Fasting for Females – Friend of Foe?
Fasting is a diet and lifestyle protocol that has gained interest in recent years. It can help individuals with weight loss, stabilising blood sugar levels and improve digestive issues. But, is fasting for females a good lifestyle option?
What is fasting?
You may have heard of intermittent fasting, currently one of the world’s most popular health and fitness trends. Individuals will cycle through periods of eating or fasting, with the most common method being to fast for 16 hours and then eat within an 8 hour period.
Essentially, most of us are already fasting for a period of time when we are sleeping. Many people may extend this fast by skipping breakfast and eating for the first time around noon.
Furthermore, many people may also undertake fasting protocols for cultural or religious reasons.
How May it Help?
Firstly, studies have found fasting can aid weight loss and increase fat oxidation due to reducing overall energy intake. Other studies report that fasting may help to regulate blood sugar and insulin levels, which may help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Fasting for Females – What are the risks?
For girls and women in particular, fasting may not be the best option, as female hormones can be highly affected by periods of restricted eating.
Reproductive hormones can be greatly affected by fasting. In turn, this can play havoc on the production of estrogen and progesterone – both are major players in the female reproductive system.
Women are also more likely than men to suffer from hypothyroidism (an underactive hormone). Consequently, they produce less of the hormones required for metabolic processes. Often this results in symptoms such as weight gain, tiredness and fatigue. Many women with this condition may highly restrict calories in the aim to lose weight. However, this is counterproductive the consumption of food and energy is what stimulates the production of the hormones are needed for our metabolism to run effectively. Therefore, it is recommended for women with any hormone related conditions to avoid fasting for long periods of time.
Other health risks involved include
- Nutrient deficiencies (vitamins, minerals, protein and fat) due to a reduced amount of meals of foods eaten each day.
- Higher risk for binge eating of overeating later in the day.
- Can also be dangerous for people with certain conditions, such as diabetes.
What Should I do?
Currently, strong research into the positive and negative impacts of fasting for women is still in its early days. Therefore, if you believe you may have a hormonal issue that is stopping you from smashing your goals. Dont be afraid to reach out to our dietitian for help developing a plan. This may involve developing a solid nutrition protocol that incorporates fasting while ticking all the nutritional boxes. Another option is finding another route better suited for you and your health and hormones.