If you’re gaining weight while intermittent fasting (IF), it’s probably not because you need to cut calories — because unlike traditional diets, IF doesn’t require calorie counting or eliminating any one food from your plate in order to see results. The only exception is alternate-day fasting, in which you eat no more than 500 calories every other day, but this method usually isn’t effective in the long run, in part because it’s so challenging.
With any other method of IF — whether you’re fasting for 12, 14, or 16 hours at a time or some other variation — it’s best to evaluate the types of calories you’re eating before slashing any from your diet, Melissa Rifkin, MS, RD, CDN, a registered dietitian based in New York City, told POPSUGAR. High-quality, nutrient-dense foods will keep you from feeling deprived during your fasting window and from overeating later on, so fill up on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other fiber-rich foods, rather than sugary processed or packaged goods.
If you feel like you’re doing everything right but you’d still like to lose a few pounds, then yes, you may need to cut some calories. The good news is, IF tends to reduce calorie intake without much effort. After all, you’re eating for fewer hours during the day. “This explains why IF will likely lead to some weight loss in the short-term,” Melissa said. “However, current research doesn’t support any long-term weight management potential with IF.” In other words, you’re likely to regain that weight if you ever choose to stop fasting, unless you continue eating roughly the same number of calories.
Consider working with a dietitian to determine the number of calories you’ll need to lose weight and keep it off. Once that’s established, keep your pantry stocked with healthy foods. (This sample meal plan for IF will help you get started.) And finally, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water to avoid overeating. “We confuse thirst with hunger,” Melissa said, and dehydration can cause you to feel bloated or headache-y, which may prevent you from keeping up with other healthy habits, like your workouts.