Everything women need to know about intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting (IF) is trending. And we get why! It’s an amazing tool for weight loss, decreasing inflammation, and balancing hormones. But even though we love recommending it to many of our clients – with great results — we also want to share the downsides of intermittent fasting and remind you to keep your female body balanced.
As women our hormone-radars are extremely sensitive to our environment and actions. Intermittent fasting is different for us than it is for men.
That’s why we want to show you how you’ll still be able to tap into the benefits of intermittent fasting – such as improved digestion, metabolism, energy, fat-burning, and better physical performance — while also taking care of your hormonal health without losing your cycle.
1. What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting. It does not say ‘what’ foods to eat, but rather ‘when’ to eat them. There are several intermittent fasting methods. The most popular method is 16/8. 16 hours of fasting (including your sleeping hours) and eating your food within a span of 8 hours. No food is allowed during the fasting period, but you can drink water (infused with lemon or essential oils to spice it up) and herbal tea.
2. What Makes Intermittent Fasting More Complicated For Women?
Us women need to support a monthly chain reaction of hormones. Therefore we need to take extra care of avoiding the negative effects intermittent fasting can have on our bodies.
One hormone in particular, the Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), is extremely sensitive to environmental factors and can be thrown off by fasting. It’s supposed to trigger the release of FSH & LH, both hormones that influence the ovaries, which are then supposed to activate the production of estrogen and progesterone. Even 3-day fasts have been shown to mess with GnRH pulses which leads to lower estrogen and progesterone production.
But women need estrogen! There are estrogen receptors everywhere in our bodies! Estrogen helps us with metabolize, lose weight, stabilize mood, anxiety, and stress, boost energy, tone muscles, repair skin, and hair, improve bone density, and is even important for cognitive function!
Same for progesterone! In a stress situation (such as a long period of fasting) your body will always prioritize the production of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin over progesterone. Progesterone impacts important physiological processes such as your monthly ovulation and menstruation, as well as sleep and stress response. Too little progesterone leads to water retention, anxiety, low energy, insomnia, sugar addiction, mood swings, weight gain, and PMS. The opposite of what women want when they embark on their intermittent fasting journey!
3. How women can safely enjoy the benefits of intermittent fasting while bypassing the risks.
First of all, everyone reacts differently to intermittent fasting. Some may just experience the benefits while others start experiencing absent periods and water retention.
That’s why it’s so important to listen to your body. Just because someone said it’s supposed to be a certain way or because „everyone is doing it“ doesn’t mean it’s the right thing for you! Embrace your uniqueness.
We Recommend Women To Follow These Simple Rules While Intermittent Fasting:
1. Do not fast on consecutive days (fast for instance on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday)
2. Do not fast for more than 12-16 hours (fast for instance from 8pm-10am). Going without food for a longer time may trigger a negative hormonal cascade. In some cases, 14 hours is really the maximum.
3. Do not do intensive training on fasting days but rather yoga or light cardio.
4. Do not fast right before or during your period.
5. Support your body with the best nutrition for your hormonal health. Our Female Cycle Superpowers Program is an amazing program to start with hormone balancing recipes and learn how to best support yourself during different phases in your cycle.
How I got my period back after throwing my hormones out of whack with intermittent fasting!
I lost my period and messed up my hormones with too intense intermittent fasting, an overactive lifestyle and stress. But the good news is that I naturally found my way back to hormone balance and regained a regular cycle, symptom-free period, more energy, organized mind and self-love!
And here is how I did that…
Reduce Your Fasting Periods
During the first two weeks of my cycle (follicular & ovulation phases) I really listen to my body and match the fasting to my daily activity level. When I’m really active I reduce the fasting hours from 16 to 12 hours. And sometimes a late-night dinner with friends is what your soul needs, right?
During the last two weeks of my cycle (the week before and during my period — luteal and menstrual phases) I stop intermittent fasting completely and also take it easy on my fitness routine (rather walking, yoga, hiking, and biking).
This supports a healthy hormone production by reducing the stress on your body. It helps to promote the right ratio of progesterone and estrogen for your ovulation and menstruation over the course of your monthly cycle.
Nourish Your Temple With Hormone Balancing Foods
I decided to do our Female Cycle Superpowers Program again, to support my body with hormone balancing foods, mindfulness and lifestyle decisions. Everything is connected and this program is perfect to get a deeper understanding of your hormone situation in every phase of your cycle. And you no longer need to get lost wasting time on the Internet trying to find solutions that may or may not work.
Besides teaching me what foods to eat for optimal hormonal health, the program’s workbooks help me connect with myself, step into my full power, and feel back in control of my health, mood and feelings. This is important for me, because we get so easily lost, disconnected and numb in the busy-ness of our society.
The Female Cycle Superpowers Program shows me to embrace the beauty of my sensitivity again, taking the signs of my body serious and most importantly realizing how powerful and amazing the right food choices actually are. Including their effect on your mental and physical health (which is such a freeing feeling once you’ve lost the control over it). I tell you: Never underestimate of tapping into the power of your own nature — it’s the ultimate energy update throughout all areas of your life!
If you experience irregular or missing periods, intermittent fasting is only one of the possible reasons. It’s important to find out your individual root-cause to get your period back on track: We’re here to help! You’re kindly invited to book a free 1:1 coaching call with us here.
Now, beautiful fellow go-getters, I would love to hear from you in the comments below!
What are your experiences with intermittent fasting? What you’ve got to say may help and inspire others to embrace self-care too!
Also, when you know someone who needs to hear about the effects of intermittent fasting and how to reverse it – forward this to them right away.
We’re so grateful to have you here with us!
Healthy, Happy Vibes! x
Lynn E. DeLisi, (2007). Smelling lavender and rosemary increases free radical scavenging activity and decreases cortisol level in saliva. Elsevier Ireland Ltd, Vol.150(1), 89-96
H. Kolias, PhD. (retr. 2019). Intermittent Fasting for Women. [Weblog]. Precision Nutrition.
Dr. M. Snyder. (2019). The Essential Oils Hormone Solution. Rodale Books.
Thank you for explaining clearly. I’m really confused with all different views and got a very clear view of ‘how to follow intermittent fasting when facing other hormonal imbalances
Hi Lucie, I just found this website while I was looking for advice on intermittent fasting for women. I read before that the way how we approach fasting can actually change the reaction of our body. If we approach it as a chore or something we have to do, our body can go into stress and release stress hormones. But if we choose to fast and embrace the process, ‘happy’ hormones are released that help to get all the good benefits from fasting.
The reason I’m writing this is because I’m wondering if that is why some women find intermittent fasting beneficial and some have negative experiences with it. Do you have any experience or have the been any studies specifically in this area for women? What are your thoughts? Thank you!