We often hear about how intermittent fasting can affect women differently than men. However, until I watched this video by Thomas DeLauer, I didn’t realize that fasting for women over 40 was another key point to consider.
Benefits of Fasting
The benefits of fasting are so incredible; one would be wise to pay attention! Here are just some of the benefits that you may experience whether you are a woman over 40 or not:
- Lower insulin levels: Helps improve fat burning.
- Higher HGH (human growth hormones) levels: Helps with fat burning and muscle growth.
- Reduced inflammation: Significantly decreases inflammatory markers.
- Enhanced heart health: Improves blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels.
- Improved brain function: Increases the generation of nerve cells to help enhance cognitive function.
- Weight loss: Limits calorie intake and boosts metabolism.
- Longevity: Studies on animals suggest fasting increases lifespan.
- Cancer prevention and chemotherapy effectiveness: Fasting blocks tumor growth.
Intermittent fasting is recognized as a way to take advantage of the benefits of fasting without going hungry for extended periods.
Methods of Intermittent Fasting
There are different ways to implement intermittent fasting. You may pick one of the various intermittent fasting methods:
- Daily fasting window: The 16/8 window, the 20/4 window, or even the 23/1 window.
- East-Stop-Eat: A 24-hour fast once or twice a week.
- The 5:2 Diet: Eat 500-600 calories two days a week.
Intermittent Fasting Before the Age of 40
You can learn more about the effect of intermittent fasting on women here, but for now, let’s focus on women over the age of 40. Before reaching the age of 40, you can use the 16/8 method or any other method every day to reach your health goals. After the age of 40, thyroid issues, lower muscle mass, and hormonal changes can contribute to a slower metabolism. Women over 40 may be more susceptible to hormonal imbalances caused by fasting.
How Intermittent Fasting Can Work Against Women Over 40
- Although intermittent fasting may help boost your metabolism, it could have an opposite effect for women after 40 if done every single day.
- Reproductive health is closely tied to your energy intake. Reduced fertility may not be a concern for you, but what about decreased libido?
- Intermittent fasting may affect estrogen production, which affects everything else in your body: cognition, moods, digestion, etc.
How Women Over 40 Can Benefit From Fasting
If you would like to use intermittent fasting after 40, I recommend you use the 20/4 method 3-4 times a week instead. Here’s why:
- More anti-aging benefits: Longer fasts increase the telomere response, which provides cellular anti-aging benefits. Telomeres are compounds at the end of your chromosomes that unravel with age. When you restore telomere length and produce more stem cells, you delay the effect of aging.
- Risk of slowing down metabolism: After 40, the 16/8 window could slow down your metabolism. It’s better to decrease your eating window more dramatically but less frequently.
- Phasing benefits: Phasing your diet, whether it’s your caloric intake or the type of macros you consume, is the best way to ensure you do not get stuck in a plateau. The idea is not to give your body enough time to adapt to your new eating pattern.
- Better overall response to fasting: Longer fasts magnifies many of the benefits of fasting, including increased production of human growth hormones.
How to Get Maximum Benefits From Your Fast
- Himalayan pink salt in water: 1 tsp per half-gallon (2 liters)
- Coffee and tea before noon: After 40, you are more sensitive to catecholamines, hormones made by your adrenal glands. Three cups of coffee will significantly increase catecholamine production and could negatively impact your adrenals after a prolonged period.
- Get enough rest.
- Work out at a lower intensity in the morning in a fasted state.
- Avoid grains during fasting days: Grains contain wheat germ agglutinins (WGAs). These are proteins that clump together and cause leaky gut. Instead, eat starches like potatoes, plantains, cassava, etc.
- Switch your proteins up: This will help promote gut bacteria diversity.
- Eat seaweed: The natural iodine will benefit your thyroid.
- Take diet breaks: Make sure you go at 1-2 weeks without fasting to ensure your metabolism doesn’t slow down. The MATADOR (Minimising Adaptive Thermogenesis And Deactivating Obesity Rebound) study demonstrates the benefits of restricting calorie intake intermittently rather than continuously. It improves the fat loss benefits without negating any of the other benefits. Read more about using intermittent fasting for fat loss here. The fasting mimicking diet (FMD) is an excellent way to accomplish that.
To learn all about the fasting mimicking diet (FMD), read my post Fasting Mimicking Diet: The Benefits of Fasting Without Giving Up Food. Fasting mimicking is not the same as intermittent fasting although you are alternating cycles of fasting with cycles of eating. With the FMD, the purpose is slight starvation accomplished by rigorous calorie restriction for a prolonged period (4-5 days). Fasting mimicking is the perfect way to ensure you are phasing your diet, which will allow for maximum benefits as discussed above as it helps you avoid reaching that plateau where your body has adapted to your new eating pattern.
How to Break Your Fast
Start with a smaller meal (lean protein) and a more substantial meal 2-3 hours later. It helps you to learn to control your appetite as you break your fast. When you are over the age of 40, make sure you consume enough protein when you break your fast. Sufficient protein intake limits atrophy, which is the natural effect of aging.
Moreover, make sure you are getting enough prebiotic fiber. During your second meal, eat enough prebiotic fiber. Read more about fiber and what foods to eat for gut health. During a fast, a lot of your gut bacteria will die off, and it’s essential to replenish it.
Adopting intermittent fasting as a lifestyle a practice will help you live a longer and healthier life. However, do not neglect to listen to your body to follow a bunch of “rules”. Stop whatever method you are trying if you notice some warning signs. Experiment with different fasting windows and food choices to make sure your hormonal health is not compromised. Furthermore, ensure you are phasing your eating restrictions for maximum benefits.