Intermittent Fasting For Women: A Beginner’s Guide

Intermittent fasting has gotten a fair share of the spotlight recently…

Men and women all over the world are getting their ears tickled by the benefits of this new dieting technique that promotes fat-loss, muscle-building, mental clarity, heart health, and loads of other benefits.

But are all of the benefits of intermittent fasting a “sure thing” across the board? And does everyone who practices intermittent fasting experience the same positive reaction in their bodies?

Intermittent Fasting for Women

Well, this is where women just like you and I need to be a little bit careful. Because even though intermittent fasting may seem like a cure-all for all sorts of conditions for our husbands and boyfriends, we can’t treat intermittent fasting like they can. In fact, if we aren’t careful, intermittent fasting can throw our entire lives off balance

But let’s also be careful not throw the baby out with the bathwater here. By practicing intermittent fasting, we’ll see tons of benefits for our health. We just need to do it differently. So let’s take a look at why and how a woman should (carefully) practice intermittent fasting.

What Intermittent Fasting Is And Why You Should Try It

Intermittent fasting is a simple concept. It requires that you refrain from eating for a set amount of time.

Essentially intermittent fasting consists of both “fasting” and “feasting” windows. For instance, one could fast for 16-hours within a 24-hour period of time (including when you sleep), and then eat during the remaining 8-hour window.

So if you have your final meal at 8 pm on Sunday night, a 16-hour intermittent fasting protocol would require that you refrain from eating until noon on Monday.

Simple, right?

There are plenty of studies that rave about the benefits of intermittent fasting, plus it’s super practical for us – stop eating at 8pm. Start eating at noon. Easy.

One of these studies, recorded in Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology, concluded after a review of 40 studies, that intermittent fasting is one of the most effective dieting methods to improve fat loss, reduce body weight, and even reduce appetite [1]. 

Another study recorded an average of 15-pound weight loss for intermittent fasting participants over a 3-12 month period of time [2].

Intermittent fasting has also been scientifically proven to:

  • Improve heart health
  • Lower insulin levels and blood sugar
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Improve psychological well-being
  • Increase lifespan
  • Preserve muscle mass

How can you deny those benefits, right?

But before diving head first into intermittent fasting, let’s take a look at why women in particular need to be careful before putting it to practice.

Why Intermittent Fasting Is “Dangerous” For Women

There is evidence that intermittent fasting affects men and women differently – and unfortunately (or maybe, fortunately?) it seems like we’ve been handed the physiological “short-stick” on this one.

Intermittent Fasting For Women: A Beginner's Guide

There have been many testimonies of women who have started an intermittent fasting protocol, and as a result, have experienced a decrease in energy levels, brain fog, and even changes in menstrual cycles.

And these shifts occur because female bodies are sensitive to calorie restriction – more so than men, who actually experience hormonal balance through fasting.

Though we don’t have human studies to back up the claims just yet (but we do have plenty of testimonies), we do have rodent studies showing some adverse effects that intermittent fasting can have on women. Rodents have similar biological makeup as you and I do, which is why doctors experiment with them.

In a 2007 study, researchers sought to identify the results of caloric restriction and caloric surplus on metabolic, neuroendocrine, and cognitive responses in male and female rats. In response to 40% calorie restriction, females became emaciated, ceased cycling, underwent endocrine masculinization, exhibited a heightened stress response, increased their spontaneous activity, improved their learning and memory, and maintained elevated levels of circulating brain-derived neurotrophic factor. The male rats had little to no change [3].

In a study recorded in Plos One, researchers found a similar result. Intermittent fasting actually had a negative impact on reproduction in young female rats because of how it affects the brain [4]. Essentially, when fasting, a small part of your brain, the hypothalamus is affected, which then affects the secretion of hormones.

See, women are very sensitive to signals of starvation, so if your body senses that it is being starved, it will ramp up your body’s production of the hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin.

When women become “overly” hunger after under-eating, they are merely experiencing the increased production of these hormones. It’s your body’s way of protecting a potential fetus, even if you aren’t pregnant. 

what causes food cravings

Now, of course, many women ignore these hunger cues and as a result, the effects get worse. And what can happen also, is that we try to ignore hunger cues, then ultimately fail to do so and binge later. Follow that up with under-eating and starvation again, and you’ll find yourself in an ugly cycle of hormonal imbalances that will make your day-to-day life incredibly challenging.

Another study recorded in Obesity Research tested the effects of alternate-day fasting on eight healthy men and eight healthy women. After 22 days of alternate fasting (36-hour fasts), researchers sampled glucose and insulin responses as well as muscle biopsies.

The test discovered that glucose response to meals became slightly impaired in women after 3-weeks of treatment, and insulin response remained unchanged. However, men saw no change in glucose response and an improvement in insulin response [5]. In other words, for the ladies, blood glucose response worsened after intermittent fasting. The men, in general, improved.

For these reasons and because of these science-backed studies, women should consider an alternative approach to intermittent fasting.

After all, intermittent

Or in other words, let’s intermittent fast like women.

How Women Should Intermittent Fast

Intermittent fasting for women looks a little different than the population at large.

24-hour fasts will throw our hormonal balance out of whack. Everyday 16-hour intermittent fasts will cause our caloric deficit to drop too quickly and will also throw a wrench in our endocrine system. So what’s a girl supposed to do?

Well, ultimately, in order for us to see the best intermittent fasting results, we need to take a less aggressive approach to the protocol.

Here are 6 steps to successful intermittent fasting for women.

  1. Fast On 2-3 Non-consecutive Days Per Week, for example, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday
  2. Your ideal fast should fall between 12-16 hours, no more and no less
  3. On days that you fast, keep your exercise to a minimum with yoga or light cardio
  4. On non-fasting days, do more intense workouts like HIIT or weight training
  5. When fasting, drink plenty of water. You can also add coffee or green tea into the mix as well
  6. After 2-weeks on this plan, you can consider adding another day of fasting if you haven’t seen notable changes to your fat-loss efforts

Conclusion

Fasting has loads of benefits for you.

And I’m confident that by practicing intermittent fasting you’ll see some incredible results: body, mind, and balance.

Fitness Tips for Women: Intermittent Fasting For Weight Loss

But you should keep in mind that as a woman, you need to intermittent fast like a woman, which is naturally, less aggressive than how your man might approach intermittent fasting. So give it a shot, stick to it, and be amazed by the results!

Intermittent Fasting Video Resources For Women

Intermittent Fasting: Why Women Should Fast Differently than Men

 
Intermittent Fasting 101: For Women
 
My Intermittent Fasting Transformation: My Tips For Weight Loss Success
 
What are the biggest mistakes women make with intermittent fasting? 
How to do Intermittent Fasting for Women (Without Messing Up Your Hormones)
 
Intermittent Fasting Made Easy: A Beginners Guide

Resources:

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26384657
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29419624
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17569758
[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23382817
[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15833943