Intermittent fasting is one of the most popular eating plans out there, but if you’ve never fasted before, it can be an intimidating one to get started with. Essentially, you follow a schedule where you switch between eating and fasting and it’s lauded for its weight loss and health benefits. But is it safe? The benefits and risks of any diet are based on the individual, so be sure to talk to your doctor before starting a new eating plan. Until then, take a look at our post about all the things to know about intermittent fasting for women.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is an eating plan where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting on a regular schedule. With IF, you allow yourself to eat only during a specified window of time each day. It’s been found to be an efficient way to lose weight, control your appetite and boost your metabolism, and offers benefits such as heart health, brain health and reduces inflammation.
There are a number of popular intermittent fasting schedules. The 5:2 diet is when you eat less than 500 calories for two non-consecutive days a week. So, let’s say you have a 500 calorie day on Monday and Wednesday; on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, you would eat regularly.
The 16:8 diet is where you only eat during eight hours of the day, and fast for the other 16 hours. It’s typically easier to have the bulk of the fasting period overnight, so you’re sleeping through part of it. For example, you would stop eating at 6 pm and start eating at 10 am the next day. Or you could stop eating at 8 pm and start eating again at 12 pm the next day. You can choose when you want your eight hour period to be.
Although intermittent fasting can be beneficial for many women, there are certain people who should avoid intermittent fasting altogether:
- You have diabetes or are at risk of hypoglycemia
- You have gout
- You have a history with disordered eating
- You’re on medications that require regular eating intervals
- You’re pregnant or breastfeeding
- You’re underweight
11 Benefits of Intermittent Fasting for Women
- Supports weight loss
- Improves metabolic health
- Lowers blood pressure
- Improves blood sugar
- Helps to regulate hunger
- Heart health
- Reduces risk of diabetes
- Protects brain health
- Reduces chronic inflammation
- Improves cholesterol levels
- Benefits gut health
6 Risks of Intermittent Fasting for Women
- Fatigue or brain fog
- Feeling hangry
- Nausea, headaches or dizziness
- Unhealthy food obsessions
- Sleep disturbances
8 Ways to Practice Intermittent Fasting Safely
1. Start Slow
If you’ve never done any type of fast before, it’s beneficial to start slow. It will help you in the long run and make it more likely for you to follow through with intermittent fasting. You may want to start with a 12 hour fast and have a 12 hour eating window, then build up to a 16:8 schedule. Eventually, you may even want to try an even smaller eating window, but don’t rush into things.
2. Identify Your Goals
It’s important to have a goal when it comes to intermittent fasting, because dinners with friends and date nights can make fasting difficult. If you don’t have a strong goal or “why” behind doing IF, you may not be successful with it. Whether it’s to lose weight, improve your gut health, or boost your overall health, your goal will help you stay strong and progress with intermittent fasting.
3. Be Smart with Your Calories
When you eat, ensure you choose nutrient-dense foods that are rich in protein, fibre and healthy fats. This includes leafy greens, beans, lentils, eggs, fish, avocados, nuts and unprocessed meats. These foods help keep you full and satisfied so you don’t feel starved during fasting periods.
4. Drink Lots of Water
Sometimes when you think you’re hungry, you’re actually just thirsty. Our bodies often confuse being thirsty with feeling hungry, so drinking lots of water throughout the day can help with hunger pangs and cravings. Not only will this help you control your appetite, drinking water offers benefits including increased brain function, more energy, better digestion and a healthier heart.
5. Know When to Break Your Fast
We know you want to do intermittent fasting successfully, but it’s important to listen to your body, and if it’s really telling you to break your fast before the fasting period, you should. If you notice yourself feeling extra dizzy, confused, light headed or are having trouble concentrating, get some nutrients into your body. If you’re constantly feeling bad enough during your fast that it’s impacting your daily life, you should consider stopping intermittent fasting as it may not be for you.
6. Avoid Binge Eating
Sometimes, people are so hungry when their fast ends that they start binge eating any food in sight. This is another sign that you’re falling into unhealthy eating behaviours. Start slow when you start to eat again after a fast. Try eating an easily digestible food like applesauce or a banana before eating a full meal.
7. Start Your Fast Properly
The last meal before you start fasting is super important. If your meal is loaded with refined carbs, like pasta, pizza or fast food, it will spike your blood sugar, and as a result, your blood sugar will crash, resulting in hunger pangs. The best way to prepare for a fast is with a low carb meal, that’s high in protein and good fats. This will boost your satiety hormones, which will help your fast go smoothly.
8. Focus on Quality Sleep
Quality sleep is key when you fast. Lack of sleep puts your body into a stressed out state, and your adrenal glands start pumping out cortisol. This negatively affects your mood, and causes your insulin levels to rise even without eating. Poor sleep can undo the beneficial effects of fasting, so get your sleep in check.
If you’ve been thinking about intermittent fasting, talk to your doctor and figure out if it’s right for you and your goals.
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