Weight management can be a difficult project to start. You can get confused by the multitude of contradicting information offered by several fitness enthusiasts and blogs. There are plenty of options to choose from with respect to what physical activities to pursue and which diet to follow.
Plenty of “miracle diets” are offered by various fitness enthusiasts for quick weight loss. Options like keto, paleo, high-protein-, no-carb, intermittent fasting, 5:2, low-fat, low-sodium, gluten-free, and Mediterranean diets are proposed for effective weight loss.
One such popular diet for weight loss, especially amongst women, is intermittent fasting. This type of diet proposes setting a specific time frame for your everyday meals. This article explores intermittent fasting and its effectiveness for women in weight management.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a diet pattern that recommends fixed periods of dieting and eating. It generally involves a fasting period where no food can be consumed and an eating window where all the meals for the day are required to be had.
There are several variations of intermittent fasting, allowing people to choose the format that works best for them. It is reported to have several health benefits for the body due to the sustained periods of fasting.
However, its effects on the body can depend on several factors like gender, age, health conditions, medications, etc.
Intermittent fasting does not place restrictions on what you can eat or how much you should eat. Rather, the restriction is on when you can eat. This makes intermittent fasting more of an alternative lifestyle choice rather than a diet.
Advantages of intermittent fasting for women
There are several advantages for women who choose to follow intermittent fasting. Some of these are:
1. Helps lose visceral fat:
Fasting forces the body to break down nutrients stored in the body for fuel. Furthermore, the lower insulin levels force the body to target body fat as a fuel source. This helps lose stubborn visceral fat to fuel the body’s energy needs.
2. Lowers risk for diabetes:
Intermittent fasting helps rapidly reduce insulin levels in the body. It also leads to lower blood glucose levels. Over time this leads to increased insulin sensitivity. This helps reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
3. Improves HGH levels:
The blood levels of HGH (Human Growth Hormone) can increase significantly following intermittent fasting. This boosts metabolism and further helps break down body fat.
4. Improves cell repair:
It can help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Without elevated blood sugar levels, the body is able to better focus its resources on reducing oxidative stress caused by free radicals and also treat inflammation.
This helps cell repair in the body and helps the body perform optimally.
5. Benefits of cardiovascular health:
Intermittent fasting directly affects several factors that can influence heart health.
It helps reduce insulin levels, helps lose body fat, lowers LDL cholesterol levels, reduces inflammation, reduces blood pressure, and helps cell repair. All of these add up to give you a healthier heart.
Does intermittent fasting for women actually work?
Intermittent fasting affects men and women differently as their bodies react differently to the effects of fasting.
Since intermittent fasting doesn’t specify what or how much is to be eaten, it can be considered more of a lifestyle choice rather than a diet, and it can take some time for the body to adapt to certain lifestyle changes.
Women’s bodies are generally more sensitive to starvation which can have an impact on optimal brain functioning. Long-term adaptability to regular periods of starvation can depend on the health conditions and metabolism levels when starting out.
Short-term fasting is considered good for women and has several health benefits, like lowered blood sugar levels, improved insulin sensitivity, improved cell repair, etc.
However, this trend is observed to reverse at the three-week mark, when women’s bodies start reacting negatively to the effects of sustained starvation.
Whether intermittent fasting works for you depends on factors like your pre-existing health conditions, medications, daily energy expenditure, etc. Apart from this, sustained long-term fasting can also negatively affect women’s hormonal levels.
Certain types of intermittent fasting work better for women than other types. These are:
- 12-16 hours:
This involves fasting 12-16 hours a day for 2-3 days a week.
- Complete fasting:
Going 24 hours without eating anything up to 2 times per week.
- 5:2 diet:
This involves consuming extremely few calories (500 calories) on two non-alternative days per week.
- Alternative day fasting:
Maintaining a fasting window of 16 hours on every alternative day.
These types work best for most women. However, certain women should not try to follow any form of intermittent fasting. These are:
- Pregnant women
- Breastfeeding women
- Women trying to conceive
- Women with chronic fatigue
- Anemic women
- Women faced with high levels of temporary stress
While these women should avoid intermittent fasting at all costs, the rest can safely follow it using the prescribed methods after consulting their healthcare provider.
They can improve the effectiveness of the diet by following certain guidelines. Ensuring a good amount of protein is ideal, and women should aim to consume breakfast and lunch over dinner, as nighttime is ideal for fasting.
It is advisable to consult your healthcare provider before adopting intermittent fasting as a long-term lifestyle practice.
The optimal weight management plan differs from person to person. What works for you might not work for someone else, and vice-versa.
A good weight loss plan can be formulated only after evaluating one’s personal health, goals, diet, accessibility to resources, etc. It is important to identify the plan that works best for you.
Intermittent fasting is an interesting diet mechanism that has worked wonders for many people. However, it need not necessarily work for you.
Ensure that you can follow your diet plan without starving yourself, as this can have a negative impact on other areas of your life, like focus and productivity.
At the end of the day, weight loss can only be achieved with a calorie deficit. Ensure that you achieve a calorie deficit with the combination of a balanced diet and adequate physical activity.
This helps maximize fat loss and muscle retention. Follow the diet which helps you achieve this with relative ease.
Remember that weight loss is a slow but progressive journey. Therefore, choose a plan that is sustainable for you in the long run.
1. Who is intermittent fasting most suitable for?
Ans: While intermittent fasting is suitable for most people and benefits them, certain categories of people stand to gain more from it. People with and at risk for type-2 diabetes, digestive issues, excessive visceral fat, and mental health problems stand to benefit from intermittent fasting especially.
2. Can women follow intermittent fasting during their periods?
Ans: It is generally considered safe for women to follow intermittent fasting during their periods. However, doctors recommend abandoning it for the first two days of your period to focus on other self-care needs.
3. Does intermittent fasting affect hormone balance?
Ans: Intermittent fasting boosts your metabolism and enhances your sleep quality. This helps the body recover better and maintain itself optimally. This positively affects hormones and can help achieve the right hormonal balance in the body.
However, if you start with a balanced state of hormones, intermittent fasting can lead to lower estrogen levels, affecting your hormonal balance. It is important to ensure that you don’t starve yourself while intermittent fasting to avoid such side effects.
4. Does intermittent fasting for weight loss work without exercise?
Ans: When it comes to weight loss, maintaining a calorie deficit is the only thing that matters. If you can achieve a calorie deficit with your diet alone, it can lead to weight loss without performing exercise.
However, if you want to specifically lose body fat and retain lean muscle mass, ensuring adequate protein intake within your diet and performing physical activity is necessary, apart from maintaining a calorie deficit.
5. Can you do intermittent fasting if you have PCOS?
Ans: Intermittent fasting improves biomarkers such as BMI, blood glucose levels, insulin sensitivity, and body weight. These effects have a positive impact on your ability to deal with PCOS.