Learn How Intermittent Fasting Effects Women Differently from Men
Every day, it seems we learn of more people trying Intermittent Fasting for weight loss, including celebrities like Kelly Osbourne, who just lost 85 pounds on a plant-based diet using a combination of IF and exercise. For a diet that requires little effort, other than quelling your hunger pangs, you can reap plenty the benefits of fast and controllable weight loss.
The idea of Intermittent Fasting is simple, since unlike most diets, it focuses more on when you eat rather than what you eat. By allowing your body to rest 14 to 16 hours between meals, you manage food intake, curb cravings, and lose weight as your body turns to your fat stores for ready energy in the absence of calories from fat, carbs and protein. The Beet editors have tried IF and interviewed Dr. Jason Fung, author of Life in the Fasting Lane, who helped us understand the simple rules for using IF for effective weight control. The best news is that your body's hunger signals pipe up when you're used to eating like around breakfast or lunch or dinner, but if you're fasting, they quiet down after your body essentially feeds itself from its own fat stores. So that momentary hunger cue quiets down and you lose weight.
But, does IF affect men's and women's bodies differently? Some evidence has shown that the positive effects of this rapid weight loss method have largely been found to work on men and post-menopausal women's bodies.
IF works to hit reset on your weight-loss efforts and shed fat quickly
If your weekends look like more of a constant routine of carbs and junk, Intermittent Fasting can be the reset button that can set you on the right track. Aside from burning more fat, it can also lower cholesterol, improving heart health, as well as help lower blood pressure, and because it helps maintain lower blood glucose levels, according to a 2018 study, it's an effective strategy in treating diabetes. Once you finish fasting, however, it's essential that you learn to maintain and keep off the weight, by feeding your body clean, whole plant-based foods that can keep your metabolism working to burn fat.
The research on Intermittent Fasting was done on men and post-menopausal women, leaving the question of how it affects younger women and especially their hormones. Refraining from food for more than 12 hours is not optimal for women's menstrual cycles, according to Alisa Vitti, a functional nutrition and women's hormone expert, and author of Woman Code and creator of My Flowwomen. Since female bodies are more sensitive to calorie restriction than men are, fasting for long periods can affect the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates your body's hormones. Under stress, cortisol elevates, as does estrogen, so as your body gets used to utilizing fats for fuel, it can release hormones that disrupt your cycle.
Vitti warns that extended fasting could potentially have negative side effects on women in their reproductive years. When your body senses a deficient amount of fuel, it becomes stressed, raising cortisol levels and disrupting your hormones. At first this can slow your cyclical processes that naturally occur on its own, but over time, these hormones can shut off your fertility system. In lab studies on rats, intermittent fasting appears to cause ovaries to shrink and cycles to halt during alternate-day fasting done over the course of 3-6 days, which is an extreme amount of time for any sized animal.
When intermittent fasting, keep the fast to under 16 hours, this expert recommends
When fasting the safer bet for reproductive health is to do it for 12 hours, instead of the usual 16, or 18 hours. The easiest way to achieve this is to fast between dinner and breakfast, which essentially has the same benefits of IF.
Break your fast with something super alkalizing, like lemon water or a green juice, and incorporate more complex carbohydrates and protein as the day continues. Try to eat your dinner early, so you have your last meal at least 3 hours before bedtime, and avoid coffee, or sweeteners after dinner, which spikes your insulin levels. By practicing IF in a safe, somewhat modified way, you can get all the benefits as a woman that are excellent for men, without the hormonal disruption that can occur. Or if you’re not hungry when you wake up, then just listen to your body and nourish it in a more mindful way.