Intermittent Fasting for Women Over 50: What You Need to Know

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on June 09, 2024
8 min read

Once you're over 50, losing weight can become harder — especially if you're a woman. This can stem from several things. The main reason is often a slowed metabolism, your body's process of turning the food that you eat into fuel so it can function. The more lean muscle you have, the faster your metabolism. But as you get older, you lose lean muscle mass. You might also become less active than you were when you were younger. The result can be extra body fat that's hard to get rid of. 

Intermittent fasting for seniors has become popular in recent years due to its range of health benefits and the fact that unlike a diet, it doesn’t restrict your food choices. You don't need to track calories or the amounts of food you eat, although you will need to ensure you don't overeat on the days that you aren't fasting.

Research shows that fasting may be able to improve your physical health, boost your mental health, and possibly help prevent some serious health issues such as cancer. Early studies show that it may also ward off certain muscle, nerve, and joint disorders that commonly affect women over 50.  

Intermittent fasting (IF) isn't a diet. It's a time-restricted eating approach. You simply limit yourself to eating within a designated time frame. While IF is sometimes described online as a brand new weight loss trend, fasting is a practice that's been around for hundreds of years. Some believe it's a powerful way to heal the body. It's also an important part of many different religions.

There's no "right" way to try IF. A few common variations include:

Daily method

This is the most popular type 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. Many people find this to to be the most sustainable way to fast.

You can use shorter 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 switch to a stricter schedule if and when you're 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 your usual foods every other day. Then on your designated 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 try to 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 kind of IF might not necessarily have more health benefits.  

If you'd like to give IF a try and think one of these methods would fit well with your lifestyle, remember to talk about it with your doctor before you put it into action. 

It might seem strange that simply altering when you eat can help you lose weight or become healthier. But some experts believe that our bodies have evolved to go long periods of time without food. After all, in prehistoric times, humans relied on hunting and gathering. Daily meals were not a sure thing.

Once your body enters fasting mode, it still needs a source of fuel to function. With no new calories coming in from food or drink, your body uses up its stores of glucose (blood sugar). Then, it starts burning your body fat for energy.  

In other words, IF triggers your body to use your excess fat for fuel instead of the calories you eat. But that doesn’t mean it's a good idea to eat all the junk food you want during the times you're not fasting. Stick with nutritious whole foods, unrefined carbohydrates, and lean proteins for the best results. 

What can you drink while fasting?

It's important to keep drinking while you're fasting. You don't want to get dehydrated (not have enough fluids in your body). Choose calorie-free drinks like:

  • Water
  • Black coffee 
  • Unsweetened tea

You may need to drink more than usual, especially if you're in the habit of primarily drinking at meals or if you're 65 or older,. 

Don't wait until you feel thirsty to start drinking. Thirst is actually an early sign of dehydration.

On days that you're not fasting, focus on eating healthy, nutrient-rich foods like:

  • Complex carbohydrates (like whole grain bread or brown rice)
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables, especially leafy greens
  • Plant proteins
  • Dairy products (choose low-fat or nonfat)
  • Healthy fats (like olive oil and nuts)
  • Lean meats

Cut back on:

  • Refined carbohydrates (like packaged snacks and white bread). These spike your blood sugar and cause your body to store fat in an unhealthy way.
  • Saturated fats like butter, fatty meats, and ice cream. Foods high in these fats increase your cholesterol and raise your risk for heart disease.

You don't need to overhaul your eating habits all at once. Try making one small change, like eating brown rice instead of white rice, at a time.

Weight loss doesn't appear to be the only benefit of IF.  Although research studies on humans is still limited, early data seems to show that this way of eating may help improve:

Gut health

A small study looked at the effects of intermittent fasting combined with protein pacing (eating protein every 4 hours on non-fasting days) for 8 weeks. It found that these combined methods significantly improved gut health and reduced gastrointestinal symptoms.  

Metabolic health

The average age that women begin menopause is 51.While it's a natural part of aging, this end to your reproductive years can cause changes in your body that increase belly fat, insulin, and glucose. Fasting may help with that. It can decrease your blood pressure, cholesterol, and the amount of fat you carry around your middle, which can then improve insulin sensitivity. IF can also help keep your metabolism on track as you age. ‌

Blood glucose

Some studies showed that IF improved both glucose levels and glucose tolerance in people with type 2 diabetes. But the studies were small, and more research needs to be done. It's unclear if these results were because of how fasting changed participants' metabolism or because of the weight they lost.


Chronic (ongoing) inflammation is when your immune system goes into high alert and stays there. White blood cells that usually help you fight off illness can start attacking healthy parts of your body instead.  Ongoing inflammation can lead to serious health conditions like cancer and heart issues. Early studies suggest that IF may help reduce inflammation in the body, although it's not yet clear how. More research needs to be done.

Mental health

Early studies show that fasting may helpyour mental health. For instance, it could play a part in lessening anxiety, depression, and the emotional roller coaster that can go hand-in-hand with menopause. 

Other possible benefits of fasting

There's also some evidence that IF may improve your:

  • Verbal memory
  • Blood pressure
  • Resting heart rate

And some clinical studies have found that IF may benefit people who live with:

  • Epilepsy
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Multiple sclerosis

But many more studies need to be done to confirm the role that IF plays.

While intermittent fasting for women appears to be a safe short-term choice, how it affects you in the long term is less clear.

For instance, one study of about 20,000 adults, half of whom were women, found that those who followed an 8-hour, time-restricted eating schedule had a 91% higher risk of death from heart disease. The increased risk applied to healthy people, as well as those who had heart disease and cancer. 

More research needs to be done to understand IF's long-term effects.

Intermittent fasting side effects

Any short-term side effects you might feel will depend on your general health and which intermittent fasting schedule you try. Everyone is different, but some of the most common side effects include:

  • Headaches
  • Feeling tired
  • Feeling cranky
  • Constipation
  • Overeating on days you don't fast
  • Losing an unhealthy amount of weight
  • Upset stomach or nausea

You may be able to cut back on some of these side effects by:

  • Talking with your doctor. Always check with them before you start IF. If they give you the green light, let them know if you notice any physical or mental changes that concern you.
  • Being flexible. You may need to try more than one fasting schedule before you find one that works best for you.

Intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone. Always check with your doctor before trying a new eating plan, even one that’s been proven to have benefits. 

Avoid IF if you :

  • Are under the age of 18
  • Have a history of eating disorders 
  • Are pregnant 
  • Are breastfeeding
  • Have diabetes. While some experts believe that IF could be helpful if you have type 2 diabetes and a doctor is monitoring you, others believe that no one with diabetes should try IF. The concern is that going without food for a long period of time could cause your blood sugar to drop to unsafe levels.
  • Take medication for heart disease or blood pressure. These types of drugs, combined with fasting, may imbalance important minerals in your blood, like sodium and potassium, that your body needs to function.
  • Need to take medication with food. Taking it on an empty stomach could cause nausea or pain, among other side effects.

For women over 50, intermittent fasting can be a good way to lose weight, manage mental health symptoms that are sometimes made worse by menopause, and reduce inflammation throughout your body. Because there are some risks, speak to your doctor before you try this eating plan. They can help you figure out which fasting schedule may be the best fit for your lifestyle, help you avoid side effects, and keep a close eye on your health.

How much weight can you lose in a month with intermittent fasting?

A review that looked at 40 studies found that people who try IF typically lose between 7 to 11 pounds over 10 weeks. But everyone is different, so check with your doctor to find out what weight loss goal is right for you.

What is the best intermittent fasting window to lose belly fat?

A large review of IF-related health outcomes found that the following eating schedules are among the most effective when you're trying to reduce weight around your middle:

  • Alternate day fasting (ADF): Switching from a usual day of eating to a day where you don't eat food at all.
  • Time-restricted eating (TRE): Fasting for 12-24 hours each day.
  • Twice-per-week fasting diet (TWF): Each week, you have 5 days of unrestricted eating and 2 days where you eat 600 calories or less.

Although everyone is different, you're likely to see results in 4 to 12 weeks.