Intermittent fasting for women
When you Google intermittent fasting for women, about 9.2 million results pop-up, which means the new diet trend is officially catching on! As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people are looking for ways to lose weight (aka get rid of the “COVID 15”) and many are turning to intermittent fasting. You might be asking yourself if intermittent fasting is right for you and how it might differ from intermittent fasting for men, which means you’re in the right place!
Fasting itself is not new, our ancestors practiced this way of eating for centuries, but not necessarily by choice. Currently, fasting is a common practice among many spiritual and religious beliefs, but intermittent fasting is a little different. Studies suggest incredible health benefits. However, most of those studies have been done on men or shown mixed results for women. Good enough reason for me to bring more clarity to the pros and cons, and a few pointers to make your experiment a success.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
The official definition of intermittent fasting “describes a pattern of eating that cycles between periods of fasting and normal eating.” Unlike most diet plans, intermittent fasting doesn’t tell you what to eat but when to eat, typically done in daily 16-hour fasts or fasts lasting 24 hours twice a week. Intermittent fasting doesn’t require you to track calories or macronutrients, rather the focus is on making it more of a lifestyle than a traditional diet.
Many people try intermittent fasting to lose weight as it typically works for reducing your body fat due to less eating. There have also been some studies that show that intermittent fasting can help reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes as well as preserve muscle mass and improve psychological well-being.
Intermittent Fasting for Women
When it comes to intermittent fasting, many studies have shown that the diet plan affects women differently than it does men. According to one study, “blood sugar control actually worsened in women after three weeks of intermittent fasting, which was not the case in men.” Many women have also experienced changes in their menstrual cycle with intermittent fasting, as the female body is extremely sensitive to calorie restriction.
According to Healthline, when “calorie intake is low — such as from fasting for too long or too frequently — a small part of the brain called the hypothalamus is affected… [which] can disrupt the secretion of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), a hormone that helps release two reproductive hormones: luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone.” When these two hormones are unable to communicate with the ovaries, women can be at higher risk for “irregular periods, infertility, poor bone health and other health effects.”
The Pros of Intermittent Fasting
Don’t be scared off from intermittent fasting just yet, especially if you’re a woman over 40 who’s interested in trying it! If done right, an intermittent fasting diet plan can help you burn fat quicker, make you feel mentally sharp and physically lighter, and end chronic bloating and constipation. It’s also known for slowing the aging process and can help to prevent and reverse many types of chronic diseases, including cancer.
A significant number of patients who have gone through chemotherapy have credited much of their success story to fasting. Digesting requires an incredible amount of energy and it makes sense that giving your body a break allows it to focus on other vital tasks such as cell and tissue regeneration and brain health.
I have seen the best results with clients who give their gut a rest for 12 hours between dinner and breakfast. They finish dinner let's say at 7pm and they have breakfast just right after 7am. Skipping breakfast can cause an important blood sugar imbalance which is the culprit of many underlying chronic conditions. Unless I see proof of real benefits of skipping breakfast for a specific client, all my meal plans start with healthy and nutritious smoothies for breakfast or a mix of oats with berries and seeds if the client prefers solids.
The Cons of Intermittent Fasting
There are typically more cons related to intermittent fasting for women when compared to men as we need to be more careful when restricting our body of calories throughout a large portion of the day. Like I mentioned above, some studies suggest it could have a negative impact on our hormones when not done well.
Intermittent fasting is also not recommended if you’re going through pregnancy, are breastfeeding or experiencing hormonal imbalances.
How to Begin an Intermittent Fasting Diet Plan
Now that you know what intermittent fasting is and how it works, you probably want to know the best way to start implementing it into your life. One thing you’ll always want to keep in mind is that every person’s body is different, so what might work for one person might be really bad for another person – it’s all about listening to what your body needs, which is something I can help you figure out!
Here are my top 3 recommended steps when it comes to beginning an intermittent fasting diet plan:
- Ask yourself why you want to start intermittent fasting: Whatever reason you have, intermittent fasting could help. You just have to do it right and according to your goals and lifestyle. What I like about it is that it is simple, works with every diet, is effective when done right, and allows you to indulge occasionally.
- Don’t try intermittent fasting if you are currently pregnant, breastfeeding, or have infertility issues. It’s also good to steer clear of intermittent fasting if you are experiencing hormonal issues or have menopausal symptoms. Intermittent fasting is also not the best for those with type 2 diabetes or have eating disorders.
- Start small and build up: Some people thrive on the 16/8 method – fasting for 16 hours and eating (or “feasting”) for 8. Others love the 5:2 approach – eating regular meals 5 days per week and consuming only 500-600 calories per day 2 days a week. Some take a total break from food when they fast, and others “indulge” in coffee, green tea, bone broth, and fiber. The method I like the most for women, and not to upset their hormones as much, is the Crescendo fasting. You eat for 8-12 hours and fast 12-16 (my most recommended scenario is 12 hours of fasting overnight ad 12 hours of eating healthy during the day). You can start 3 days a week and make it a daily habit if you feel good.
Are you ready to invest in yourself to look and feel your best?
No matter where you choose to start you intermittent fasting journey, consulting a nutritionist is always a good idea and can help the process along! Schedule a 20-minute complimentary discovery call with me and see how I can best support you on your weight loss journey. I can help you create strong, healthy habits that will become lifelong tools.