Intermittent fasting - great for all?
Although I would never encourage anyone to adopt a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to eating, research has been accumulating over the past few years around the benefits (and risks) of intermittent fasting (IF).
What is IF?
In a nutshell: IF is fasting for periods of time at various intervals depending on the kind of IF you practice.
What is it for?
Research has shown that IF may help to improve cognitive function, reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease, shrink waistlines, improve cell rejuvenation and resistance to stress.
How does it work?
There are quite a few ways to practice IF but the most common is to eat nothing for 12 to 16 hours at a time, starting after dinner (say at 8pm) and not ingesting any solids until lunch next day, while drinking plenty of water.
Can everyone benefit?
While the benefits are obviously numerous and appealing, IF is often found to be more challenging and sometimes harmful to women.
IF can indeed imbalance hormones, and even affect fertility, because women are more sensitive to signs of starvation, and their hunger hormones (leptin and ghrelin) will start increasing with fasting. If hunger is ignored, hormones become imbalanced and ovulation and menstruation may even stop.
The solution for women?
Do IF 2 to 3 non-consecutive days. For instance: fast for 12-16 hours on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but don’t push the hunger to starvation levels, which will stress your body, with all the above-mentioned consequences.
Increase gradually if you want to start at 2-3 fasting days and don’t ignore the signs of hormonal imbalance, especially mood swings, irregular or lack of periods.
Important note: make sure you relax on fasting days, keeping your cardio and higher intensity exercise on the eating days. Yoga, gentle movement on fasting days will help you benefit far more quickly from IF than pushing yourself too hard.
As in all my recommendations, always listen to your body’s signals. It’s rarely wrong.
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