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How long to do intermittent fasting before seeing results?

How long to do intermittent fasting before seeing results, how to measure fasting progress and reasons for not seeing weight loss.
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Summary

If you are beginning intermittent fasting you may be wondering how long it will be before you start seeing results. That will depend on factors such as your physical health, stress level and the duration of your fasts. Longer fasts produce more effective and timely results.

Be patient and don’t solely depend on the weight scale for feedback on your progress. Taking body measurements and looking for non-scale victories can keep you motivated. If not losing weight you can adjust fasting lengths and food choices to boost results.

Written by
Jill Lebofsky
15+yr Women's Wellness Expert, Holistic Menopause Support, Intermittent Fasting, Midlife, Essential Oil, Author, Speaker

Results, results, results! You can’t get on social media without seeing someone’s amazing intermittent fasting results. And wonder how long it took them to accomplish their success. Many people try fasting, don’t lose weight immediately, and stop, not recognizing non-scale benefits are happening and the weight loss is coming soon. Knowing the changes to expect when doing intermittent fasting – and how soon they will occur – is vital to ensuring your motivation and long-term success.


How long before seeing weight loss results?

There is no definitive timeline for experiencing intermittent fasting results. However, based on scientific evidence and reported personal experiences, there are average times when measurable weight loss is likely.

A review of 41 studies revealed that, on average, a person can lose 7 to 11 pounds in a 10-week period. Three-fourths of the studies were based on adhering to an alternate day intermittent fasting schedule (1). Using this method of intermittent fasting, on one day you have no calorie or time restrictions and can eat what you want. The following day you are allowed consumption of only 500 calories. 

Other research reported a 0.8% to 13% weight loss at some point between 2 and 26 weeks also with the alternate day fasting method (2).  Another study on the 5:2 method (similar to the alternate day fasting method but the schedule is 5 days no restrictions and 2 days in a row eating only 500 calories), showed weight loss similar to restricting calories to lose weight (3).  


These results will vary from person to person due to different metabolisms, their amount of physical activity, food choices, sleep schedule, stress levels, and toxic exposure. If losing weight is your priority, then fast for more hours. The longer you fast, the more stored fat you burn and the more effective your results will be.

The weight scale is only one tool for gauging progress, and it isn’t always the most accurate. The weight scale is measuring a moment in time, and weight will fluctuate during the day. If you want to use it to track your progress, then be consistent by weighing yourself at the same time each day. First thing in the morning is best. Experts agree that between 1 and 2 pounds a week is safe weight loss and that pace offers more permanent results (4).

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Why you shouldn’t rely on the weight scale

Measuring tape to measure weight loss.

In addition to the weight scale, grab your measuring tape and take an account of your inches from your upper body, hips, waist, stomach and lower body every month. With intermittent fasting, your body is reshaping: It’s using up stored fat and at the same time, muscle mass is largely retained or even gained (which also depends on your physical activity).

For this reason, intermittent fasting success often shows up as lost inches rather than big movements on the scale. Over 6 months, women in one study lost 4 to 7% of stubborn, visceral fat (5).

After the first week of intermittent fasting, you’ll probably notice less bloating and a tighter, slimmer look and feel to your midsection. 

Some people will enjoy some weight loss by week two, but don’t be discouraged if your weight scale hasn’t budged. Continue for another 4-6 weeks, and you should see changes. Once the pounds start releasing, expect a 1 to 2-pound loss per week, with inches gone each month.


Other ways to know that intermittent fasting is working

Jeans are useful to track weight loss.

If the weight scale isn’t being friendly, look elsewhere. Focus on non-scale victories. These are noticeable, small changes that have nothing to do with the uncooperative metal box on the bathroom floor and are often present before the weight scale moves. These victories can keep you motivated along your journey.

Examples include:

  • Jewelry fits again.
  • Jeans are looser.
  • Down a belt notch.
  • Better bra fit.
  • Getting up off the floor more easily.
  • Running around chasing kids without tiring.
  • Taking longer walks with the dog.
  • Medical markers improve (blood sugar levels, blood pressure).
  • Sleeping better.
  • More focused.
  • Energized.
  • Improved mood.
  • Clear, smooth skin.
  • Reduced joint pain. 
  • Other people notice your positive changes.




Possible reasons for not seeing change


If you have given intermittent fasting at least 30 days and haven’t noticed any differences, these may be the reasons:


  1. Not fasting long enough 

Extend your fasted hours daily.  Try a couple of longer fasts, 24-48 hours, during the month.


  1. Not drinking enough water 

You aren’t taking in water through food so up your intake. 


  1. Consuming alcohol daily 

 It takes the body up to 72 hours to start burning fat again after a night of drinking.


  1. Choosing less nutritious, processed foods and carbs over healthy fats, lean proteins, and vegetables.


  1. Eating the same number of calories, all within the eating window, as you did before intermittent fasting.


  1. Not eating enough calories in your feasting window

It’s fine if you don’t feel hungry, but don’t severely restrict calories. This may cause overeating during the next meal. 


  1. Choosing the wrong type of intermittent fasting for your lifestyle

There are many different intermittent fasting methods, and you need to find the one that suits your needs and lifestyle best.


  1. Not getting enough sleep


  1. Over-exercising 


  1. Not moving enough


Learn more in our article about the 5 most common intermittent fasting mistakes. You can also check out our other articles, there should be everything you need to know about fasting !


Bottom line


The weight didn’t appear overnight, nor will it suddenly disappear. Intermittent fasting isn’t a miracle cure or quick fix.  It should be viewed as a new, healthy way of life, and new things take time, practice, and adjustment. If you are realistic and committed to this lifestyle, your goals are absolutely achievable.

Focus on staying consistent with your fasting, throw in a couple of longer fasts each month, eat healthy, move your body every day, get a good night’s sleep, and find a supportive community to cheer you on. If you do that, the “loss” of pounds and inches will inevitably follow.

References:

  1. Seimon RV, Roekenes JA, Zibellini J, Zhu B, Gibson AA, Hills AP, Wood RE, King NA, Byrne NM, Sainsbury A. Do intermittent diets provide physiological benefits over continuous diets for weight loss? A systematic review of clinical trials. Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2015 Dec 15;418:153-72. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2015.09.014.
  2. Welton S, Minty R, O'Driscoll T, et al. Intermittent fasting and weight loss: Systematic review. Canadian Family Physician - Medecin de Famille Canadien. 2020 Feb; 66(2): 117–125.
  3. Harvie MN;Pegington M;Mattson MP;Frystyk J;Dillon B;Evans G;Cuzick J;Jebb SA;Martin B;Cutler RG;Son TG;Maudsley S;Carlson OD;Egan JM;Flyvbjerg A;Howell A; The effects of intermittent or continuous energy restriction on weight loss and metabolic disease risk markers: a randomized trial in young overweight women. International Journal of Obesity (2005) 2011 May;35(5):714-27. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2010.171.
  4. Weight loss. Mayo Clinic. 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/expert-answers/fast-weight-loss/faq-20058289
  5. Klempel MC;Kroeger CM;Bhutani S;Trepanowski JF;Varady KA; Intermittent fasting combined with calorie restriction is effective for weight loss and cardio-protection in obese women. Nutrition Journal. 2012 Nov 21;11:98. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-11-98.

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