Last Updated on November 8, 2023
We all know that male and female bodies are very different from each other both physically and hormonally. When choosing the right intermittent fasting plan for you, you should consider your gender’s needs as well.
In recent years, intermittent fasting has been practiced by many people for its countless benefits, including weight loss and weight control. By restricting when to eat rather than what to eat, it is a simple and effective way to burn body fat.
Women have a greater tendency to gain weight than men, due to their hormones. The weight and fat gain increase especially during the peri-menopause and menopause. So we can ask: “Does intermittent fasting benefit women as well as men?” To answer that, let’s dive deeper into how a woman’s hormones work at different stages of her life.
Intermittent fasting and the menstrual cycle
The female reproductive system is more sensitive to calorie restriction than the male one. So it’s especially important for women of child-bearing age to choose the fasting plan that best suits their physiology.
Women who follow strict intermittent fasting plans, involving intense calorie restrictions, or plans that have a very narrow eating window, may experience changes in their menstrual cycle.
So it is very important to listen to your body’s needs during your cycle, consult a medical professional if needed, and adjust your fasting plan according to your period.
Fasting while on your period
Fasting during the menstrual period is a controversial issue. While some experts claim that it’s not harmful to women and their hormones, some say that it’s not the ideal time to add an extra stress factor to your life.
The key point is to avoid following a strict fasting plan with a long fasting window during your period.
Another important thing to take into consideration is that some women suffer from very intense PMS symptoms a week before their periods. This happens because the estrogen level drops dramatically which leads to cortisol (stress hormone) sensitivity. This hormonal fluctuation can cause mood swings, headaches, low energy levels, breast swelling and tenderness, sugar cravings, increased appetite, etc.
So it’s probably unwise to insist on fasting during your period, or for a week before it if you’re prone to severe PMS symptoms. Forcing yourself to do intermittent fasting while in this state will stress you out and you won’t be able to reap the benefits of fasting.
Intermittent fasting isn’t an ideal nutrition system during pregnancy and breastfeeding. So if you’re pregnant or trying to conceive, or breastfeeding, please be sure to consult your doctor and follow his/her directions about nutrition.
Intermittent fasting for PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome)
Normally, eating stimulates insulin production. But women with PCOS have way too much insulin and the excess insulin production is partially responsible for the abnormal release of androgen hormones. This abnormal release of androgen hormones is an important factor in PCOS. By the time your body gets used to fasting, the insulin level drops in your body and PCOS-related insulin resistance disappears. The reproductive hormones are balanced and fertility problems diminish.
Women who are diagnosed with PCOS often have difficulty with weight loss as typical diet plans and working out don’t help them with their weight problems. Intermittent fasting may be a lifesaver for that, too.
Fasting switches the body from storage mode into a fat-burning state where it uses up sugar and fat that are stored. The body’s metabolism gets better with normal levels of insulin and glucose. As a natural result of this, it becomes easier to lose weight.
However, someone with PCOS should definitely consult a doctor before starting fasting and should not exceed the 12-14 hour fasting period.
For example, if you follow a 14:10 plan with 14 hours of fasting and 10 hours of eating window, an ideal intermittent fasting schedule for women can be like this:
Intermittent fasting meal schedule for women
10 AM: First meal
10 AM – 8 PM: Eating window
8 PM: End of dinner
8 PM – 10 AM: Fasting period where you don’t eat anything
It’s that simple!
Intermittent fasting for women over 50
After the age of 40, estrogen and progesterone levels begin to fluctuate. These changes increase when a woman is around 50 years old, as the average age of menopause is 52.
Weight loss with intermittent fasting
The main reasons intermittent fasting helps with weight loss are:
- Your body uses its fat storage for fuel:
While you fast, your body first uses its glycogen stores for energy, and once your glycogen stores are depleted, your fat stores become the main fuel of your body. Many studies show that activating ketosis by doing intermittent fasting boosts losing weight. (2)
- Your hormones inhibit your hunger
As your body gets familiar with fasting, secretion of ghrelin (the hunger hormone) decreases and it helps you with appetite control. You feel less hungry and late-night cravings diminish.
However, bear in mind that fasting is not a magic pill. Switching your diet to intermittent fasting is a big plus, but some women may get benefits from this system whereas others may not get the results they expect.
Being active in your daily life and eating balanced and nutritious meals are the keys to weight loss, no matter how old a woman is.
To sum up
Intermittent fasting is a more sustainable approach to weight loss than typical diets as it can easily become a lifestyle, by not restricting you to boring meal plans. You only have to schedule your meal times.
As women’s physiologies are different from men’s, it is extra important to choose the plan that best suits your physiology and needs and to avoid diets that require long hours of fasting or those with strict calorie restrictions.
Fasting Kompanion gives you the flexibility to customize your fasting plan according to your needs anytime you want, along with lots of fasting tips to motivate you on this path.