Nutrition is an important part of the health and fitness lifestyle. That’s why we often find popular diets that have worked to help many people achieve their goals. Today we will talk about intermittent fasting.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting consists of eating only at specific times during the day. Everyone fasts for a certain period of time, from the last meal to breakfast time, but this is usually done unconsciously when people are in bed. This method consciously extends that period of time.
Keep in mind that fasting means not to intake any food until you break the fast. You can drink any 0 calories drinks but nothing is a part of that. For example water, black coffee, or black tea.
Methods of intermittent fasting
Here are the most popular methods:
- Method 16/8. It consists of fasting for 16 hours and limiting your food intake to 8 hours. For example, you can eat from 12:00 to 20:00 and fast until noon the next day, or if you prefer to eat dinner instead, you could eat from 8:00 to 16:00 and fast for dinner. You can choose the schedule that best suits your lifestyle.
- Method 5:2. This method consists of eating the way you normally eat (healthy food) for 5 days a week and limiting your calorie intake on the other two days, usually to 500-600 calories. In order that you don’t feel depleted in energy, I would recommend that you alternate fasting days, i.e. avoid doing two days in a row. For example, you can eat normally on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday, and fast on Wednesday and Saturday.
- Method 20/4. In this method, you have to limit your food intake to 4 hours. Ideally, you would only eat one meal or two at most, and usually in the evening but can be done at any time of the day that better suits your lifestyle.
- Intermittent fasting 12/12. it’s the most basic and recommended for beginners as the hours of conscious fasting are only extended by a few hours. For most of your fast, you will be asleep so you won’t feel it as much and it will be easier to carry out. For example, you can have your last meal at 21:00 and breakfast at 9:00.
Who should avoid it?
Intermittent fasting is not for everyone. I recommend that you don’t make this style of eating lightly. While it has many benefits, for some groups of people it can be counterproductive and even dangerous.
This is why intermittent fasting is not recommended for women seeking fertility, pregnant women, or those who are breastfeeding as they need more nutrients than ever before.
This method is also not recommended for people over 70 years of age, teenagers, and those suffering from eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating.
If you are thinking of trying intermittent fasting it’s important that you first talk with a professional to determine if this method is right for you.
Women vs Men
Intermittent fasting is an eating style that brings many benefits if done and adapted well to your lifestyle and body.
Here are some of the benefits that many people who follow this method rely on:
- It simplifies life as people don’t have to worry about eating in the morning. This is a great benefit to people who are very busy with work, studies or family.
- Fewer meals are eaten, but the plates are bigger, so there is a feeling of fullness.
- Helps control insulin levels.
- Helps body composition by keeping insulin and growth hormone levels low.
- It aids cell repair and regeneration as well as helping the body to detoxify and eliminate waste material efficiently.
- It helps people with insulin resistance by improving blood glucose and insulin levels when fasting for longer periods.
- Helps to reduce oxidative stress
- Helps to delay premature aging, lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
As you can see there are many benefits to be gained from intermittent fasting, however, all of these benefits are more for men than for women. Of course, there are exceptions and some women find intermittent fasting very effective, but as a general rule, this method can be counterproductive for women.
Although men and women are human beings with similar hormones, our bodies act differently because our genetic and hormonal programming is different.
When a woman fasts for a prolonged period of time, the body goes into a warn mode because on a biological level a woman’s body is programmed to give life, therefore the body will go into defense mode when something is preventing fertility (lack of nutrients is serious when fertility is sought).
These are some of the negative effects of intermittent fasting for women:
- Affects metabolism.
- The hormone cortisol is much higher. Abdominal fat starts to accumulate and muscle mass is depleted when this hormone is high, so it won’t help with body composition as it normally helps men.
- It affects insulin levels. Irregular insulin levels don’t help to improve body composition and maintain stable energy levels.
- In women, the hormone that helps with appetite is triggered after 4-5 hours without food. So when fasting for a long time, women may experience negative effects such as anxiety, irritability, and overeating. ● Affects reproductive hormones.
If you are a woman and you really want to try fasting, I would recommend doing the 12/12 method as you will be asleep most of the time and your body will not see fasting as a threat.
As I have said before, there are always exceptions to the rule and it may work for many women or it may not work for many men, so don’t hesitate to visit a professional for guidance to see what recommendation may be best for you.
As you can see intermittent fasting can be a great tool for people seeking a fitness lifestyle but it can also be a double-edged sword for others. Don’t take it lightly and educate yourself on the subject and how the body works, you may decide at the end of the day to give intermittent fasting a try.