Intermittent fasting (IF) has gained much attention over the past few years. While most diets focus on what to eat, intermittent fasting is all about when you eat. Most simply, it is an eating plan that has windows of eating and fasting. There are various types of fasting methods, all of which split the day into times of eating or fasting. The time period that you decide is dependent upon your schedule and what works best for you. In my experience, the most popular method is a 16hr fasting period with an 8hr eating window. The 16/8 method could be done by skipping breakfast, eating your first meal at noon and your last meal no later than 8pm. Regardless of the method you choose, the science behind intermittent fasting is that our bodies will burn more fat in a fasted state. When fasted, there are also significant reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels. There can be some benefits to IF but as with most things there is a flip side, let’s take a deeper look….
So, is it really that simple? Eat within an 8 hour window and lose weight? It sounds great, but it’s not always that easy. One issue with fasting is that prolonged hunger often causes people to overeat. Also, many people believe it doesn’t matter what you eat as long as it’s within the eating window. This is one of the biggest misconceptions I see. It’s like we trick our minds to think that since we are on a “diet of IF” and we are only eating within our “allowed” time frame, that the quality and quantity of the food we eat doesn’t count. This could not be farther from the truth. The idea of intermittent fasting is that by limiting the time you are eating you will therefore limit caloric intake. With that being said, intermittent fasting won’t make much of a difference if you’re consuming the same amount of calories as you would through a full day of eating. You may also feel weak and experience “brain fog” when you go extended periods of time without eating/fueling.
There is also some evidence that women may not receive the same benefits from IF that men do. One study showed that while men had improved insulin sensitivity with IF, women had worsened blood sugar control. It can also cause some women to lose their menstrual cycle which can lead to other health concerns.
There are certain cases where women should not use IF. If you have a history of an eating disorder you should not use IF. Women who are trying to conceive, or are experiencing fertility issues, should avoid intermittent fasting. Also those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
It is always best to check with your healthcare provider before starting IF especially if you have any medical conditions including diabetes, hypoglycemia, low blood pressure, or are on any medications.
At the end of the day, intermittent fasting is another creative way in which to limit caloric intake. I know women who love it, and others who don’t enjoy it. For example, if you tend to consume a surplus of calories late at night, this eating plan could be beneficial. If you’re like me and wake up ready for some breakfast, it’s probably not the best fit.
The main question I always ask women before starting any new “diet” or eating plan is, “Is this something you can do for the rest of your life?” If not, then it’s just a temporary fix. It may work for a short period of time, but once you stop, you will end up right back where you started. Instead, I encourage women to find a healthy eating plan that works for their lifestyle and allows them to be the healthiest and happiest version of who they were made to be!
If you are a woman who has tried all the “diets” and are frustrated with the back and forth of losing and gaining weight, and are ready to make a lifestyle change, send me a message to learn how I help women lose weight and manage feelings of depression and anxiety with nutrition and exercise. You can also click on this link to learn more about my small group program. https://thefitnessnutritionists.thinkific.com/courses/refinedandrenewed
Have you tried IF before or thought about doing so? Feel free to share your experiences or thoughts in the comments, I would LOVE to hear from you!