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What to Know About Intermittent Fasting for Women After 50

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on September 27, 2021

Women over 50 can face struggles when trying to lose weight. This can stem from several things. The main culprit is often a slowed metabolism. The more lean muscle you have, the faster your metabolism is. But as we get older we lose lean muscle mass, and we often become less active than before. The result? Stubborn body fat that just won’t seem to budge. 

Intermittent fasting has become popular in recent years due to its range of health benefits and the fact that it doesn’t restrict your food choices. Research shows that fasting can improve your metabolism, mental health, and possibly prevent some cancers. It can also ward off certain muscle, nerve, and joint disorders which can affect women over 50.  

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting (IF) is simply limiting yourself to eating within a designated time frame. There are several variations of IF to choose from. Decide which type fits into your lifestyle the best and then talk about it with your doctor. 

Daily method. This is the most popular method of IF. The daily method typically follows a 16/8 or 18/6 rule. That means eating regular, healthy foods during a 6- to 8-hour window each day, then fasting for the remaining 16 to 18 hours. This is found to be the most sustainable method.

You can use other variations of timing to get started. These include a 12/12, which is eating for 12 hours, then fasting for 12 hours. You can then progress to a stricter schedule when you are ready. 

5:2 method. This approach involves eating normal, healthy meals over 5 days of the week and limiting yourself to 500-600 calories during 2 days of the week. It’s unclear whether it’s more beneficial to eat all your calories in one meal or spread them throughout the day, so do what works for you. 

Alternate day method. If you choose this method, you can eat normally every other day. On the fasting days, you’ll eat just 25% of your daily caloric needs. For example, if you eat 1,800 calories on normal days, you’ll only eat 450 calories on the fasting days. 

24-hour method. This method involves fasting for a full 24 hours before eating again. People who use this method usually fast from breakfast to breakfast or lunch to lunch, and it’s usually done only once or twice a week.

Proceed with caution if you use this method. Extreme irritability, fatigue, and headaches can come with it, and this method might not necessarily be better for you.  

How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?

It might seem strange that simply altering when you eat can help you lose weight. Even so, our bodies respond to fasting in a way that benefits us. When your body enters fasting mode, this triggers your fat stores to be used as fuel, causing you to burn body fat for energy. 

Of course, when you’re not fasting it doesn’t mean you can go crazy with junk food. Stick with nutritious whole foods, unrefined carbohydrates, and lean proteins for the best results. Keep in mind that you can still enjoy calorie-free drinks like black coffee, tea, and water during fasting periods! You might even find yourself slowing down during meals and taking more pleasure in eating. 

What Are the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?

Weight loss isn’t the only benefit of IF. Fasting is a practice that dates back to ancient times, and in some cultures is still practiced regularly. 

Health benefits are a pleasant side effect of IF, and many of those perks can affect women’s health specifically. 

Musculoskeletal health. This includes conditions like osteoporosis, arthritis, and lower back pain. Fasting has been shown to promote hormone secretion from the thyroid. This can promote bone health and help prevent bone fractures. 

Metabolic health. Some women go through menopause in their 50s. Menopause can cause changes in your body that increase belly fat, insulin, and glucose. Fasting can help you decrease your blood pressure, cholesterol, and belly fat, which can improve insulin sensitivity. Fasting can also keep your metabolism on track as you age. ‌

Mental health. Fasting has been shown to promote mental health. It may reduce anxiety, depression, and the emotional roller coaster that can go hand-in-hand with menopause. Fasting has also been proven to improve self-esteem and reduce stress. 

Other proven benefits of IF include: 

  • Improved memory
  • Tissue health
  • Physical performance
  • Heart health

Who Shouldn’t Try Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone. You should always check with your doctor before trying a new diet, even one that’s proven to be beneficial. The following groups of people should avoid IF:

  • Children under the age of 18
  • People with a history of eating disorders 
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women

Show Sources

SOURCES: 

‌‌Cleveland Clinic: “Intermittent Fasting: 4 Different Types Explained.”

‌Harvard Health Publishing: "Intermittent fasting: Surprising update.” 

‌Harvard Health Publishing: “Is intermittent fasting safe for older adults?”  

‌JOHNS HOPKINS MEDICINE: “Intermittent Fasting: What is it, and how does it work?”

Journal of Mid-Life Health: “Role of therapeutic fasting in women’s health: An overview.”

‌Northwest Community Healthcare: “Why is it so hard for women over 50 to lose weight?”

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