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Should women intermittent fast? For some yes, others maybe not.

Intermittent fasting is one of the latest trends to take hold in the health and wellness world. Here’s a fast, pun intended, run down of intermittent fasting. Simply you extend the time without food and shorten your eating window. Popular methods of intermittent fasting include

14:10 – Fasting for 14 hours from around 7-8pm and having your first meal of the day at around 9-10am.

16:8 – Fasting for 16 hours from around 7-8pm and having your first meal of the day at around 11am-12pm (shortening your eating window to only 8 hours)

1 Meal per day – Shortening your eating window to around 2-4 hours and only consuming one meal per day.

24 hour fast – As the name suggests; fasting for an entire day.

 

What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?

Humans are designed to be able to function both physically and mentally without food, this is why we store fat; to be used in times of “fasting.” However in the world of Uber Eats, 24 hour supermarkets and access to mangoes all year round we are doing more feasting than fasting. Science has shown that this grazing culture is a major contributor to insulin resistance, Type 2 Diabetes, weight gain around the stomach and inflammation based neurological disorders.

 

Studies have found that extending the time between our last meal and first meal the next day can provide us with many health benefits.

 

  • Accelerated weight loss
  • Improved insulin sensitivity; aka your body can handle sugar better
  • Reduced cardiovascular risk factors such as high cholesterol and inflammation
  • Increased repair of damaged DNA
  • Increased energy production
  • The body can clean out old dysfunctioning cells

 

But should women fast?

Often studies are done on men. This is due to their less complicated hormonal cycles. So many of the results of studies in nutrition and exercise cannot be directly translated to women unless of course they are done on women.

 

There are a host of benefits specifically for women who intermittent fast. This includes improvement of PCOS, one of the most common reproductive disorders. Increased weight loss and reduced risk of insulin resistance. Improvement in bone density as well as a reduction of mood disorders.

 

What women need to be careful of when fasting?

Women’s reproductive cycle and hormonal production is intertwined with their metabolism. When females fast for too long or severely calorie restrict they go into starvation mode. The production of thyroid hormones slows, this causes the body to preserve energy and may even contribute to weight gain. The stress hormone cortisol starts to rise and this takes away from the production of progesterone, causes sugar cravings and may lead to anxiety.  

Progesterone is needed to balance out oestrogen, maintain a healthy menstrual cycle and keep us women feeling level headed and calm. When oestrogen is in dominance this also causes weight gain, moodiness and fatigue.

Lastly this starvation mode triggers the body to shut down fertility as the body is not well nourished to reproduce.

 

How to effectively fast as a woman

Here are some general guidelines that women can follow to introduce intermittent fasting into their lifestyle and get the many benefits. Without becoming starved or losing your period.

Do not fast on consecutive days

Start with fasting for 12 hours and then slowly increase to 14 and then 16 hours.

Break your fast with a nourishing meal that is high in protein, healthy fats and plenty of leafy greens.

Ensure you are still eating enough calories throughout the day

Drink more water than you usually do; food contains water and considering you might be eating one less meal you need to try and drink an extra 500mL – 1L of water.

Do not push it. If you are feeling light-headed, fatigued and anxious do not go by the clock but by your body signals.

Do not fast when you are menstruating; this is the time in your cycle when you require plenty of nutrients.

 

Who should not fast?

Although intermittent fasting when done correctly is highly beneficial for our health it is not for everyone. You should be cautious about introducing fasting if:

You do not have a regular menstrual cycle

You have a history of eating disorders

You are underweight

You are pregnant or breastfeeding

You have adrenal fatigue or live a highly stressed lifestyle.

 

It’s always important to consult with your medical or health practitioner before introducing any form of fasting.


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