26 Nov Intermittent Fasting for Women: Your No. 1 Science-Backed Guide
Have you tried to lose weight and keep it off but you’re stuck in an endless cycle of weight loss and weight gain? Perhaps you’ve tried crash diets, liquid diets or fad diets before and nothing seems to work. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone.
Many women have trouble losing weight and keeping the weight they lost off. While there are several reasons for this, the outcome is the same — women get frustrated, stop trying and are stuck with excess weight.
However, it doesn’t have to be a huge struggle, and losing your excess weight and keeping it off is possible. If you’ve never heard of intermittent fasting for women and you want to know more, this article is for you. We’ll go over everything you need to know to help you decide if this is a good option for you to try.
- Encourage Weight Loss
- Reduce Your Body’s Insulin Resistance
- Lower Inflammatory Markers
- Improve Your Heart Health
- Prevent Cancer
- Improve Brain Health and Memory
- Anti-Aging Properties
- Repair Your Cells
- Increase Human Growth Hormone Production
- Increase Your Metabolic Rate
- Pick a Fasting Method
- Pick a Fasting Time that Suits You
- Plan Your Fasting Window so it Doesn’t Affect Your Life too Drastically
- Understand What Food You Cannot Eat During the Fasting Period
- Understand What Food and Drink You Can Eat During Your Fasting Period
- Break Every Fast with Bone Broth
- Eat Real Food When You’re Intermittently Fasting
- Trail and Track How You Feel
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Before we get into the why and how, you have to know what intermittent fasting for women is. It’s currently an extremely popular fitness and health trend that is taking the world by storm. The concept is very simple. Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that you develop that cycles between periods of eating and periods of fasting.
Although eating the correct foods is important, you don’t concentrate as much on what you eat. Rather, your main focus is on when you eat. Fasting has been around for thousands of years, and humans actually evolved to go long periods without food. Certain religions also practice fasting including Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism and more.
The particular intermittent fasting for women approach we’re going to focus on involves fasting for 16 hours each day, and eating healthy foods for the other eight hours. There are several benefits to this method, and we’ll go over them next.
The Science-Backed Benefits of Intermittent Fasting for Women
Did you know that fasting has positive effects on your hormones, cells and body systems? This is why it’s such a powerful weight loss tool that dozens of people swear by. We’ve found both human and animal studies to back up our claims on the positive effects of intermittent fasting for women.
1. Encourage Weight Loss
One of the main reasons people use this fasting method is for weight loss. Simply restricting your caloric intake on a consistent cycle can help you burn fat. In 2014, one study showed that intermittent fasting can cause between 3% and 8% weight loss over a period of 3 to 24 weeks. Additionally, this same 2014 study showed that fasting on a set cycle could help you burn fat around your belly, and the participants lost between 4% and 7% of their waist circumference.
A second promising study showed that intermittent fasting can help you lose the weight you want to lose while helping to ensure that you don’t lose your muscle mass in the process. You get all of these benefits without consciously restricting your daily caloric intake.
2. Reduce Your Body’s Insulin Resistance
For people with Type 2 diabetes, their bodies don’t process insulin correctly, and their cells stop responding to the sugar in your blood. In turn, your pancreas starts producing more and more insulin in an attempt to combat these high levels of glucose, and you need medical help to regulate it. However, studies showed that fasting reduces your body’s insulin resistance.
This can result in blood sugar levels that are as much as 3% to 6% lower than they typically are. Once your blood sugar levels go down, the levels of insulin in your body will go down as well. This can help to protect you from developing Type 2 diabetes, and all you have to do is get on a fasting schedule. One study showcased this with a group of men who had pre-diabetes. They fasted for eight hours per day over five weeks and found that their blood insulin levels were significantly reduced.
3. Lower Inflammatory Markers
Inflammatory markers are proteins found in your blood that indicate that there is an infection, trauma, or that something is wrong in your body. These markers are the main forces that drive many chronic diseases like heart disease, asthma and arthritis. Intermittent fasting can help to reduce the amount of oxidative stress and inflammation in your body while you cycle between eating and fasting.
One study took 40 healthy volunteers and measured the number of inflammatory markers in their body, and then they put them on a fasting cycle and monitored them. At the end of the study, they measured the inflammatory markers again and found that they had significantly reduced amounts of C-reactive protein and cholesterol. Another study took volunteers who fasted for Ramadan and found that they had improved levels of inflammatory markers during and after their fasts.
4. Improve Your Heart Health
Did you know that strokes and cardiovascular disease kill one in three women? Each year in the United States alone, roughly 44 million women have cardiovascular disease. Fortunately, improving your diet and exercise routine does help, as does intermittent fasting. A study took obese adults and measured the levels of LDL cholesterol and blood triglycerides, which are typically the markers for cardiovascular disease and stroke.
After the 10-week study commenced, they found that the participants had a reduced risk for developing coronary artery disease. Another study showcased how intermittent fasting could help reduce inflammatory markers and improve your metabolism. This can help you lose weight, which in turn lowers your risk of having a cardiac event.
5. Prevent Cancer
Cancer is a very real health problem for women all over the world. While genetics do play a role in how prone you are to developing cancer, your diet also influences it. Studies with rats and mice showed that short-term fasting could help stop the occurrence of tumours in the rat’s mammary glands.
Other promising studies showed that intermittent fasting helps make cancer cells more sensitive to chemotherapy treatments. This is excellent news for anyone undergoing chemotherapy treatment to kill the cancer cells in their body. A third study showed that intermittent fasting is a preventative measure for developing cancerous tumours on the liver.
6. Improve Brain Health and Memory
As you age, your brain health starts to age with you. This can result in issues with memory and recall, and it can take you longer to learn new things. Additionally, Alzheimer’s disease is scientifically proven to affect more women than it does men. One study showed that fasting gave the hormone BDNF a boost, and this could potentially help with new nerve cell growth.
There were also promising studies with mice and Huntington’s disease. These tests showed that intermittent fasting could potentially slow the progression of Huntington’s disease and help you retain your memory and improve your brain health. Finally, scientists found that fasting combined with a healthy diet could potentially slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, or it could even make you less likely to develop it in the first place.
7. Anti-Aging Properties
It seems that everyone wants to live as long as possible, and be as healthy as possible while they’re at it. People are living longer than ever due to their understanding of the importance of their diets, exercise, and anti-aging practices. Fortunately, scientists and researchers are also paying attention, and they’ve started studying these anti-aging fasting properties in mice.
The first study took rats and divided them into groups. One group was fed each day, and one group ate one day and fasted the next. The group that fasted every other day had a 75% longer lifespan than the rats in the group that ate each day. The second study took mice and split them into a control group that ate each day and a group that fasted for four consecutive days every two weeks. The group that fasted lived longer than the control group despite weighing more.
It’s important to understand that this research is still in very early stages, and there hasn’t been a lot of studies with human participants yet. However, there have been a few human trials, and the results are very promising so far.
8. Repair Your Cells
Your cells are ageing constantly, and they can get damaged from high-stress levels or unbalanced levels of nutrients in your body. This can make your skin appear worn out and wrinkled, your skin will lose its elasticity, and your cells won’t be able to absorb nutrients as efficiently. This cell damage can build up over time.
However, when you start your fasting process, your cells will automatically start to repair themselves. They’ll start drawing on the nutrients you do give them and use it to repair damage due to oxidative stress. Your cells also start to digest and remove any old proteins that may build up over time, and this can improve cell function.
9. Increase Human Growth Hormone Production
Human Growth hormone (HG) plays several vital roles in your body including metabolism, cell repair, growth and body composition. If you don’t have enough of this hormone, you can actually gain or have trouble losing weight. It can also cause you to have trouble gaining and keeping muscles mass.
When you start fasting, your levels of human growth hormone go up as much as five times the original amount. A double blind study showed how human growth hormone increased participant’s lean muscle mass, oxygen uptake and fat mass during the course of the study. The fasting group had significantly better outcomes than the control group.
10. Increase Your Metabolic Rate
Your metabolism is the system that helps your body lose weight and burn calories. Every time you eat, your body’s enzymes break down your food and extract the nutrients and minerals and converts them into energy. Everyone’s metabolism runs at a different rate, and the faster your metabolism runs, the more calories your body will burn as you go about your day.
As you fast, your hormone levels change. This hormone change can prompt your metabolic range to speed up. Studies have shown that fasting can increase your metabolic rates by a significant amount. Participants had a metabolic increase ranging from 3.6% by 14%, and this resulted in more calories burned and more weight lost.
Some Side Effects of Intermittent Fasting for Women
As with anything else you try, there is the potential for side effects with intermittent fasting for women. Everyone is different, and not everyone experiences the same side effects. This is why it’s important that you monitor yourself and note any changes that occur when you first start your intermittent fasting routine. Common side effects include:
- Decreased Blood Sugar Control – When you first start to fast, you may notice that you have problems regulating your blood sugar. This can go away as your body starts to adjust to your new routine.
- Cognitive Function Decrease – For the first 48 or 72 hours, you may notice that it’s difficult for you to think, reason or learn new tasks. This is a common side effect as your body adjusts to your fasting cycle. After this period your cognition should improve beyond baseline.
- Mood Swings – For anyone who has been hungry for a few hours, you know that this can negatively impact your mood. Irritability is one of the most common mood changes people notice, along with decreased patience and higher frustration levels.
- Hunger – You’re going to feel hungry when you first try intermittent fasting for women because your body is used to eating whenever you felt like it. This should go away in a few days as you become accustomed and get an eating and fasting routine set up.
How Do I Intermittent Fast?
Now that you know a few benefits and reasons why people want to fast as well as a few side effects, we’ll walk you through a step-by-step fasting guide. This will allow you to start your own fasting routine and hopefully see the results that you’re after.
1. Pick a Fasting Method
Before you start to intermittent fast, you have to decide on a fasting routine. While there are dozens of intermittent fasting routines available, we believe that the 16/8 Method or the Leangains Method or Protocol, is the best form of intermittent fasting for women in terms of results.
This method is relatively straightforward and simple. Most people choose to skip breakfast and restrict the time they eat each day between an eight hour period. When this eight hours is up, you fast for the remaining 16 hours.
You can set which eight hours you want to be able to eat for, but it’s important that you keep the same eight hours each day so you can get a full 16 hour fast between meals. Many people choose to eat all of their daily calories between 12:00 pm and 8:00 pm or 1:00 pm and 9:00 pm. This schedule leaves them free to enjoy lunch or dinner with their friends while still getting in their 16 hour fasting period.
2. Pick a Fasting Time that Suits You
There are 12, 14, and 16-hour fasts available. If you’re intimidated by a 16 hour fast, many people start with 12 hours and work their way up to the full 16 hours. This will help you ease your body into your intermittent fasting routine. Once you work your way up to the full 16 hours, stick to it.
Start by increasing your fasting time by 15 minutes every day or every other day. This way, it won’t seem like such a shock when you make it to the full 16 hours. You won’t feel deprived or like you’re missing out on anything, and you’ll still be able to hit your fasting goals.
Here are some of your fasting options:
- 12 Hours – Maybe a 12 hour fast fits your goals the best. If this is the case, you can fast for 12 hours and eat healthy foods for the other 12 hours to complete the cycle. Just make sure that you get a full 12 hours between cycles.
- 14 Hours – The second fasting tier is fasting for 14 hours and eating healthy foods for 10 hours each cycle. You can still get three healthy meals in during your 10-hour eating window.
- 16 Hours – The final fasting cycle is 16 hours of fasting for 8 hours of eating. It’s very popular, but you do want to work your way up to it as we mentioned. This is especially true if this is your first time fasting.
3. Plan Your Fasting Window so it Doesn’t Affect Your Life too Drastically
The key to succeeding with your fasting routine is by making it convenient. You don’t want to feel like you’re restricted or missing out on things because you set your fasting window up at the wrong time during the day.
Many people choose to skip eating breakfast and eat during the middle of the day and evening hours. But, if this doesn’t work for you, you’re free to set up your schedule in a way that suits you.
Maybe you enjoy going out to breakfast with your friends and family, but you don’t eat a lot in the early evening hours. If this is the case, set your eating schedule for earlier in the day. You could eat from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm and then start your fast. This gives you time for a later breakfast, and it won’t disrupt your normal routine too much.
If you work nights but sleep during the day, maybe it makes sense for you to eat from 11:00 pm until 7:00 am. Then you go home and go to sleep until you wake up and get ready for work again. Maybe you’re more active in the evening hours than you are during the morning. Make your fasting schedule match. You can literally pick any eight hours in the day you want to eat.
4. Understand What Food You Cannot Eat During the Fasting Period
Changing your diet is essential when you’re fasting. While you can lose weight and see some improvement by fasting alone, you’ll get better results by matching your healthy diet to your fast.
Your goal is to consume as few calories as possible during your 16-hour fasting window.
This means that you shouldn’t eat solid food, because there are no such things as calorie-free foods. But, you can incorporate some non-solid food into your diet during your fasting window like extra virgin olive oil or even coconut oil (Some will say this breaks the fast but if anything it enhances the fast) – it also reduces any hunger pangs you might have.
You can also drink other things that don’t contain calories, and this can help you get through your fasting period. This may be especially helpful when you’re first starting to fast because you’re going to feel hungrier until your body regulates itself to this new routine.
You do want to ensure that you don’t add any sweeteners or creamers to your beverages because this is where the calories come in. The same goes for artificial sweeteners or flavourings for your water. They’ll send your blood sugar levels soaring, and this can leave you feeling sick, shaky or weak. It can also prompt you to eat something in an attempt to feel better.
5. Understand What Food and Drink You Can Eat During Your Fasting Period
Again, you shouldn’t really eat solid foods during your fasting period because you’re trying to avoid as many calories as possible. However, adding some healthy fats can decrease the feeling of hunger and increase your metabolism. Drinking keeps you hydrated, but it may even enhance your fasting results and benefits.
- Water — Water is a zero calorie beverage that you can drink all day, every day without a problem. If you miss the carbonation, try sparkling water. This is usually free of calories. For people who get sick of plain water, infuse it with orange or cucumber slices to add a slight taste. The sweetness from the orange can also help curb any sweet cravings you might have; lemon is another great alternative.
- Black Coffee — Technically, a cup of black coffee doesn’t have calories. However, you can’t add any sweeteners or milk to it. You’ll have to drink it straight black, but you can drink both caffeinated and decaffeinated. Pay attention to your heart rate though because some people reported a racing heart or an upset stomach. Coffee is great because it can actually curb your hunger and help you feel full.
- Tea — Whether you drink green, black, herbal or oolong tea, it’s great to drink plain during your fasting window. Green tea has shown to be effective in suppressing your appetite, promoting probiotic balance, detoxing at a cellular level and enhancing your weight loss. Again, you can’t add any sweeteners or milk to it.
- Coconut Oil — Coconut oil has proven weight loss and metabolism boosting benefits. You can add up to two tablespoons of coconut oil to your diet for healthy fats, and you could even add it to your coffee for a mild and sweet taste. You may want to start with one tablespoon and work your way up to two to avoid nausea.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil –– This oil can also aid in your weight loss routine, and you can have it during your fasting time. It contains fatty acids, and fatty acids can help to reduce the feeling of hunger. Adding two tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil to lemon or lime flavoured water is a great way to get the benefits of this oil during your fasting time.
6. Break Every Fast with Bone Broth
Homemade bone broth is an excellent way to break your fast each day. You can make it in large quantities and freeze it or store it in your refrigerator. The natural vitamins, nutrients and minerals in bone broth can give your body’s electrolyte levels a boost. There are several easy bone broth recipes online, and it’s great to let it simmer overnight to get most of the nutrients out.
Another benefit of bone broth is that it can give you energy to carry you through your day. All of those vitamins and nutrients you get from it can help fill in any gaps you may have. This will balance your body’s levels, and you’ll feel more energised. Avoid bullion cubes or store bought bone broth because it’s processed and packed full of additives.
You can find a good organic both broth here
7. Eat Real Food When You’re Intermittently Fasting
It doesn’t make sense to work so hard at fasting and continue eating the same unhealthy food. Your diet and fasting go hand in hand, and eating a good diet can help you maximise your fasting results.
Ideally, you want a good mix of foods that are free of refined sugars, gluten and dairy. Your foods should also have healthy fats and include a lot of veggies. They shouldn’t be processed if possible because processed and refined foods have a lot of unhealthy additives that can undo a lot of your hard work. Examples of good foods include:
- Avocado (1) (half per day)
- Fish (2) (at least eight ounces per week)
- Berries, such as blueberries, blackberries, etc (3)
- Eggs (4)
- Nuts (5)
- Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, bok choy (6)
- Lean meats, such as pork, beef or chicken (7)
- Green, leafy vegetables (8)
- Seeds (9)
8. Trial and Track How You Feel
It’s going to take your body a few weeks to get fully regulated to your new intermittent fasting diet. You want to try it for at least a month and track how you feel before, during and after your trial period. If you’re not finding any benefits after a full month, you may want to reconsider and try something else. Everyone is different, and some people swear by intermittent fasting for women while other people struggle with it.
It may be a good idea to keep a daily journal. You can write down what you eat each day, when you eat it and your calories. You can use another section of your journal to write down how you’re feeling, if you had any issues, if you had a cheat day or anything else you may notice that’s going on in relation to your fasting and eating cycle.
As always, you should talk to your doctor before you make any drastic changes to your dietary routine. This is especially important if you have pre-existing medical conditions like diabetes, blood sugar regulation issues, eating disorders, low blood pressure, and if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Also, it’s a good idea to restrict your kids from fasting. If you get the go ahead, try it for a month. See what intermittent fasting for women can do for you!