In this fast-paced era, people have a tendency to prefer things that take up little time. The same is often true on a weight loss journey. Exercising and trying multiple diets can eat up a big chunk of your daily schedule.
This is why many people now favor intermittent fasting. It is a research-backed eating plan for weight loss that switches between fasting and eating regularly (8). Following a periodic fasting schedule for weight loss does not take up much of your time and may also have many health benefits (4).
Mark Mattson, a scientist from Johns Hopkins who studies fasting, has been doing this for 25 years. He says our bodies are built to handle not eating for long periods of many hours or even days. In ancient times, when people didn’t farm and instead hunted and gathered food, they had to be okay without eating for a while in order to survive.
What Intermittent Fasting Is Successful?
Intermittent fasting changes your focus from what to eat to when to eat. It creates an eating pattern for you that must be followed consistently. This pattern has fasting and eating windows (3).
When you follow intermittent fasting, you either don’t eat or dramatically reduce your food intake during the fasting window. During the eating window, you can eat and satisfy your cravings, but you should try not to overeat if your goal is weight loss.
It’s important to remember that intermittent fasting does not only help with weight loss and may yield many other benefits. It may reduce inflammation which can improve related conditions such as asthma, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis (5).
A carefully followed fasting plan may also help decrease bad cholesterol levels and other markers that are risk factors for heart disease (3). In addition, some research has suggested that intermittent fasting can provide benefits such as better sleep, longevity, and a healthier lifestyle (4).
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How Does Intermittent Fasting Work for Women?
Although the main goal of intermittent fasting is weight loss, it should be noted that it isn’t a one-size-fits-all plan. Some women may face side effects that outweigh the benefits. For example, one study found that glucose tolerance in response to a meal was slightly impaired in some women due to intermittent fasting. The same response was not observed in men (11).
Lower calorie counts for longer intervals may negatively affect hormone production in women. This disruption can increase the likelihood of irregular periods, infertility, weaker bones, and other health risks (6).
This indicates that intermittent fasting for women should be planned carefully. If you are a woman and want to shed some pounds, exercise caution and start with a milder approach. Recommended intermittent fasting schedules for female weight loss often have shorter fasting intervals than those for men.
Some women should actually avoid the idea of intermittent fasting altogether. This includes pregnant or breastfeeding women, as their low-calorie count may affect the baby’s health. Women with diabetes or who are on daily medication should also refrain from intermittent fasting as it may exacerbate their health conditions. It is always advisable to consult your physician before you start intermittent fasting (21).
What Is the Best Intermittent Fasting Schedule for Women?
As women are more likely to suffer negative results with intermittent fasting, they should take a prudent approach. Therefore, intermittent fasting schedules for women are generally less intense than those for men, with a shorter fasting window or allowing a certain amount of calorie intake during the fasting window.
Here are some examples of stress-free intermittent fasting plans that better suit women:
The 5:2 Diet
This is a popular intermittent fasting method that is also known as the fast diet. This plan divides the seven days of the week into two days of fasting and five days of eating. The two days of fasting should not be consecutive. You are also not supposed to fast for a whole day. Instead, you restrict your calorie count to 500 calories on your fasting days so you can go for small, light meals to energize yourself throughout the day.
As for the five days of normal eating, there are no restrictions in terms of calorie count, but you should remember not to overeat. Avoid eating fast food or unhealthy meals, as this may lead to weight gain (15).
Modified Alternate Day Fasting
As the name suggests, this type of fasting requires fasting on alternate days, mainly drinking calorie-free beverages. You can eat normally on non-fasting days but should not overeat (1).
The long fasting interval may cause some complications for women, so a small change can be made for them: on fasting days, women are allowed to eat small, light meals. They do not need to fast strictly but they should restrict their calorie intake to 20-25 percent of their usual amount (14).
The 16/8 Method
This method involves fasting for 16 hours and eating normally for eight hours. It is also known as the Leangains method. It is a daily diet plan that can easily fit into a healthy and active lifestyle. You can adjust most of the time of the fasting window into the time where you sleep. Regarding the eight-hour eating window, you can align this with the afternoon and evening, where you do most of your activity (10). If 16 hours is too long, you can start with 12 hours of fasting and work your way up to whatever feels best for you, or you can vary the length of your fasts on different days according to how you feel.
This method involves fasting for 12 to 16 hours daily (16 is the maximum limit). It is done twice or three times a week. You should ensure that the fasting days are non-consecutive and spaced evenly so as not to overburden your body (6).
This method can also be considered the first step to preparing your body for the daily diet plan of the 16/8 fasting method. With age, stamina decreases, so older women may be unable to instantly jump to the 16/8 method. Therefore, the crescendo method can be considered the best intermittent fasting for women over 50 as it helps them gradually adopt the technique suitable for their age.
What Is the Most Effective Intermittent Fasting Schedule for Women?
Whichever method fits best into your life and you can stick to is the one that will be the most effective for you. The time-restricted or 16/8 method is the most popular method. It should be noted that all methods do not affect everyone equally and results may vary from person to person based on individual factors such as age and gender.
One factor that affects the results is intermittent fasting by age. This happens because people of different ages have different considerations and priorities. We can evaluate different age groups starting from 18 years old as it is recommended that children below 18 should avoid intermittent fasting as they are still in their growing period.
For the age groups 18 to 30 and 30 to 45, the time-restricted 16/8 or 14/10 method is often recommended. This is because this method can be perfectly aligned with the social or professional commitments and responsibilities of the people of a given age group.
Between 45 to 60 is when people generally tend to gain weight due to a less active lifestyle or menopause. A more aggressive approach to intermittent fasting can be adopted for this age group. This can include the 16/8, 18/6, 5:2, or alternate-day fasting methods, depending on what works best for the individual.
People can start with a lighter approach and gradually build their stamina for the stricter approach to keeping fit. For people aged 60 and above, it is preferable to stick to gentler fasting methods such as 12/12 or 14/10 as they require more of certain nutrients to support their muscles and bones as they get older (17).
That being said, everyone should discuss IF with their doctor before they start a fasting regimen and choose one that works for them as an individual.
What Is the Best Intermittent Fasting Schedule for Weight Loss?
The 16/8 method is the most popular solution for weight loss. Research has suggested that fasting for 10-16 hours initiates the conversion of fats in the body to energy (7).
It is believed that this may help promote fat loss, although you’ll still need to be in a calorie deficit (meaning that you eat fewer calories than you burn) for some time in order to see meaningful weight loss. It is also advisable not to fast for too long, or the body may go into starvation mode. Therefore, 16 hours may be the optimal duration to help your body lose some fat. Research on athletes has suggested that the 16/8 method can help lose fat mass but tends to preserve muscle mass (2).
But how long does it take for 16/8 intermittent fasting to work? When can you see the results of your efforts?
Intermittent fasting can yield notable outcomes, but it will take time for the scale to budge. Some people may notice a difference after just a few weeks, while for others it may take a month or more. It’s important to remember that consistency is the key.
Your diet can significantly impact the results of intermittent fasting. This means you should carefully design your intermittent fasting meal plan because it still requires you to eat less overall to lose weight.
Preparing an intermittent fasting seven-day meal plan is useful before you begin a weight loss journey. It should be a comprehensive plan that specifies the fasting and eating windows. It should also mention the timings you need to follow to complete each interval and tell you what and when to eat during the eating window (17).
Some rules can be followed when preparing this plan. Here are some guidelines:
Specify the Time Window
Choose a time window for eight-hour eating intervals. Popular windows are between 7 am and 3 pm, 9 am and 5 pm, 12 pm and 8 pm, and 2 pm and 10 pm. During this period, people tend to eat most of their meals so you can enjoy two meals daily and snacks by choosing any of these times. You can decide by observing whether you are better off waiting to eat your first meal until later in the morning or finishing your dinner early.
You can try several intervals to see which suits you best. You can also decide on the timings by establishing when you require more energy or want to exercise and setting your fasting window so they don’t overlap. (19)
Determine the Foods You Can Consume
After you have decided on the timings of the windows, you should determine what meals and snacks you should eat during the eating and fasting window. For the fasting window, check the calorie count of the snacks to ensure that you have a minimum calorie intake while fasting. You can include calorie-free beverages such as water, unsweetened tea, or coffee to keep you hydrated.
Opt for a Balanced Meal
During the eating window, you should choose balanced meals that can keep you going for longer. You should also limit ultra-processed or fast food as this may undo the efforts of fasting. Do not overeat or you may consume more calories than you burn.
Your balanced diet should include fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, adequate lean protein sources, and whole grains. An example of such a meal is a dinner of sauteed vegetables and rice with fish or meat and a fruit salad as a snack. You can try new combinations of balanced diets and fulfill your cravings at the same time (17).
You should also specify the timings for meals and snacks during the eating window in your plan. This will prevent you from consuming too many calories at once.
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Is Low-Carb Intermittent Fasting a Successful Approach?
This method is simple and combines two major weight loss strategies: a low-carb diet and intermittent fasting. As a result, you will burn enough calories during the fasting period and then eat low-calorie food during the eating period, thereby restricting your calorie intake.
A low-carb diet is a low-carbohydrate weight loss plan. This reduces the intake of carbs and increases the consumption of healthy fats and protein. A balanced diet requires 45 to 65 percent of calories to come from carbohydrates, but a low-carb diet limits carbs, often to below 45 percent of calories (13).
There are many approaches to low-carb intermittent fasting, but the key principle is to have regular fasting intervals and eat low-carb meals during your eating window. Some people find this helps them lose weight more quickly, control blood sugar levels, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and reduce cholesterol levels (12).
For this method, you must first choose your intermittent fasting schedule and then design your meal plan for what you will eat during your eating windows. Ensure the meals you include in your eating window are low-carb. You should opt for food combinations with fewer carbs that are high in fiber and protein and can prevent hunger for longer.
The Bottom Line
In conclusion, intermittent fasting is a potential solution for weight loss that may also provide some other health benefits. At the same time, it can have some drawbacks, particularly for women, as health issues can be caused due to changes in hormone production.
To counter the negative effects, an intermittent fasting schedule for women is less strict than those for men. It should have shorter fasting intervals and the calorie intake should not be prohibited altogether if there are longer fasting windows. Instead, it should be restricted to a minimum, which allows for the intake of a small amount of calories.
Considering these factors, some methods will perfectly align with women’s preferred intermittent fasting schedule, including the 5:2 method, modified alternate days fasting, and 16/8 fasting.
In addition, age should be considered when choosing an intermittent fasting method because women in different age groups have different requirements and considerations. Individual factors should also be considered. Finally, creating an intermittent fasting meal plan is advisable to help you on your journey and ensure you maintain consistency.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the healthiest intermittent fasting for women?
For women, the safest intermittent fasting is probably the time-restricted 16/8 or 14/10 method. Modified alternate days of fasting and the 5:2 method can also work with some food intake on fasting days. This is because long fasting intervals may cause health problems for women.
Which intermittent fasting is best for belly fat?
Whichever regimen fits best into your life and is the easiest to follow is the one that will work best for you. You must be able to stick to a regimen long enough for it to be successful. You also need to create a calorie deficit regardless of the type of fasting you’re doing if you want to lose weight and belly fat. The best IF program for every individual will vary.
Should I eat in the morning or at night during intermittent fasting?
With intermittent fasting, overnight fasting is recommended. This aligns your eating schedule with the circadian rhythm of your body’s biological clock (9). The time you start eating in the morning and stop eating at night should be whenever works best for your lifestyle and schedule.
Does lemon water break intermittent fasting?
Lemon water is virtually calorie-free and does not break intermittent fasting.
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!
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