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Intermittent Fasting Schedule for Women: How to Find the Right Schedule

Intermittent fasting has many benefits for women. For women, it’s best to start with short fasting times and then slowly increase them.
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Summary

Women should start an intermittent fasting schedule with short fasting times. They can then slowly increase the fasting time. Intuitive fasting and avoiding stress minimizes the risk of health issues.

Written by
Sarah Neidler, PhD
Freelance Science and Medical Writer

Intermittent fasting is very popular among women because it makes it easy to lose weight (1). At the same time, many women are concerned that it may be dangerous since the female body is sensitive to calorie restriction. Not eating enough can have a negative influence on hormones and impact fertility.


However, when done correctly, intermittent fasting provides many benefits for women. In fact, it can even improve fertility (2).


In this article, you learn how to find the right intermittent fasting schedule for you.

What is the best intermittent fasting schedule for women?

Every woman is different. For this reason, there is no intermittent fasting schedule that is suitable for all women.


Which schedule is best for you depends on many factors such as:

  • Fasting experience
  • Age
  • Weight (3)
  • Degree of insulin resistance
  • Your diet
  • Physical activity
  • Comorbidities such as diabetes, thyroid issues, etc. (4, 5)


Many women without intermittent fasting experience like to start with 16/8 intermittent fasting. 16 hours of fasting is not very long because it includes sleep time. Therefore, you may achieve very good results with 16/8 intermittent fasting and stick to this schedule long-term.


But some women’s body weight plateau after an initial weight loss. Longer fasting times can help to overcome such a stall.


Depending on your goals, you may want to increase the fasting time and follow an 18/6 or 20/4 schedule. From there, you may even switch to OMAD, Alternate-Day-Fasting, or 5/2 fasting.


Intuitive fasting for women

Women may benefit from an intermittent fasting approach that is known as intuitive fasting.


Intuitive fasting avoids fasting times that are too long and helps you learn which schedule is right for you. It’s very simple:


  • You wait to eat until you are clearly hungry
  • You then eat until full
  • You wait again until you’re hungry
  • ...



With time, your body gets used to this way of eating, and you’ll notice that you can increase the time between meals without getting too hungry.

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Don’t restrict calories

A measuring band wrapped around a fork.

When women experience issues with intermittent fasting, the problem is not always the fasting itself. Because they practice intermittent fasting to lose weight, they also restrict calories.


What does “restricting calories” mean?


It is natural to consume fewer calories with intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting allows you to access your energy stores and thereby regulates the appetite. Also, with a shorter eating window, you simply have fewer opportunities to eat. 


Don’t worry that you eat considerably less than before starting your intermittent fasting journey. This is normal and one of the reasons why intermittent fasting is so effective for weight loss.


However, you should avoid intentionally restricting calories. That means that you stop eating despite being still hungry. This signals to the body that food is scarce and that now may not be a good time to become pregnant. In that case, intermittent fasting can reduce fertility (at least temporarily).


Avoid other stress factors

Intermittent fasting can be a stress factor when you’re not used to it. Since women can be sensitive to stress, you should avoid other stress factors when starting with intermittent fasting.


Therefore, when starting with intermittent fasting:


  • Don’t start an exercise program at the same time
  • Choose a time when you’re not too busy at work
  • Make sure you get enough sleep (6)
  • Take your time and cook healthy, nutritious meals


The bottom line

Intermittent fasting offers many benefits for women, but women have to be a bit more careful with long fasting times than men. For this reason, women should start with an intermittent fasting schedule with short fasting times. From there, they can slowly increase the fasting time.


An intuitive fasting approach helps to avoid fasting times that are too long. Women should also avoid additional stress factors such as intentional calorie restriction and intense exercise when starting with intermittent fasting.


If you want to learn more about intermittent fasting, we invite you to join our intermittent fasting community for women only! 


References:

1. Templeman I, Gonzalez JT, Thompson D, Betts JA. The role of intermittent fasting and meal timing in weight management and metabolic health. Proc Nutr Soc. Feb 2020;79(1):76-87. doi:10.1017/S0029665119000636

2. Hua L, Feng B, Huang L, et al. Time-restricted feeding improves the reproductive function of female mice via liver fibroblast growth factor 21. Clin Transl Med. Oct 2020;10(6):e195. doi:10.1002/ctm2.195

3. Harris L, Hamilton S, Azevedo LB, et al. Intermittent fasting interventions for treatment of overweight and obesity in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JBI Database System Rev Implement Rep. Feb 2018;16(2):507-547. doi:10.11124/JBISRIR-2016-003248

4. Borgundvaag E, Mak J, Kramer CK. Metabolic Impact of Intermittent Fasting in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Interventional Studies. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. Mar 8 2021;106(3):902-911. doi:10.1210/clinem/dgaa926

5. Kim BH, Joo Y, Kim MS, Choe HK, Tong Q, Kwon O. Effects of Intermittent Fasting on the Circulating Levels and Circadian Rhythms of Hormones. Endocrinol Metab (Seoul). Aug 2021;36(4):745-756. doi:10.3803/EnM.2021.405

6. Nollet M, Wisden W, Franks NP. Sleep deprivation and stress: a reciprocal relationship. Interface Focus. Jun 6 2020;10(3):20190092. doi:10.1098/rsfs.2019.0092


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