Whenever I explain that I wait to eat my first meal around noon, people often ask, “are you skipping breakfast?” Well, no. I’m not “skipping” breakfast I’m just delaying that first delicious meal of my day by a couple of hours because I practice intermittent fasting.
As a mom, it can be tough to practice intermittent fasting but the truth is that intermittent fasting for women can have a lot of health benefits.
I want to first note that you should first consult a licensed medical physician before you jump into intermittent fasting. IF isn’t for everyone and therefore, it’s something to discuss with a professional.
The purpose of this post is to give you an overview of IF schedules, not to provide any professional/medical advice.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting can easily be incorporated as part of any lifestyle, even when you have kids! Fasting is where you omit to eat; so Intermittent fasting is a pattern in which periods of fasting and eating are cycled.
There are many patterns, and most are followed by personal choice, and, for women, it can be tougher with the demands of a family. Common intermittent fasting methods include 12-16 hours daily or 24 hour periods once or twice a week.
I follow the 12-16 hour fasting period since I’ve found that omitting to eat completely is tough. I usually stop eating around 8 pm and have my first real meal around noon the next day.
The only way I break my “fast” is with black or Bulletproof Coffee since its benefits are beneficial in a fasting state, and that’s usually enjoyed around 9 am, after 12-hours of fasting.
If you want to dive deep into Intermittent Fasting, I’ve written a book with everything you need to know about fasting & a 1-week meal plan so you know exactly what to eat during your eating windows. Check out my Intermittent Fasting Guide here.
What does it do to your body?
Intermittent fasting is a great way to lean out without going on a calorie-restricted diet. Most often, calories remain the same when you start intermittent fasting.
If you don’t count calories and focus on eating real foods, you’ll adjust your meal schedule by eating your normal meals in a smaller time frame. If you lift weights, intermittent fasting is a good way to keep your muscle while getting lean.
The main reason people try intermittent fasting is to lose fat. We’ll talk about how intermittent fasting leads to fat loss in a moment.
In a fasting state, your body can recover from workouts, replenish its hormonal cycles, and focus on all the functions it must do with the distraction of the digestive process.
Benefits of intermittent fasting
The main benefits of intermittent fasting for women are weight loss, aid in the cellular repair process, increase mental health and clarity, and reduce insulin resistance.
1. Weight Loss
Perhaps the more common reason people consider intermittent fasting is to reduce the amount they eat and overall caloric intake.
While I do not follow an intermittent fasting lifestyle for weight loss, eating your regular meals in a smaller time frame makes you feel full for most of the day, and therefore, most people are satiated enough that they don’t graze.
After 12 hours, your body enters what’s called a “fasted state.” In the fasted state, your body can burn fat that has been inaccessible during the fed state.
Because we don’t enter the fasted state until 12 hours after our last meal, our bodies are rarely in this fat-burning state. This is one reason why many people who start intermittent fasting will lose fat without changing what they eat, how much they eat, or how often they exercise. Fasting puts your body in a fat-burning state, rarely achieved on a normal eating schedule.
2. Promotes Cellular Repair Processes
“Sleep cures all things,” my grandmother used to say. And apparently, so does fasting.
When you sleep, your body begins to repair its cells and performs its hormonal cycles; and when your body doesn’t have to deal with digestion, it’s able to focus on the cellular repair process fully.
Cellular repair, also known as autophagy, is when cells begin to remove wastes and repair themselves. This process is required to maintain muscle mass and reduces the undesirable effects of aging. Autophagy = fountain of youth. Okay, a little exaggeration, but you get the point!
When you fast, your body can do its job in repairing itself and healing. There’s a lot of research that fasting can aid the cellular repair process with cancer and other illnesses.
3. Increase mental health and clarity
Hands down, one of my favorite benefits from intermittent fasting is the mental clarity I have in the mornings.
In this four-to-six-hour window, my mind can focus on the task and get a lot of work done. After I start eating, I’m less focused and a bit more sluggish, making my afternoons at the office less productive.
Coincidentally, two benefits of Bulletproof Coffee are mental clarity and focus. Combined with fasting, I often feel unstoppable at work.
4. Reduce Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance is when our bodies don’t respond to insulin as they should and can’t easily take up the glucose from your blood. It often occurs due to poor diet, genetics, inactivity, high blood pressure, overweight, or obesity. Intermittent fasting is said to reduce insulin resistance.
Meaning, when your body cannot break down the sugars in your blood as it should, it begins to store them as fat. Intermittent fasting helps level out blood sugar levels.
This brings us to our next topic of Intermittent fasting for women.
How It Affects Women Differently Than Men
Calorie restriction can inhibit the production of female sex hormones causing irregular periods, infertility, and hormonal imbalances. This is why it’s important that women who intermittent fast do not do it for caloric restriction but for the health and wellness aspect.
When women restrict their calories, their metabolism slows down, hormones go out of balance, and the body cannot function at its optimal levels.
So, if you’re a woman that’s restricting her calories and intermittent fasting, you’re doing your body more harm than good and losing the benefits of intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting can be beneficial for women when incorporated in a weight loss program given that the body continues to receive the nutrition it needs.
It’s important to know that intermittent fasting can have different effects on women of different ages.
If you are post-menopausal, intermittent fasting won’t be such a risk to your overall health, albeit pre-menopausal women are more likely to experience poor outcomes with extreme or moderate forms of intermittent fasting. Emphasis on the extreme or moderate.
Types of Intermittent Fasting for Women
Before I dive into which fasting schedule tends to work best for the female body let’s first look at the different types of intermittent fasting.
24 Hour fasts
No food intake for a full 24 hour period done once or twice a week.
Consists of 5 days with regular eating and 2 fast days in which calories are reduced to 500-600.
Alternate Day Fasting
Fasting every other day. Some versions allow 500 calories on fast days.
Which Fasting Schedule is easiest to Implement?
I’ve found that for most women, the 12 to 16-hour fast is the easiest to implement. We often wake up and immediately “start” doing something, both for ourselves and our families, so grabbing a cup of coffee (unsweetened) and getting ourselves going till midday isn’t that difficult.
I also find that planning to be finished with dinner around 7 pm and skipping evening snacks helps narrow the fasting window to before noon the next day.
If late-night snacking is an issue for you as it is for me, try sipping warm tea in the evenings. I’ve found that this keeps me from aimlessly walking by the pantry in search of a snack.
How to Get Started
Getting started is simple. Chances are you’ve already done many intermittent fasting days before. Many of us instinctively eat this way, skipping morning or evening meals -not always on purpose but because we’re not hungry or full from eating a larger meal in the afternoon.
The easiest way to get started is to choose one of the intermittent fasting methods above and give it a go. However, you don’t necessarily need to follow a structured plan.
An alternative is to fast whenever it suits you. Skipping meals from time to time when you don’t feel hungry or don’t have time to cook can also work.
It doesn’t matter which type of fast you choose. The most important thing is to find a method that works best for you and your lifestyle.
Intermittent Fasting Meal Plan
The BEST part of intermittent fasting is that there’s no meal plan. Meaning, you don’t have to wonder what to eat or drink while intermittent fasting. You just have to figure out WHEN to eat.
The best meal plan is always to eat real and whole foods. Meals that need to be cooked made from fresh ingredients. If you need recipes to incorporate into your real food meals, check out my recipe index.
Intermittent Fasting Food List
Fueling your day with a balance of foods that include optimal sources carbs, healthy fats, and protein is vital if you wish to do intermittent fasting.
Otherwise, you’ll experience insufficient energy slumps throughout the day and you’ll binge eat anything in sight as soon as you’re able to find food -and not always make the best choices.
Related: Best Foods to Break Your Fast
Intermittent Fasting Schedule for Women
There is no one size fits all. Finding the right fasting schedule depends on what works best for you. As mentioned above, this will be different for all of us. For some that look like a 12 to 16-hour fasting state, starting at 8 p.m and ending 8 a.m or 12 p.m the next day.
For others that could be a 24 hour period sans food, starting 7 p.m. and ending 7 p.m. the next day.
It’s important to listen to your body and know what works best for you. Overall, the best approach is one that you can stick with while maintaining focus on daily tasks and family.
What you need to know before you start
I encourage you to evaluate your existing (life/work) commitments before starting your intermittent fasting journey. Setting realistic expectations for yourself and intermittent fasting will help you achieve your health goals.
If you have an extra busy day or week coming up, consider shortening the fasting period. This will help reduce the added stress and unnecessary pressure to skip meals.
When I travel, I’m often unable to do more than 12 hours of fasting due to evening commitments or early morning meetings. The great thing about intermittent fasting is that there’s nothing “special” that you need to schedule before starting intermittent fasting; you just get started.
It’s important to see if it’s the right time to do intermittent fasting. If you’re going through an emotional or stressful period in your life, trying to conceive, or recovering from an eating disorder, intermittent fasting may not be the best thing for you at this time.
Can You Exercise While Fasting?
This is probably one of the most common questions that I get asked all the time. I prefer to exercise in the morning -mostly because it’s the only time in the day I have for myself. And most people think they have to eat right after they train, or all their hard work will be wasted.
For those of us women that are exercising for health benefits and not training for a competition or a marathon, this is not true.
If you’re following a balanced training program and are eating a balanced food intake throughout the day, you’re good to go!
Is it worth it?
I’ve found that intermittent fasting is worth it because of the mental clarity I have in the mornings to do my most important work. To date, it has not affected with my lifestyle and I can continue to exercise at my desired intensity.
Because I stop eating a few hours before bed, I also feel like I sleep better at night. Not going to bed with a full stomach makes me feel relaxed and able to fall asleep faster.
My experience with Intermittent Fasting
I’m going to share my intermittent fasting experience as it pertains to my day-to-day activities and routine. As a full-time working mom to three kids, I’ve grown to be “flexible” since no two days are alike.
Below is a sample schedule, on a weekday, where I juggle the kids-work-life routine daily. The schedule below follows a 16-hour fasting schedule, 8-hour eating window.
6:15 am: wake up. Grab black coffee, get dressed, top off black coffee in a to-go cup, and fill up a 24-ounce water cup.
6:45 am – 7:45 am: school drop-off loop and head straight to workout.
7:45 am – 8:45 am: early morning workout. Whether it’s a morning run, weights, yoga, or spin; movement happens here. I drink water during the workout.
8:45 am – 9:00 am: head to the office. Drink water only with Naked Unflavored BCAAs.
9:00 am: I make a Bulletproof coffee at the office.
12:00 – 1:00: eat lunch somewhere in this hour.
3:00 pm – 4:00 pm: grab an afternoon snack. Usually consists of a smoothie with avocado, non-dairy milk, chocolate protein, chia seeds, and ice.
6:30 pm – 7:45pm: eat dinner. Depending on the evening activities, dinner can happen anywhere in this timeframe.
8:00 pm: cease all meals (including snacks).
How do I keep myself from getting hungry in the mornings after a workout? I drink Bulletproof coffee. The recipe is below and you can read about the benefits of Bulletproof coffee for women here. By the time I drink a Bulletproof coffee at 9 am, I’ve already completed a minimum of a 12-hour fast.Print