Intermittent Fasting For Women & Health Benefits
Intermittent fasting is a popular diet with proven health benefits. It is effective in weight loss and better body composition. Fasting for weight loss cannot have a universal plan. Depending on the individual, the purpose and the desired outcome, the practices may vary. Intermittent fasting results in one month for females can be different from the results of male intermittent fasting.
While men can follow intermittent fasting without having to think much, women on the other hand have to be keeping in mind certain important points. What, you ask? Not gender bias even in dieting! Well, some key points should not be missed in intermittent fasting schedules for women considering their health and well-being. So what should women keep in mind along with the list of ‘things to do’ in a day? Let’s explore!
Before plunging into women’s health in intermittent fasting, let’s first understand what is intermittent fasting.
What is Intermittent Fasting?In a 24-hour time frame, Intermittent fasting basically has a fasting window of 16 hours (14 hours for women) and an eating window of 8 hours. This is the most popularly followed intermittent fasting routine. Some studies claim that fasting can be between 9 to 16 hours depending on the individual preference, health concerns and medical conditions. While regular eating burns simple sugar into glucose, long hours of fasting will drain the glucose stores and start to burn fatty acids (also known as ketones). This ‘ketosis’ process burns fat while maintaining the muscle mass. Ketosis is achieved in men after 16 hours of fasting while for women it takes only 14 hours. Rather than focusing on what you eat, intermittent fasting keeps a check on when you eat. So in the 8-hour eating window, it is necessary that you provide your body with essential nutrients like high proteins, low carbs and good fat along with vitamins and minerals (and yes, no room for junk!!) Along with better body composition and weight loss, intermittent fasting has been shown to improve cardiovascular health, longevity and more.
Types of Intermittent Fasting and its Impact on Women’s Health
Nature has formulated the genetics of men and women differently. There are several ways through which you can fast intermittently. These are based on the time frames that you choose to eat. The three main types of intermittent fasting are 16:8 method, Eat-Stop method and 5:2 method. Let’s delve into what each means.
16:8 method – As mentioned earlier in this article, you eat normally in the 8-hour window and fast for 16 hours.
Eat-Stop method: Here you eat for one day and completely stop eating the next. This can be followed twice a week and is said to have good results in weight loss.
5:2 method: This method involves counting calories for two days in a week. That is, you eat normally for five days in a week of your choice and for the rest of the two days you restrict your calorie intake to 500. This popular method is also followed by many beginners of intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting has amazing benefits especially because of the long hours of fasting time frame. While this can help in burning fats and bringing out the best composition of the body, its effects are different for men and women. Well, that’s how nature has made it!
To understand better, let’s do a quick dive into history. When human beings lived during the hunter- gatherer times, their bodies adapted to hunger differently. Men responded to fasting with a boost in metabolic rate which gives them the energy to hunt for food especially when there is a shortage.
Women’s bodies on the other hand, had a mechanism that slows down the metabolic rate to conserve energy. It stores fat so that it can survive in times of scarcity. So when there is starvation, the female body signals hunger and the inherent need to eat. Additionally, it also says that if the body doesn’t get enough food, then the system which is capable of producing another human inside her body will also shut down completely. This happens regardless of whether the woman is pregnant or trying to conceive; this is how her hormones respond to very long gaps of fasting.
So the tricky part here is that your body doesn’t know that you are intentionally not eating though food is available in abundance. Your body cannot differentiate between starvation and fasting and as a protective mechanism it starts storing fat in female bodies, unlike men whose metabolic rates increase with fasting. While the hormones in female bodies get confused and as a result might lead to other problems like irregular periods, loss of periods, metabolic stress, shrinking of the ovaries, anxiety, issues with fertility and insomnia.
Oh no!! So much for just thinking to shed a few pounds from the body??? Are you now wondering if you really have to even attempt this intermittent fasting?
Don’t give up that soon. There are ways to trick your body to believe that it is not deprived of food. When done with a different time frame, intermittent fasting for women can yield very good results as it does for men. Even breastfeeding mothers can adopt intermittent fasting with proper understanding of the technique. The core idea when it comes to women’s health and intermittent fasting is not to mess up the hormones. Take a look at the guidelines to follow during intermittent fasting for women for the benefit of their health.
Intermittent Fasting for Weight Loss for Women
Here are a few guidelines for intermittent fasting schedules for women that can be followed for effective weight loss. Before we start, it is important to keep in mind that there is little research done in this area and the guidelines given below are considered to be the safest and best methods to follow during intermittent fasting for women. However, as any other diet the results in weight loss may vary from individual to individual.
Intermittent Fasting Schedule for Women
The key point to keep in mind is to not let your body know that it is deprived of food for a long time. So here’s what you can do.
· Do not fast for more than 24 hours at a time.
· It is best to fast for 12 to 14 hours a day.
· Do not fast back-to-back during the first two or three weeks of fasting. That is, follow intermittent fasting three or four days a week instead of the entire week.
· Keep yourself hydrated. Drink a lot of water, herbal tea, soups and broth during intermittent fasting.
· Do not follow heavy exercises on the days of intermittent fasting. Do only light exercises such as walking, yoga or mild stretching.
These guidelines if followed well can yield good results in weight loss for women through intermittent fasting. Well, you see now intermittent fasting isn’t that gender biased! So, ready to start your weight loss journey? Hold on! There’s something more. Intermittent fasting is a strict NO to those women who:
· Are pregnant
· Are under Chronic stress
· Have a history of eating disorders
· Have difficulty in sleeping
If you are a healthy adult female who wants to shed a few extra pounds from the body and bring it back to shape then follow the guidelines given in intermittent fasting schedules for women and have a great weight loss journey. Also, keep in mind that intermittent fasting is not depleting the body of necessary nutrients. It is not starvation and longing for food. Instead it is a change of lifestyle which is healthy. As discussed earlier, now we know how intermittent fasting works differently for men and women. Intermittent fasting can work best by skipping breakfast or any other meal of the day, by eating a balanced diet and not depriving the body of essential nutrients.
Ways to Use Intermittent Fasting for Women for Better Health
- Completely avoid sugar. Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. Make sure that you get your desired amount of protein every day, irrespective of whether you eat vegetarian food or non-veg food. Include beans, lentils, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats in your diet.
- Try not to refrigerate your food. Consume it fresh.
- Allow your body to burn fat between meals. Keep yourself active throughout the day and between meals. Do not nibble at snacks in between meals. Try to build your muscle tone.
- Make your convenient form of intermittent fasting. Do not follow a time just because your friend is doing it. Choose your convenient time frame when you can fast. Try to limit the hours of the day you eat. The best convenient time to have the best effect in weight loss is said to have your meal between 9am to 5 pm or even 10 am to 6pm. Do not eat food just before you hit the bed.
- Avoid eating snacks or junk eating between meals, evening, mid morning and night. Tats right! Avoid junk all the time. When your eating window is limited you must give your body the best possible nutrient in the time frame rather than dumping it with junk. Shouldn’t we?
Intermittent Fasting for Breastfeeding Mothers
The biggest question in the mind of new mommies often is “can breastfeeding mothers follow intermittent fasting?” as they are advised to consume more food to get enough milk supply to feed the baby. A new mom already has so much stress by trying to adapt to the new sleeping patterns of the infant, feeding constantly and adjusting to a new lifestyle and fasting sees too much of pressure on her. So getting into shape by losing weight post pregnancy is the toughest challenge for many women.
There is little research done in this topic and it is generally advised to seek your doctor’s advice on intermittent fasting while breastfeeding. It varies from person to person. While some women have successfully lost weight through intermittent fasting while breastfeeding, few have found risk of low milk supply and nutrition gaps. If you get a green signal from your doc and are a healthy mom, then there is no reason to push your fitness goals till you stop breastfeeding. With proper guidance you can still follow intermittent fasting while breastfeeding without having a dip in milk secretion. Keep the following points in mind while doing intermittent fasting.
1. It is not mandatory to follow the same fasting window throughout the week. If you stay awake breastfeeding your infant all night, you are not expected to skip breakfast as part of intermittent fasting. Have your breakfast and you can always alter your fasting window.
2. You can follow intermittent fasting on alternate days. It’s ok if you skip a day in-between. Listen to your body! Never fast on consecutive days.
3. On your low carb days, include oatmeal, sweet potatoes, and apples in your diet. Eat whole foods that will increase your milk supply that are still less in carbs.
4. Exercise regularly. But do not stress yourself out too much. Just 20 to 30 minutes a day will keep the body fit.
5. Have a balanced diet rich in iron, calcium and all essential nutrients.
6. Stay hydrated. This is the simple and most efficient technique and also the most neglected technique. It is very important to stay hydrated while you breastfeed and follow intermittent fasting. It is advised to have a glass of water before you start breastfeeding. Drink water after you exercise. Keep drinking water throughout the day.
7. Keep track of your milk supply before and after intermittent fasting. If you notice a dip in the supply and if you feel that intermittent fasting can be a reason, take a break and consult your doctor.
8. Listen to your body! When you pair intermittent fasting with a healthy diet, you can manage to lose weight without lowering your milk supply. Now you see that intermittent fasting for breastfeeding mothers can be easy, right? So what’s stopping you? Begin the amazing journey towards healthy lifestyle and fitness.
Final thoughts on Women’s Health and Intermittent Fasting
Every individual is different and the results may vary from person to person. But for sure intermittent fasting will have a positive impact in your weight loss journey. Remember it is a journey and not a race. So do not rush into losing weight fast and quick and deprive your body of nutrients by just not eating. Listen to your body. Stay hydrated, and eat low carbs, high protein and good fat. Exercise regularly. Enjoy this new lifestyle with your physical and emotional well-being as your top priority.