Intermittent Fasting Across The Female Lifespan
Women, childbearing or not, go through several distinct phases of life, characterized by massive hormonal change.
These hormonal changes can have notable physical and psychological effects, and can influence sleep, digestion, stress reactivity, and metabolism.
Here are a few of those phases, and how intermittent fasting might affect them.
Intermittent Fasting And Womens Health
In 2016, a couple of researchers did a comprehensive search of the studies published on fasting, womens health, and aging, and then published what they found in the Journal of Midlife Health.
These types or review studies are nice to learn from because they help cut down on biases from small studies that may have gotten paid by a special interest group to perform the research.
So, what you end up with is the big picture of the results from many studies performed over many years.
This big-picture was very positive in all aspects of womens health from weight loss, to physical health to mental health.
Intermittent Fasting In Aging Women
Puberty, periods, maybe pregnancy and postpartum. What a rollercoaster.
Then comes menopause, another hormonal transition point in womens lives that can stir us up physically, psychologically, and socially.
Women in this phase may be returning to themselves after decades of being devoted to children, spouses, and careers. Or, they may be busier than ever, taking care of aging parents and young adult kids.
Whatever the context, increasing age often triggers a desire to focus on health.
Some women become interested in intermittent fasting because of its association with longevity. Others just want to lose fat in an uncomplicated way.
While we dont have quality science on whether or not intermittent fasting is beneficial to women who are menopausal or post-menopausal, we do know that restricting food is also a stressor.
Women who worry about limiting food intake to manage body weight tend to have higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, than women who dont.24 Add that to the sleep disruptions so common in menopause, and your stress bucket is getting pretty full.
Lower estrogen levels also means your body has a decreased capacity to deal with stress. That bucket fills up quicker than it used to.
Even though many stressors are good for uslike exercise, learning, and changethey only make us stronger if we give ourselves the chance to recover from them.
So, if youre a woman in this hormonal phase, try intermittent fasting only if:
It May Help You Eat Less
Switching to intermittent fasting may naturally help you eat less.
One study found that young men ate 650 fewer calories per day when their food intake was restricted to a four-hour window .
Another study in 24 healthy men and women looked at the effects of a long, 36-hour fast on eating habits. Despite consuming extra calories on the post-fast day, participants dropped their total calorie balance by 1,900 calories, a significant reduction .
Intermittent Fasting For Longevity
Another aspect to intermittent fasting that I find fascinating and ground-breaking is its anti-ageing effects and the advancements it poses for longevity. This is achieved primarily through autophagy which is your bodys natural way of cleaning out all of the damaged cells and replacing them with new healthy ones. Its like recycling. For longevity, this is super exciting. A natural, healthy way of replacing old cells and turning the clock back with the production of young cells. Autophagy is hardwired into us from our ancestors and acts to supplement the body with energy from itself . This cant last indefinitely of course, but you will be eating every day so your body doesnt need to keep this up forever. Autophagy is increased through intermittent fasting as our cells become stressed. Autophagy comes into play to help protect and replenish. This actually enhances our lifespan. I love listening to the teachings of Dr who has put all of these theories to practice on rats. What he has found is astounding. He has been able to show unequivocally that CR is able to increase the lifespan of rats by 30%. No drugs, no medicine, just a simple trick we can all implement into our lives.
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Why Intermittent Fasting Could Work For You
Intermittent fasting is straightforward to follow without complex food and diet instructions,” says Dr Ruxton. “However, for some people it can be hard to follow. Many people report feeling hungry and lightheaded on fast days. Yet for others intermittent fasting may seem more achievable that eating less every day.
Fasting As Hormetic Stressor And The Influence Of Biological Sex
Men and women both need to enter a fasted state in order to burn body fat. This should go without saying, but regularly undergoing periods where youre not inserting calories into your mouth is an absolute requirement for weight loss and basic health, no matter your sex.
These periods are called fasted states, and they begin as soon as you stop processing the energy from your meal. An intermittent fast is an extended period of not eating done for the express purpose of weight loss and other health benefits.
Fasting triggers Nrf2, the hormetic pathway also triggered by other hormetic stressors like exercise, polyphenols, and radiation. Nrf2 initiates a series of defensive and adaptive mechanisms that help you respond to the stress and buttress your body against future stressors. But with too large a dose, a hormetic stressor can become a plain old stressorone that overwhelms our defenses and harms us.
Making matters more complicated, the size of a hormetic dose is relative. Whats hormetic for me might be stressful for you. Many different variables affect how much of a hormetic stressor a person can tolerate.
With fasting, perhaps the most important variable to consider is your biological sex.
This really does make intuitive sense.
Biology cares most about your fertility. Can you reproduce? Can you produce healthy offspring that survive to do the same? These things come first.
And from that perspective, a womans situation is more precarious than a mans.
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Help With Cancer Treatments
Scientists are currently studying the effects that intermittent fasting might have alongside cancer treatments on different types of cancer.
Studies are in their early stages, but some researchers believe that fasting may improve the effects of cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, and reduce their negative side effects.
Maintaining A Sustainable Fasting Routine
If you want to succeed with fasting, you need to make fasting part of your routine. You need to make it a habit.
One key to habit formation? Accountability.
Specifically, you want to be accountable to yourself. But how?
. When you track yourself daily, your personal accountability goes through the roof.
If you havent tried Carb Manager yet, its never too late. The premium version of the app has a customized IF tracker that handles your fasting journey soup to nuts. You can also use the basic version to track calories, macros, and weight. Not a bad deal for $0.
And ladies: if youre new to fasting, you might also enjoy this comprehensive guide to IF for women.
Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. Carb Manager may earn a commission for qualifying purchases made through these links.
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/6not Managing Your Sleep Schedule
Poor sleep patterns can also minimize the benefits of intermittent fasting. It may consume extra calories the other day and also increase the stress level. So, improving your sleeping pattern when following intermittent fasting can help you gain more benefits from this eating pattern. Go to bed on time, wake up on time and follow healthy lifestyle habits.
Additional Health Benefits As We Age
The benefits did not stop there. The research team also found evidence that fasting may aid in the treatment of certain cancers, improve bone health, and reduce inflammation in the body, which is an underlying condition in many chronic diseases.
The research team concluded that although there is a need for large, well-designed studies on women and fasting, fasting can be prescribed as a safe medical intervention as well as a lifestyle regimen which can improve womens health in many folds.
These benefits can be had even when a woman is well past menopause. One of the main determinates of how well we will age is our ability to preserve muscle mass. In a 6-week study, overweight women who were 60 years of age or older were placed on a fasting regimen that involved fasting from 8pm until noon the next day.
This is a popular method that is often referred to as 16:8 intermittent fasting. The women were not restricted regarding their food choices once their eating window opened up. Yet, by the end of the 6-weeks, they lost an average of 4.4 pounds with no significant loss of muscle mass.
These results were obtained, not because they dieted, but because they ate their calories within a shortened number of hours .
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How Does Intermittent Fasting Work Whats The Evidence
The research on the health benefits of intermittent fasting is pretty interesting, with the latest findings adding a bit of inconsistency with previous results. A study published in April comparing two groupsa calorie-restriction only group and a calorie-restricted and time-restricted eating groupthat followed subjects over the course of one year found no effect on body weight, body fat or metabolic risk factors. People who only ate from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. didnt lose significantly more weight than those who ate any time throughout the day. Any weight loss was attributed to overall caloric restriction rather than time-restricted eating regimens.
Other findings, however, have shown benefits for weight loss, insulin resistance, mental health outcomes and brain cell activity. Lets take a look at a few of those.
Is It Suitable For Me
Intermittent Fasting as a weight-loss strategyhas been around for years, and scientists and nutrition experts agree that Intermittent Fasting makes sense. Heres how it works: When we eat, the food we take in is broken down into molecules. In particular, carbohydrates are converted to sugars which leads to an increase in insulin levels. Insulin signals our body to burn the converted sugars for energy. The idea of Intermittent Fasting as a weight-loss approach is to allow our insulin levels to go down for hours to release the stored sugars in our fat cells for energy. And this only happens when we dont eat for a certain period of time.
A 2020 study shows that Intermittent Fasting in older women results in positive changes in body composition with as much as a body fat reduction in a short amount of time implementing the 16:8 method.
IMPORTANT: For those who have diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular conditions, its best to consult a doctor before trying out any of the methods mentioned. Your doctor can also help you decide on which method is the most suitable for you.
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Other Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting For Women Over 40
Intermittent fasting can help control blood glucose in people with type 2 diabetes, a common problem for women over 40.
However, patterns that include fasting every other day, like the alternate-day fasting pattern, can have a negative impact. Studies indicate that fasting every other day might impair the action of the sugar-regulating hormone insulin in both the short term and long term.
If you have diabetes, its especially important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting the IF plan. I also recommend fasting for a maximum of 16 hours and to adjust any blood glucose medications according to your eating and fasting hours.
Intermittent fasting can also improve metabolic syndrome, reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes. The metabolic syndrome refers to a group of symptoms that include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess abdominal fat, and abnormal blood fat levels. Finally, intermittent fasting can also reduce inflammation and boost brain health.
Benefits For Women Over 50
For many women, the biggest draw to intermittent fasting is the hope of losing weight, but is it safe for mature women?
One study put women over 50 into three different dietary groups: a Mediterranean diet, an alternate-day fasting diet meeting 100% caloric needs, and an alternate-day fasting diet meeting 70% of caloric needs.
The findings? Women in the alternate-day fasting meeting 70% of caloric intake had the best results, losing the most body fat and weight.
Theres a body of recent research that supports intermittent fasting for women over 50. However, only you can decide whats best for your body.
Women over 50 tend to gain weight during menopause or while postmenopausal due to fluctuating hormone levels. Additionally, women tend to have higher hunger hormones , leading to belly fat. So, its reasonable to assume that intermittent fasting is worth a try, but youll want to do it safely to optimize the benefits.
Along with losing weight, intermittent fasting benefits include:
- Lowering blood pressure
- Improving cognitive brain functioning and memory recall
- Lowering cholesterol and glucose levels
- Preventing heart disease
- Promoting a healthy lifestyle and boosting physical stamina
Sounds great, right? However, intermittent fasting isnt safe for everyone. If you have diabetes, blood sugar issues, or have suffered from eating disorders, you should consult with your doctor and consider avoiding the diet.
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Which Type Of Intermittent Fasting Will You Choose
These are just 3 of the many types of intermittent fasting options out there. The 16/8 Method, Alternate Day Fasting and the 5:2 diet are easy and healthy ways to loose weight for those of us over 40.
I highly recommend starting with the 16/8 method. This is because its easy to stick to, so you will have better luck loosing weight. Once you get used to intermittent fasting you should try Alternate Day fasting and/or the 5:2 diet and see which is most beneficial for your body.
Before starting any type of intermittent fasting check with your Doctor.
How Is Intermittent Fasting For Women Different
Men and women should approach intermittent fasting differently, with evidence suggesting that more severe restrictions may be less suitable for women. A study in Obesity Society , for example, found that women with a healthy body weight began to experience an impaired glucose response with alternate day fasting. Time restricted eating may be a safer option. This is where you have a set eating window during the day , and fast the rest of the time.
Dr Kumaran advises caution to women looking to try intermittent fasting for the first time. Women can be more sensitive to intermittent fasting due to the monthly menstrual cycle and subsequent hormonal fluctuations that women experience, she says. Women also have a greater sensitivity to changes in energy balance, as fasting can trigger an exaggerated response to stress. This can then have the opposite effects of the intended health benefits of intermittent fasting.
Females are reported to have more kisspeptin compared to males, she adds, which is why women appear to be more sensitive to changes in kisspeptin levels.
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How Does It Work
Some believe that IF works for them because the limited eating window will clearly lessen the amount of calories taken in on the daily and going on a calorie deficit is one method guaranteed to contribute to weight loss. While practicing intermittent fasting, you might find that instead of being able to eat 3 full meals, you only have time for 2 meals and a light snack. Doing IF will also make you more mindful about the food you consume and will result in a reluctance to waste the chances that you do get to eat on food filled with processed carbs and empty calories. In addition, the intake of regular meals will leave you feeling full for much longer which also prevents the urge to snack.
How To Start Intermittent Fasting For Women
Good news. Its easy to start, and there are two rules to keep in mind that make Intermittent Fasting pretty plain and simple.
Firstly, when fasting, keep hydrated to avoid headaches and feeling hungry as you get used to going lengthy times without eating. If you are feeling hunger pains, add 1-2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to your water. It can curb hunger and is also known to help with weight loss. Additionally, dont eat anything when you are fasting. That is the second straightforward rule. Check out my video on what does and doesnt break a fast for more info on what to choose and what to avoid.
Keep it simple and steady. Start off by going several hours in between meals to see how you make out. Skip a meal, and eventually build up to skipping two. Make a point when you do eat, to eat clean wholesome foods so that you feel your best. Take a look at my Clean Eating Guide for Beginners to get the scoop on how to shop for healthy food. Or, if visuals work better for you, watch my clean eating video.
Do check with your doctor, though, before starting IF. Any time you are making significant changes to your lifestyle, whether it be food or exercise, get a clean bill of health first.
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Intermittent Fasting For The Aging Woman
Intermittent fasting information, plans, guides and programs are everywhere we look right now. The question of intermittent fasting for the aging women over 50 or 60 is yet another layer of what may be considered a health benefit by some, a passing diet fad by others.
They say the only constant in life is change itself, and theres nothing that exemplifies this more than our general fascinationand participationwhen it comes to fads. From the fleeting and often bizarre ones such as mood rings, digital pets, and bell bottom jeans, to the more modern and evolved types like the spike in sustainable fashion and ethical apparel, weve all been drawn to these pastimes by popular demand. And while some phases may have existed only for a short while, there are definitely others that are made to last.
Enter diet trends. While some of the more popular crazes rightfully sound too good to be true, like diet pills that promises to reduce fat overnight or juice cleanses that boast amazing results when they really do more harm than good, others that have emerged in recent years have actual evidence to back up their claims with studies that prove trying them out will make a positive difference.