You may have heard that intermittent fasting is a great way to lose weight. Unfortunately most information about it is for younger men or women. It may be hard to find information beyond “I tried this and lost a gazillion pounds”.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting means that you don’t eat for a certain period of time. There is no rules about what you should eat, only when you eat. One method of intermittent fasting involves only eating for 8 hours per day and fasting for 16 hours. This would be the equivalent of eating between 10 AM and 6 PM and then fasting for the remainder. Another method would have you fast for 24 hours 2 days per week.
Who should avoid intermittent fasting?
Before I get into whether menopausal women should try intermittent fasting, there are some cases where you should not use intermittent fasting. If you have diabetes, suffer from an eating disorder or take medication for blood pressure, heart disease or any other medical condition you should probably avoid intermittent fasting or at least check with your physician first.
What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting may not be as beneficial for women as it is for men, but is seen as a natural method of eating and is part of some religious traditions.
Like many other health topics, fewer studies have been done with women and even fewer with menopausal and perimenopausal women. Some of the benefits may not be the same with women as with men. Here are some of the benefits that have been found with intermittent fasting:
- It can help with weight loss
- Some studies have shown that it reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. But for women this may not occur.
- It has been shown to improve heart health
- Rats subjected to intermittent fasting live longer than other rats
- Muscle mass seems to be preserved, but this may not occur with women.
What are the negative aspects of intermittent fasting?
I don’t promote intermittent fasting because I don’t believe it promotes healthy eating habits. Some women like the rules and the fact that it doesn’t require changes to your diet. The problem is that for many women, some changes should be made for optimal health.
It doesn’t help you to tune in to hunger cues. You eat when you are supposed to and fast when you are supposed to.
It is hard to stick with if you vary your schedule. If you are supposed to stop eating at 6 and you get invited for dinner at 7 or are late getting home from work, what do you do?
Proponents of it say you should be able to exercise in a fasted state. That is usually true, but what if you need to do your workout at 6 AM and then you can’t eat until 10 AM? You are likely to either skip the workout or eat sooner than you should.
Although studies have shown that intermittent fasting helps men to control blood sugar levels, it seems that with women blood sugar levels may actually go up. This seems to be hormone related.
Many women find it hard to stick with because of the restrictions. If your blood sugar is fluctuating and leading to cravings or hunger soon after eating you may find it hard to fast for as long as suggested.
There is some anecdotal evidence that intermittent fasting can play havoc with women’s hormones. If you are in perimenopause and experiencing hormone fluctuations already, then you might want to avoid intermittent fasting for this time (or start with a shorter time and less frequent occurrences until you see how it works for you).
Should you try intermittent fasting?
As I mentioned above some people should avoid intermittent fasting (unless under medical supervision). Other women may want to give it a try. I recommend starting with a shorter time, maybe 12 hours to start. Pay attention to how you are reacting to it, especially if you are perimenopausal.
Or you can try to make healthy changes to your diet and lifestyle before you try intermittent fasting. Try these 5 Hormone Balancing Breakfasts to get started.