What Are The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting for Women?

By | January 1, 2020

Intermittent fasting (IF) has been getting a lot of attention in the media as a novel weight loss and health-promoting strategy. While researching this post, I was surprised by how many women were recommending it for weight loss and long-term health. Since I fast every day already, I wanted to learn more about the benefits, sustainable aspects, and how it affects your body.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is not a diet—it’s simply choosing to eat during a smaller time frame of the day. There are different ways to implement this: some people fast every day, whereas others only do it for a few days or weeks at a time.

I’ve been practicing daily intermittent fasting (IF) for years now, and I love it. I’ve only recently started experimenting with alternative ways of fasting, but more on that later.

Fasting is an effective strategy to lose weight because you are consuming fewer calories overall. The main reason intermittent fasting works at all is that you’re giving your digestive system a break, which allows your hormones to reset.

When you’re constantly eating every few hours, your body doesn’t get a break to burn fat and heal itself. Rather, it stays in “fuel-burning mode,” where it’s constantly thinking about how much energy (calories) is coming in versus going out.

Positive Effects Of Fasting

When you give your system a break from eating, your insulin levels drop and your body turns to stored fat for fuel.

Once the positive effects of fasting set in (reduced blood sugar, improved insulin sensitivity), you can add a few healthy food items back into your diet without gaining weight because now your metabolism is running efficiently again.

Now that I’ve explained the basics of how intermittent fasting works, let’s look at where women fit in.

Intermittent Fasting For Women

The general guidelines for intermittent fasting for women are as follows:

You can break these longer fasts down into 8-hour, 10-hour, and 12-hour fasts. If you’re a woman who is trying out this eating schedule, I recommend starting with an 8 or 10 hour fast and working your way up.

If you start with a 12 hour fast and it’s too difficult, slowly add an hour until you get to 10 hours.

8-Hour Fasting Window

From my personal experience, the 8-hour window is usually when I break my fast in the morning and have one meal. Then I’ll do another 8 hours fast in the evening—I love the feeling of going to bed with a full and satisfied stomach.

I recommend eating your larger meal in the evening for two reasons: 1) you’ll get all of your calories out of the way at one time, so you won’t be tempted to snack 2) insulin sensitivity is higher in the evening than in the morning, so it’s better to eat your food when you have higher sensitivity.

If you’re a woman who is struggling with PCOS or insulin resistance, ask your doctor for specific guidelines on how fasting may or may not affect you and your medication. If they give the OK, then there’s nothing stopping you from trying this eating schedule—just make sure to keep hydrated and be careful.

How Does Intermittent Fasting Affect Your Hormones?

If you care about your hormonal health (and who doesn’t), intermittent fasting is an excellent eating schedule for several reasons:

It improves insulin sensitivity, which helps balance blood sugar levels and reduces inflammation It increases growth hormone production, which is crucial for women’s metabolic health and strong immune system It decreases the amount of estrogen in your body, which reduces your risk of breast cancer and PCOS

Why Fasting Works For Easier Weight Loss

Fasting is also excellent for weight loss, because most women (myself included) do not need to eat as many calories for maintenance. If you’re like me and can’t seem to lose weight no matter what you try, intermittent fasting is a great option. It increases fat loss, helps you build lean muscle, and gives your digestive system a much-needed break from digesting so it can focus on other things.

How To Handle Hunger And Sugar Cravings While Fasting

During my first few attempts at intermittent fasting, as a woman, I noticed that I was hungry and craving sugar in the mornings. The hunger went away after several days of practicing the eating schedule, but I’m assuming that if you’re struggling with sugar cravings in general, it will take longer.

To combat this problem, start your morning with a cup of hot water and lemon juice to help cleanse your system and rid yourself of any lingering sugar cravings. Then eat lighter meals in the morning (think a handful of nuts and a piece of fruit) if your stomach is grumbling. Your body will adjust soon enough, I promise!

Intermittent fasting improves the quality of your sleep, which not only helps you feel refreshed for the day ahead but also boosts growth hormone production. It’s also been proven to be beneficial to those with insomnia and sleep disorders.

The Keys To Intermittent Fasting For Women

While intermittent fasting is an excellent way to improve your health, it’s important to remember that there are several other aspects of a healthy lifestyle that need attention in order for them to be effective. This means exercising regularly, getting plenty of sleep, lowering stress levels, and drinking plenty of water.

While on your intermittent fasting plan, I also recommend eating a well-balanced diet that includes lean protein, healthy fats, and low glycemic carbs to help minimize hunger cravings. By doing this you’ll be encouraging your body to burn fat as its fuel source, which is key for anyone looking to trim down their waistline or manage PCOS symptoms.

What To Eat On Your Intermittent Fasting Plan

You should eat according to your specific body and calorie needs (the basics of healthy eating) but I recommend drinking plenty of water, limiting intake on carbs and sugars if you’re struggling with cravings, and avoiding processed foods at all costs.

My first meal usually consists of a protein shake with almond milk, hemp seeds, half an avocado or organic fruit, spinach or kale, ground flaxseeds, low-sodium vegetable broth powder, Stevia, ice cubes, probiotic powder, maca powder, chlorella powder, spirulina, bee pollen granules, MCT oil powder, coconut oil powder, and vanilla extract. I blend the whole thing together in a Nutribullet cup and drink it down with a straw to make it easier on my digestive system.

My second meal tends to be a large meal consisting mainly of vegetables with some type of lean protein. For example, I recently roasted several types of veggies in coconut oil before adding oven-baked cod filets on top. Sometimes I’ll make brown rice or quinoa pasta with low-sodium veggie broth instead if it fits macros.

Sometimes I’ll go with an assortment of organic veggies, grass-fed meat or wild fish, and a homemade dressing made from extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder.

My Experience Starting Intermittent Fasting

After a few days of practicing intermittent fasting, I noticed that my body was actually craving it. After a week, no matter what time I ate, my stomach seemed to always be grumbling by the evening and all I wanted to do was skip dinner and go straight to bedtime.

The hunger did get a little worse from time-to-time, but it was never so serious that I couldn’t avoid eating in the evening.

I’ll likely be continuing with intermittent fasting on most days of the week in order to give my pancreas a much-needed break every now and then. It’s also an excellent way for me to get enough protein in when I’m not feeling very hungry in the morning.

What happened after a cheat day

I tried a cheat day to see what would happen when I gave my body an abundance of carbs from sugar and gluten products, but within a few hours, it caused me to crash badly. The intensity was so bad that I spent over two hours vomiting in the middle of the night and felt completely drained for most of the following day. Needless to say, I won’t be doing that again in the near future … ever!

So far, intermittent fasting has proved to be a helpful and positive dietary habit for me and something that will likely become a permanent addition to my lifestyle. Who knows? Perhaps I’ll eventually shift over into full-on fasting once or twice per week in the same way I started with intermittent fasting.

##Intermittent Fasting Results

Did intermittent fasting give me good results? Yes!

After an initial adjustment period of about 2-3 weeks, I feel like intermittent fasting has improved my digestive system. Also, it’s become easier for me to fast after an entire day.

On the downside, my energy levels have decreased over time and I’ve found that during the late morning hours around 10am, I feel slightly lightheaded if I haven’t eaten anything yet.

Additionally, intermittent fasting has only helped me lose weight around my midsection, but it hasn’t made any noticeable changes to the other parts of my body that need improvement.

I’m considering shifting over to extended water-only fasts in order to get better results on the other parts of my body. This might be something I experiment with for the long term, but until then, intermittent fasting is definitely giving me good results.

What Are The Rules For Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting has different styles. A common one is the 16/8, but a couple others that I’ve heard of are 24-hour fasts and 36-hour fasts.

The rules for intermittent fasting are simple. They include only eating within a certain time frame, not eating at all during another time frame, and processing any calories I do eat during my feeding period.

What Are The Different Types Of Intermittent Fasting?

The idea behind intermittent fasting was originally based on the biological fact that our ancestors used to eat for only short periods of time each day because they didn’t have access to food all day, every day.

16/8 Intermittent Fasting

The 16/8 style involves fasting for at least 16 hours and then eating all my calories (up to 1,000) during the remaining 8 hours.

5:2 diet

The idea behind the 5:2 diet is simple. I fast on Monday and Thursday and eat normally on the other days of the week.

The 5:2 diet is good for me because I can still eat one or two small meals (up to 600 calories) per day, which makes it easy for me to stick to the plan long-term.

Also, I’m technically “fasting” around 12 hours each week with this protocol, which is not too difficult.

24-Hour Fast

A 24-hour fast involves cutting calories for an entire day and then eating whatever I want the next day.

36-Hour Fast

The 36-hour fast is similar to the 24-hour fast, but it involves fasting for a full 36 hours instead of just one day. This is very taxing on my body.

The 24-hour fast is easier to maintain. During this type of intermittent fasting, I don’t eat for at least 24 hours, but then it doesn’t matter if I eat all my calories in an 8-hour window or a 12-hour window after that point.

The 36-hour fast is the same idea as the 24-hour fast, but it’s easier for me to maintain since I don’t have to wait as long. For example, if I stop eating on Monday at 8 am and then don’t eat again until Tuesday at 8 am, that’s technically 36 hours without food.

The 24-hour fast is good for days when my schedule is flexible, but if I’m not busy enough, I’ll go for the easier-to-maintain 36-hour fast instead. The 16/8 style is usually good for days when I have to wake up early and can’t sleep in too much because it’s easier to maintain than the other two options.

Eat-Stop-Eat Diet

Intermittent fasting with the Eat-Stop-Eat style of dieting is a straightforward approach. It has been popularized by Brad Pilon, author of “Eat Stop Eat,” and this eating system involves fasting for 24 hours at least one day per week.

The rules say that I can eat whatever I want until I reach my daily calorie goal, but I can only stop eating after noon. Once I stop eating, I continue fasting through the day and eat all of my calories for that day in a single 8-hour window at night.

I’m not supposed to eat anything outside these 8 hours. If I do, then that’s cheating.

The Warrior Diet

The Warrior Diet is an eating plan that requires me to eat only one large meal every day. I can, however, eat as much as I want during this single daily meal.

For example, I’m supposed to eat a huge serving of meat and a bunch of vegetables during my one daily meal, but I can follow the rules as strictly or loosely as I want.

I’m not allowed to eat anything outside of this large one-time meal, though. This means that if I do drink calories at other times during the day, such as in the form of coffee or tea, I’d have to do without them during my one daily meal.

I’m supposed to eat only at night every day and fast every single morning. This diet is very difficult for me because I like eating breakfast (usually Greek yogurt with granola), so this protocol takes some getting used to.

How Much Weight Can I Lose Doing Intermittent Fasting?

This obviously depends on how many calories I consume each day and how much exercise I do. Some of the most drastic weight loss has occurred when I’ve consumed only 500-600 calories per day.

If I want to lose 1 lb (0.45 kg) per week, then this presents a challenge because it would take me 5-6 weeks to get down to my goal weight if I ate 500-600 calories every single day.

I usually aim to eat between 1,200 and 1,500 calories per day so that I can lose weight faster. If

I eat 1,500 calories per day, then should allow me to lose about 1 lb (0.45 kg) every week.

On the Warrior Diet, for example, I can probably expect some pretty significant weight loss because I’m eating only one meal per day (and it’s a big one). The calorie restriction while fasting on alternate days is likely to cause even more weight loss if I can actually manage to avoid eating outside my large meal at night.

Is Intermittent Fasting Healthy?

Intermittent fasting has been proven to have major health benefits, but that doesn’t mean I should do it just for the sake of being healthy. The only way I can reap those benefits is if I can manage to restrict calories enough (while still getting the nutrients I need) and if I always stop eating before I get full.

That’s where intermittent fasting begins to resemble a diet, rather than just a healthy way of eating. As long as I continue to eat well and exercise regularly, I should be able to get all of the positive benefits of intermittent fasting, but I don’t know if it will actually help me lose weight.

From my experience, it’s a good diet for people who have a lot of weight to lose because it provides a simple protocol and is easy to stick with. When I did eat one meal per day while following the Warrior Diet, for example, I didn’t feel at all hungry during the first half of my meal.

Intermittent Fasting And Low Carb

Low carb foods go well with intermittent fasting because they help me control cravings. When I’m hungry, I usually crave something sweet or starchy, but if I eat low carb foods, then it helps to eliminate those kinds of cravings.

The most important thing is that my diet includes enough protein because the amino acids in protein are what keep me satisfied after eating a meal.

If I don’t get enough protein, then I can end up feeling hungry even when I haven’t eaten for a long time.

With the Warrior Diet, for example, my one meal per day typically includes a lot of meat because it’s what keeps me full and satisfied until the following evening. If I keep eating low carb foods while also reducing my calorie intake, then I should lose weight quickly.

The only problem is that low carb diets are pretty restrictive and often not all that healthy because they cut out an entire macronutrient (carbohydrates). So if I’m going to follow the Warrior Diet protocol, then I’ll need to take a multivitamin or another source of micronutrients just to make sure I’m getting everything that I need.

Vegetables And Fruits

It would also be a good idea for me to eat lots of vegetables and fruits with my big meal every day because those foods contain plenty of antioxidants and phytochemicals, as well as micronutrients. This isn’t easy when you’re only eating once per day, but I can at least try to eat some berries, onions, garlic, and other colorful vegetables.

I’ll probably have the most success with it if I stick to fresh produce because cooking will destroy many of the antioxidants that are otherwise beneficial for my health. This means that I should only use low-heat methods of preparing my food or else I’ll nullify some of the benefits that intermittent fasting has to offer.

It’s not clear if intermittent fasting is healthy for everyone, but it probably is as long as I always stop eating before I get full and eat lots of low carb foods along with my one meal per day. It may be hard to stick with at first, but it should be easier as I become accustomed to having a lot less food.

My Low Carb Intermittent Fasting Food List

  • Protein-rich foods like meat, fish, legumes, and low carb dairy products
  • Fruits and vegetables with antioxidants or polyphenols like blueberries, red onions, garlic, kale, tomatoes, carrots (low starch vegetables are best)
  • Nuts and seeds with magnesium, zinc, or choline
  • Water (especially in the morning)
  • Coffee (with minimal carbs and fat)
  • Tea (with antioxidants)

Supplements like magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, iron, zinc, vitamin D (unless I’m getting enough sunlight), folic acid (unless my diet includes lots of folate), etc.

If you’re looking for a new way to eat that will improve your health and make you feel better, intermittent fasting might be the answer. Most people who practice IF alternate between periods of eating and periods of not eating, usually lasting anywhere from 12-36 hours at a time.

Intermittent fasting is great because it’s easy to do without feeling hungry or deprived by restricting yourself too severely during those times when you can’t consume food.

We know how hard it is sometimes to keep up with healthy habits like exercise and strict diets, but we promise if you commit to practicing intermittent fasting as part of your life every now and then – just 3 days per week – you’ll start noticing many positive changes in both how much energy you have throughout the day.

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