Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. It doesn't specify which foods you should eat but rather when you should eat them. Common intermittent fasting methods involve daily 16-hour fasts or fasting for 24 hours, twice per week.
IF is gaining more attention every year with many people seeing results after a month of adopting this lifestyle. It’s a great way to eat without having to track daily calories and fits easily into our busy schedules. However, recent studies suggest that intermittent fasting, although a great method to adopt, is not meant for everyone and is certainly not meant to be done every single day.
Both men and women respond differently to IF. Men can handle the demands of fasting and ‘starving’ the body more than women and this comes down to different hormones. Women are more sensitive to the reactions of ‘starving the body’ depending on where they are in their monthly cycle. Women tend to be more sensitive a week before their cycle starts (also called the Luteal Phase) and should avoid fasting. The Luteal phase starts after ovulation and ends the first day of the period. It is a key part of the menstrual cycle as it’s the time where the egg is released and is either used (pregnancy) or discarded (period). The body needs the energy and the nutrition to facilitate this process and if it lacks the proper nutrients, women can lose their periods (amenorrhea) or, disrupt the cycle.
If you find yourself interested in adopting this lifestyle in a sustainable way, then be mindful of the following:
It is important that ladies understand where they are in their cycle. Fourteen days prior to the next period, it's highly advisable to avoid fasting as hormones are changing rapidly preparing for the next period/pregnancy which makes females more sensitive to stress, environmental changes, weather, and other factors that can easily affect mood. Fasting can resume during the period window and/or the following 7-10 days after. Unlike men, women have a short window to fast without causing hormonal damage. A 12-14hour fast is ideal for women as it doesn’t cause too much stress on the body.
As for men, a 16hour fast is ideal as it’s the most common and provides enough time to fast and feed without pushing the limits. It is best to use the above list as a rough guideline without IF causing too much disruption to a daily routine. Having a schedule of fasting days can help plan the week and still enjoy life’s pleasures!
Ultimately, listen to your body and find a happy balance between fasting and non-fasting days. Always choose to feed yourself with nutrient-dense foods and avoid fasting when you feel it’s not right.