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In intermittent fasting, you eat by following regular short-term fasts. First, you're eating and then fasting again. Intermittent fasting isn't about what to eat; it's about 'when to eat.'
For example, if you follow a strict diet, you cannot consume high-calorie foods like cakes or ice cream. Intermittent fasting suggests skipping breakfast if you wish to consume a large piece of chocolate cake at lunch.
In some studies, intermittent fasting is not as beneficial for women as it is for men for reducing calorie consumption, losing weight, and reducing the risk of diabetes and heart disease . As a result, intermittent fasting may need to be modified for women.
Why does intermittent fasting affect women differently than men?
The effects of intermittent fasting may differ between men and women . For example, in women, intermittent fasting worsened blood sugar control, whereas it did not in the case of men. There are also many anecdotal stories of women experiencing changes to their menstrual cycles after starting intermittent fasting. It happens because female bodies are extremely sensitive to calorie restriction.
A small part of the brain called the hypothalamus gets affected when calorie intake's low, which interferes with the release of two reproductive hormones. Infertility, poor bone health, irregular periods, and other health problems can happen if these hormones can't communicate with the ovaries .
Due to these reasons, women should consider a modified intermittent fasting approach, such as shorter fasting periods and fewer fasting days .
What are the benefits of intermittent fasting for women?
1. Weight loss: When done correctly, intermittent fasting can be an effective way to lose weight. Regular fasts can cause you to consume fewer calories, shed pounds, and decrease your appetite . According to a number of studies, intermittent fasting is as effective as traditional calorie-restricted diets for short-term weight loss; however, long-term effects remain unclear.
2. Heart health: Several leading risk factors for the development of heart disease include high blood pressure, high levels of LDL cholesterol and high triglycerides. Researchers found intermittent fasting reduced blood pressure after eight weeks in 16 obese men and women, as well as LDL cholesterol and triglycerides .
3. Diabetes: Intermittent fasting appears to reduce some of the risk factors associated with diabetes, primarily by lowering insulin levels and reducing insulin resistance. It has been suggested that intermittent fasting may not be as beneficial for women as it is for men in terms of blood sugar control. One small study found that women's blood sugar control worsened, whereas men's blood sugar was not adversely affected .
A few other benefits of intermittent fasting for women are as follows:
• Reduced inflammation
• Improved psychological well-being
• Increased longevity
• Preserves muscle mass
However, these require more studies.
How To Start Intermittent Fasting?
Before we get into how you can begin an intermittent fasting schedule, let's look at the different types of intermittent fasting.
It is recommended that women follow a laid-back approach to fasting, which may include a shorter fasting period, fewer fasting days, and/or eating fewer calories while fasting.
The following are some of the best types of intermittent fasting for women:
1. A 5:2 Diet (also known as the "Fast Diet") consists of limiting calories to 25% of your usual intake (about 500 calories) for two days a week and eating normally the other five days.
2. A 16/8 Method (also known as the "Leangains Method") involves fasting for 16 hours a day and eating all calories within eight hours. Women are advised to begin fasting for 14 hours and gradually increase to 16.
3. A Crescendo Method consists of fasting 12-16 hours a day for two to three days a week. The fasting days should be nonconsecutive and spaced evenly throughout the week (e.g. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday).
4. An Eat-Stop-Eat Protocol (also called the 24-hour protocol) involves fasting for 24 hours once or twice a week (a maximum of two times a week for women). The fast should begin with 14-16 hours and gradually increase in length.
5. In Modified Alternate-day Fasting, you fast every other day, eating normally on the other days. You are allowed to consume 20-25% of your usual calorie intake on a fasting day (approximately 500 calories).
Starting your intermittent fasting is an easy task. You may have already done a number of intermittent fasts before. Many people eat in this manner instinctively, skipping meals in the morning and evening. One of the easiest ways to begin intermittent fasting is to pick a type of intermittent fasting that is suitable for your schedule and go ahead with it.
Side Effects Of Intermittent Fasting
Some of the common side effects of this fasting reported are hair loss, anxiety, stress and heartburn or reflux as a result of overeating .
Tips For Intermittent Fasting Diet Plan For Women
- The easy way to get started is to choose one of the methods above and give it a go.
- Choose healthy foods that are rich in nutrients and minerals required for your bodily functions .
- Slowly and gradually, you can eat one meal a day while doing intermittent fasting.
- Although doctors and health experts swear on the importance of breakfast, skipping breakfast is helpful for intermittent fasting.
- Despite the fact that intermittent fasting appears to have a good safety profile, you should stop immediately if you experience any problems - such as an irregular/stop of your menstrual cycle.
On A Final Note…
Finding a fasting method that works for you and your lifestyle is the most important thing. Intermittent fasting is not for everyone. It can have varying results depending on the individual. Before following the fasting method, consult your dietitian or nutritionist.
Studies have shown intermittent fasting was effective for weight loss, with a typical loss of 7-11 pounds over a 10-week period.
Not exceeding 14 hours of fasting is recommended for women since overdoing it may delay periods and lead to anxiety and depression.
A large number of studies have indicated that intermittent fasting may be an effective method for women to lose weight.
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