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.
So, what exactly is a relaxed approach to intermittent fasting? Again, since there’s little research done on intermittent fasting, we’re dealing with a bit of a gray area. The opinions also tend to vary depending on which site you visit, or which health expert you ask. From what we’ve found, the general guidelines to brief intermittent fasting for women are:
None of the coffee additives caused a significant drop in our blood ketone levels. At 120 minutes, my, (Becky’s), ketone readings increased after drinking black coffee, coffee with cream, coffee with MCT oil, and coffee with butter. At 120 minutes, Keith’s ketone readings dropped by 0.1 mmol/L after drinking only black coffee. His ketone readings rose slightly after consuming coffee with cream, MCT oil, and butter.
So does that mean you should abstain from your caffeine fix when fasting? According to Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of DrAxe.com, bestselling author of Eat Dirt, and cofounder of Ancient Nutrition, tea and coffee are fine to consume as long as you don't add any milk or sweeteners. He explains on his blog, "If you're on a time-restricted fast and you're in no-eating hours, it's best to stick to no- or low-calorie drinks like water, coffee, (with no milk) and tea. If you're on an alternate day diet or something similar, even during low calorie hours, you can technically drink whatever you'd like — but remember, this will count against your calories." Dr. Palanisamy also agrees that during fasting, the "appetite-suppressing effects of coffee are probably beneficial."
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.
Stable blood sugar levels are vital to the success of any diet. This is because when glucose levels plummet, it leads to intense hunger, which almost always results in binge eating. Stable blood sugar levels help eliminate headaches, lack of focus, poor memory, and brain fog as well. Interestingly, these are common complaints among those who follow high carbohydrate diets, as opposed to diets that are rich in fat and protein.
Nuts and seeds make great snacks that are high-fat and can be eaten around 2:30 p.m. Soaking these beforehand can help neutralize naturally occurring enzymes like phytates that can contribute to digestive problems. Eat dinner around 5:30 p.m., and just like the 8-to-6 window plan, a dinner with some sort of wild-caught fish or other clean protein source with vegetables is a great option.
Intermittent fasting is probably what you’d think. It’s fasting… intermittently. Or, to be a bit clearer, it’s skipping meals. But while missing a meal will certainly mean fewer calories throughout your day, the magic of intermittent fasting isn’t just in how it reduces food intake, but in how it helps your body make better use of the calories you keep.
IF as a weight loss approach has been around in various forms for ages, but was highly popularized in 2012 by BBC broadcast journalist Dr. Michael Mosley’s TV documentary Eat Fast, Live Longer and book The Fast Diet, followed by journalist Kate Harrison’s book The 5:2 Diet based on her own experience, and subsequently by Dr. Jason Fung’s 2016 bestseller The Obesity Code. IF generated a steady positive buzz as anecdotes of its effectiveness proliferated.
Even though you are skipping breakfast, it's still important to stay hydrated. Make sure to still drink enough water. You can also have herbal tea. The catechins in tea have been shown to enhance the benefits of fasting by helping to further decrease the hunger hormone ghrelin, so you can make it until lunch and not feel deprived. Since you’ve increased your fasting period an extra four hours, you need to make sure your first meal (at noon) has enough healthy fats. The burger in the 8-to-6 window plan will work well, and you can add more fats in with your dressing or top with an avocado!
That’s what I suggest you do when you start fasting. It should happen naturally, and you shouldn’t have to force it. If you’re still a sugar burner instead of a fat burner, it’s going to be much harder…so if you’re serious about trying out this whole fasting thing, I suggest slowly transitioning to a high-fat low-carb diet. You can read about the benefits here.
There are many different variations of intermittent fasting as well. Dr. Dom D’Agostino, the well-known ketogenic diet researcher, suggests doing a longer intermittent fast for 3 days, 3 times a year. This means not eating for 3 days, and eating normally until the next fast. Daily intermittent fasts are recommended as well. He says that it is ideal to have one to two meals after fasting for most of the day to reap the benefits of intermittent fasting every day.
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.
Those studies above, in working with small sample sizes, and different types of fasting than recommended here, would lead me to believe that fasting affects men and women differently, and that many of the weight loss benefits associated with intermittent fasting (that affect insulin and glucose responses) work positively for men and negatively for women.