Intermittent fasting, especially for women can be an effective way to not only lose weight, but also improve a ton of other health markers. Read on to find out if it's right for you, and how to get best results.
If you’re holding down a corporate job, raising kids and generally trying to manage some semblance of a life, I trust you’re very busy. Probably too busy to prep meals, eat 4 to 6 times a day and hit the gym after work. Story of your life? I’ve got something you might find interesting!
So what is intermittent fasting?
If you’ve never heard that term before, it’s basically decreasing the window of time that you eat in a day to typically 8 hours a day or less. You don’t necessarily eat less calories, you just eat them in a shorter period of time, perhaps say between noon and 8pm. So in that scenario, you wouldn’t skip breakfast, but you would hold off on eating it until lunch time. Then you could eat whatever you typically would, until you hit a hard stop at 8pm. (The timing of your window is entirely up to you.)
This may sound very familiar to your typical habits. Or maybe this is something you did in the past, but changed that habit because consumer health experts insisted that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so you started forcing yourself to eat before your left for work in the morning.
Breakfast is critical, but it doesn't have to be eaten first thing in the morning
Before I go on, I will say that for some, breakfast IS the most important meal of the day (regardless of what time it's consumed at), and a crappy first meal can leave you feeling sluggish and tired for the rest of the day. In his book, The 4 Hour Body, Tim Ferriss recommends eating 30 grams of protein first thing in the morning to control leptin hormones (your internal hunger barometer. Dr Sara Gottfried suggests it also calm the adrenals.
Even with intermittent fasting (IF) you can eat when you first wake up, but you better be all good with eating 5pm blue-haired dinner specials because you’ll be fasting pretty early on in the evening.
But there is ample research to support not eating breakfast. Many health experts, including Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple, practice this approach and typically do their workouts in a fasted state as well, leading to a better fat-burning effect and greater human growth hormone production.
How will intermittent fasting make you lose weight?
Well, the short answer is that it improves hormone balance, insulin resistance and fat oxidation, but it also controls overall caloric intake because you just have less time to mindlessly graze without accounting for calories. If you want more scientific explanations to these points - Mark Sisson has pulled together a great deal of research here.
If this is something you think would work for you, particularly if you’re not one to crave breakfast or find you’re too busy to eat 3 meals a day (with IF you can eat all your food in one meal, or spread it out however you like in your eating window), then it might be worth giving it a try.
To be clear, I’m not an expert in this protocol, but here’s a great resource from a trusted source on the evidence-based approach to intermittent fasting from Precision Nutrition that I would highly recommend checking out.
Intermittent fasting for women - what you need to know
Intermittent fasting is not for everyone, and more particularly, it’s not always the best choice for women. It can cause hormonal fluctuations in some women which can lead to weight gain, instead of loss, and it’s also not advised if you’re pregnant, nursing or have a history of eating disorders.
Clearly the downside of this practice is that you may push your hunger too far and end up in an uncontrollable binge which is obviously not the goal. However, if you’re someone that can ease through a good part of the day without eating, IF can also increase mental clarity and focus, free up a lunch hour to do other things, as well as being an awesome fat-burning technique.
What are my thoughts on Intermittent Fasting?
I’ve been experimenting with this protocol for the past few weeks, but I feel I need to give it a bit more time before I share my thoughts on the fat burning effectiveness, however I will say that I do find I can get more done in the morning and enjoy a more alert state of mind while fasting. Beyond that, I’ll let the research speak for itself until I’ve given this process enough time to show results.
Want more info on Intermittent fasting for Women?
I created a cheat sheet that will help you get started with the most basic form of fasting (16 hours of fasting and an 8 hour eating window). If you want more help and support, consider joining one of my online fitness training groups. I teach my clients how to safely and effectively try fasting to see if it's right for them. We also focus on adding workouts and proper nutrition to our diets.
Caren is a certified yoga teacher, fitness instructor and author of The Fit Habit. Here she shares simple, low carb recipes, quick home workout ideas and practical ways to foster mind + body wellness.