Intermittent Fasting for Women
January 23, 2023
Intermittent Fasting for Women
Valued globally at an estimated $35.02 billion in 2019 alone, the world of women’s well-being has many magic pills to sell. With fad diets, magic gadgets and pricey products all promising health and happiness, many women find themselves frustrated at the lack of success and sustainability with many of the options that are on offer to them.
Here at Fastic, we’re passionate about holistic health and empowering our users to make educated decisions based on their own unique needs.
In recent years, intermittent fasting has become increasingly popular, with many people turning to this intentional eating pattern to reach their health and well-being goals.
Due to its flexible nature, many women are drawn to intermittent fasting to improve their weight and overall health.
But is it safe for women? What effect does it have on hormonal health? Should you fast while menopausal? You may have many questions regarding your feminine health and whether fasting is right for you, so let’s exercise that inquisitive mind.
In this guide, we will explore the benefits fasting can provide for women, its risks and rewards, and how women of all ages can get started safely.
What is intermittent fasting?
For beginners and pros alike, intermittent fasting can be an incredible health tool for everyone at any stage of their health journey.
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that intentionally alternates periods of eating and fasting. Having evolved from various cultural and religious practices, and deep rooted in holistic health wisdom, intermittent fasting is not the new-age fad or diet that you may have otherwise been led to believe.
Unlike diets, which restrict calorie intake, intermittent fasting does not rely on the restriction of which foods you can eat. Instead, fasting focuses on when you eat - and that’s where the magic lies!
When we intentionally time our intake, we are given the chance to enter different biological processes that our body cannot perform if we’re eating around the clock.
For example, you may choose to fast for 16 hours every day and then eat all of your meals within an 8-hour window. This popular type of fasting is simply known as 16:8 intermittent fasting. At 16 hours fasted, your body enters autophagy - a process where old cell components and unused proteins are recycled, completely renewing the cells at work!
Other popular forms of intermittent fasting include the 5:2 diet, where you eat normally for 5 days and then complete intentional fasts for 2 days, and the 24-hour fast, where you fast for a full 24 hours every week.
When we are continuously eating, processes like autophagy cannot happen because we’re busy digesting all of the tasty treats we’ve just eaten. Fasting can offer digestive rest, cellular renewal and a reduction in inflammation - hello clearer mind, increased energy and weight loss!
If you’d like to learn more about the types of intermittent fasting, check out our blog!
The Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Women
We are all so unique, and that’s our superpower! We want to help you to feel inspired by every part of your health journey, but when starting, it’s important that we respect the physiological difference between women and men’s bodies so that we can provide the right care for ourselves.
From hormonal differences to metabolic rates, cyclical changes and muscular type, we’re very different.
While intermittent fasting can benefit everyone if tailored to specific needs, some studies suggest that intermittent fasting may in fact benefit men more than women. This study (1) found that after 3 weeks, women had a worse glucose response, or more drastic spikes and crashes, after eating a meal than the men did. In the same study however, men had a worse insulin response, meaning their bodies couldn't use the glucose as effectively.
In another study (2), while the efficacy of weight-loss between men and women saw no significant difference, there was an improvement in “bad” cholesterol of premenopausal women compared to the men studied.
Despite some studies suggesting that men may benefit more, intermittent fasting can still change the lives of women, helping them to feel stronger, more energetic and healthier than ever before. Many Fastic users have reported effects such as:
- Fat loss
- Reduced blood pressure
- Diabetic management or reversal
- Better sleep
- Increased energy
- Improved focus
- Disease management or reversal
- A healthier relationship with food and their body
It is, however, important to note that all lifestyles, intermittent fasting included, will affect all women differently. When adopting this lifestyle, we recommend you seek professional guidance, expert support (we’re here to help!), and listen to your body as you progress, adjusting as and when you need.
How Intermittent Fasting Affects Female Hormones
As with any lifestyle change, intermittent fasting can have an effect on a woman’s hormones.
One study (3) has noted that with a reduction of calories, intermittent fasting may reduce the production of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), a hormone that prompts the release of two reproductive hormones: luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH).
When the body’s hormones can’t communicate effectively with the ovaries, there is a risk of irregular periods, poor bone health, a reduction in fertility and other health effects.
However, with a mindful approach to intermittent fasting and accounting for an adequate caloric and nutritional intake, this lifestyle can be safe and incredibly rewarding.
If you are concerned about hormonal imbalances or any implications that fasting may bring, we advise that you consult a doctor or registered dietitian to help you adopt a modified style of intermittent fasting. Shorter fasting periods (such as 16:8) can be a healthy and sustainable option for women to implement into their health routine.
Intermittent Fasting and the Menopause
Signifying the end of a woman’s reproductive years, the menopause is a milestone that every woman will reach at some point in life. Around the age of 45-55 years old, a woman’s ovaries stop the production of estrogen and progesterone, eventually leading to the end of menstruation.
A woman is considered to be menopausal when she has not had a period for 12 consecutive months - while amenorrhea (the loss of a period), is not exclusive to menopausal women.
While kissing good-bye to buying an abundance of sanitary supplies may sound like a total dream, the menopause can be a turbulent time for many, resulting in symptoms (4) such as hot flashes, weight gain, changes in mood and troubles sleeping. This can find many women seeking to better their health and well-being during this time to ease symptoms.
At this stage of life, a common complaint for women is the struggle to lose weight, especially around the stubborn midsection. While this can stem from many factors, the most common issue is a slowed metabolism due to shifts in hormones.
Enter stage: intermittent fasting!
With the well known effects of intermittent fasting being evident throughout adult life, it may also help to alleviate and even eradicate symptoms of the menopause, such as stubborn tummy-fat. This is because it can kickstart your metabolism into action!
During the later stages of intermittent fasting, your body switches from the glucose you have ingested (hello tasty treats!) and turns to stored fat for an energy source, metabolizing fat (5) and fuelling the furnace to empower your day. Pretty cool, right?
Supporting your body through the menopause with the addition of intermittent fasting can be extremely beneficial to women of all walks of life. However, it is important to note that intermittent fasting is not a substitute for medical treatment, and any woman considering intermittent fasting should speak to her doctor first. Shifts and symptoms will differ woman to woman, so it’s important to recognize what’s ‘normal’ to your unique body and align with your healthcare provider if you have any concerns.
Health Benefits for Women
Men and women alike can find value from intermittent fasting in a number of ways. Some benefits include improved insulin sensitivity, weight loss, improved mental clarity, increased energy levels, improved digestion, and a reduced risk of certain diseases, such as diabetes (6) and heart disease (7).
Intermittent fasting has also been seen to help to reduce inflammation, which can help to reduce the risk (8) of many diseases, such as cancers, rheumatoid arthritis and Alzheimer's.
Accompanying the physical benefits, intermittent fasting has also been praised for improving mental health through healing the digestive system, reducing oxidative stress on the brain (linked to anxiety and depression) and providing a healthier lifestyle for the faster; accounting towards a more conscious relationship to food and a reduction in stress around mealtimes.
While intermittent fasting can help people to improve their relationship with food and their body, at Fastic do not recommend fasting to those who have suffered with an eating disorder, and encourage anyone who is struggling to seek professional support.
The Best Types of Intermittent Fasting for Women
When it comes to intermittent fasting, it is important to choose a routine that is best suited to your lifestyle and goals. It is important to take into consideration;
- Your responsibilities (including work and family)
- Your long and short term goals
- Your current and past health status
- Any contraindications which may be complicated by intermittent fasting
For women in all stages of their life, the best types of intermittent fasting are typically shorter fasting periods, such as the 16:8 method, or the 5:2 plan. These methods are generally less likely to have a negative effect on your hormones, and are easier to maintain in the long-term, encouraging a healthier mindset towards fasting.
Some women choose to cycle their fasting plans around their period; opting for short fasts of 12-16 hours during menstruation, where their body requires more energy, and working up to longer fasts during ovulation, where they’re feeling full of life and want to make the most of what intermittent fasting has to offer.
If this is something you’re interested in exploring, check out the Fastic Academy on Fastic Plus today. We’re chatting all things chica, helping you to navigate each part of your cycle with ease and empowerment!
How to Get Started with Intermittent Fasting
We’ve got you girl! Fasting is a life-changing decision and we’d love to support you with this.
First, it’s important to check in with your doctor. Your doctor will be able to give you advice on the best type of fasting for you, based on your previous medical history and lifestyle.
Once you have chosen the type of fasting that is right for you, it is important to start slowly and increase the length of your fasting periods gradually, in order to give your body time to adjust. You may find that you experience some side-effects during the first few weeks, but as your body adjusts, detoxes and heals, you will soon find your groove.
As with all lifestyle changes, forming new habits and behaviors can be an ongoing process that requires learning, support and encouragement from an accountability partner. You can find all of this on Fastic Plus - along with hundreds of nutritionist-approved recipes, academy courses written by our Fastic experts and even a buddy system, where you can add and chat with friends from across the world!
Safety and Side Effects
Intermittent fasting is generally safe for most people, but there are some potential side effects that you should be aware of.
As we mentioned, in the first week or two of your new fasting routine, you may experience some discomfort as your body adjusts. This may include fatigue, headaches, low blood sugar, dehydration, and irritability.
Remember; while you are fasting, it is vitally important to continue to stay hydrated and to eat enough calories for your body and your lifestyle. Start slow and let your body adjust to your new formed habits.
If your symptoms continue for more than 2 weeks or you are concerned, it’s time to reach out to your doctor. You may just need to make a small change for you to notice a big difference.
Whether you’re looking to lose weight or improve overall well-being, intermittent fasting could be the next step in your journey. This popular and impactful method of eating can offer an array of impressive benefits to both physical and mental health if used appropriately.
No matter your goals and lifestyle, there’s an intermittent fasting plan that’s right for you. With Fastic, you will have the tools and support you need to make intermittent fasting simple and sustainable. Interested in giving it a go?
Download Fastic today to join the Fastic Family to start your intermittent fasting journey!
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