Intermittent fasting and its effect on the libido can be a concern for some women, especially those already experiencing decreased sexual desire due to menopause, mental health issues, or prescribed medications.
There is no definitive conclusion about intermittent fasting and libido. Some women report issues in the bedroom, yet others experience a higher sex drive while intermittent fasting. Eating more healthy fats, proteins and vitamins, staying adequately hydrated and choosing aphrodisiac foods and spices can boost a woman’s libido.
OK, intermittent fasting is working for you and pounds are being shed. Your partner is telling you how hot you look and your self-esteem is high. And finally, you fit into that sexy dress that's been hanging in your closet for years!
Only one problem… your sexual desire has gone south. And you don't know why.
Every woman's sex drive, also known as libido, is unique. Several factors influence a woman's sexual desire and determine whether her sex drive is high or low.
Some overweight women report a lack of sexual desire due to physical problems and negative self-perceptions. Studies on obesity and sexuality found that there is a correlation between weight loss and improvement in libido (9). Intermittent fasting can help a woman look and feel her best and increase her want for sex.
Our body's primary source of energy is the sugar that usually comes from the foods we consume. When you fast for 12 or more hours, your body has used up most of this energy source and turns to stored fat to burn for additional fuel.
Intermittent fasting is the least restrictive and is recommended for daily use. There are different types of intermittent fasting, including the commonly used 16/8, 5:2, and alternate day fasting methods.
The 16/8 method sets time parameters around your fasting hours and when you eat.
Both the 5/2 and alternate day fasting methods limit the number of calories you can consume to 500 on certain days of the week.
This is an extended form of intermittent fasting that lasts from 24 hours to up to 3 days or longer with medical supervision. Only water is consumed during this period.
The small body of research on the connection between intermittent fasting and libido has addressed the male but not the female sex drive. However, there are many anecdotal stories of women having a lost libido during intermittent fasting, while others report a higher sex drive while intermittent fasting.
Depending on the fasting schedule you choose, you may feel decreased energy. If you follow the 16/8 method, you shouldn't feel much of a change in sexual desire, but some women feel tired toward the end of the fast. Perhaps plan for your bedroom romp earlier rather than later in your fast.
Your energy levels may drop on calorie-restricted days when following the 5:2 or alternate day method, and so may your desire to make love. Wait for your "eating days" to engage in sexual relations.
Many people find that their libido drops along with their energy levels when they do prolonged fasts but returns to normal once they start taking in nutrients again.
Sex drive is often determined by your energy levels, and the foods you choose to eat can either energize you, improve your mood and libido, or drag you down and make you feel groggy.
Some women experience vaginal dryness due to hormonal changes and other reasons. This causes sex to be uncomfortable, resulting in lowered desire. Inadequate hydration can exacerbate the problem (10).
When adopting an intermittent fasting lifestyle, you will naturally be eating less frequently. A major source of our water intake is the foods we eat. Also, because many people only drink at mealtime, it is essential to make sure you drink enough water when fasting to stay properly hydrated. Your sex life might depend on it!
Although testosterone levels are much lower in women than men, testosterone does play a vital role in sexual desire in women. Testosterone levels naturally decrease with age.
There is conflicting evidence on whether intermittent fasting decreases testosterone levels or improves them (11,12). If you're concerned, get your testosterone level checked with your doctor.
Although some women first experience decreased sexual desire, once they are consistent with their fasting, many notice their libido increase with intermittent fasting.
This may be thanks to a focus on healthier eating when trying to lose weight while intermittent fasting.
Foods, as well as herbs and spices, can directly affect libido. In addition, performance between the sheets and reaching orgasm are also both positively and negatively impacted by diet.
Focusing on foods lower in carbs and higher in fats, proteins, and vitamins can provide longer, sustained energy and keep your sexual interest piqued.
Try these foods known to help women with lubrication, libido, and increased responsiveness:
1) Maca (13)
2) Small amounts of red wine (14)
3) Apples (15)
4) Bananas (16)
Reducing stress and getting a good night's sleep on a regular basis can also increase a woman's sex drive (17, 18).
Research has shown that fasting results in lowered libido in men (19). Although there are no similar studies on intermittent fasting and low sex drive in women, some do experience decreased sexual desire when beginning intermittent fasting or doing longer fasts. Lowered testosterone levels, energy levels, and hydration may play a part in a woman's lack of sexual desire.
Other women enjoy increased sex drive with intermittent fasting. Adopting a consistent fasting schedule, combined with healthier eating habits, adequate water intake, and reduced stress and more sleep, all help make a woman's sex life soar.
Intermittent fasting has many other benefits, find out about them !
Join the intermittent fasting online community of women and learn more about how intermittent fasting can affect your sex drive.
1. Nappi RE, Martini E, Martella S, et al. Maintaining sexuality in menopause. Post Reprod Health. 2014;20(1):22-29. doi:10.1177/1754045313515122
2. Kalra G, Subramanyam A, Pinto C. Sexuality: desire, activity and intimacy in the elderly. Indian J Psychiatry. 2011;53(4):300-306. doi:10.4103/0019-5545.91902
3. Esfahani SB, Pal S. Obesity, mental health, and sexual dysfunction: A critical review. Health Psychol Open. 2018;5(2):2055102918786867. doi:10.1177/2055102918786867
4. DeLamater J, Karraker A. Sexual functioning in older adults. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2009;11(1):6-11. doi:10.1007/s11920-009-0002-4
5. Healy D. Antidepressants and sexual dysfunction: a history. J R Soc Med. 2020;113(4):133-135. doi:10.1177/0141076819899299
6. de Castro Coelho F, Barros C. The Potential of Hormonal Contraception to Influence Female Sexuality. Int J Reprod Med. 2019;2019:9701384. doi:10.1155/2019/9701384
7. Staruch M, Kucharczyk A, Zawadzka K, Wielgos M, Szymusik I. Sexual activity during pregnancy. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2016;37(1):53-58.
8. Dewitte, M., Mayer, A. Exploring the Link Between Daily Relationship Quality, Sexual Desire, and Sexual Activity in Couples. Arch Sex Behav 47, 1675–1686 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-018-1175-x
9. Younis, Ihaba; Abdelrahman, Sherine H.b; Abdelfattah, Menha I.a; Al-Awady, Mona A.b Can obesity affect female sexuality?, Human Andrology: December 2013 - Volume 3 - Issue 4 - p 98-106. doi: 10.1097/01.XHA.0000436103.89761.2c
10. Ross, S. She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women's Intimate Health. Period. Savio Republic; 2017
11. Moro, T., Tinsley, G., Bianco, A. et al. Effects of eight weeks of time-restricted feeding (16/8) on basal metabolism, maximal strength, body composition, inflammation, and cardiovascular risk factors in resistance-trained males. J Transl Med 14, 290 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12967-016-1044-0
12. Röjdmark S, Asplund A, Rössner S. Pituitary-testicular axis in obese men during short-term fasting. Acta Endocrinol (Copenh). 1989;121(5):727-732. doi:10.1530/acta.0.1210727
13. Shin BC, Lee MS, Yang EJ, Lim HS, Ernst E. Maca (L. meyenii) for improving sexual function: a systematic review. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2010;10:44. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-10-44
14. Mondaini N, Cai T, Gontero P, et al. Regular moderate intake of red wine is linked to a better women's sexual health. J Sex Med. 2009;6(10):2772-2777. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2009.01393.x
15. Cai T, Gacci M, Mattivi F, et al. Apple consumption is related to better sexual quality of life in young women. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2014;290(1):93-98. doi:10.1007/s00404-014-3168-x
16. Lee AW, Kyrozis A, Chevaleyre V, et al. Estradiol modulation of phenylephrine-induced excitatory responses in ventromedial hypothalamic neurons of female rats. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008;105(20):7333-7338. doi:10.1073/pnas.0802760105
17. Hamilton LD, Rellini AH, Meston CM. Cortisol, sexual arousal, and affect in response to sexual stimuli [published correction appears in J Sex Med. 2008 Nov;5(11):2735] [published correction appears in J Sex Med. 2010 Nov;7(11):3803]. J Sex Med. 2008;5(9):2111-2118. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2008.00922.x
18. Kalmbach DA, Arnedt JT, Pillai V, Ciesla JA. The impact of sleep on female sexual response and behavior: a pilot study. J Sex Med. 2015;12(5):1221-1232. doi:10.1111/jsm.12858
19. Klibanski A, Beitins IZ, Badger T, Little R, McArthur JW. Reproductive function during fasting in men. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1981;53(2):258-263. doi:10.1210/jcem-53-2-258
Intermittent fasting has positive effects on the body and brain, improving mood and lessening symptoms of depression.
Intermittent fasting decreases sex drive in some women, whereas a libido increase with intermittent fasting is experienced by others.