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A Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting for Women

<article> <section> <p>Intermittent fasting is all the rage in the diet scene right now. But it’s not what you would traditionally think of as a diet; in fact, it isn’t a diet at all. </p> <p>Intermittent fasting doesn’t restrict the type of food you eat or even how much. You don’t have to track anything or buy anything to get started. It all boils down to <i>when</i> you choose to eat. </p> <p>Many people might be curious about the intermittent fasting trend because it is promoted as an effective way to lose weight. However, a number of studies have suggested that intermittent fasting may not be as beneficial for women as it is for men. For this reason, women may need to follow a modified approach. </p> <p>What needs to be taken into consideration if you are a woman wanting to try intermittent fasting? We created the ultimate beginner’s guide to explore every detail of intermittent fasting for women to see if it’s the right plan to help you reach your health goals. Let’s dive in!</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>What is Intermittent Fasting?</header> <p>Although it is currently being promoted as a new diet trend, fasting is far from a “new” practice. Different variations of fasting have been used in many cultures as part of religious traditions for centuries. </p> <p>The reason why intermittent fasting seems so innovative is that goes against traditional nutrition advice. You may have heard that you are never supposed to skip meals or that the best way to lose weight is to eat six small meals a day to “fuel” your metabolism. This advice is not true. There is no need to constantly eat to keep your metabolism moving. The opposite is actually true: metabolism speeds up during short periods of fasting.<sup>1</sup></p> <p>Fasting makes a lot of sense if you look at it from an evolutionary perspective... </p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="evolution"> </picture> <p>In the days before we had food available on every corner, humans were naturally forced to fast from time to time. Humans evolved to tolerate a constant feast or famine cycle. During periods of feast, we naturally store fat and build muscle to prepare us for the leaner times. This adaptation allows us to survive during the periods of famine. Periods of fasting may be an eating pattern that is more in line with our evolution as a species. </p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>How Many Hours Should a Woman Do Intermittent Fasting? </header> <p>There are several ways to modify your eating window to practice intermittent fasting. Here are a few of the most popular:</p> <div class="sub-head">16/8 Method</div> <p>This is the most popular method. It requires you to fast for 16 hours a day, while limiting your eating window to 8 hours a day. Basically, you don’t eat after dinner, then simply skip breakfast, and your first meal is lunch. You can drink water, coffee, or tea while you are fasting.</p> <div class="sub-head">The 5:2 Diet</div> <p>This involves normal eating for 5 days and 2 “fasting” days a week. The fasting days involve restricting calories to around 500 per day, so you aren’t going two full days without eating at all.</p> <div class="sub-head">24-hour Fast or Eat-Stop-Eat</div> <p>This method involves a 24-hour fast once a week. This can be challenging for many people.</p> <div class="sub-head">Alternate day fasting</div> <p>This involves complete fasting or severely restricting calories every other day. This type of fasting is the most extreme and should be used with caution, especially for women.</p> <p>These are just a few of the most popular methods, although there are many ways to approach <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">intermittent fasting</a>. Where you begin depends on where you are in your journey through the 14-day Warrior Made diet. A beginner would start with a shorter fast, whereas someone more advanced could fast for longer. The bottom line is you simply control your eating hours, while fasting the rest of the time. </p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="brass-clock"> </picture> <header>Intermittent Fasting for Women</header> <p>Intermittent fasting impacts women differently than it does men because women’s bodies are more sensitive to diet changes, especially cutting back on calories. This doesn’t mean fasting can’t benefit women; it just needs to be done cautiously and correctly. First, let’s review a few of the potential health benefits for women who want to try fasting.</p> <div class="sub-head">Weight Loss</div> <p>The main reason why most people are interested in intermittent fasting is for weight loss. A 2018 study found that it is just as effective as other weight loss programs. In this study, subjects lost an average of 15 pounds in 12 months by simply doing intermittent fasting.<sup>2</sup> </p> <p>Intermittent fasting is an easy way to control your food intake. It requires much less time and thought than traditional calorie counting, making it easier for many people to stick with. When your eating window is restricted, you may naturally take in fewer calories because you simply don’t have the time to overeat. Your stomach can only fit so much food at once. A study found that men who fasted one day a week ate an average of 2,868 calories less overall compared to those who didn’t fast. Their fasting day didn’t lead them to make up for the fast by eating too much the next day.<sup>3</sup> </p> <p>Intermittent fasting may also help you keep your muscle mass while you lose weight. A 2011 study compared a calorie-restricted diet to intermittent fasting and the impact on weight loss and lean muscle mass. Both groups lost about the same amount of weight, but those who did intermittent fasting retained more lean muscle.<sup>4</sup> Keeping the muscle you have is the key to preventing your metabolism from slowing down after you lose weight. It can make it easier to keep the weight off long-term. </p> <div class="sub-head">Blood Sugar Control</div> <p>Intermittent fasting may lead to better blood sugar control. A study evaluated the impact of intermittent fasting on the blood sugar of healthy men during a two-week period. They found that their bodies took in more blood sugar during the fasting periods and stored less fat.<sup>5</sup> This means that the body was more effective when responding to eating sugar and needed less insulin. Long-term, this may help reduce the risk of developing diabetes. </p> <div class="sub-head">Heart Health</div> <p>Intermittent fasting may also protect your heart by lowering blood pressure, <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">cholesterol</a>, and triglyceride levels. A study evaluated the impact of fasting for 10 weeks. During the study period, body weight decreased by about 12 pounds, total cholesterol by 21 percent, LDL cholesterol by 25 percent, and triglycerides by 32 percent. Blood pressure also decreased from 124 to 116 mm/Hg.<sup>6</sup> This study found that fasting may have a positive impact on the risk of heart disease, which is the number one cause of death for women. </p> <div class="sub-head">Lowers Inflammation</div> <p>Fasting may help lower <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">inflammation</a>, one of the main causes of chronic disease. A study evaluated the impact of fasting during Ramadan. Researchers found that inflammation markers went down significantly during the one-month study period, even though other health markers didn’t change as much.<sup>7</sup> </p> <p>The reason for the decrease in inflammation may be due to a process called <i>autophagy</i> that occurs during periods of fasting. Autophagy is when the cells of the body “clean house.” This prevents the accumulation of harmful proteins inside the cells that can cause inflammation and even develop into cancer.<sup>8</sup> </p> <div class="sub-head">Boosts Psychological Well-Being</div> <p>There are many reports that fasting makes people feel more clear headed and better psychologically. One study in particular confirmed these reports: it found that alternate day fasting improved symptoms of <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">depression</a> and body image in obese women.<sup>9</sup></p> <div class="sub-head">Potential for Increased Longevity</div> <p>There are obviously a lot of factors in determining how long someone will live. But there is some interesting research that calorie restriction from intermittent fasting may boost longevity. For now, the research available on this topic is based only on animal studies. But one study found that intermittent fasting increased a rat’s lifespan by 83 percent.<sup>10</sup> Humans live more complex lives than lab rats do, but the data is still intriguing. </p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="woman-checking-skin-in-mirror"> </picture> <header>How Fasting Impacts Hormones</header> <p>Female bodies are governed by hormonal cycles. Not only do our hormones shift every twenty-eight days, but they also change throughout life between fertility, pregnancy, and menopause. These hormones can be sensitive to extreme dietary changes and calorie restriction. </p> <p>When women restrict calories excessively through the practice of the more extended fasting, this can change the function of a part of the brain called the <i>hypothalamus</i>. This change disrupts a hormone called <i>gonadotropin-releasing hormone</i> (GnRH). </p> <p>Without GnRH, two other hormones responsible for ovulation and menstruation are not produced correctly. This means that eventually your period could stop, and you may run the risk of becoming infertile as well. Rat studies have found that alternate-day fasting for three months can shrink ovaries.<sup>11,12</sup> </p> <p>But the impact fasting has on hormones is not all bad. Don’t worry, your ovaries probably won’t shrink, and there is a lot of good that can come from fasting as well. Fasting increases the levels of human growth hormone, which promotes fat loss and muscle gain.<sup>13</sup> It also boosts norepinephrine levels that help speed up metabolism.<sup>14</sup> </p> <p>Fasting improves insulin sensitivity, which helps your body better control blood sugar. Also, when insulin levels are lower, this allows the body to use stored fat for energy, adding to any weight loss.<sup>15</sup> </p> <p>The impact of intermittent fasting on hormones is not all negative, but women who are sensitive to hormonal shifts or who struggle with hormone-related reproductive issues should speak to their health care provider before trying intermittent fasting. </p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Who Should Avoid Fasting</header> <p>Fasting is not for everyone. A few people who should avoid fasting include:</p> <ul> <li>Women who are trying to conceive</li> <li>Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding as nutrition is too important</li> <li>Children, also due to high nutrient needs </li> <li>Those with a history of disordered eating</li> <li>Those that are underweight</li> <li>Women who struggle with severe hormonal imbalances or amenorrhea</li> <li>People with <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">diabetes</a> who use insulin </li> </ul> <p>Even if you aren’t on insulin, but you have diabetes or other issues with blood sugar, you should consider intermittent fasting with caution. An animal study found that alternate-day fasting worsened blood sugar problems in females, but not males.<sup>16</sup> Further research is needed to understand if this applies to humans as well, but for now it is best to speak to your doctor. </p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="espresso-machine"> </picture> <header>Can I Drink Coffee During My Fast?</header> <p>The easy answer is yes, you can drink black coffee during your fast. Tea and water are also acceptable and highly recommended. Staying hydrated is critical to not getting a headache or feeling light-headed while fasting. </p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Is Fasting Right for You?</header> <p>For most healthy women, a 16/8 plan or a day of fasting per week is safe and may be beneficial for health and weight loss. Experimenting with intermittent fasting may be an easy way to lower calorie intake and improve insulin sensitivity without having to count calories. </p> <p>For women, we recommend following the fasting protocol in our 14-day Warrior Made diet to help ease you into this lifestyle. Easing into fasting will allow your body to adapt to not eating all the time and protect your hormonal balance. </p> <p>The Warrior Made method involves easing into fasting, depending on how long you have been following the plan. If you are a beginner, you could start with a 10 to 12 hour fast once every two weeks by skipping breakfast. You would be sleeping during most of the fasting hours, so it would make it a bit easier. You can drink water, tea, and black coffee on fasting days. On the non-fasting days, you would try to eat a well-balanced, healthy, whole-food diet to make up for lost nutrients. </p> <p>Eventually, you could extend your fasting time by moving to skipping lunch as well. An advanced person would fast for 24 to 36 hours, skipping breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The point is to start experimenting to determine how fasting days make you feel. </p> <p>Intermittent fasting can be a great addition to any weight loss plan. It can help make it easier to control your calories and doesn’t require any special meal planning. But if you are going to try it, choose a method that works for you and your lifestyle. If you want to learn more about how keto and intermittent fasting work best together, check out our <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">nutrition page</a> for the latest articles on the topic. </p> <div class="sub-head">Resources</div> <ol> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Resting energy expenditure in short-term starvation</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Intermittent fasting interventions</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Effect of an acute fast on energy compensation</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Intermittent versus daily calorie restriction</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Effect of intermittent fasting and refeeding on insulin</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Short-term modified alternate-day fasting</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Interleukin-6, C-reactive protein and biochemical parameters</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">The Role of Autophagy in Cancer: Therapeutic Implications</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Safety of alternate day fasting and effect on disordered eating behaviors</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Effects of Intermittent Feeding Upon Growth and Life Span in Rats</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Functional hypothalamic amenorrhea</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Functional hypothalamic amenorrhea and its influence on women's health</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Fasting enhances growth hormone secretion</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Enhanced thermogenic response to epinephrine </a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Alternate-day fasting in nonobese subjects</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">Glucose tolerance and skeletal muscle gene expression</a></li> </ol> </section> </article>

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