With all of these drawbacks, you may be wondering: could you (and would you still want to) practice intermittent fasting as a female? If you take a more relaxed approach, the answer is yes. When done within a briefer timeframe, intermittent fasting may still help you reach your weight loss goals and provide the other benefits previously mentioned, without messing up your hormones.
Two ground-breaking studies have recently been published on the effects of intermittent fasting on males. One group of researchers studied the effects that 16 hours of intermittent fasting had on males that lift weights. They found that muscle mass stayed the same, fat mass decreased significantly, and the males who fasted for 16 hours a day burned more fat for fuel compared to the control group that only fasted for 12 hours.
16-hour fast (aka 16:8): The most popular type of intermittent fast, the 16-hour fast encourages you to eat all of your meals in an 8-hour window, such as noon to 8pm. To activate the full benefits of intermittent fasting, try an 18-hour fast, once you’ve adapted to 16 hours. This would mean eating between noon and 6pm or between 2pm and 8pm. Simply avoid eating after dinner, and skip breakfast in the morning. Limit carbs to dinner.
While the idea of fasting can be overwhelming, especially if you haven’t done it before, intermittent fasting can actually be a lot easier than many other types of eating plans. Since you are fasting for time restricted chunks of the day, you’ll be eating less food, which eliminates a lot of the stress around having to meal prep. During the periods of time in which you're eating, you’ll still want to focus mainly on healthy fats, clean protein, and carbohydrates from whole food sources—but this isn’t an excuse to hit the drive-thru and load up on sugar the rest of the time! Here are some of the effects of intermittent fasting:
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.
After that timespan, your body goes into what is known as the post–absorptive state, which is just a fancy way of saying that your body isn’t processing a meal. The post–absorptive state lasts until 8 to 12 hours after your last meal, which is when you enter the fasted state. It is much easier for you body to burn fat in the fasted state because your insulin levels are low.
Even though this plan is advanced, it's very simple. Don't eat anything every other day. This is the most intense form of fasting but can produce amazing results. Every other day, eat healthy fats, clean meat sources, vegetables, and some fruit, and then on your fasting days, you can consume water, herbal tea, and moderate amounts of black coffee or tea.
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).
Although there's no specific dietary recommendation when intermittent fasting, many people choose to combine it with a low-carb, ketogenic diet. When it's time to eat, include foods that are high in good fats and low in carbohydrates. That means eating nuts, seeds, vegetables, avocado, olives, meat and fish, while avoiding whole grains, fruits, starchy vegetables, sugary drinks and anything processed.
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."
On this plan you'll eat clean five days of the week but will not eat anything for two nonconsecutive days of the week. For example, you can fast on Monday and Thursday but eat clean meals on the other days. Food on these five days will look just like the rest of the fasting plans—healthy fats, clean meat sources, vegetables, and some fruit. Keep in mind that this plan is not for beginners, and you should always talk to your doctor before starting any fasting regimen, especially if you are on medication or have a medical condition.
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Low carb diets are designed to force your body to burn stored fat as its primary source of fuel. With a typical diet, carbohydrates are burned first, followed by protein, and then fat as the final source of fuel. However, because most people consume far more carbohydrates than are necessary, the excess calories are stored as fat and weight loss is difficult to achieve.
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.
Perhaps most importantly, intermittent fasting is one of the simplest strategies we have for taking bad weight off while keeping good weight on because it requires very little behavior change. This is a very good thing because it means intermittent fasting falls into the category of “simple enough that you'll actually do it, but meaningful enough that it will actually make a difference.”
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For this plan, eat clean for five days of the week (you can pick whatever days you want). On the other two days, restrict your calories to no more than 700 each day. Calorie restriction unlocks a lot of the same benefits as fasting for an entire day. On your non-fasting days, you’ll need to make sure you're getting in healthy fats, clean meats, vegetables, and some fruits, and you can structure your meals however best works for you. On restricted days you can have smaller meals or snacks throughout the day or have a moderate-size lunch and dinner and fast in the morning and after dinner. Again, focus on healthy fats, clean meats, and produce. An app like MyFitnessPal can help you log your food and keep track of your calorie intake so you don’t go over 700.
Alternate-day fasting. Go back and forth between feasting days and fasting days. Eat like a king or queen one day, then eat nothing the next. This will probably be the most challenging fasting option for most people. If you try it, make sure you’re eating a ton on your feast days, otherwise you’ll fall into a major calorie deficit and you’ll likely feel miserable.
So if both musicians and adamantium-clawed superheroes do Intermittent Fasting, it can probably work for you too, if you can make it work for your particular lifestyle and situation! If you’ve tried implementing something like this in the past and not had success, or you’re just looking for guidance from a coach to help you implement it into your lifestyle, I hear ya!