intermittent fasting for women over 40

Losing weight after 40 is not easy! Between hormonal changes, changes in body composition, and life responsibilities and stressors, weight loss is a challenge.

Intermittent fasting is a good option for women over 40 who want to lose weight without counting calories or restricting entire food groups, making it a straightforward plan to follow. 

Because intermittent fasting cuts the time when you can eat, it makes meal planning more manageable and can decrease the total calories you eat.

Furthermore, intermittent fasting for women over 40 can work well because it decreases fat without muscle loss, which is crucial in this age group. In addition, this meal pattern has several health benefits while reducing the risk of common chronic diseases.

There are different types of intermittent fasting, such as the 16:8 and 5:2 plan, and some plans are easier to follow and more sustainable than others. This blog will walk you through the different types of intermittent fasting (IF). 

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is an eating style that alternates between fasting and eating periods. The goal is to abstain from eating during periods of 16 to 24 hours. 

It is important to remember that intermittent fasting is not a diet plan. It only changes your eating pattern by limiting when you can eat, not what you can eat. For example, if you follow the 16:8 intermittent fasting, you can eat during an 8-hours period and fast for 16. For instance, if your first meal starts at noon, then your last meal will be at 8:00 p.m. 

The intermittent fasting method works because it can naturally cut your calorie intake.

Benefits of intermittent fasting for women over 40

  • Weight loss
  • Improves heart health
  • Decreases insulin resistance
  • Lowers cellular inflammation
  • It might reduce hot flushes
  • Reduces markers of oxidative stress
  • Decreases markers of inflammation (which can help with the prevention and treatment of many chronic diseases)
  • Reduces body fat without change in muscle mass
  • Might help regulate levels of hunger and satiety hormones
  • Reduces stress belly
  • Potential benefits for your brain function

Types of intermittent fasting for women over 40

PlanOverviewEating windowFast days per weekExample
Time-restricted eatingEat during a specific amount of time each day1 to 8 hours716:8
Alternate-day fastingEat one day, fast the next, repeatAnytime3 to 4The every other day diet
Whole-day fastingFast two days a weekAnytime25:2

16:8 Intermittent Fasting

In this plan, you fast for 16 hours and eat for 8 hours. 

There is no set time to fast, but many people skip breakfast and have their last meal around their usual dinner time. 

This type of intermittent fasting is very popular because it involves skipping breakfast, having your first meal by 11 or 12 p.m., and having your last meal by 7 or 8 p.m. So, it naturally follows the eating patterns of traditional American diets. Keep in mind that coffee is allowed so that you can have black coffee in the morning. 

However, this is only a suggestion. The 16:8 hours fasting is very flexible, and you can follow many eating patterns within the 24-window to make it fit your schedule, habits, and preferences.

Getting started with the 16:8 plan

intermittent fasting for women over 40

There are no special foods to buy in intermittent fasting, no calories to count; you simply pick your time eating window and stick to it. 

You could ease into the plan by incrementally increasing your fasting window. Naturally, you have a fasting window when you sleep. So at the beginning of this plan, you could simply add more fasting hours. 

For example, let’s say that you typically eat your first meal at 7 a.m. and your last food at 10:00 p.m., which gives you an eating window of 15 hours and a fasting window of 9 hours (9:15 plan). So, during the first week, you could stop eating at 8 p.m. (leaving you with an 11:13 plan), the next week you could skip breakfast and have your first meal at 10:00 a.m. ( a 14:10 plan), and you continue doing this until you get to the achieve a 16-hour fast.

The idea is to start with shorter fasting periods to make the transition more manageable.

Benefits  

  • Weight loss
  • Improves heart health
  • Decreases insulin resistance
  • Lowers cellular inflammation
  • It might reduce hot flushes
  • Reduces markers of oxidative stress
  • Decreases markers of inflammation (which can help with the prevention and treatment of many chronic diseases)
  • Reduces fat mass without change in muscle mass
  • Might help regulate levels of hunger and satiety hormones
  • Reduces stress belly
  • Potential benefits for your brain function

Tricks to avoid feeling hungry

Surprisingly, fasting can make people feel less hungry as time passes. In addition, diet quality is critical to avoid hunger. For example, insulin spikes with sugary and high carbohydrate foods, making you hungry. On the other hand, a diet rich in lean protein, healthy fats, vegetables, fruits, and complex carbohydrates can help you feel satisfied for longer periods.

The diet quality also affects the hunger hormones.

Now, here are some specific tricks to manage hunger:

  • Eat a healthy diet throughout the day
  • Eat filling foods for dinner: lean protein, healthy fats, vegetables, and foods rich in fiber.
  • Limit added sugars and high carbohydrate foods
  • Eat plenty of non-starchy vegetables throughout the day
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Have a tea at night
  • Pick a routine that keeps your mind out of eating. 

Whole day fasting-the 5:2 plan

Woman drinking coffee

This plan is a different type of fasting. First, the number refers to days, not hours. So in this plan, you eat five days and fast for two. Second, let’s clarify this: a whole day of fasting means very little food rather than no food. This plan calls for eating about 500 calories for women during periods of fasting.

Does it work? Unfortunately, there are very few studies to back up the effectiveness of this type of intermittent fasting. However, there are studies on the 4:3 plan showing promising results.

Getting started on the 5:2 plan

It is pretty simple; this plan only requires consuming about 500 calories two days a week. But, of course, it is best for you to eat two to three days, fast one day, and repeat, making sure that you only fast two days each week.

In addition, it is a good idea to eat a well-balanced diet consisting of vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, healthy fats, and whole grains; while avoiding sugars, high carbohydrate meals, junk food, and excessive amounts of food during the eating days. It is essential to prevent overcompensating for the fasting days to eat fewer calories throughout the week.

Now, the days that you fast consider eating 2-3 meals consisting of very-low-calorie foods. Avoid doing two consecutive days of fasting to make it easier to follow the plan.

Food and meal ideas 

  • Non-starchy vegetables such as leafy greens, lettuce, arugula, mushrooms, peppers, onions, and anything without starch. Avoid potatoes, malanga, yuca, butternut squash, sweet potato, corn, and anything else with starch. 
  • Plain greek yogurt and berries
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Small amounts of lean proteins
  • Broths
  • Coffee, tea, water

It is incredible how easy it is to eat 500 calories! Here are some meal plans for your fasting days:

My opinion

In my professional and personal opinion, this type of intermittent fasting could be challenging to maintain in practical terms and involves a lot more planning than other types of IF. But ultimately, you have to figure out what works best for you. 

You must consider how you feel about the fasting days, how well you can control your eating during the non-fasting days, and if you have a medical condition that can potentially make this plan unsafe. 

Whole day fasting-the 4:3 plan

This plan is very similar to the 5:2 plan, but instead of eating five days of the week, you eat four. Identical to the 5:2 program, in the 4:3 plan, you eat 500 calories during the fasting days. 

Benefits of the 4:3 plan (1, 2)

  • Reduce insulin resistance
  • It might reduce hot flushes
  • Reduces markers of oxidative stress
  • Decreases markers of inflammation (which can help with the prevention and treatment of many chronic diseases)
  • Reduces body weight
  • Reduced fat mass without change in muscle mass
  • Reduces levels of leptin, a hormone related to weight management
  • Reduction of stress belly

Food and meal ideas 

  • Non-starchy vegetables such as lettuce, arugula, mushrooms, peppers, onions, and anything without starch. Avoid potatoes, malanga, yuca, butternut squash, sweet potato, corn, and anything else with starch. 
  • Plain greek yogurt and berries
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Small amounts of lean protein
  • Broths
  • Coffee, tea, water
  • Meal ideas (link with above)

Alternate day fasting

This intermittent fasting has been promoted as the every other day fasting because, as the name suggests, it alternates between a day of fasting and a day of eating. 

Same as the other plans, in the fasting days, you can consume up to 500 calories. 

Some studies suggest that alternate-day fasting can help decrease obesity, markers of inflammation, risks of heart disease, diabetes, and improve pulmonary function (3). 

However, research shows that the plan is not superior to traditional caloric restriction (4). 

Possible Side Effects of Intermittent Fasting (5)

  • Hunger and cravings
  • Headaches and lightheadedness
  • Nausea, diarrhea, and bloating
  • Dehydration
  • Irritability and other mood swings
  • Fatigue
  • Lower energy levels
  • Weakness
  • Low blood sugar
  • Potential sleep difficulties
  • Malnutrition

Before You Begin Intermittent Fasting 

As always, before you start intermittent fasting, you need to determine if the plan is suitable and safe for you.

If you are diabetic on medications designed to lower your blood sugar, the medicines need to be adjusted to match your eating schedule. As a doctor in clinical nutrition, I would recommend avoiding whole-day fasting plans and talking to your medical doctor to adjust your medications to match your eating and fasting times.

In addition, talk to your health care provider if you are taking medications that must be taken with food.

Finally, the plan might not be suitable for you if:

  • You experience blood sugars regularly
  • Are underweight
  • Have an eating disorder
  • Have an immunocompromised disease or condition

Seek medical advice if you have any doubts about whether this plan is healthy for you.

The bottom line

Intermittent fasting for women over 40 is an easy and effective way to lose weight and has potential health benefits. Therefore, it is not a surprise that intermittent fasting has become a very popular method to lose weight.

In my professional opinion, the 16:8 is more sustainable and easier to follow. It works because it is flexible, intuitive, inexpensive, and sustainable. Particularly, I like it for women over 40 because it maintains muscle mass while reducing body fat, a constant struggle for women that age. Furthermore, it targets belly fat because the body uses fat rather than carbohydrates as a source of energy during the fasting period.

To explore other diet options, check our blog posts: keto vs vegan diet, keto vs Mediterranean diet, intermittent fasting for women over 40, anti-inflammatory diet menu, and find food freedom.

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