As we grow older it gets increasingly challenging to maintain a healthy weight and optimum metabolic health. In fact, recent statistics show that more than 70% of people over the age of 60 are overweight or obese. Furthermore, more than a third of U.S. seniors suffer from metabolic diseases like diabetes (10).
Seniors dealing with these health issues may find a potential tool in Intermittent Fasting (IF).
Although IF is mostly associated with younger adults for weight loss and fitness, there are safe ways for seniors to incorporate this dietary regimen into their lifestyle, after discussing with their healthcare providers, of course.
Read on to discover the pros and cons of intermittent fasting for seniors, and how to safely implement this potentially life-enhancing strategy.
What Is The Age Limit for Intermittent Fasting?
There’s no specific limit on intermittent fasting by age and gender. In fact, many seniors have successfully incorporated IF into their routines and reaped its benefits. However, as we age our bodies become less efficient at handling changes in eating patterns.
This means that seniors may need to pay extra attention when starting intermittent fasting and adjust accordingly based on their health status and medical history.
Some particular concerns about intermittent fasting for senior women and men include:
1. Nutrient Deficiency
As we age, our bodies require a higher intake of certain nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. Intermittent fasting, which often involves skipping meals or reducing food intake, may lead to a deficiency of these essential nutrients (4).
Seniors should consult with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian to ensure they are meeting their nutritional needs while following an IF regimen.
2. Energy Levels
Intermittent fasting can also impact energy levels, as the body relies on consistent food intake for energy. For seniors who may already struggle with fatigue, this can exacerbate the problem (4).
It’s crucial to monitor energy levels and adjust eating windows or meal composition to ensure sustained vigor throughout the day.
3. Medication Interactions
Certain medications need to be taken with food, and adjusting eating schedules may interfere with medication efficacy.
Furthermore, taking certain medicines without food can cause nausea, stomach irritation, or worse side effects. Seniors who are taking medications should consult with their healthcare providers before starting intermittent fasting.
Fasting may affect blood sugar levels, which can be particularly concerning for seniors taking diabetes medications. Those taking heart or blood pressure medication are at risk of developing imbalances in electrolyte levels while fasting, which can be dangerous (4).
When practicing IF it’s easy to forget about staying hydrated, especially since thirst signals can decrease with age.
Dehydration can lead to several health issues including kidney problems, constipation, and even cognitive impairment. Therefore, seniors should ensure they maintain adequate hydration, even during fasting periods (3).
5. Muscle Mass Loss
Seniors are at risk of muscle mass loss, or sarcopenia, with age. Fasting, especially without proper protein intake, can accelerate this process.
Additionally, reduced muscle mass can increase the risk of falls and fractures. Seniors who are practicing intermittent fasting should ensure they are consuming enough protein to maintain muscle mass and strength (7). Strength training can also help maintain muscle mass. Talk to your healthcare provider about what types of exercise are safe and appropriate for you.
Intermittent fasting can be challenging to sustain in the long term, even for able-bodied individuals.
For seniors who may have difficulty with meal planning and preparation, sticking to an IF routine can be even more challenging. Hunger, fatigue, and other side effects may also make compliance difficult.
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Should a 70 Year Old Do Intermittent Fasting?
Age alone should not be a determining factor in whether or not someone chooses to incorporate IF into their lifestyle.
However, seniors above the age of 70 may need to consider any health conditions and medication interactions they have when deciding if intermittent fasting for over 70’s is right for them.
There are many potential benefits that intermittent fasting for those over 60, male and female. Based on research (which, we should mention is limited to younger individuals), IF may help seniors to:
Lose and Manage Weight
Weight management can be a real pickle for seniors. As we age, our metabolism slows down, which means we’re not burning calories as quickly as we used to.
What’s more, lifestyle changes often coincide with retirement, such as becoming less active, which can contribute to weight gain.
Combine a slower metabolism and decreased physical activity, and it’s no wonder obesity is a common issue among seniors.
IF is a form of calorie restriction; it helps you to consume fewer calories throughout the day.
When you’re in the fasting state, the body runs out of sugar to burn for energy, so it starts burning fat. For seniors, this means they can enjoy their golden years with a healthier weight, reducing the risk of diseases like diabetes and heart disease (5).
Increase Metabolic Flexibility
Metabolic flexibility is simply your body’s ability to switch between burning carbohydrates (sugars) and fats for energy.
Intermittent fasting can help train your body to get better at using fat for fuel, hence increasing metabolic flexibility. The ability to switch between these two energy sources might help seniors maintain a healthy weight and combat age-related metabolic diseases (4).
Enhance Metabolic Health
IF has been shown to improve various metabolic markers, such as blood sugar levels, cholesterol, and insulin sensitivity. These markers are crucial in maintaining overall health and preventing chronic diseases.
For seniors who may have an increased risk of developing metabolic conditions, incorporating IF into their routine may be a beneficial strategy (5).
Improve Brain Health
Intermittent fasting has also been linked to improved cognitive function and brain health.
By increasing metabolic flexibility, reducing inflammation, and promoting the production of new brain cells, IF may help prevent age-related decline in brain function, although the research on this is in its preliminary stages (5).
If true, this might lead to better memory, focus, and overall mental clarity for seniors.
Reset Circadian Rhythm
The circadian rhythm, or internal clock, controls various bodily functions such as sleep and digestion. As we age, this rhythm can become disrupted, leading to issues such as insomnia and digestive problems.
Intermittent fasting has been shown to help reset the circadian rhythm by regulating hormones that control these bodily processes (1).
Hormones such as melatonin, which promotes sleep, and ghrelin, which controls hunger, can be affected by IF. This might lead to better overall sleep and digestion for seniors. Our article on intermittent fasting for women explains further the relationship between hormones and IF.
What Is The Best Intermittent Fasting Schedule for Over 65?
16-8 intermittent fasting for seniors is the most popular and recommended plan for seniors. This involves eating during an 8-hour window and fasting for 16 hours. For example, a senior could eat between 10 am to 6 pm and fast from 6 pm to 10 am the next day. You can also start with a 12 hour fasting window and work your way up to 16.
Below are 7 solid reasons why we recommend this particular plan for seniors:
Easier to maintain: 16/8 intermittent fasting is relatively simple and easy to follow, and covers night hours during which most people don’t eat anyway.
Flexible: This plan allows for flexibility in choosing the eating window, making it easier to fit into a senior’s lifestyle.
No caloric restrictions: Unlike other IF plans, there are no restrictions on what or how much a senior can eat during the 8-hour eating window. We’ve discussed this in detail in our what breaks a fast article.
Can be customized: Seniors can adjust the eating and fasting windows to suit their needs, such as shifting the window earlier if they have an early bedtime.
Encourages regular meals: With a shorter eating window, seniors are more likely to stick to regular meal times, which can help with digestion and overall health.
Promotes healthy habits: Following a consistent eating schedule and practicing mindful eating during the 8-hour window can promote healthier eating habits for seniors.
Can be combined with other diets: Seniors who are already following specific dietary requirements, such as low-carb or vegan, can still incorporate 16/8 intermittent fasting into their routine. Further information can be found in our intermittent fasting snacks post.
Furthermore, there are specific benefits that may be unlocked at the 16 hour mark. Research suggests that, at 16 hours:
- Blood sugar levels are reduced, which is especially beneficial for seniors with diabetes or pre-diabetes.
- Insulin sensitivity may increase, making it easier for the body to process and use glucose.
- Human growth hormone (HGH) secretion may increase, leading to improved muscle mass and bone density.
- Cellular repair and waste removal processes may be initiated, promoting overall cellular health.
- Inflammation may decrease, reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
What Is The Best Intermittent Fasting Meal Plan for Seniors?
Seniors require more of certain nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, fiber and protein while needing less of others such as sodium and sugars. The plan should aim to provide these nutrients in the proper proportions.
Seniors on an intermittent fasting schedule should aim to have meals rich in the following food groups: proteins, fiber-rich carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables, fats, and dairy or dairy alternatives.
Research suggests that seniors should increase their protein intake to prevent muscle loss and support healthy aging. Animal protein sources are rich in vitamin B12, zinc, and iron, which are essential for seniors. However, plant-based protein sources like beans, lentils, and tofu can also be incorporated into the diet (7).
Below are some specific foods that seniors practicing intermittent fasting can include in their meals to increase protein intake:
- Lean meats like chicken, fish, and turkey
- Dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese (or dairy alternatives)
- Beans and legumes
- Tofu or other soy-based products
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Carbohydrates are an important source of energy for seniors, for many reasons. For one, they promote healthy digestion and bowel movements, which can be essential for seniors dealing with constipation. Additionally, fiber can help lower cholesterol and support cardiovascular health (6).
Here are some examples of fiber-rich carbohydrates that seniors can incorporate into their meals:
- Whole grains like brown rice, whole wheat bread or pasta
- Fruits such as apples, berries, and pears
- Vegetables like broccoli, carrots, and sweet potatoes
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can support healthy aging (2). These foods also contain high amounts of fiber, making them beneficial for seniors practicing intermittent fasting.
Some examples of fruits and vegetables that seniors should incorporate into their meals include:
- Dark leafy greens like spinach and kale
- Berries such as blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries
- Colorful vegetables like bell peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant
While seniors should limit their intake of saturated fats and avoid trans fats, it’s essential to include healthy unsaturated fats in their diet. These fats can help support brain health, joint function, and cardiovascular health (8).
Some healthy fat options for seniors on an intermittent fasting plan include:
- Olive oil
- Nuts and seeds like almonds, cashews, and chia seeds
Dairy or Dairy Alternatives
As mentioned earlier, seniors require higher amounts of calcium and vitamin D to maintain strong bones. Incorporating dairy products or alternatives into their meals can help meet these requirements (9).
Some examples of dairy or dairy alternative options for seniors include:
- Milk (cow’s, almond, soy, etc.)
- Yogurt (regular or Greek)
- Cheese (regular or non-dairy)
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a 75-Year-Old Woman Do Intermittent Fasting?
Yes, a 75-year-old woman can certainly engage in intermittent fasting. However, it’s crucial that she does so under the supervision of her healthcare provider. Age does not necessarily limit someone’s ability to fast intermittently, but individual health conditions or medications might be a factor.
How Many Hours Should a 70-Year-Old Woman Fast to Lose Weight?
Typically, the 16/8 method of intermittent fasting (fasting for 16 hours and eating for 8) is a good starting point for most people, including 70-year-old women. But, how long one should fast can also depend on individual health conditions, activity levels, and specific weight loss goals. It might be advisable to start with a shorter fasting window, such as 12 hours, and work your way up to whatever is comfortable for you.
What Is the Fastest Way to Lose Weight After 70?
The fastest way to lose weight at any age, including after 70, is a combination of a balanced diet, regular physical activity, and a healthy lifestyle.
For seniors, this could mean following a nutrient-rich diet, incorporating light exercises like walking or yoga, and ensuring adequate sleep. Intermittent fasting may also aid in weight loss, but should be done under the guidance of a healthcare professional.
How Can a 70-Year-Old Lose Weight Fast?
When it comes to weight loss for a 70-year-old, it should be focused on steady, sustainable practices rather than rapid results.
This could involve eating a balanced diet full of lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, engaging in regular physical activity suitable for their fitness level, and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule.
Intermittent fasting can contribute to weight loss, but it’s critical to consult with a healthcare professional to ensure it’s safely implemented.
The Bottom Line
Intermittent fasting for seniors can have numerous benefits, and the 16/8 plan is a great option to consider. By following this plan and incorporating nutrient-dense foods into their meals, seniors can support healthy aging and overall well-being.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Fasting, circadian rhythms, and time restricted feeding in healthy lifespan (2017,nih.gov)
- Fruit and vegetable intake among older adults: a scoping review (2013,nih.gov)
- Fast and Fluid: The Benefits of Hydration During Fasting (2023,medanta.org)
- Is intermittent fasting safe for older adults? (2020,harvard.edu)
- INTERMITTENT FASTING IN OLDER ADULTS: BENEFITS VS. RISKS (2023,rochester.edu)
- Nutrition Needs for Older Adults: Fiber (2020,acl.gov)
- Nutrition Needs for Older Adults: Protein (2020,acl.gov)
- Nutrition For The Elderly: Healthy Fats (2020,melrosecare.co.uk)
- Nutrition for Seniors (2016,nih.gov)
- Obesity in Older Adults: Epidemiology and Implications for Disability and Disease (2012,nih.gov)