They say that life begins at 40; and if you’re a woman over 40, you may be looking for new ways to achieve your healthiest self.
You may have noticed that some of your friends and family have tried intermittent fasting, or “IF” to lose weight and improve their health, and wondered about trying it too.
If you’ve been struggling to sort through all the information out there about IF: good news, we’re here to walk you through it. We are going to cover everything you need to know about intermittent fasting for women over 40 so that you can make an informed decision about whether it is right for you.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is exactly what it sounds like. In its simplest form, intermittent fasting involves eating at set times of the day, followed by periods of fasting, or not eating, for a predetermined amount of time. There are numerous popular fasting schedules available, which we will talk about in more detail below.
Is Intermittent Fasting Right For You?
First, some words of caution: Intermittent fasting isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. There are some women who should sit this one out.
If you have a history of an eating disorder, or if you need to take medications that require regular meals, IF is not the diet plan for you.
As always, seek the advice of your doctor before adopting a new diet.
However, once you’ve gotten the all clear from your physician, there are many benefits to IF.
Lifestyle: Intermittent fasting can be a busy woman’s new best friend. If you like to jog in the morning and you don’t have time to eat breakfast, or if you have an irregular work schedule that keeps you from eating dinner on time, then IF is perfect for you. Simply plan your eating window around the time of day that is most convenient for your schedule.
Prevent Chronic Health Conditions: Intermittent fasting can help you avoid health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.
Weight loss: Losing weight in your 20s was effortless, but now that you’re in your 40s, you just can’t get the scale moving in the right direction. It’s not your fault: during perimenopause and menopause, you will experience changes in your hormone levels, causing a shift in body fat distribution.
This can make it more difficult to shed extra pounds and keep them off. Researchers at NIH and the University of Illinois found that IF shows great potential as a weight loss method by making it easier to eat less calories in a day.
Types of Intermittent Fasting
We’ve piqued your interest; you want to try this intermittent fasting thing. But how? There are many ways to practice IF, and you may find yourself trying a few different ways until you figure out which approach works for you. The best part of these fasting routines is that you can start doing them right away.
The “5:2” Method
This method can be a great way to get started. It involves eating as normal for 5 days of the week, and eating 500 calories or less on the other two days.
Diet Plan: For example, you may choose to eat normally on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. This leaves Wednesday and Saturday as your fasting days, where you will consume only 500 calories or less; these are great days to choose soups with lots of broth and to eat salads or vegetable snacks.
Important Reminder: Space out the two low-calorie days throughout the week, and do not schedule them consecutively.
Unlike the 5:2 method, time-restricted eating does not require you to count calories at all, you just need to make sure you follow the schedule. The most common time-restricted eating schedules are 16:8, 12:12 and 14:10. The numbers on the left are the fasting hours, the numbers on the right are your eating hours.
Diet Plan: Choose your “eating window” – how many hours will you fast, and what times of the day is it most convenient for you to eat? For instance, you may be a morning person and choose to break your fast with an early breakfast at 7am. If you are doing 12:12, you need to quit eating at 7pm.
Note: If you’re a beginner in IF who prefers this method, we recommend that you start with the 12:12 method. Take baby steps first, so your body will have a smoother transition to this diet.
Alternate Day Fasting
Alternate day fasting can be more intense. Instead of having only two 500-calorie days a week, you increase the frequency to every other day.
If that is not intense enough, another type of alternate day fasting is going completely zero calories every other day. Although research shows this type of fasting can prolong the life expectancy of people of normal weight, it is difficult to sustain.
Diet Plan: You can set your fasting days to Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday for the first week, and do Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday on the second week.
Important Reminder: Just like whole day fasting, do not go for 2 consecutive days consuming 500 calories or less. Always spread out your fasting days.
Foods to Eat While Intermittent Fasting
One of the benefits of practicing IF over traditional diet options is that your food choices are not limited. Intermittent fasting can allow you to pursue your weight loss and health goals without giving up the occasional indulgence.
That said, it is always important to give your body the nutrients that it needs to thrive.
Here are some foods that may be beneficial for you to eat while practicing IF:
Whenever possible, choose whole grains over refined grains. Refined grains lose many of their nutrients due to food processing. Whole grains are high in fiber, which can prolong your fullness and keep you from craving during your fasting.
Drink water to avoid being dehydrated while you’re fasting and to promote a feeling of fullness.
While avocados are high in calories, they can help you sustain your fast due to their high unsaturated fat content.
Eggs are a good source of protein, vitamins B12 and D, as well as iron. Including eggs in your diet can ensure that you are still getting enough nutrients while fasting. Eggs are also low in calories compared to other protein sources such as meats.
Just like avocados, nuts have a high calorie content, but their good fats provide sustained energy, making it easier for you to maintain your fasting routine.
Like whole grains, berries have a good amount of fiber that can make you full for longer periods of time.
Best Intermittent Fasting For Women Over 40
What is the best method of intermittent fasting for women over 40? The answer is, it depends on each woman’s unique lifestyle and health needs.
If you want to ease into it, the best type of fasting to start with is time-restricted eating. Because you won’t have to count calories or buy any special type of food, it is simple, and allows you to gradually increase your fasting hours as you become comfortable with IF, and to eventually work up to more rigorous fasting practices such as 5:2 and Alternate Day Fasting, if desired.
How To Start Your Fasting Journey
Fasting starts with your decision. We don’t mean to be blunt, but IF will definitely require a ton of commitment firsthand. It may seem like a big leap, but part of forming your healthy habits is consistency and accountability. Count on yourself to achieve your health goals, and start taking small steps to get you there, one day at a time.
FAQs: Answering Your Most Pressing Questions
Here are the most common questions that many other midlife women are asking about IF:
How Many Hours Should a 40-Year Old Woman Fast?
We recommend that you follow the 12:12 fasting schedule first as it requires minimal adjustments from your body. Once you feel comfortable with it, you can slowly increase the number of your fasting hours.
You can drink unsweetened tea or coffee while you’re fasting. Make sure you also drink plenty of water. Avoid drinking sweetened drinks or any calorie-rich drinks.
Can Intermittent Fasting Help with Weight Loss?
What Are the Side Effects of Intermittent Fasting?
As powerful as IF can be in helping you to lose weight and improve your health, some common side effects that may occur during the first few days of fasting include: nausea, fatigue, irritability, hunger pangs and dizziness.
Intermittent fasting can be a powerful regimen for women over 40. By incorporating IF and a healthy eating plan into your daily routine, you can prevent chronic health concerns, lose weight, and improve your mental health.
However, as with any dietary change, it’s important to know what works best for your body, your daily activities and your unique needs. When in doubt, consult your trusted healthcare practitioner before doing IF.
Age is just a number, so it’s never too late to try something new and make positive changes in your life. Whether you’re a busy working mom or a retiree looking to take charge of your health and wellness, intermittent fasting may be just the thing you need.
With determination and discipline, you can transform your body and your life, one fast at a time. The journey may not be easy, but the rewards are well worth it.
Want to know when your body will start burning fat when you’re doing intermittent fasting? Learn about the stages of intermittent fasting here.