The Secret Guide for Women to Lose Weight with Intermittent Fasting

One of the many different weight-loss diets that are extremely popular nowadays is the so-called intermittent fasting.

It is another way to reduce the amount of energy consumed, without having to think about calories most of the time.

And while it is proven to be successful in terms of weight loss for most people, women might be more susceptible to some of the side-effects.

This is why it is important for women to be well aware of the different aspects of this diet and take a more gentle approach towards it.

In this article, we will focus on all the benefits and risks of intermittent fasting and how to apply the diet in your routine safely.

The Secret Guide for Women to Lose Weight with Intermittent FastingIn this article, we will focus on all the benefits and risks of intermittent fasting and how to apply the diet in your routine safely.#intermittentfasting #skippingbreakfast #weightloss #womenloseweight #nutrition

What is intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting is a type of eating pattern, that restricts your dietary schedule, instead of your dietary choices.

Unlike traditional eating schedules involving a breakfast, lunch, and dinner, it involves periods of complete calorie deprivation, called fasts.

In between the fasts, there is a strict time window that allows eating, without any other restriction.

For example, the most popular pattern is performing a daily fast of 16 hours (including sleep) followed by an 8-hour window allowing food consumption.

Another option is to completely avoid food 2 (non-consecutive) days out of your whole week while eating normally on the remaining 5 days.

During the period of fasting, only calorie-free beverages are allowed, such as water, coffee, and tea, without sugar.

Taking supplements is also allowed during the periods of food deprivations, as long as they are calorie-free as well.

On the other hand, keep in mind that fat-soluble vitamins are not absorbed well unless consumed with a meal rich in fats.

Take-Away: Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that restricts the time frame for eating, creating periods of fasts with different duration – usually 16-24 hours. Thus, most people eat fewer calories and lose weight.

Different types of intermittent fasting

There are different protocols for the application of intermittent fasting.

The most popular are:

  • Time-restricted feeding – regular daily fasts and restricted eating windows;
  • Alternate day fasting – fasting every other day;
  • Whole day fasting – having 1-3 days of fasting every week.

In the case of time-restricted feeding, apart from the most common 16/8 protocol, there are also other options such as 18 or even 20 hours fasts.

This restricts the eating windows to just 6 or 4 hours respectively.

The most restrictive regime of all is the so-called “warrior diet”. It involves 22 hours fast and just 2 hours of feeding – literally you are allowed to eat just a single meal.

The most common protocol for the whole day fasting method is the 5:2 diet. This means 2 days of fasting every week.

During those fasts, you can restrict your calories completely, or at least to just 25% of your normal calorie intake (500-600 kcals).

The remaining 5 days you can eat normally, the way that you are used to.

All of the protocols can be effective in terms of weight loss since all have the conditions to create a caloric deficit.

The 16/8 daily time-restricted feeding is the most popular method for practicing intermittent fasting, because it is the easiest, making it also most sustainable.

When it comes to successful dieting, multiple scientific pieces of evidence have revealed that it is indeed all about adherence and sustainability (1, 2, 3).

Take-Away: There are many different protocols for intermittent fasting, such as fasting every other day, fasting two days per week, or fasting every day for a specified number of hours.

Is skipping breakfast bad for you

One of the most common ways to apply 16/8 is by skipping breakfast. For example, eating between 12 pm and 8 pm.

This is because the majority of people find it useful to save time during the morning and not to eat at all instead of eating fast food during work hours.

Also, the morning coffee can help you control your hunger, which is a much harder task for the afternoon.

Furthermore, having your eating window later during the day allows you to enjoy a family dinner.

However, many people might argue that skipping breakfast is quite a bad idea, as it is “the most important meal of the day”.

In fact, multiple epidemiological studies have found a correlation between skipping breakfast and obesity (4).

Scientific evidence shows that people who neglect to have a meal in the morning are more likely to be overweight or obese, compared to others having regular breakfast.

However, correlation does not always mean causation.

As other studies have revealed, advising obese people to implement breakfast in their routine is not a successful solution for weight loss (5).

The actual reason why people who skip breakfast are more likely to be obese is that they pay less attention to their nutrition in general.

On the other hand, people who try to lead healthier lifestyles focus on having regular meals and are much more likely to eat breakfast.

They will stay slim not thanks to the breakfast, but due to paying more attention to what and how much they eat.

Take-Away: The most common protocol of intermittent fasting is 16/8, which often involves fasting during the morning. Although it involves skipping breakfast which some people might consider unhealthy, the overall effect on body weight and health will depend on the quality and quantity of the food.

Is fasting going to affect your metabolism?

Another concern that fasting, whether during the morning or not, is not suitable for weight loss is that it would slow down your metabolism.

While it is a normal reaction of the organism to slow down some metabolic processes in order to preserve itself during periods of food deprivation, it takes much more than a short fast for that effect to occur.

In fact, studies show that most people need to fast strictly for over 3 days, in order to slow down their metabolism with just 8% (6).

Some studies even show that short-term fasts speed up basal metabolism and resting energy expenditure (7, 8).

This is due to the increase in noradrenaline, which is a stress hormone, that amongst many other roles in the body, increases metabolic rate slightly (9).

This means that there no risks for your metabolism, after short periods of fasting, such as the ones in the different protocols of intermittent fasting – 16-24h.

Take-Away: Fasting can affect metabolism negatively only if it lasts for excessively long periods. Short-term fasts might even boost it slightly.

How it works for weight loss

Intermittent fasting is a proven and effective method for weight loss which has gained lots of popularity (10).

Eating fewer meals results in a reduction of the total amount of calories consumed, without having to intentionally count them.

However, compared to counting calories, there is no guarantee for how much energy you will consume with intermittent fasting.

If you manage to eat as much as before, by having bigger meals or binging on food during your “eating windows”, you will not lose weight.

This is why it is important to maintain healthy eating habits, during intermittent fasting in order to make it an effective weight-loss tool.

A meta-analysis compared intermittent fasting to other diets with caloric restriction and found no difference in weight loss when the calorie deficit is the same (11).

Another meta-analysis also confirms these results – intermittent energy restriction is just as effective as continuous energy restriction in terms of weight loss (12).

Studies show that fasting for short periods also does not create a risk for muscle loss (13).

When losing weight there is a risk it might not be just fat, but also muscle. We want to keep our muscle tissue as much as possible while losing fat in order to preserve our metabolism.

Certain types of intermittent fasting, such as the 16/8 protocol can further aid weight loss as they teach the person to eat at regular hours.

Our bodies prefer routines, so when you start eating at the same time every day, you will also feel hunger only during those specific times, at it will be much easier to avoid snacking and unplanned meals.

Take-Away: Intermittent fasting is an effective weight loss diet because it can lead to calorie restriction due to the limited time frame for eating. However, you have to be careful not to compensate those calories by eating too much during the “eating window”.

Effect of fasting on hormones

The growth hormone, also called somatotropin, has an important role in the growth and development of children and adolescents.

In adults, its role is related mainly to promoting lipolysis, protein synthesis, and gluconeogenesis.

Synthetic growth hormone therapy is often used as an antiaging therapy, however without being approved or legalized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Studies involving the use of somatotropin, reveal that it does lead to reductions in body fat and improvements in muscle tissue (14).

Despite the positive body composition effect, there were adverse effects observed, such as an increased risk for reduced glucose tolerance and diabetes mellitus.

It is revealed by science that fasting increases the levels of growth hormone (15).

This particular study shows an elevation up to 2000% in the levels of somatotropin, however, this increase occurs only after 5 days of complete food deprivation.

After 24 hours fast, the levels are raised about 300-500%, which is not a sufficient amount to simulate the effects after the use of synthetic hormones (16).

Considering that during fasting, the levels of somatotropin are increased only for short periods of time, instead of prolonged ones, it makes it even less likely that the hormone will lead to noticeable body composition changes.

On the other hand, fasting leads to noticeable reductions in the levels of the so-called insulin-like growth factor–1 (17).

Scientific evidence has revealed that this hormone is linked to cell proliferation in various types of cancer, so low levels could have protective effects (18).

Take-Away: Intermittent fasting has a positive effect on some hormones such as somatotropin, however, these effects do not reach therapeutic levels.

Other possible health benefits

Intermittent fasting can lead to multiple health benefits, which are mostly related to losing fat and improving body weight.

They include improved reduction in visceral fat, improved fasting insulin levels, and insulin sensitivity (19).

It can also reduce the cardiovascular risk in obese men and women, according to some clinical trials (20).

Unfortunately, there are not many studies performed on humans, if any at all, investigating the specific effects of intermittent fasting on cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

A systematic review of the current literature showed that the evidence is too limited, to recommend fasting as an effective strategy for the prevention of chronic diseases (21).

Intermittent fasting might be helpful for health conditions related to disturbed autophagy.

Autophagy is a catabolic process, where body cells can eliminate damaged proteins and organelles, via the help of lysosomes.

If the process is disrupted, those waste products might accumulate, eventually leading to large-scale problems, such as neurodegenerative conditions, immune problems, and even some types of cancer (22, 23).

Evidence suggests that caloric restriction and fasting periods can enhance autophagy and become a part of the preventive measures for people predisposed to such conditions (24).

Multiple studies involving mice reveal that intermittent fasting can lead to improvements in the diseases we mentioned, however, there are no trials performed in humans, so the evidence remains weak (25, 26, 27, 28, 29).

On the other hand, studies in humans show that fasting might be helpful in reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in the organism (30, 31, 32).

A study also shows that intermittent fasting as a diet can be beneficial for people with eating disorders (33).

On the other hand, it might not be effective in terms of weight loss for people having a binge-eating disorder and purgative behavior (bulimia).

Take-Away: The biggest health benefits of intermittent fasting are the result of better weight management and weight loss. There are also other possible effects that improve health such as improved cell autophagy, however, human studies are insufficient.

Is intermittent fasting for everyone?

We previously mentioned that intermittent fasting is just as effective in terms of weight loss as other calorie-restrictive diets.

However, it might be much more efficient for some people compared to others, as it can make weight loss easier and more sustainable for them.

For example, it is very suitable for people with busy routines, which do not have time or access to a healthy meal during work.

By skipping meals entirely during work and eating only afterward, intermittent fasting is a perfect fit for such schedules.

It can help you reduce the time needed for shopping and cooking as well.

Furthermore, some people feel like they can control their hunger much better, compared to when following other diets.

Intermittent fasting will also train you to tolerate hunger better and be more focused and efficient when you can’t eat for some time.

However, intermittent fasting might not be suitable for everyone. For example, some people with morning cravings simply cannot s breakfast.

For them, it is better to have a satiating meal at breakfast and reduced caloric intake throughout the day.

Others have their workouts in the morning. Working out fasted significantly affects performance and reduces its effectiveness so it is not a good option.

It is also not very suitable for building muscle. This is especially true if the fasts continue longer than 16 hours.

Although fasting increases the growth hormone, it leads to a decrease in the levels of insulin-like growth factor–1, which is much strongly associated with muscle development than somatotropin (17).

Most importantly intermittent fasting is not suitable for pregnant and breastfeeding women, children, adolescents, and people with medical conditions (like stomach ulcer, gastritis) which can get triggered by skipping a meal.

Take-Away: Intermittent fasting is a perfect fit for busy schedules, however, keep in mind that not everyone can deal with hunger equally well, as well as it is not suitable for some athletes.

Potential risks for women

Women are more sensitive to prolonged periods of fasting, compared to men.

They are much more likely to experience low blood pressure and drops in blood sugar in general, and intermittent fasting can increase the likelihood of their occurrence.

One of the most common effects of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is a headache. With time the organism adapts to the new eating pattern and the symptoms disappear.

In order to make the transition easier, you can try reducing progressively the time frame for eating, instead of jumping right into a strict intermittent fasting protocol.

People with diabetes should be extra careful with this diet, as it can lead to dangerous drops in blood sugar during fasting.

Furthermore, a study has shown that the diet might have an adverse effect on glucose tolerance in nonobese women, but not in men (34).

Fasting can also temporarily affect negatively the menstrual cycle and the reproductive capabilities of the female organism.

Studies involving prolonged fasts have shown that various abnormalities of the menstruation occur much more often (35).

This is especially true for women who are underweight, so they should avoid eating patterns such as intermittent fasting.

It should be also avoided if you are trying to conceive, if you are pregnant, or breastfeeding.

Changing your eating pattern without giving time for your gastrointestinal system to adapt can also lead to negative experiences.

For example, the risk for gastroesophageal reflux and bloating is higher for a period of time, until the body gets used to the new diet.

Overall the most common side effect from the diet is hunger (36).

Take-Away: Women might be more sensitive towards periods of fasting, so they should take a more balanced and gradual approach towards the diet. It is also not suitable for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

How to get started

As we already mentioned, women might be more sensitive to some of the effects of intermittent fasting, when compared to men.

This is why it is advised that women take a more gentle approach towards the diet.

For example, there shouldn’t be any complete restriction during fasting days, but instead, reduce the calories to around 25% of your normal amounts.

The easiest and most advisable protocol is 16/8 where the fast starts after the last meal for the day, and the breakfast is 16 hours later.

If you finished your dinner at 8 pm, you can eat again the next day at 12 pm.

For women, it is advised to start with 14 hours fasts at first, and then slowly increase them up to 16 hours.

It is very important to eat well during the “feeding window”, to avoid malnourishment.

On the other hand, also pick healthier food choices and don’t binge, because you will enter caloric surplus and you will not improve your body weight or health.

It is important to drink enough water during the fasts. Water can help with the hunger you might experience.

Calorie-free drinks are also allowed such as coffee and tea. However, you should not consume too much caffeine as it might lead to an elevation in blood glucose levels.

Although theoretically drinks with calorie-free sweeteners are also allowed, they might lead to an increase in hunger.

It is better if you are more flexible in your approach towards intermittent fasting – there is no reason not to switch your “eating window” earlier if you feel extreme hunger before 16 hours have passed.

Take-Away: It is important to start slowly and progressively switch to a protocol that is most suitable to your schedule and personal preferences.

To sum everything up on intermittent fasting for women to lose weight

Intermittent fasting can be an effective strategy for consuming fewer calories and achieving the desired body weight.

It might also bring further benefits towards some prevention and treatment of some chronic conditions, however, more research is needed.

Women should be gentler in their approach towards the diet in order to implement it safely and successfully in their routine.

The Secret Guide for Women to Lose Weight with Intermittent FastingIn this article, we will focus on all the benefits and risks of intermittent fasting and how to apply the diet in your routine safely.#intermittentfasting #skippingbreakfast #weightloss #womenloseweight #nutrition
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