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Intermittent Fasting for Women: Its Benefits and Effectiveness
Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent Fasting for Women: Its Benefits and Effectiveness

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by Edibel Quintero, RD | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on 2022 September 26
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9 min

Fasting for women is a new trend that has taken the internet by storm. Based on science, many claim it can help you lose weight, preserve muscle mass, and reduce stress, but should women fast? We look closely at intermittent fasting for women and tell you if it’s effective and how you can safely do it.

Intermittent fasting for women

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Intermittent fasting refers to eating plans that alternate between fasting and eating periods. The goal is to starve the body long enough to trigger fat burning systematically. 

Some approaches recommend fasting for a predetermined period, while others recommend fasting for an entire day, several times each week.

While research is still underway, and the method may not be suitable for everyone, there’s evidence that intermittent fasting can help lose weight, lower cholesterol, and improve mental clarity and insulin sensitivity when done correctly.

Even though many people swear by it, there are mixed reactions and questions about whether or not intermittent fasting is safe for women.

And while both men and women can fast, women need to take a moderate approach to minimize any potential adverse effects on fertility, bones, or overall well-being.

Here we take a closer look at intermittent fasting for women, including its effectiveness, how to do it, what its benefits are, how you can do it for weight loss, and answer your questions.

Intermittent Fasting for Women – Is It Effective?

Women can utilize intermittent fasting to successfully lose weight and meet their weight loss goals while enjoying other benefits of IF. Finding the means to change your eating habits to work with your lifestyle and daily schedule while also being beneficial to your body is all that is required. 

Your body starts to go into a fasting condition as soon as you stop consuming calorie-rich foods or drinks.

Although there’s not enough research to support the effectiveness of intermittent fasting for women, intermittent fasting can still be effective and beneficial to women’s health as long as they take a gradual approach to it.

Women should approach fasting more calmly than men. For women, fasting for shorter periods, fewer days, and consuming fewer calories is the best option. 

You should also drink plenty of fluids to keep you hydrated and give you a feeling of being full. Dehydration while fasting can affect your energy levels and make you feel weak and drowsy.

Women should also eat healthily and in moderation during fasting and avoid abruptly reducing calorie intake. Eating less makes you weaker and deprives your body of the nutrients it needs to function properly, reducing a fast’s effectiveness.

Does Intermittent Fasting Work for Women?

Intermittent fasting works for most women, although you may need to approach it gradually. This is because women can be more sensitive to IF due to the monthly menstrual cycles and accompanying hormonal changes. This can inhibit the expected health benefits of intermittent fasting.

Additionally, women’s bodies are more sensitive to prolonged fasting and caloric restriction stressors. 

When calorie intake is low, such as from fasting for a long time, eating insufficient calories or carbohydrates, losing too much weight, going through stressful times, or exercising excessively, the hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for hormone release, may slow down some functions.

This causes a drop in levels of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), a hormone responsible for releasing reproductive hormones such as luteinizing and follicle-stimulating hormones. In women, these hormones cause the ovaries to produce progesterone and estrogen.

You risk irregular periods, infertility, poor bone health, and other side effects if these hormones cannot function properly.

In rat studies, intermittent fasting has also been shown to harm reproductive functions, such as menstruation regularity, fertility, pregnancy, and lactation.

How to Do Intermittent Fasting for Women

Women who don’t get enough sleep, don’t eat enough, have irregular or lack of periods, have medical conditions such as thyroid problems, a history of present or prior disordered eating, are stressed, or have diabetes, shouldn’t try intermittent fasting.

Consistent eating is a helpful way to balance blood sugar and reduce stress.

Start gradually if your healthcare professional or nutritionist has given the all-clear. It’s important to note that it’s not a must to fast for 16 hours or 18 hours to enjoy the benefits, as some studies have proven that fasting for just 12 hours to 14 hours overnight can positively impact your metabolism.

You can start with a 5:2 fasting which will restrict your calorie intake for two days a week, and return to normal eating patterns for the other five days.

You can also incorporate fasting apps like the DoFasting app into your intermittent fasting plan. This app can keep you accountable by guiding you through a personalized daily fasting schedule, conveniently tracking your fasting time, and providing tasty and quick-prep recipes with adequate healthy fats, greens, and lean protein, as well as simple-to-follow video tutorials for at-home workouts.

In addition to the fasting app, you can buy DoFasting supplements that have been thoughtfully created to complement the intermittent fasting journey and make it as sustainable as possible. These supplements are fiber complex designed to act as appetite suppressants to reduce hunger pangs and cravings. 

5 Benefits of Intermittent Fasting for Women

The benefits of intermittent fasting for women are numerous and varied. Here are some of the more common benefits:

#1 Cardiovascular health

The main risk factors for deteriorated heart health are high LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. In a study involving obese men and women, intermittent fasting reduced triglycerides by 32%, LDL cholesterol by 25%, and blood pressure by 6% in just eight weeks.

While many heart health benefits were observed when participants followed their intermittent fasting programs, it’s crucial to note that they weren’t long-lasting. The gains were short-lived, and once participants resumed their usual eating habits, they quickly lost the benefits.

#2 Weight loss

Increased fat burning and weight loss are two significant health benefits of IF. Because intermittent fasting doesn’t call for rigorous food measurement and tracking of calories and grams eaten, many people find it more convenient than regular diets.

Studies indicate that IF can cause the same weight loss as continuous restrictive diets, even if it does not require calorie counting.

Fasting makes your body use your fat stores as fuel, which increases fat burning and speeds up weight loss.

Your body uses glucose as its primary source of energy when you eat, and it stores any extra as glycogen in your muscles and liver.

When you don’t provide your body with a constant supply of glucose, it converts glycogen to fuel. When glycogen is used up, your body looks for alternative energy sources, such as fat cells, which then break down to fuel your body.

This is similar to the keto diet, which forces your body to use stored fat for energy by denying it carbohydrates.

Another study specifically examined the 16/8 intermittent fasting method and revealed that it effectively reduced fat mass while maintaining muscle mass and strength. 

#3 Diabetes management

When you eat, carbohydrates are converted into glucose (sugar) in your bloodstream. Insulin then transports glucose from the bloodstream and into your cells, which can be used as fuel.

For people with diabetes, insulin doesn’t always work well, leading to high blood sugar levels accompanied by symptoms such as exhaustion, thirst, and frequent urination.

According to research, intermittent fasting improves insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels by maintaining stability and avoiding spikes. A fast that lasts at least 16 hours seems to be particularly beneficial for this goal.

In one study, individuals with diabetes fasted for two weeks, 16 hours per day. Intermittent fasting was found to reduce weight, caloric intake, and blood sugar levels.

#4 Reduced inflammation

Although there aren’t many clinical trials, animal research suggests that IF and general calorie restriction can lower inflammation levels.

An analysis was done on a group of 50 participants fasting for Ramadhan, the Muslim holiday, to see if IF can help lower inflammation.

During Ramadan, one observes a 24-hour fast followed by a meal. According to the study, pro-inflammatory indicators, blood pressure, body weight, and body fat were all lower than usual throughout the fasting phase.

#5 Better focus and mental clarity

Fasting can give you clarity and focus, helping you fall asleep faster at night and wake up feeling refreshed during the day. It also helps regulate your moods, especially during stressful times.

A study on animals suggested that fasting every other day could improve memory. 

Additional studies indicate that alternate-day fasting prevents neurodegenerative disorders like strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease by alternating between carbohydrates and fat as your body’s energy sources.

How Long Should You Fast for Weight Loss?

According to a study, two daily fasting diets, also known as time-restricted feeding diets, were found to be effective in helping people lose about 3% of their body weight in about 2 months.

The study evaluated the outcomes of two distinct time-restricted eating diets in which individuals were instructed to fast for 20 and 18 hours, respectively.

Those who participated in the 20-hour fast were free to eat whatever they pleased between 1:00 and 5:00 PM, while those who were given the 18-hour fast had until 7:00 PM to eat. All the participants were allowed to drink water and other calorie-free beverages.

The participants were found to have reduced their calorie intake by approximately 550 calories daily, resulting in an average weight loss of 3%.

Fasting on Your Period – Is It Safe for Your Health?

Fasting when you are menstruating is safe; the week prior is the only time to avoid it. In a regular menstrual cycle, your estrogen levels decrease the week before the start of your period. If an egg is not fertilized, the body may experience stress due to the estrogen decline, increasing cortisol levels.

Therefore, adding additional stressors to the body, like intermittent fasting, may be harmful.

Other women may lose lots of blood during the first three days of their period, which may be stressful for the body. If your periods are heavy or you lose a lot of blood, wait until the bleeding reduces in severity before resuming intermittent fasting.

If you follow a 20:4 intermittent fasting schedule, consider reducing your fasting window to 16 hours or 14 hours for the week. After that, you may intensify your fasting and exercise from day 0 of the cycle through day 14.

FAQs

What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is a dieting method where you eat within a specific time frame each day and fast for the rest of the time. It can be done for a set amount of time, such as 16 hours per day, or it can be broken down into smaller segments over several days.

How long should you do intermittent fasting?

Fasting windows vary from person to person. Choose an eating window that works for you and can stick to. Longer fasting durations, including 24, 36, 48, and 72 hours, may even be dangerous, but if you want to do these, they’re best done under the supervision of a healthcare professional.

How many hours should a woman do intermittent fasting?

It is recommended that women begin with a 14-hour fast and gradually increase it to 16 hours. A fast of 14 to 18 hours per day is ideal for most people, providing more weight loss benefits than a 12-hour fast while still being doable.

Can you lose weight with intermittent fasting?

Yes, but just like any diet, you must commit to it consistently and change your lifestyle. You may take a few weeks to drop your first pound via intermittent fasting, but you can expect to lose approximately a pound per week once you get the hang of it. Some people can lose up to 10 pounds a month.

A Word From a Nutritionist

Intermittent fasting has many potential benefits, but some women may want to avoid it unless their doctor has cleared them.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should not fast or try to do alternate-day fasting.

Fasting while pregnant or breastfeeding may threaten a child’s development. While the baby’s development and milk production require adequate calories during pregnancy and breastfeeding, you may not get enough calories while fasting.

If you are trying to get pregnant, you should also not engage in intermittent fasting because it can make it more difficult for you to conceive. IF can impact fertility, cause changes in the menstrual cycle, disrupt metabolism, and even cause women to experience early menopause.

Women who suffer from disordered eating conditions, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge-eating disorders, should not participate in intermittent fasting because they may be at risk of developing additional eating disorders if they eat too little or too much.

Conclusion

Women often benefit greatly from fasting, and some even thrive on it. You can always start cautiously and observe how your body reacts by attempting softer, shorter fasts a few times per week. You may realize that fasting doesn’t work for you, and that’s okay! The most important factor is to find a beat that feels pleasant to you. Also, remember that different people may respond differently to intermittent fasting. Consult your doctor if you experience a fasting headache, unusual anxiety, nausea, or other symptoms after beginning intermittent fasting.

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
Medically reviewed byRosmy Barrios, MD
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