Intermittent Fasting for Women: Everything You Should Know Before Starting

October 1, 2021

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Intermittent fasting is a method of time-restricted eating where you alternate between eating and fasting periods.

There is a variety of ways you can practice intermittent fasting with different fasting period lengths and alternate days you can fast on.

Each different kind of intermittent fasting comes with health benefits, including weight loss, improved cardiovascular health, and reduced risk of developing diabetes.

Intermittent fasting, though proven to aid in weight loss, has different effects on men and women.

While it is still a safe method of weight loss for women, there are some things women should understand about intermittent fasting before trying it out.

  • What is intermittent fasting?
  • Does fasting affect women and men differently?
  • How to succeed when doing intermittent fasting
  • What health benefits women may experience when fasting?
  • What are the best types of fasting for women?
  • Women fasters success stories
  • Are there any side effects of intermittent fasting?

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is a method of weight loss that involves fasting and eating periods with different time restrictions. 

During the fasting period, little to no calories can be eaten, but during the eating window, you can usually eat normally. Best results are seen when a healthy and balanced diet is followed during the eating window.

Intermittent fasting comes in lots of varieties, from 12 hour fasting periods to full-day fasts to alternate-day fasting. All kinds of intermittent fasting help promote weight loss along with other health benefits.

An intermittent fasting diet is thought to reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases, lower insulin resistance and prevent the development of diabetes, help to regulate blood sugar, and lower blood pressure.

Though intermittent fasting is a proven method of weight loss, especially for obese people, there are some differences between the way it affects men and women. 

These differences may alter the way your body functions during fasting periods. We will discuss them in the next section.

Does Fasting Affect Women and Men Differently?

It is thought that fasting affects men and women differently. There are a few ways the female body responds differently to fasting which are as follows:

  • Blood sugar - One of the many benefits of intermittent fasting is more control over blood sugar levels, however, it is thought that blood sugar levels may worsen in women after three weeks of regular fasting.
  • Menstruation - There is some anecdotal evidence that a woman’s menstrual cycle is changed by regular fasting. Some women report inconsistencies in their menstrual cycle and missed periods after following a fasting diet.
  • Fertility hormones - After regular periods of fasting, the hypothalamus may be triggered and release hormones linked to fertility that can lead to reduced fertility in women.

The reasons for the different responses to intermittent fasting come from the female body’s reaction to restricted calories. The female body is thought to be incredibly susceptible to calorie restrictions, leading to some negative consequences.

It is important to note that evidence is not conclusive for all of these effects and some of the evidence is purely anecdotal.

How to succeed when doing intermittent fasting?

When it comes to intermittent fasting, there are a few ways you can ensure you succeed in your weight loss goals. We have summarized some of them below.

  1. Start with smaller fasting windows

As the female body is incredibly sensitive to calorie restrictions, it is essential that you begin with shorter fasts and work your way up.

Starting with just a twelve-hour fast can help your body to adjust to its new eating schedule and ensure that you don’t trigger any sudden changes in hormones or blood sugar spikes.

After a few weeks of trying short fasts, you could try adding longer fasts into your schedule.

For successful intermittent fasting, women should build up slowly to long fasts.

  1. Define clear expectations and set up a long-term plan

When it comes to weight loss goals, the best way to see results fast is to set small, realistic goals that you know you can achieve.

One of the best methods of goal-setting for exercise is setting SMART goals. These goals need to follow the criteria in the SMART acronym.

The acronym stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. Setting goals within this criteria means setting goals that are realistic and easily measured.

When it comes to intermittent fasting, setting small goals each week, like fasting for short periods of time each day, can help you to build up to the longer fasts.

It can also help you to feel more productive if you reach smaller goals more consistently than constantly striving for the big overall goal which can seem far off and unattainable.

Intermittent fasting for women needs to be built slowly so that the body can acclimatize to the fasting periods. Small goal setting is a good way to focus the mind on the way up.

  1. Women in their 40s and 50s should have a slightly different approach

Though there are some issues surrounding blood sugar levels, intermittent fasting methods in women in their 40s and 50s have been shown to be a very good way to lose weight.

Particularly for women who have gone through menopause, intermittent fasting can be one of the best methods of losing weight in a time when it might be more difficult.

Additionally, a fasting diet may be a good way to reduce the chances of developing age-related illnesses in women in their 40s and 50s.

There are a number of methods of intermittent fasting that have been found to be useful for women in their 50s but the most popular kinds are the daily fasting types. These include the 16:8 method and the 12:12 method.

  1. Use an intermittent fasting app to help you

Another great way to succeed on an intermittent fasting diet is to track and organize yourself on days when you are fasting. A great way to do so is to use a fasting app, like our very own DoFasting app.

The app allows you to track your calories, set reminders for fasting times, track the water you drink, and make your fasting periods run smoothly.

You will also find the app can offer a range of recipes that are suitable for eating periods as well as fasting periods, to help maintain any calorie restrictions set.

Organization is key to staying on track with a fasting diet and can stop you from giving up easily.

  1. Follow a healthy diet for the best fasting results

During eating periods in an intermittent fasting diet, you will find you’re usually allowed to eat anything you want but the best results come when you choose healthy and whole foods.

A healthy and balanced diet is one that focuses on plant foods, like fruit and vegetables, and is full of whole foods, like grains. You should also eat a small number of healthy fats for good heart health.

When eating on an intermittent fasting diet, try to stay as healthy as possible and ensure you nourish yourself with all of the nutrients your body needs to see you through the fast.

You should also aim to incorporate exercise into your daily routine to maintain muscle mass.

What Health Benefits Women May Experience When Fasting?

The health benefits of intermittent fasting for women are numerous and shouldn’t be ignored when considering this kind of diet.

Women who fast may boost the autophagy process

Autophagy is the process by which cells recycle themselves to make way for new, healthier cells. The autophagy process can be seen as a self-cleaning process performed by cells.

Autophagy removes toxins and other waste material that can be linked to disease and poor health and replenishes the body.

It is good for overall health as well as the health of individual organs. Autophagy is thought to slow in older age and has been linked to a number of chronic illnesses.

Increased autophagy can be linked to a longer lifespan.

Intermittent fasting is known to boost autophagy, helping to increase overall health and longevity.

Intermittent fasting may improve women’s cognitive health

Intermittent fasting has been linked to better cognitive health in women.

It is thought that the increased growth of new cells and reduction of inflammation brought on by intermittent fasting have close links with better cognitive function.

Intermittent fasting has also been linked to better mental health. It is thought to reduce symptoms of depression and help to stop binge eating and other patterns of disordered eating, though anyone with a history of eating disorders should avoid this kind of diet.

Women may also find improved heart health from fasting 

As briefly mentioned above, intermittent fasting can have a positive effect on risk factors of poor heart health in women.

Intermittent fasting is known to help women lose weight and reduce body fat which can significantly reduce the chances of developing cardiovascular disease.

On top of this, intermittent fasting reduces other markers of poor cardiovascular health, including high cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Intermittent fasting can help to lower LDL cholesterol levels (commonly known as the bad kind of cholesterol) while also reducing blood pressure and triglyceride levels.

The lower the blood markers of poor cardiovascular health, the less likely it is that you will develop heart problems, like heart disease, stroke, and other heart-related illnesses.

Fasting may also help with managing diabetes

Intermittent fasting is considered a good method of regulation of blood glucose levels that can help with the management and prevention of diabetes and helps to reduce lowered insulin sensitivity.

Fasting causes fewer spikes in blood sugar throughout the day which can help the regulation of insulin and promote a normal response to blood sugar increases.

A normal response also helps to reduce the chances of lowered insulin sensitivity. Many people already have some insulin resistance so slowing this down can help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes.

Women may lose weight when fasting

The biggest reason so many people turn to intermittent fasting is its proven ability to help you shed pounds.

There are a few mechanisms that help you to shed pounds quickly on a diet of intermittent fasting. The first is the reduction of calories you consume.

Whatever kind of fasting you chose, from alternate day fasting to the 12:12 method, you are limiting the amount of time you have to eat and eating fewer meals. This prevents overeating and helps to reduce your calorie intake.

A reduced calorie intake can lead to a calorie deficit which is the main aim of all diets. A calorie deficit means you burn more calories than you consume, helping you to reduce body weight.

Another way that intermittent fasting can help you to lose weight is through the metabolic switch that is triggered by the fasting state.

Fasting for longer than 12 hours induces a metabolic switching into a state called ketosis where body fat is burned in place of blood sugar for fuel. 

Ketosis means that more fat cells are being burned than would usually be leading to increased fat loss.

What Are the Best Types of Fasting for Women? 

We have mentioned a number of different methods of intermittent fasting that are good for women, and below we have summarized the best methods, how to execute them, and some tips on starting out with them.

Women who just begin fasting may find 12:12 fasting the easiest

The 12:12 method of fasting is the best option to try out if you're a total movie of intermittent fasting.

This method involves fasting for 12 hours and eating for the other 12 hours of the day. During the eating hours, you are allowed to eat whatever you please but following a healthy lifestyle in these hours will show the best results.

The 12:12 method is relatively easy as most of the fasting hours are during sleeping hours. This means that the side effects of fasting, like mood swings and headaches, can be kept to a minimum.

To try this method out, you could stop eating at 7 pm in the evening and then not eat again until 7 am the next day.

14:10 fasting type is the best for women who are comfortable with skipping early morning coffee

The 14:10 method is great for you if you’ve tried out the 12:12 method and want to fast for longer now. It is a good choice if you can handle skipping your morning coffee!

The 14:10 method involves fasting for 14 hours a day and eating normally for 10 hours. The longer fasting time means your body has more time to burn fat.

This method is an alternative for people who have tried the 12:12 method but found it hasn’t worked out.

To try this method, stop eating at 7 pm and then save your breakfast until 9 am the next morning.

16:8 fast type may be the best for women who easily can skip breakfast

The 16:8 method is one of the most popular fasting methods and works really well to kickstart weight loss.

This method involves fasting for 16 hours and eating normally for the other 8 hours.

The method is thought to help you shed body weight while also gaining more lean muscle mass if you’re working out correctly.

The potential health benefits from a 16 hour fast mean quick and healthy weight loss as well as a boost in heart, cognitive health, and increased blood sugar control.

The 16:8 method works best when you start eating at 12 pm, skipping breakfast totally, and then stop eating at 8 pm, fasting through until midday the next day.

5:2 fast may be the best for women who find it easier to do “detox” weekends

The 5:2 method is a method of fasting split over different days. For five days you would eat a normal healthy diet and for two days a week, you would restrict calories to 500 a day.

Most proponents of the 5:2 method suggest breaking up fasting days with an eating day in between but this method is flexible too.

It suits those with a busy life as you can schedule your fasts for days when you’re not as busy to keep physical activity at a minimum.

Random meal skipping may be the best for women who are spontaneous with their meals

Random meal skipping is a much more intuitive form of fasting. It involves skipping meals when you feel it is appropriate to do so.

You may decide to skip dinner after a particularly heavy lunch or skip breakfast when you don't feel too hungry.

This method is an easy way to restrict your calorie intake without committing wholly to a fasting schedule.

Alternate day fasting may be beneficial for women who have lots of social events

Alternate day fasting, like the 5:2 method, involves fasting for full days at a time. The most popular method is to fast every other day, but some people only fast once or twice a week instead.

This method allows for some calories to be eaten on fasting days, limiting it to 500 calories which can be eaten all at once or broken into a few meals.

Alternate day fasting involves full days with very little to no food and so it is best to work yourself up to this amount of fasting.

The warrior diet may be the best for women who enjoy a challenge

The warrior diet, or the 20:4 method, is a method of fasting where you fast for 20 hours a day and then feast for 4 hours.

It is based on the historical eating patterns of warriors, where they would eat very little throughout the day and then feast in the evening.

You can choose when you eat, rather than being restricted to the evenings, to make this fasting method fit your own schedule.

This is a very long time to fast and no food can be eaten in the 20-hour fasting window so you should work up to this length of time.

OMAD may be the best for kicking the weight loss plateau for women

The One Meal A Day, or OMAD method, is popular with people looking to lose weight quickly for an event or to kickstart losing weight.

It is sometimes referred to as the 23:1 method because you fast all day apart from one meal.

This method is very difficult for new fasters and you would need to build up to this level of fasting.

You may choose to only fast like this a few times a week or practice a short course of one week of this method before going back to another kind of fasting.

Women fasters success stories 

Though women are affected differently by fasting, there are still lots of women who found success with intermittent fasting. Below are a few stories of women who have lost weight with intermittent fasting.

Dezarae did 18:6 and 20:4 fasts and managed to lose 43 lbs

After trying and failing to stick to a tonne of different diets, Dezarae managed to lose 43 lbs using intermittent fasting. Her fast schedules of choice are the 18:6 and the 20:4 fasts. 

She recommends not letting setbacks get you down and eating clean during eating windows for the best results. Check out her story here.

Sandra found 18:6 to be the most effective for her and lost 32 lbs 

Looking for a way to shed pounds, Sandra turned to the DoFasting app and intermittent fasting. She tried a range of different fasting methods but favors the 18:6 method which she has used for about a year.

She, too, recommends not letting setbacks get you down and trying out the exercise classes on the app. Read her full story here.

Betsy who did diets her whole life said intermittent fasting was the easiest because she lost 53 lbs within a year

Betsy, who had tried every single diet known to man, has found a way to keep the weight off using intermittent fasting and has lost a huge 53 lbs.

She recommends giving yourself a break every now and then and trying out longer fasts when you get stuck. Read her whole story here.

Annie challenged herself with various intermittent fasting types and within 5 weeks lost 21 pounds

After having three children, Annie decided it was time to lose the weight for her mental health as well as her overall health. She managed to lose 21 lbs in just five weeks with the DoFasting app.

She recommends reminding yourself that you don’t need the sugary snack and weighing yourself at the same time each day. Check out her story here.

Are There Any Side Effects of Intermittent Fasting?

As with any weight-loss method that changes a regular eating pattern, there are some side effects of intermittent fasting. These include headaches, fatigue, hunger pangs, and mood swings.

These side effects tend to dissipate as your body gets used to the fast.

There are also some women who shouldn’t try intermittent fasting diets. These include pregnant women and those with conditions that would be exacerbated by fasting.

In addition, anyone who has suffered from an eating disorder in the past should avoid intermittent fasting as it can encourage a disordered eating pattern and restricts food intake.

Conclusion

An intermittent fasting eating plan is a proven method of reducing body weight for women and tackling weight gain later in life. Fasting affects men and women differently but it is safe for women to use.

Fasting comes with some side effects which tend to disappear after a few weeks and the numerous health benefits make it worth it.

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