Reaching your 50s may bring many novel challenges to a women’s health, including lowered metabolism, the inability to lose weight, extra belly fat, painful joints, and reduced muscle mass, making it hard to cope with a strict dieting regime. But the fact remains: everybody wants to look trim, reduce body fat and feel healthy.
The great news is that there’s a flexible health routine known as intermittent fasting (IF) that helps with weight loss without punishing the palate (too much). Additionally, intermittent fasting confers a list of potential health benefits. Studies suggest that intermittent fasting leads to improved brain health, lower blood pressure, reduced blood sugar and longer life spans.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
You might have heard of intermittent fasting from fitness programs, blogs, or online health gurus. Intermittent fasting has become popular in today’s fast-paced world that leaves little time for complex healthy living practices. IF provides you with great control when it comes down to calorie intake and management.
Essentially, IF involves food consumption within a stipulated eating window followed by a fasting period. For example, eating during a window that is 12 hours long and fasting for 12 is an example of a 12;12 intermittent fasting protocol.
There are many versions of IF, so you can find one that suits your schedule, health, and willpower level. IF’s flexibility has encouraged some people to combine the fasting regime with other diet plans (i.e., keto and paleo) for significant health improvements.
It’s essential to consult a specialized healthcare practitioner, such as a dietitian or nutritionist, before embarking on your IF journey and making changes to your eating habits. Avoid starting a routine without professional medical guidance if you have a metabolic disorder, are on a long-term prescription, or currently facing other health complications.
The Most Popular Types of Intermittent Fasting
IF is ultimately an umbrella term, referring to fasting routines with varying levels of difficulty. It takes time to progress through the different types of IF as your body adapts to the lifestyle changes. There’s no need to rush through the process, and it’s critical to “listen to your body” and work out the most effective action plan without straining your health.
As its term suggests, alternate day fasting requires you to restrict calories one day and eat normally the next. It’s beneficial to speak with a dietitian to discuss and determine the optimal number of calories you need to function at your best. Unfortunately, the alternate fasting method requires tremendous self-discipline, and it might be tempting to binge on non-IF days, which jeopardizes the entire process!
Fast Diet / 5:2 Method
An IF plan made famous by journalist Michael Mosley, the fast diet works similarly to alternate-day fasting but goes easier on the body. With the Fast diet, you’ll consume normally for two out of five days a week while restricting calories for the remainder. You might choose to have your non-fasting days over the weekend as you head for outings with your family and friends—it’s less restrictive, and everyone can enjoy a good time without counting those calories!
Leangains Protocol / 16/8 Method
The IF method involves fasting for 14-16 hours daily and was made famous by fitness expert Martin Berkhan. With the Leangains protocol, most people tend to skip breakfast and stopping meals with dinner. A typical schedule would be starting meals with lunch at noon and ending at 8 pm. The demanding routine of the Leangains Protocol makes it an intermediate method.
Additional points to note:
-Feel free to consume zero-calorie beverages (i.e., water) during your fasting periods!
-Fruits make a fine addition to meal plans, serving as excellent sources of nutrients while containing few calories.
-Stop your IF sessions immediately, resume regular meal routines, and consult a physician if you feel unwell at any point.
Tips on Keeping up with Intermittent Fasting
IF might seem overwhelming at the start, but there are some simple ways to get started and on track. These measures include:
- Avoiding snacks close to bedtime
- Staying active throughout the day between meals
- Stamping out empty calories, unsaturated fat, and refined carbohydrates altogether if possible
- Keep to a fixed sleep schedule (natural circadian rhythm), so it’s easier to plan meals consistently
Health Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
Unlike conventional food-specific diets, IF helps you achieve weight loss by limiting food intake to fasting windows. The systematic process eliminates snacking and other poor eating habits that contribute to digestive issues and weight problems. Aside from weight loss, IF offers a plethora of potential health benefits through gradual changes in your bodily systems.
Lowers Insulin Levels
IF lowers insulin levels in your body over time, which raises HGH (human growth hormone) responsible for building and maintaining healthy tissues. Additionally, researchers have studied the positive effects of IF on insulin resistance and reduced blood sugar levels that deter type 2 diabetes.
Noradrenaline and Fat-burning
Fasting encourages your nervous system to relay neurotransmitter signals (noradrenaline) that burns body fat for fuel. The process results in sustained weight loss without compromising muscle mass.
Combat Oxidative Stress
Oxidative stress (unstable molecules that damage cells) contributes to the development of multiple age-related ailments. Studies show that IF can help you enhance biological defenses against free-radicals and strengthen cardiovascular and cerebrovascular health.
Lengthens Life Span
According to a Harvard report, IF may alter mitochondrial (energy-producing structures in cells) function and possibly extend life spans. Fasting may toggle mitochondrial networks, preserving them in a youthful state and promote fat metabolism.
Improves Brain Health
Scientific research shows that IF might improve cognitive function in the brain by reducing inflammation and the risks of neurological conditions (i.e., Parkinson’s).
Lowers Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is an identified possible cause of heart disease. Based on research, fasting can improve your heart and blood vessels’ health, with an observed decrease in LDL cholesterol and triglycerides (fat in the bloodstream).
Stories from Women over 50 doing IF
Liz LaManna, 52, an RN who resides in the New York City area, has been doing IF since 2016. She consumes one meal each day, usually at lunchtime between noon and 3:00 PM. Since starting IF in 2016, Liz has maintained a weight loss of 26 pounds. IF has helped Liz alleviate chronic pain and fatigue from lupus. “Intermittent fasting has increased my awareness of emotional eating and helped me eat intuitively,” says Liz. The most challenging thing for Liz was getting through breakfast. She got through this period by drinking coffee and slowly tapering the amount of cream to zero.
Terri Holley, 56, a member of the Revolution Gray team, started IF in 2015 to lose weight and reverse prediabetes. She follows either an 18:6 or 20:4 eating plan. Since 2015, she has maintained a 25-pound weight loss. “I love the way I feel in a fasting state,” says Terri. “IF feels very natural, and I never have issues with hunger or cravings.” Terri also maintains a very active lifestyle, exercising regularly while in a fasting state with no energy or performance issues. “My body has been trained to use alternative sources of energy during my workouts.”
Intermittent Fasting Resources
Here are a few resources to learn more about intermittent fasting:
There are also a few cool apps that can help you get started and stick with IF:
The fasting hours of IF may seem daunting at the start, but with adequate practice, you’ll ease into the routine and feel more energetic than ever!
Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before making any changes to improve your health.