People of all ages have been fasting since time immemorial. Our capacity to fast is fairly universal.
But that doesn’t mean intermittent fasting (IF) affects everyone equally. Today, you’ll be learning about intermittent fasting for women over 50.
Most women over 50 are wrapping up a series of hormonal changes called menopause. Combined with the natural aging process, these changes can promote increased abdominal fat, osteoporosis, accelerated muscle loss, and other troubling issues.[*]
Keep reading to learn intermittent fasting benefits, special considerations, and tips for women over 50.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is the practice of taking regular breaks from calories. It’s that simple.
To be considered an intermittent fast, these breaks must last anywhere from 12 to 36 hours. Anything longer is considered an extended fast.
Our ancestors practiced intermittent fasting all the time. They didn’t have a fully stocked fridge to raid when hunting and gathering failed. They had to fast.
Fortunately, they were well-adapted for this situation. While fasting, they fueled themselves with body fat.
That’s also how intermittent fasting works now. When you don’t eat, the hormone insulin stays low.[*] Low insulin, in turn, facilitates the breakdown and oxidation of body fat.
This fat-burning state drives most of the potential benefits of IF.
Benefits of IF
Beyond weight loss, intermittent fasting also:
- Promotes ketosis (ketosis may help with hunger management and mental acuity)
- Has been shown to improve cardiovascular risk markers[*][*]
- May help reverse type 2 diabetes[*][*]
- Helps enhance the circadian rhythm, your 24-hour wake-sleep cycle[*]
- Helps activate a cellular longevity program called autophagy
Let’s explore how these potential benefits might apply to women over 50.
Can IF Work for Women Over 50?
The short answer is yes. Intermittent fasting has shown promise for both premenopausal and postmenopausal women.
One study looked at alternate-day fasting (ADF) in 75 obese men and women.[*] For 12 weeks, participants ate 500 calories on fasting days and as much as they liked on non-fasting days.
Regardless of sex or menopausal status, everyone benefited on average. All groups saw similar reductions in fat mass, fasting insulin, insulin resistance, and blood pressure. Interestingly, postmenopausal women saw greater declines in LDL cholesterol (a heart disease risk factor) than premenopausal women.
In the study, obese women ate within a 4 to 6 hour feeding window for 8 weeks. For those familiar with IF protocols, this is somewhere between 16/8 and OMAD.
The results were similar to the previous study. Both pre and postmenopausal women lost weight and showed metabolic improvements.
These are desirable benefits for women over 50. Due to declines in the hormone estrogen, postmenopausal women are at higher risk for weight gain, cardiovascular disease, and blood sugar regulation issues.[*][*] More research is needed, but IF may help offset these risks.
7 Fasting Tips for Women Over 50
Ladies over 50 should consider these tips to create a sustainable IF practice.
#1: Start slow
If you’re new to intermittent fasting, start with a simple overnight fast. In other words, go from dinner to breakfast without eating.
Counting sleep, a 12-hour overnight fast requires only 4 hours of wakeful fasting. Once you’re used to overnight fasting, you can proceed with longer fasts if you like.
#2: Get enough calories
Too much calorie restriction is undesirable. To avoid fatigue, sleep issues, and other calorie restriction side effects, maintain a mild caloric deficit of about 10% by tracking your meals with the Carb Manager app.
#3: Prioritize protein
The more you fast, the more challenging it becomes to hit 100 grams of daily protein. (100 grams is a good target for muscle maintenance). Tracking your protein intake with Carb Manager can help.
#4: Resistance train
All forms of exercise can complement IF, but strength training is especially important. Why? Because strength training helps you maintain the lean mass (muscle) that you’d otherwise lose while fasting.[*]
Muscle keeps us functional as we age. And the older we get, the harder it is to maintain. Throw the brakes on this process by strength training and eating enough protein.
#5: Get enough electrolytes
While fasting, you lose electrolytes like sodium and potassium at higher rates.[*] To prevent the headaches, fatigue, and cramps of electrolyte deficiency, these electrolytes need to be replaced.
#6: Consider a Keto diet
And yes, the Keto diet has been shown to help postmenopausal women lose weight.[*]
#7: Eat a nutrient-dense diet
When you practice IF, you have fewer opportunities to fuel your body with nutrients, you need to make those opportunities count.
Maintaining a Sustainable Fasting Routine
If you want to succeed with fasting, you need to make fasting part of your routine. You need to make it a habit.
One key to habit formation? Accountability.
Specifically, you want to be accountable to yourself. But how?
By measuring your progress. When you track yourself daily, your personal accountability goes through the roof.
If you haven’t tried Carb Manager yet, it’s never too late. The premium version of the app has a customized IF tracker that handles your fasting journey soup to nuts. You can also use the basic (free) version to track calories, macros, and weight. Not a bad deal for $0.
And ladies: if you’re new to fasting, you might also enjoy this comprehensive guide to IF for women.
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