Is intermittent fasting for women not like fasting for men?
Everyone is hearing about the health benefits of intermittent and weight loss fasting, but some studies suppose that women can need to modify their approach to intermittent fasting to safely have great results. Does fasting affect the menstrual cycle in women? What about the benefits of intermittent fasting post-menopause?
Here is your detailed guide to intermittent fasting for women so you can decide if this popular lifestyle choice is right for you.
1. What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is not a diet. Instead, it’s a way of timing your eating. While most diets focus on what you can and cannot eat, intermittent fasting (IF) focuses on when to eat and when not to eat.
Intermittent fasting describes a model of eating that cycles in the middle of periods of normal eating and fasting.
Intermittent fasting is simply because it doesn’t require you to track calories, carbs or any other macronutrients. There are no requirements for what foods to eat or avoid. Because of this, intermittent fasting is viewed as more of a lifestyle than a diet.
Cycling your eating and fasting periods can help you lose weight, lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes, and improve many other aspects of your health.
2. Intermittent Fasting Differences Between Men and Women
One of the causes of intermittent fasting is different in men than in women is that female bodies are very sensitive to calorie limits. This sensitivity can lead to changes in the menstrual cycle.
When women fast for too long or too frequently, the hypothalamus is affected, which can disrupt the hormones that are responsible for the menstrual cycle.
Animal studies have shown certain kinds of fasting to produce irregular reproductive cycles in female rats.
How is intermittent fasting different for women than for men?
While there are no comparable human studies, there are many anecdotal stories of women who have experienced menstrual changes with intermittent fasting.
For these reasons, women may want to look at a modified approach to intermittent fasting, such as shorter fasting periods, alternating fasting and non-fasting days and fewer fasting days.
3. Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting for Women
Intermittent fasting, when done properly can not only shrink your waistline, but it can also improve your health in a number of ways.
The health benefits of intermittent fasting are real and are backed by science. Check out my recent post for a full list of fasting benefits.
In fact, studies have shown that intermittent fasting is helpful for all women, from pre to post-menopause. It’s also the best way to lose belly fat for women over 50.
If you only have time to skim today, here’s the short version:
- Fasting Health Benefits
- Weight Loss
- Improved Insulin Sensitivity
- Heart Health
- Slows Aging
- Boosts Brain Function
- Reduces Inflammation
- Increases Human Growth Hormone
- Helps You Eat Less by Reducing Hunger
- Prevents Cancer
- Improves Immunity
- Fasting has been proven to produce heart health benefits.
4. Best types of Intermittent Fasting for Women.
Everyone’s body is different so there is no one size fits all approach to intermittent fasting.
Generally speaking though, women must have a more gentle approach to fasting then the average man.
And by more gentle, I intend shorter fasting periods and fewer fasting days.
I love intermittent fasting for weight loss, and I have developed a modified way to fast that works for me. (I basically do crescendo fasting with a 16/8 fasting period.) You may need to experiment to see what works best for you.
Here are some of the types of intermittent fasting women are most successful with:
- Crescendo Method: Fast for 12-16 hours two to three days per week. Fasting days should always be non-consecutive and spaced out as evenly as possible. When I fast, I pick Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays.
- Eat-Stop-Eat: Fast for 24-hour time periods once or twice a week. If you want to try this method, start with 14-hour fasts and work your way up to 24 hours. During the other days, just eat responsibly.
- 5:2 Diet: Eat what you want with this method (within reason, of course!) 5 days a week, and then for two non-consecutive days, eat 25% of your regular calorie allotment. About 500 calories for women, 600 for men.
- 16/8 Method: eat for 8 hours, Fast for 16 hours. This is the way I fast when I am following the crescendo method. I usually eat from 11 am to 7 pm on my fast days. This method works for me because I am usually not hungry in the morning, and most of my fasting is spent sleeping. Go beginning with a 14-hour fast and build up to 16 hours.
- Modified Alternate Day Fasting: Fast every other day. Eat about 500 calories (20-25% of your usual daily calorie amount) on your fasting day, and eat normally on non-fasting days.
- Remember that during your eating periods, you are not restricting calories. But also remember that you need to make good choices and eat a healthy diet to get the most out of intermittent fasting for women. You can’t outrun a bad diet and you can’t out-fast a bad diet either!
5. How to Start Fasting
It takes more time to learn about intermittent fasting for women than it actually takes to start it!
The best way to get started is to choose one of the above methods and give it a try.
How to start intermittent fasting for women?
I began fasting with the 16:8 method for I occasionally skipped breakfast. It just seemed like a natural choice for me. After I did more research and trial and error fasting, I modified my fasting to incorporate both the 16:8 and the crescendo methods.
It really doesn’t matter which method you choose. Pick the one that sounds the most doable and appealing to you and give it a try.
Just remember to eat a healthy diet during your non-fasting periods. Just because you are fasting, it doesn’t mean you can eat a crappy diet the rest of the time and still expect to get weight loss and health results from your fast.
6. Safety of Intermittent Fasting
Modified versions of intermittent fasting should be safe for most women. That said, always be safe when trying any new health regularly.
If you have a medical condition, you should talk to your doctor before starting any diet or health routine.
Definitely seek medical advice before trying intermittent fasting if you are a woman who:
- Is underweight.
- Is pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to become pregnant.
- Hase a history of missed periods or fertility problems.
- Has a history of eating disorders.
- Has diabetes or problems with low blood sugar.
7. Intermittent Fasting Side Effects
Most intermittent fasting side effects are minor and go away once you’ve been fasting for a while.
Some common side effects that you may experience when you first start are:
- Low Energy
- Feeling Cold
Anytime you are starting a new routine, ease your body into it. If you are used to eating six meals a day, don’t suddenly start eating one meal a day. Listen to your body and cut your fast short if you feel you require to.
8. Intermittent Fasting for Women Summary
Intermittent fasting is an eating model that requires repeated, short-term fasts.
If you are looking for a way to lose weight and improve your overall health, intermittent fasting may be for you. Even though it’s not actually a diet, it still tops my list of best diets for women.
The best types of intermittent fasting for women add crescendo fasting, modified alternate-day fasting, and the 5:2 diet.
Once you’ve tried fasting, keep an eye out for these common intermittent fasting mistakes that can sabotage your weight loss.