When the female body senses it’s headed towards famine, it will increase the production of the hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin, which signal the body that you’re hungry and need to eat (2). Additionally, if there’s not enough food for you to survive, your body is going to shut down the system that would allow you to create another human. This is the body’s natural way of protecting a potential pregnancy, even if you’re not actually pregnant or trying to conceive.
In practice, however, I would be concerned with eating enough. Based on my experience, teaching yourself to consistently eat more is one of the harder parts of intermittent fasting. You might be able to feast for a meal, but learning to do so every day of the week takes a little bit of planning, a lot of cooking, and consistent eating. The end result is that most people who try intermittent fasting end up losing some weight because the size of their meals remains similar even though a few meals are being cut out each week.
In animal studies, after two weeks of intermittent fasting, female rats stopped having menstrual cycles and their ovaries shrunk while experiencing more insomnia than their male counterparts (though the male rats did experience lower testosterone production). (6) Unfortunately, there are very few human studies looking at the differences between intermittent fasting for men and women, but the animal studies confirm our suspicion: Intermittent fasting for long periods of time can sometimes throw off a woman’s hormonal balance, cause fertility problems and exacerbate eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder.
If you're looking to lose weight, this isn't a problem. And even if you're happy with your weight, this won't prove to be too much of an issue if you follow the daily fasting or weekly fasting schedules. However, if you're fasting for 24 hours per day on multiple days per week, then it's going to be very difficult to eat enough of your feast days to make up for that.
In fact, the authors of this book said that they had patients who only changed their eating habits with this twelve- to sixteen-hour “fruit” fast each day. They did not follow the diet’s other rules or count calories, and they still lost weight and got healthier. This strategy might have simply worked because the dieters replaced junk food with whole foods. In any case, people found this dietary change effective and easy to make. Traditionalists won’t call this fasting; however, it’s important to know that you may have options if you absolutely can’t abstain from food for several hours at a time.
Cons: Even though it’s nice to eat a few snacks rather than go without any food for 20-plus hours, the guidelines for what you need to eat (and when) can be hard to follow long-term. The strict schedule and meal plan may also interfere with social gatherings. Additionally, eating one main meal at night — while following strict guidelines of what to eat, and in what order — can be tough. It’s especially hard for those who prefer not to eat large meals late in the day.
Conversely, a 2013 study completed by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine, presented the exact opposite, showing increased reactions in receptors on the tongue, when participants were given artificial sweeteners. Their study concluded that if the receptors are capable of detecting sweetness, even though calories aren’t present, a hormonal response (insulin release) is likely.
Before you start your IF plan, it's important to talk with a professional to make sure it's right for you. Women should be especially cautious as there are some mixed opinions on whether or not certain fasting protocols are healthy for female hormone balance. In addition, if you have adrenal fatigue or gut health issues you'll want to proceed with caution. If you have a history of disordered eating, you'll probably want to avoid fasting altogether..
Fill your plate with plenty of healthy fats, such as coconut oil, avocados, olive oil, ghee and grass-fed butter as well as moderate amounts of protein foods like grass-fed meat, free-range poultry, fatty fish and eggs. Non-starchy vegetables, fresh herbs, nuts, seeds and healthy beverages like water, bone broth and green tea can all be enjoyed as well.
The thing is that if you want to slim down and get rid of excess pounds, then the fasted state is really the best way to do it. If you keep taking food into your body, insulin levels will remain high, and you will keep burning glucose for fuel instead of burning fat. Of course, to remain in the fasted state, you need to not be in the fed state, and that can be a problem. Starving yourself all of the time isn’t enjoyable, and it’s not healthy. To be blunt about it, your body needs nutrients, it just doesn’t need them all day, every day.
Fasting ramps up your stem cell production. Stem cells are like biological playdough — your body turns them into any kind of cell it needs and uses them to replace old or damaged cells, keeping you younger on a cellular level. Stem cells are great for your skin, joints, old injuries, chronic pain, and more. You can try stem cell therapy…or you can just fast.
Alternate between days where you eat normally, and days where you take in fewer than 600 calories. Some participants will even go so far as to eliminate food altogether during the off days. Just remember to stay hydrated while fasting, and be aware of what your body is telling you. If you find yourself feeling faint (instead of just hungry) then this may not be the best option for you.
To make “down” days easier to stick to, Johnson recommends opting for meal replacement shakes. They’re fortified with essential nutrients and you can sip them throughout the day rather than split into small meals. However, meal replacement shakes should only be used during the first two weeks of the diet — after that, you should start eating real food on “down” days. The next day, eat like normal. Rinse and repeat! (Note: If working out is part of your routine, you may find it harder to hit the gym on the lower calorie days. It may be smart to keep any workouts on these days on the tamer side, or save sweat sessions for your normal calorie days.)
How It Works: Fast for 24 hours once or twice per week. During the 24 hour fast, which creator Brad Pilon prefers to call a “24 break from eating,” no food is consumed, but you can drink calorie-free beverages. After the fast is over, you then go back to eating normally. “Act like you didn’t fast,” Pilon says. “Some people need to finish the fast at a normal mealtime with a big meal, while others are OK ending the fast with an afternoon snack. Time it however works best for you, and adjust your timing as your schedule changes,” he says.
While some nutrition experts contend that IF only works because it helps people naturally limit food intake, others disagree. They believe that intermittent fasting results are better than typical meal schedules with the same amount of calories and other nutrients. Studies have even suggested that abstaining from food for several hours a day does more than just limit the amount of calories you consume.
What and when you eat during the feeding window also depends on when you work out. On days you exercise, carbs are more important than fat. On rest days, fat intake should be higher. Protein consumption should be fairly high every day, though it will vary based on goals, gender, age, body fat and activity levels. Regardless of your specific program, whole, unprocessed foods should make up the majority of your calorie intake. However, when there isn’t time for a meal, a protein shake or meal replacement bar is acceptable (in moderation).
After determining your preferred protocol of intermittent fasting, you should start planning out your diet for the days that you do eat. On a standard keto diet, 75 percent of total calories should come from fat, 20 percent should be from protein and 5 percent should come from carbs. When getting started, however, you can start with a modified keto diet instead, which is often considered more flexible and easy-to-follow. With this diet plan, about 40–60 percent of calories should come from healthy keto fats with 20–30 percent from protein foods and 15–25 percent from carbohydrates.
Whichever option you choose, there's enough evidence to show that intermittent fasting has many health benefits. Dr. Palanisamy sums it up best by saying, "The final caveat is that some fasting is better than none. So if having a regular or even bulletproof coffee is the only way that you can stick with the practice of intermittent fasting, then it's probably worth it."
Intermittent fasting (specifically the 5:2 diet) became popular in the UK in 2012 after the BBC2 television Horizon documentary Eat, Fast and Live Longer. Via sales of best-selling books, it became widely practiced. In the United States, intermittent fasting has become a trend among Silicon Valley companies. According to NHS Choices as of 2012, people considering the 5:2 diet should first consult a physician, as fasting can sometimes be unsafe. A news item in the Canadian Medical Association Journal expressed concern that promotional material for the diet showed people eating high-calorie food, such as hamburgers and chips, and that this could encourage binge eating since the implication was that "if you fast two days a week, you can devour as much junk as your gullet can swallow during the remaining five days".
There’s a ton of incredibly promising intermittent fasting (IF) research done on fat rats. They lose weight, their blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugars improve… but they’re rats. Studies in humans, almost across the board, have shown that IF is safe and incredibly effective, but really no more effective than any other diet. In addition, many people find it difficult to fast.