You’ve probably heard of intermittent fasting (IF) before. It’s essentially an eating pattern that focuses on when or what time you eat rather than what you eat in a day or in a week. There are many benefits that are linked to IF and the most common one of them is weight loss. Some research even suggests better cardiac health and improved insulin sensitivity (i.e. better blood sugar control). There is some evidence to suggest that it may also reduce inflammation, improve cholesterol levels, and slow the rate of aging.
With all this information, it’s important for us to keep in mind that research on IF is still a relatively new field of study. Further studies must still be conducted and only time will tell if it really is effective for a lot of people.
Can we women benefit from IF?
Based on what we know, IF can help reduce blood sugar levels and when insulin levels are given a chance to recover, it’s a great benefit for women experiencing PCOS or perimenopausal symptoms. This also keeps us safe from other illnesses such as diabetes and keeps our hormonal health stable. All of these are an added bonus to the fact that many studies have shown that it can help with weight loss.
How can we conduct IF?
When you go online, there are lots of ways suggested for you to start fasting. One is what we call the 5:2 wherein you eat less than 500 calories for two non-consecutive days every week. For example, you may eat less than 500 calories every Saturday and Monday then resume your normal eating patterns for the rest of the week.
This pattern doesn’t require you to watch your calories that often nor does it make you restricted on the kind of food that you can eat every single day. The only thing you have to watch out for with this method is that during the days you choose to eat less than 500 calories, you end up feeling more fatigued than usual. It can also make you feel stressed and can intensify your cravings so be careful and watch out for yourself during these days.
Is fasting safe to do?
Well, it depends on the kind of fasting you do. You need to ask yourself what kind of fasting you do. Does it last for several hours or for a few days? Have you paced yourself properly? Depending on your answer, it can change how safe the kind of fasting you intend to do for yourself is.
You should also take into consideration your hormonal health as fasting can affect our hormonal levels and you should also remember that fasting shouldn’t be done if you’re pregnant or if you are trying for a baby.
Which kind of fasting is safer than others? As we have said, there are many kinds of fasting out there. In fact, even fasting in between breakfast, lunch, and dinner as most people already do is already a kind of fasting. You see when you constantly munch on snacks in between meals, your insulin levels tend to pump up in order to balance your blood pressure. This can lead to more fat being stored in the body and even run the risk of desensitizing ourselves from the insulin hormone which can lead to diabetes.
Another way we can fast is what we call the 12:12 fasting where we have a 12-hour fast daily. With this, we can eat every 12 hours and not have to starve ourselves for longer periods of time. You don’t have to starve yourself for a very long time in order to see the benefits of fasting. In fact, if you’re the type of person who often misses breakfast, then you have been fasting all this time.
This is also a lot easier to adapt to especially if you are just a beginner when it comes to IF. Don’t jump into the advanced level of IF that some people recommend which has longer intervals of time where they do not eat anything at all.
What are the other common questions about fasting? Well, one of the most common questions about IF that is also related to weight loss, in general, is, “Can we exercise while fasting to maximize weight loss?”. The answer is that during the time you are fasting, it’s better to avoid heavy strength training as your body needs proteins to repair itself. You can do this later on when you start to eat again as your body needs those nutrients to support and repair itself. If you really must exercise while fasting, try to keep it as low intensity as possible. Go for a walk or short jog to work up a sweat, but don’t overdo it as your body needs fuel to run as well and you might get hungrier making your fast a lot harder.
Another question is, “Does drinking tea or coffee ruin our fast?”. Well, herbal tea or coffee with no sugar or milk is fine, but anything that has sugar or a drink that has a lot of calories can ruin your fasting.
FROM AN OVERALL HEALTH PERSPECTIVE, EATING WITHIN A 12-HOUR WINDOW IS THE SAFEST WAY TO PRACTICE FASTING.
Bottom line – women can benefit a lot from fasting. However, since everybody’s bodies are different, we must also learn to adapt and pace ourselves when it comes to fasting. This is because fasting without proper preparation can be dangerous and can send us down a path of dangerous eating habits and disorders.
Furthermore, we don’t recommend immediately trying IF for more than 16 hours especially if you have never done it before. This can have more negative impacts on your hormone levels such as cortisol and insulin and can lead to irregular menstrual cycles, and acne, and may even affect reproductive health.