You must have probably heard about intermittent fasting because of how popular it has become in recent years. Different women use intermittent fasting for different reasons, but the main one is always to lose weight. Unlike most diets that tell you what to eat and what not to eat, intermittent fasting focuses on when you should eat. This is done effectively by incorporating regular short-term fasts into your daily routine.
Consequently, intermittent fasting helps you in that you consume fewer calories which results in weight loss and lowers the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as diabetes and heart diseases. However, different studies have shown that intermittent fasting may be more effective for men, more than it is for women, forcing women to follow a modified approach to this strategy to achieve positive results. Below is a beginner guide to intermittent fasting for women.
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What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting, abbreviated as IF, is a fasting pattern that describes the periods when you should eat and when you should fast. This pattern usually occurs in a cycle. There are different fasting methods, but the most common one includes fasting on alternate days, daily 16-hour fasts for 24 hours, two days a week. In this article, we are going to use the term “intermittent fasting” to describe all the regimens.
One advantage that intermittent fasting has over other diets is that with intermittent fasting, there are no restrictions as to what foods you should eat and which ones to avoid. You eat everything that you want, but at specified periods. In the long run, this becomes more of a lifestyle than a diet plan.
Many people have adopted using intermittent fasting as a way of losing weight since it is very convenient, simple, and an effective way to eat less and reduce body fats. In addition to that, intermittent fasting also helps in reducing diabetes and heart diseases, which improve the overall well-being of an individual.
How does Intermittent Fasting affect Men and Women?
Intermittent fasting affects men and women differently. Different studies have been conducted that have shown that intermittent fasting may be more beneficial to men, more than it is for women.
One of the studies showed that blood sugar control in women worsened after three weeks of intermittent fasting, and this was not the case for men. In addition to that, women have reported that they have experienced changes in their cycles after they have started intermittent fasting. The main reason why women experience these shifts is that their bodies are extremely sensitive to calorie restriction.
When a woman’s calorie intake becomes too low from frequent fasting, then the hypothalamus, a small part of the brain is affected. This also affects the secretion of the gonadotropin-releasing hormone, a hormone that helps in releasing the reproductive hormones.
Since there is no communication between these hormones and the ovaries, a woman risks having irregular periods, poor bone health, infertility, and other health effects. This is why women have no option but to follow a modified intermittent fasting approach, which includes shorter fasting periods and fewer fasting days.
Best types of Intermittent Fasting for Women
Since women need to use a modified approach of intermittent fasting, the best types of intermittent fasting that work best for women have been listed below. Women should take a relaxed approach when it comes to fasting as compared to men.
This can include fasting for shorter periods, for fewer days, and eating a small number of calories on the day that they are fasting. Below are some of the best types of intermittent fasting for women.
Modified Alternate-Day Fasting
This means that you fast every other day but eat normally on the days that you are not fasting. This type of intermittent fasting allows you to consume about 500 calories of your usual intake on the day you are fasting.
In this type of intermittent fasting, you fast 12-16 hours for two to three days per week. In addition to that, fasting should also be non-consecutive and spaced evenly across the whole week. For instance, you can choose to fast on a Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
The 16/8 Method
This type of fasting is also referred to as the Leangains method. This means that you fats for 16 hours a day, and eat all the calories within the 8-hour window. For a start, women are advised to start with a 14 hour fast, and then gradually move to the 16-hour fats.
The 5:2 Diet
Also known as the fast diet, this type of intermittent fasting restricts your calories to 25% of your usual intake. This happens for two days a week then you eat normally the remaining five days of the week. Therefore, you should allow one day between the fasting days.
This type of intermittent fasting is also referred to as the ‘fast diet’. It is basically 24-hour full fasting once or two times a week. Women should fats a maximum of two times and not more every week. It is advisable that you start with 14-16 hours fast and build up gradually.
All of the above are the best types of intermittent fasting for women. It is important that you select a fasting plan that works best for you. In addition to that, it is still important that you eat well during the periods that you are not fasting. Therefore, select the best approach that works well for you in the long run and creates positive health consequences.
Intermittent Fasting Health Benefits for Women
There are different health benefits that women derive from intermittent fasting. Some of the health benefits of intermittent fasting include the following;
Improved Heart Health
One of the leading causes of early deaths is heart disease. There are high-risk leading factors for the development of heart diseases, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. A study was conducted on 16 obese men and women who used intermittent fasting, showed that blood pressure was lowered by about 6% in eight weeks.
This is among the top reasons why most women start intermittent fasting. Losing weight is a problem that many women experience at one point in their life, despite trying different bidets. However, with intermittent fasting, losing weight is an achievable goal since there are feeding and fasting periods, and no restrictions to what you eat.
In a review of studies in 2018, overweight adults found out that intermittent fasting resulted in an average weight loss of 15lbs (6.8kg), in about 3-12 months of intermittent fasting.
Another study conducted on overweight or obese adults showed that intermittent fasting reduced body weight by3-8% over a period of 3-24 weeks. Besides, participants also reduced the circumference of their waist by 3-7% over the same period.
The above results show that the long-term effects of intermittent fasting on weight loss for women remain to be seen.
Consequently, in the short term, intermittent fasting aids in weight loss. However, one thing to put in mind is that the amount of weight that you lose will likely depend on the number of calories consumed during the periods when you are not fasting. Also, how long you have been on this diet is also an important factor that determines the amount of weight you lose.
Diabetes is also another cardiovascular disease that is the leading cause of death in the world. Intermittent fasting helps to effectively manage and lower the risk of developing diabetes.
In addition to that, intermittent fasting also reduces some of the risk factors for diabetes by lowering the levels of insulin and reducing resistance to insulin.
A random study was conducted on 100 overweight or obese women, and the results showed that during six months of intermittent fasting, insulin levels were reduced by 29% and insulin resistance by 19%. On the other hand, blood sugar levels remained the same.
On the contrary, intermittent fasting may not be as beneficial to women as it is to men in terms of blood sugar levels. In one study, the results showed that blood sugar control worsened for women after 2 days of alternate-day fasting, while there were no adverse effects on blood sugar for men.
For individuals who are pre-diabetic, reduction of insulin and insulin resistance is likely to lower the risk of diabetes.
Help minimize your Eating
Intermittent fasting helps you to eat less since you are not eating for the whole 24 hours a day. In one study, young men ate 650 fewer calories every day in a 4-hour restricted window. In another study, the effects of a long 36-hour fast on eating habits were looked into on 24 healthy men and women. The results were that participants dropped their total calories balance by 1900 calories despite consuming extra calories on the post-fast day.
Other Health Benefits
There are other additional health benefits of intermittent fasting that women get. The other health benefits include the following;
There are some studies that show that intermittent fasting reduces the key markers of inflammation. An individual who suffers from chronic inflammation risks gain more weight and suffering from various health problems.
Although the effects of intermittent fasting on increased longevity in human beings are yet to be determined, it has been shown that intermittent fasting extends the lifespan of rats and mice by 33-83%.
Increased psychological well-being
In one study that was conducted, eight weeks of intermittent fasting lowered depression and binge eating habits. This in turn helped in improving the body image in obese or overweight individuals.
Protect Muscle Mass
Intermittent fasting is one of the effective ways of retaining muscle mass as compared to continuous restriction to calorie intake. The higher the muscle mass, the higher your chances of burning more calories even when you are resting.
Therefore, all of the above are the health benefits of intermittent fasting for women. Although intermittent fasting helps women to lose weight and reduce the risk of developing diabetes, more human studies and research still need to be done to confirm these findings.
There is a high possibility that you have done intermittent fasting before. Many people tend to skip their morning or evening meals, and this can be categorized as intermittent fasting. Getting started on this program is very easy. All you have to do is to select any of the above types of intermittent fast that works best for you and go for it.
There is no need to pressure yourself to follow a plan if you don’t want to. You can alternatively skip meals from time to time when you do not feel hungry, or when you do not want to cook. This still works for some people.
In the long run, it does not matter the type of intermittent fasting that you choose. What matters is that you choose a plan that best works for you, and is very convenient for your lifestyle too. However, if you experience any complications or challenges in the process of intermittent fasting, then you should stop immediately.
Also, consult with your doctor if it is okay to start intermittent fasting. You may be having underlying medical conditions that do not allow you to fast or skip any meal.
Safety and Side Effects
Intermittent fasting appears to be safe for most women. However, in some studies, some of the side effects that have been reported include hunger, headaches, lack of concentration, mood swings, and bad breath on the days of fasting. These are the only side effects that you can expect when on intermittent fasting.
In summary, intermittent fasting has become popular over the last few years. Most women practice intermittent fasting for various reasons, with the main one being to lose weight. Therefore, if you want to lower your risk of diabetes, have a healthy heart, and lose weight then intermittent fasting is something that you should consider.