Intermittent fasting is at an all time high in popularity right now, but not all of the research shows that it is beneficial for women.
Many times, studies are done on men, and women are considered more difficult to study because of the hormonal changes throughout the month, so be careful when you find articles claiming something is healthy across the board. In some cases, something men find great results with will not have the same effects on women.
Intermittent fasting falls into this category.
What is it?
Intermittent fasting is the catch all term of periods of time to eat, with periods of fasting between. One of the more popular version is the 16/8 window, where you eat for 8 hours of your day, fasting for the remaining 16. Another common practice is a full 24 hour fast 1-2 times per week.
What has research found?
Studies on women have found mixed results, as women are more sensitive to calorie reduction than men. One study found that women's glucose response was impaired with intermittent fasting, but blood sugar control remained the same or even improved for the men.
If calorie intake is significantly lower, women can experience a disruption of their reproductive hormones or even lose their cycle, which sets them up for bone density loss and other health affects.
In this podcast, Dr. Stacy Sims explains that fasting can raise cortisol, the stress hormone, in women. As cortisol stays high, it can prevent fat loss rather than encourage it, as fasting claims to do.
When or how is fasting okay for women?
This does not mean fasting is never okay, but women need to be more careful to get enough calories and to keep their hormones balanced.
Fasting through the evening for a 12-14 hour period before you break your fast with breakfast appears to be more beneficial than choosing an eating period of 12-8pm. If we work with our circadian rhythms, our bodies prefer food in the earlier hours of the day and do not metabolize sugars as well at night. This might look like an eating period of 8am - 6pm, with the kitchen closed after dinner.
Or an occasional 24 hour fast from dinner to dinner can be used to reset your system, or as part of a religious fast, without damaging your body
However, if intermittent fasting does not appeal to you, there is no need to incorporate it. What is more important is choosing good quality real foods, similar to a Mediterranean style diet, with moderate exercise and activity throughout the day to keep your body most healthy and balanced.
Do you incorporate intermittent fasting?