloric intake has increased significantly since starting intermittent fasting, you may want to consider how many calories you consume.
Intermittent fasting doesn’t mean you can go crazy with what you eat—it’s just as important to keep an eye on your caloric intake even when intermittent fasting is as it is at other times in your life.
2. You’re Not Fasting Long Enough
Your body needs time to adjust to intermittent fasting. If you’re not giving your body enough time, it’ll never reach a fasting state. If you’re eating within an eight-hour window and then breaking your fast with a big meal, most of the calories will still be coming from your last meal, even though your body thinks it’s fasting.
In order for your body to go into that fasting state, you need to give it at least 16 hours of fasting before breaking the fast. The easiest way to do this is by eating dinner around 5 or 6 p.m., and then having breakfast around 10 or 11 a.m.
The biggest mistake people make when they start intermittent fasting is eating too many calories in their last meal. This is why it’s crucial to keep your last meal as light as possible so your body can get into a fasting state without having too much energy stored up.
3. You’re Eating Too Often
One of the reasons you are not losing weight on IF is that you are eating too often: If you eat every time your stomach growls, you’re not giving it enough time to empty out before filling up again.
This means that your body will always be in a fed state, so it will never switch over to “burning fat for fuel.” And since your body won’t know when to start burning fat for fuel, it will never know when to start burning fat for fuel.
It’s like taking someone who’s never been on a diet and telling them they’re allowed to eat whatever they want. They will gain weight because their body isn’t used to functioning in a calorie deficit.
You need to ease into intermittent fasting and allow your body time to get used to the new routine.
If you want to lose weight and/or keep your metabolism revved, stop eating so often! Be disciplined and try to go 18 hours without eating something. Your body will thank you!
4. You’re Not Exercising Enough
The first thing to check when you aren’t losing weight with IF is whether you’re getting enough exercise. Exercise can be a great tool for helping people lose weight, and it’s important to include it in any healthy diet regimen.
In fact, it may be about the only thing that will help you lose weight if you aren’t exercising enough. The problem is that fitness experts often say that if a person is expending more energy than they’re taking in, they’ll lose weight even without altering their diet.
This is true—but only up to a point. If your activity level isn’t high enough, it won’t matter if your food intake is low; you won’t have burned off all the calories, so your body will still be storing them as fat. This means that you should start out by making sure that your workouts are intense enough to give you a caloric deficit—ideally, at least thirty minutes of cardio three days a week.
5. Your Hormones Are Out of Whack
Intermittent fasting doesn’t work for some because their hormones prevent them from losing weight when they eat less.
The leptin hormone tells your brain when you’re satiated and full, but it works differently for different people. People with high Leptin levels have less difficulty losing weight because their bodies stop feeling hungry when they’ve had enough food, whereas others with low Leptin levels tend to be overweight because their brains aren’t receiving the signal that they’re full.
Another hormone called ghrelin tells your brain when you’re hungry and need more food, but it works differently for different people. People with high ghrelin levels tend not to lose weight as easily as those with lower levels because their bodies constantly crave food.
6. You Have Insulin Resistance
This means that your insulin is no longer working properly. Normally, when you eat, your body converts food into energy. After this energy is used up, your body stores any leftovers in fat cells.
However, if you have insulin resistance, your body cannot convert all of the energy from the food into energy. The leftovers are then sent to your fat cells and turn into fat. It can be difficult to lose weight if you have insulin resistance.
You can avoid this problem by eating a low-carbohydrate diet and intermittent fasting. This will help protect you against insulin resistance and allow you to use more energy from your food.
7. You Have Gut Issues
This is something that many people don’t consider, but it is a very good possibility that can throw off your entire health and well-being. Many people suffer from food sensitivities and allergies, but they aren’t aware of it because they don’t have symptoms all the time.
When you are fasting, you are consuming less food which means your body isn’t getting as many nutrients as it usually would. In turn, your body will start to break down your tissue to get the nutrients it needs. If this tissue is something like an organ or your skin (which can happen if you have an autoimmune disease), you might start having symptoms like redness or rashes.
If this is the case, you probably should talk to a doctor to see if any treatments can help. Changing your diet to add fiber and protein can also help with this problem!
The problem lies with your gut bacteria. While we aren’t fully sure how these organisms affect our bodies and what processes they are responsible for, studies have shown that having a healthy gut flora can help you maintain a healthy weight, absorb nutrients more efficiently, fight off inflammation and even lower your chances of getting diarrhea or constipation.
Since so many different species live in our digestive tract, it isn’t surprising that there are multiple ways for them to get out of balance. The most common causes for such an imbalance include consuming too many processed foods containing preservatives, stress, and not getting enough sleep.
8. You Don’t Drink Enough Water
In general, we need to drink more water because our bodies are made up of 60% water. Our bodies need water to process nutrients and vitamins, flush out waste and toxins, and move blood through our system. Water is crucial for digestion; without enough water, the body will resort to breaking down muscle tissue to create more of it. This leaves the body weaker and prone to illness.
We also need water for our brains to work properly—not only do we use it for firing neural signals from neuron to neuron, but also it acts as a medium for chemicals that create these signals in the first place. There is a direct link between dehydration and cognitive impairment; we’re essentially cognitive machines that run on water. That’s right: you aren’t just hurting your body when your water intake is too low; you’re hurting your brain.
9. Stress is Off the Charts
According to the NIH (National Institute of Health), stress is a “powerful factor in the development of obesity.” According to the NIH, high stress levels can lead to unhealthy lifestyle choices, including too much alcohol, smoking, and an increased desire for salty foods.
The NIH also states that people who are stressed out are more likely to engage in “unhealthy behaviors such as overeating, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol” (NIH).
When it comes to intermittent fasting, stress is the silent killer. When your body doesn’t know when its next meal will be, you will feel hungry and think you need to eat. Stress is known to make you want to eat.
The problem is that stress makes you want to eat the wrong things. If you’re stressed, the last thing you’ll want is a salad – instead, you’ll crave something high in sugar and fat. This can lead to weight gain because your body will burn off those fats instead of burning your stored fats for energy.
If your body isn’t getting enough food during this time because of intermittent fasting, it will start storing more fat for later use. You don’t want that! If you’ve been trying intermittent fasting but still aren’t seeing results, try switching up your eating schedule or finding ways to decrease your stress levels.
Don’t get discouraged – there are plenty of ways to enjoy the benefits of intermittent fasting without having to worry about weight loss!
10. You’re Not Sleeping Well
If you can’t sleep, you have a harder time losing weight. The reason for this is partially physiological and partially psychological. Physiologically, your body does much of its repair during sleep.
Even if you think you’re nourishing yourself with ample fruits and vegetables during the day, the fact is that your body isn’t able to fully process everything if you’re not sleeping well. Your metabolism will slow down, making weight loss harder or even impossible.
In a 2012 study published in Cell Cycle, researchers from the University of Colorado showed that animals whose circadian cycles were disrupted by exposure to constant light failed to repair DNA damage caused by ionizing radiation exposure. This means that even if you make every effort to eat right and exercise regularly, losing weight is difficult if you don’t get enough sleep.
Biological processes are one aspect of why sleep deprivation negatively affects your weight loss efforts, but there’s also a psychological component. If you’re not sleeping well, you probably feel stressed about not getting enough rest (especially if your sleep problems are chronic).
Feeling stressed makes it more difficult to stick to a diet or training regimen; stress is known to cause increased levels of cortisol (a hormone released by the adrenal glands). Increased cortisol levels are linked to increased fat storage, so the effect on your weight loss efforts is twofold.
How Long It Takes to See Weight Loss Results on IF
One of the most common reasons intermittent fasting fails is that people don’t give it adequate time. Many people think they’ll lose weight immediately, so they fast for a few days and then give up when they don’t see immediate results.
Intermittent fasting isn’t like a magic trick—it is a method to help your body change its eating habits by adjusting what and when you eat. You’re still consuming calories but changing how your body breaks down those calories over the course of the day.
In my experience, it takes most people longer than two weeks to start losing weight with intermittent fasting. That’s because it can take long for your body to adjust to the new way of eating. During that period of adjustment, you may not lose any weight at all, and you might even gain a couple of pounds due to water retention, glycogen stores in muscle cells being depleted, and other factors.
That’s not to say you should wait until you’ve been doing intermittent fasting for over two weeks before seeing results, but don’t expect instant gratification, either.
Why You Are Not Losing Weight on 36-Hour Fast?
In my experience, 36 hours is a great way to get started with fasting. It’s long enough to feel many of the physical benefits of fasting but not so long that you exhaust yourself. If you’re starting out, you need to ease into it slowly so your body can become accustomed to it.
The most obvious reason you’re not losing weight during your 36-hour fast would be because you are eating too much the rest of the time and/or not exercising. Your body stores fat for future energy in case a long fast occurs again, so longer fasts lead to faster weight loss than shorter ones. This is because you are depriving your body of the nutrients it needs to expend energy, which is calories.
Although you won’t lose weight overnight, eventually your body will be more efficient at processing the food you eat and burning calories. Once it gets used to the new way of eating, intermittent fasting will help you lose weight more quickly.
To make it easier for your body to burn fat and improve your health, you should also be sure to get enough sleep and exercise every day. And don’t forget: Intermittent fasting is just one piece of a healthy diet—you still have to eat plenty of healthy, nutritious foods if you want to lose weight and stay healthy while doing it (see an inspiring example of the right way to eat on intermittent fasting).
- Effect of Circadian Clock Mutations on DNA Damage Response in Mammalian Cells: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3466558/
- Stress and Obesity: Are There More Susceptible Individuals? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5958156/
- How Your Gut Bacteria Can Influence Your Weight: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/gut-bacteria-and-weight
- Relationship Between Insulin Resistance, Weight Loss, and Coronary Heart Disease Risk in Healthy, Obese Women: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11436184/
- Leptin & Leptin Resistance: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22446-leptin