I have personally been intermittent fasting now for over 5 years. 2-3 days out of the week I skipped both breakfast and lunch and usually just have a sensible dinner. I don’t consume any calories other than drinking some coffee and water throughout most of the day. The next day I eat normal: breakfast, lunch and dinner.
For the most part it’s not been a problem, however, in the beginning I would find that at night I would end up eating as many calories in a 2-3 hours span as I would have if I had not fasted for the day. That was clearly an error on my part. It took some getting used to just eating one meal and that meal not making up for all the calories I missed out on by not eating breakfast, lunch and snacks.
Also in the beginning I wasn’t working out. So while I was losing weight I wasn’t looking and feeling the way I wanted. This again was something I had to find out and once I started working out and lifting weights I got leaner and built more muscle tone. Funny thing is I train a lot less now and look better, in my opinion. So let’s break down intermittent fasting.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Though intermittent fasting has been around for years, it’s been picking up steam recently and has become one of the more popular health and fitness trends to date. Many men and women are not only using it to simplify their lifestyle but also lose weight.
Intermittent fasting is not a diet. It doesn’t tell you which foods to eat or not eat. Intermittent fasting is occasionally fasting from eating food. This is different from intermittent feeding which is taking an occasional break from fasting to eat a predetermined window.
As Brad Pilon puts it:
Intermittent = occurring occasionally or at regular or irregular intervals so really just means “occasionally”
Fasting = taking a break from eating for a predetermined period of time without a necessary interval from one fast to the next.
Basically you are occasionally taking a break from food where you don’t intake any calories. It’s not in intervals or food cycles. This could be called intermittent feeding as you have predetermined cycles of eating. This can be great as well, just not the same thing.
So again, in short intermittent fasting is NOT a diet, but rather a pattern of going without any food. It doesn’t change what you eat, it just requires you to take a break from eating anything for a particular period of time. Zero calorie intake.
Common fasts include the 16 and 24 hour methods that are usually done 2-3 times per week. Again fasting is nothing new, just that many women are starting to use it and see benefits as its simple and doesn’t require a whole lot of change. In fact you really shouldn’t be eating 4-5 times a day.
Different Types of Intermittent Fasting Methods
Again there are several different ways to skin a cat. All of the methods we have used required us to split our day or weeks into eating and fasting periods. During our fasting periods we do a zero calorie intake so we consume nothing but water or black coffee.
Below are some of the ones we used with our favorite being the Eat Stop Eat.
The 5:2 is the method of fasting where you only consume 500-600 calories on two days out of the week. It can be any two days but the goal is to only intake those calories on say Monday and Friday however on the other five days you eat normally. Hence the name 5:2.
The 16/8 intermittent fasting method is known as the Leangains protocol. This method requires you to skip breakfast and only offers you more eating at certain periods or windows. I think of this as more of intermittent feeding since you can eat between 1-9pm then fast for 16 hours until your next feeding time.
Eat-Stop-Eat is a method we learned from Brad Pilon. Not sure if he founded the method, just more of he introduced it to us. This method involves fasting for 24hrs once or twice a week. Again with this one you are having a ZERO calorie intake for 24hrs. That means if you ate dinner at 9pm Sunday you would then not eat again until 9pm Monday. So for your fasted day you drink water or coffee until your normal meal that night.
When it comes to weight loss you are looking to reduce calorie intake. All of the methods above help with reducing calorie intake as long as you don’t overeat when you are supposed to eat your NORMAL meals.
We found that the easiest for us to stick to was the Eat-Stop-Eat while others like the 16/8. It’s really up to you to try them and see which works best for your lifestyle and goals.
How does Intermittent Fasting(IF) Work?
As mentioned before we weren’t really meant to eat 4-5 times a day. Doing so doesn’t really allow our bodies to burn the fat we have built in first. Since for the most part we are in a fed state (again eating regularly) your body is always absorbing and digesting food. A typical fed state could last up until five hours after you ate your last meal. When you are in such a state it is very hard for your body to burn fat because your insulin levels are just too high.
So think about this, if you need three to five hours after your meal before you can even think about losing/burning fat, how can you get into a fat burning state when you are eating 4-5 meals per day? It’s almost impossible.
It takes almost 8 hours after eating before your body can really start to tackle the fat that is present. However, when you are in a fasted state your body can burn fast that would have been inaccessible during a fed state.
This is one of the reasons many women who start intermittent fasting will lose fat without even changing WHAT they eat, HOW much they eat, or even HOW much they exercise. Fasting just puts your body in a fat burning state that rarely, if ever, happens during a normal eating schedule.
Benefits of Fasting
When it comes to intermittent fasting there are a number of benefits as it relates to women. More and more studies are being done to understand the effects in both humans and animals.
Below are just a few of the many benefits of intermittent fasting:
Weight loss: if you are here one of the biggest things you are looking for is weight loss. Intermittent fasting can help you lose both weight and stubborn belly fat, without the need of some crazy diet that you are not going to stick to.
Cancer: Animal studies have suggested that intermittent fasting may prevent cancer
Anti aging: yes as a woman who wouldn’t be interested in something that could slow our aging? Studies on rats have shown that intermittent fasting can extend the lifespan of rats. Rats who fasted lived 50-83% longer.
Easier than dieting: one of the reasons many women fail at dieting is because its not something you can or will stick to long term. The problem with diets for most people is that you are asking them to change their behaviors. Some of which have had the same behaviors for 20+ years. Intermittent fasting is easy to implement and allows you to adapt quickly to the fasting routine.
Below is a quote from Dr. Michael Eades, who tried intermittent fasting himself. He talks about the difference between trying intermittent fasting versus trying a new diet.
“Diets are easy in the contemplation, difficult in the execution. Intermittent fasting is just the opposite — it’s difficult in the contemplation but easy in the execution.
Most of us have contemplated going on a diet. When we find a diet that appeals to us, it seems as if it will be a breeze to do. But when we get into the nitty gritty of it, it becomes tough. For example, I stay on a low–carb diet almost all the time. But if I think about going on a low–fat diet, it looks easy. I think about bagels, whole wheat bread and jelly, mashed potatoes, corn, bananas by the dozen, etc. — all of which sound appealing. But were I to embark on such a low–fat diet I would soon tire of it and wish I could have meat and eggs. So a diet is easy in contemplation, but not so easy in the long–term execution.
Intermittent fasting is hard in the contemplation, of that there is no doubt. “You go without food for 24 hours?” people would ask, incredulously when we explained what we were doing. “I could never do that.” But once started, it’s a snap. No worries about what and where to eat for one or two out of the three meals per day. It’s a great liberation. Your food expenditures plummet. And you’re not particularly hungry. … Although it’s tough to overcome the idea of going without food, once you begin the regimen, nothing could be easier.”
— Dr. Michael Eades
Concerns and Side Effects
As with anything you need to check with your doctor if you are concerned and want to see if intermittent fasting is for you. For most people who have actually tried intermittent fasting the number one side effect is hunger. Of course this makes sense because fasting allows you to burn calories as you are not in a fed state.
Some women reported feeling weak and some people may not be able to perform as well as you used to. This is usually temporary as it can take some time for you and your body to get use to and adapt to the new schedule of fasting.
As stated above you should consult with your doctor especially if you have and of the below:
- Currently pregnant or breastfeeding
- Woman with a history of amenorrhea
- Woman trying to conceive
- Had a history of eating disorders
- Taking medications
- Have low blood pressure
- Have diabetes
- Have issues with blood sugar
Some Frequently Asked Questions
Can I take supplements while fasting? Yes you can but this would be recommended when you are allowed to eat. Most supplements suggest eating when taking.
Will fasting cause me to lose muscles? Unfortunately, all weight loss methods run the risk of you losing muscles. This is one of the main reasons weight lifting is recommended when fasting. Workout, lift weight and get enough protein.
Can I drink liquids during the fast? Yes. We suggest water, coffee, and tea. The goal is to stay away from any calories during the fasting period. So no calories, sugar, etc. Coffee tends to be the preferred choice but if you don’t like coffee go with water or tea.
Should I really be skipping breakfast? Is that healthy? Skipping breakfast is fine. Usually people who have bad eating habits skip breakfast. However, if you are eating healthy, skipping a meal here and there is not going to cause any issues.
Can I workout while fasted? Yes. Fasted workouts are fine and are actually what we are suggesting as it allows your body to focus on burning the fat you currently are holding on too. While in a fasted state the body is zeroed in on the stubborn body fat versus the food you just ate a few hours ago.
Should I try Intermittent Fasting?
Not everyone needs to try intermittent fasting. Fasting is just one of many options that you can utilize to improve your health and lose weight. Eating healthy, exercising and making sure you get enough rest are the most important factors to focus on. It really depends on you. If you think that fasting is not your cup of tea, move on.
At the end of the day you have to do what works best for you and remember that there is no one size fits all with it come to health, nutrition or losing weight. The best weight loss strategy for you is the one YOU CAN STICK TO for the long haul.
While some women hate intermittent fasting others love it and have had great results. The only way to know if it works for you and whether you can stick to it is to try it. Chances are you’ve already done it in your life even if only by accident. If you want to get started we say the 16/8 method or Eat-Stop-Eat by Brad Pilon are ones to go with first.
Experiment with different approaches, ask friends what they have done, and find something you can enjoy and fit into your lifestyle.