Intermittent Fasting: What Is It? Should You Do It?

There’s a huge chance that someone you know is using intermittent fasting right now. You’ve probably heard about their weight loss efforts too, or how it’s changing their lifestyle for the better.
Are we right? Yes, we know we are. We’re not being biased either; IF just seems to be on-trend right now, especially in the weight loss community.

To see if it’s really worth the attention it’s getting and if you should try it, we’re going deep into everything Intermittent Fasting. From the facts to the anecdotal, we’ll cover everything you need to know. We’ll also show you how to get started if you’d like to.


Before we get into all that, we need to know what everyone is actually raving about, don’t you think? Let’s start right at the beginning – what even is Intermittent Fasting?


What is Intermittent Fasting (IF)?

Put plainly, Intermittent Fasting is an eating pattern. People using IF will not eat for a set time, typically hours or days, and then follow it up with a feeding window.


What Intermittent Fasting isn’t, is a diet plan. Because unlike a diet plan, no foods are restricted or cut back on. In fact, a lot of IFers don’t even count calories. It’s all about when you eat, not what you eat.


When you stop to think about it, fasting is pretty natural for us humans. It’s been part of religion for thousands of years for a start, and is often seen as a necessary, cleansing, and spiritual experience.


Plus, try to imagine ancient humans too. Those women couldn’t just wake up, click on a pot of coffee, and enjoy a steaming plate of pancakes every Saturday morning. No one simply dashed out of her cave to buy snacks from the grocery store.


Instead, their bodies adapted to be able to go days without food, never mind miss a meal. And guess what? We’re still rocking the same physical makeup too, albeit with a few cosmetic changes here and there.


As you might expect, intermittent fasting isn’t just restricted to one set time frame. Some IF users might only fast for as little as six or eight hours, whereas others might go for a full day or more. We’re going to look at the most popular methods.


Intermittent Fasting Methods

16/8 Method

New intermittent fasters tend to try this method first because of its simplicity. You simply need to choose eight hours of the day to be an eating window, then fast for the rest. That means not eating or drinking anything with calories in it during that window.


So, say you decide you’re going to eat between the hours of 12-8 pm as your feeding window. Once you’ve finished the last bite of supper, you’ll not tuck into anything again until 12 noon the next day.


That’s no nibbling on snacks or drinking calorific cappuccinos. Otherwise, you’ll technically break your fast.


5:2 Method

Okay, so for the 5:2 method you do have to count calories, because you spend two consecutive days of the week eating 500-600 kcal. But you can eat your usual amount for the rest of the week.


For example; say you choose Wednesday and Thursday as your two fasting days. Rather than not eat anything, you’ll only eat 500-600 calories split however you like it.


Eat-Stop-Eat

This is one of the most advanced and popular methods out there. It involves a total fast for 24-hours once or twice during the week.


So, to put this into perspective, you could eat your last meal on Wednesday at 8pm and not eat again until 8pm Thursday. If you wanted to do eat-stop-eat twice in one week, you could repeat it Friday or Sunday, for example.


While there are a lot of intermittent fasting methods out there, one isn’t necessarily better than the other. The best method for you will always be one that you can stick to. We recommend trying 16/8 first as most people find it the easiest to adjust to.


Weight Loss & Intermittent Fasting

Weight loss is one of the main reasons many women try intermittent fasting. Because, while it isn’t technically a diet, cutting back the hours that you eat is an easy way to reduce how much calories you consume (1).


You could almost see it like accidental dieting. You’re not always counting out every macro, but because there are hours in the day where you plan not to eat, you naturally lower how much food you have coming in.


For example, say you skip breakfast, which is around 400 kcal. If you carry on eating your usual meals, even if they’re slightly bigger, you’re probably still getting a few hundred less calories than you usually would.


Researchers say that using IF eating patterns can result in a 3-8% weight loss over 3-24 weeks. When compared to a lot of other standard calorie cutting methods, that’s quite significant (2).


More than just cutting calories

When you start to dig deeper though, you find out that intermittent fasting does more than just cut calories. It can actually change your hormones in a way that should boost weight loss.


According two teams of scientists, short-term fasting could increase metabolic rate by 3.6-14% (3)(4). And although these studies looked at fasts that are probably a little longer than the ones you’d do, the findings are still great news for fat loss.


One more positive thing about IF is that it doesn’t cause as much muscle loss as cutting calories in the usual way (5). As a result, it could help you keep those hourglass curves, even while lowering your body fat.


There are still rules for weight loss

Wait! It seems that there’s still a catch when it comes to using intermittent fasting for weight loss. As good as studies say it is for helping you burn fat, you still have to be sensible.


You can only ever lose body fat weight if the calories you eat are lower than the number you use. So, if you can’t help yourself and binge eat during you feeding window, you might still put on weight.


The trick seems to be eating pretty much the same way during your eating window as you normally would. You can make the portions slightly bigger, but they shouldn’t be all out splurges. If in doubt, track your macros until you become used to fasting.


Another rule is to not break your fast with a sugary donut or any other kind of sweet treat. Doing this sends your blood sugar through the roof and can throw those weight-loss favoring hormones out of line. Try a healthy protein and fat rich meal instead.


Speaking of protein, you should do what you can to make sure you’re eating a healthy amount while fasting. Getting between 0.5-0.7g per lbs. of body weight every day will help protect your figure and keep your muscle safe.


Try a clean protein drink if you struggle eating that much. They’re not very high in calories and shouldn’t be too tough on the stomach. See if one helps you hit your targets.




Side Effects

Intermittent fasting isn’t always without side-effects. To help you weigh up the pros and cons, we’ll look at the most common ones here.


Hunger

First of all, ask yourself if you ever get hangry. Because as you’d expect, the most reported side-effect from women especially is hunger – oh no.


Your body should adjust to your new eating pattern after a few days. And so long as you keep it up, the feelings of hunger you experience should settle.


Risks for medical conditions

We wouldn’t recommend diving into intermittent fasting if you have a known medical condition. Make sure you book an appointment with your doctor to talk it over with them first.


If you’re a woman with a history of eating disorders, has had anorexia, or is underweight, tread carefully. Fasting might not be the best option for you right now, so like we’ve just mentioned, it’s best to speak to a doctor before trying it.


You’re advised against using intermittent fasting if you’re trying to conceive or are already pregnant. Similarly, if you’re breast feeding you should also check with your doctor before changing your eating patterns.


Even if none of the above apply to you, still talk to your doctor about IF if you have diabetes, low blood pressure, or issues regulating blood sugar.


All in all, intermittent fasting is regarded as one of the safest weight loss methods out there. Women who haven’t experienced any of the above should be fine to use it if they’re smart.


Health Benefits & Effectiveness

Did you think the benefits of intermittent fasting stop at helping you drop a few pounds?


Intermittent fasting has also skyrocketed in popularity because of its proposed health benefits.


We’re not talking about the obvious bit of lost belly fat either – although that’s one way to look after your body (4). More like holistic changes that could lead to a happier, healthier you.


First of all, fasting can cause cells to start their repair process. Part of this is something called autophagy, when cells get rid of old proteins that build up and are no longer useful (5)(6). Imagine it like your body cleaning away old cells to make way for new, healthy ones.


Intermittent fasting can also cause human growth hormone to increase by up to five times over. According to scientists, this can actually benefit both fat loss and building muscle (7)(8)(9). Yep – the two things women want for healthy weight loss.


Next, there’s the added health kick of improved insulin sensitivity. Whenever you fast, your insulin levels naturally drop and your sensitivity to it improves. As a result, your body becomes much better at using body fat for energy (10).


To round off these extra health benefits, scientists have found out that IF can even alter gene expression. According to them, intermittent fasting can positively change how well genes associated with disease protection and longevity work (11)(12).


Should You Do It?

Now comes the big question; should you do it?


The decision to try intermittent fasting should be down to everything you’ve learned so far. Ask yourself if you’re one of those at-risk women first, and then consider if you could handle those initial days where you might get hungry.


On a less health-conscious note, intermittent fasting might be suited to your lifestyle. If you find that you’re constantly on the go and grabbing breakfast is inconvenient at the best of times, why not try IF? Just plan to drop breakfast and free up a little extra time.


When you think about it, eating just two or three larger meals a day rather than the usual six associated with weight loss could be a lot simpler to deal with. Rather than stopping to eat every three hours, you could keep on with your daily tasks.


Plus, there’s only two or three sets of dishes to do and meals to make – did someone say extra free time? Intermittent fasting could free up more of your day dedicated to preparing and tidying up after you eat.


What about if you just want to lose weight? Well, looking at all the evidence, intermittent fasting could be a less restrictive way of doing it without constantly cutting calories. The science says it works, and you could find it more enjoyable and easier to track.


Then there’s the potential to give your health a helping hand. We’ve just looked at the positive impact fasting could have on your body, which might be something you want to experience yourself. If so, you’re a prime candidate to the fast.


Intermittent fasting for women

No one it completely sure why, but intermittent fasting seems to impact women’s hormones more than men’s.


Some scientists seem to think it could be down to kisspeptin – a protein-like molecule used by neurons to communicate. And interestingly, this molecule is extremely sensitive to hormones related hunger.


Unfortunately, a number of women have reported missing periods while fasting. Also, because fasting women usually eat less protein, estrogen can be affected. Unfortunately, a number of women have reported missing periods while fasting. This is put down to lower protein intake, which can lead to lower estrogen levels.


As a result of lower estrogen, some women feel a lot hungrier even though their metabolism can slow down, and their fertility can also be impacted. Once your body thinks it might be starving, your hormones might fall out of line like this.


Nutrition experts say that women should approach intermittent fasting in a gentle, less aggressive way. They should always be checking in with how they feel and look out for warning signs that their health is slipping.


Bottom line – start slow with small fasts and be careful. If anything starts going wrong, stop immediately.


FAQ

At this point, you’ve probably got more than a handful of questions about intermittent fasting. Most women usually have all the same things on their mind – so we’ve gathered all the answers for you.


Here are the most frequently asked questions about intermittent fasting:


Can I drink during intermittent fasting?

A lot of women want to know if they can still drink during intermittent fasting. The simple answer is yes, but, as you guessed there’s a catch.


You can only drink things that are free from calories. That means no frothy coffees full of milk and definitely no fruit juices. Think black coffee, plain tea, and water.


Some people say you can have a splash of milk in coffee, but that still breaks your fast – sorry. Even so, black coffee is definitely a favorite among fasters as the caffeine can help blunt hunger.


It’s important you stay hydrated throughout the whole day, especially while fasting. Look to drink a minimum of nine glasses of water every single day.


What can you eat or drink while intermittent fasting?

During your eating window you can eat or drink all the regular things you’d enjoy as part of your diet. So long as you’re eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet – you’re all good.


However, when fasting, you shouldn’t be taking on any form of calories. So, that accounts for all foods and drinks with sugar, creamers, milk in etc.


One thing you should definitely be aware of is how much protein you’re eating. Make sure you’re getting enough of this essential macro, as it’s important for protecting your feminine muscle and curves.


Can I take supplements while fasting?

Yes, you can take supplements while fasting, but some fat-soluble vitamins might be better when taken with food. You should also make sure you’re not taking on calorific supplements like protein shakes during your fast.


Some fasters like to take branched chain amino acids during their fast to exercise. Technically, this breaks their fast, so what they’re doing is a modified fast.


Maybe we’re being pedantic – but we’re here to do things properly, right?




How much weight can you lose in a month with intermittent fasting?

First and foremost, weight loss is all relative and every woman will lose weight at a different rate, depending on a huge range of factors.


One study looked at alternate day fasting saw healthy participants lose half a pound per week, whereas obese subjects lost two to three pounds (13). But this was using the eat-stop-eat method, which could be too aggressive for women new to fasting.


Nutrition experts say that healthy weight loss is around one percent body weight per week.


So, while you could definitely lose more using intermittent fasting, you should still look after your body and try not to go over this amount. Otherwise, you’ll lose muscle and potentially make yourself ill.


How long should I do intermittent fasting to lose weight?

Real fat loss doesn’t happen overnight or even over a week. It’s a dedicated journey that often takes months of hard work achieve. There are no quick fixes to achieving your body goals.


You should use intermittent fasting for as long as you feel comfortable and healthy. If you find that you’ve got to your target, good job! You can still use IF, just try to eat more healthy, wholesome foods so you can maintain that weight.


Like we said earlier – safety first with any kind of weight loss journey. If you start to feel ill or notice a change in your health and hormones, stop straight away. Always put your health and wellbeing above everything else.


The Bottom Line

Intermittent fasting has become one of the fastest moving eating trends today – no pun intended. Women are finding it an easy fix for their lifestyle and enjoy the freedom it gives them to still eat the foods they love.


Countless studies have shown IF to live up to the hype too. According to the men and women in white coats, it does more than just help weight loss, but can even make you healthier too.


However, some women don’t always do well with fasting – especially over longer periods. We recommend trying intermittent fasting in the gentlest way possible to start with. A smaller fast like 12 or 14 hours might be easier to test yourself with first.


If you’re struggling with conventional calorie cutting or lead a busy lifestyle, intermittent fasting might be for you. Take all the little details we’ve shown you and see how it could help your journey to faster fat loss.