Intermittent fasting for women over 50 could help with weight loss and minimize the chance of developing typically age-related illnesses. In fact, intermittent fasting can lower blood pressure, according to a study done by Baylor College of Medicine. The study showed that fasting lowers blood pressure by reshaping the gut microbiota.
Of course, in addition to wanting to improve their health, losing weight is a significant concern for many women over 50. A few things that make it tougher to lose weight after age 50 include lower metabolism, achy joints, reduced muscle mass, and even sleep issues. At the same time, losing fat, especially dangerous belly fat, can dramatically reduce your risk for such serious health issues as diabetes, heart attacks, and cancer.
Of course, as you age, the risk of developing many diseases increases. In some cases, intermittent fasting for women over 50 could serve as a virtual fountain of youth when it comes to weight loss and minimizing the chance of developing typically age-related illnesses.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Work?
Intermittent fasting, often called IF, won’t force you to starve yourself. It also doesn’t give you a license to consume lots of unhealthy food when you don’t fast. Instead of eating meals and snacks all day, you eat within a specific window of time.
Most people make an IF schedule that requires them to fast for 12 to 16 hours a day. During the rest of the time, they eat normal meals and snacks. Sticking to this eating window isn’t as hard as it sounds because most people sleep for about eight of their fasting hours. In addition, you’re encouraged to enjoy zero-calorie drinks like water, tea, and coffee.
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You should develop an eating schedule that works for you for the best intermittent fasting results. For instance:
- 12-hour fasts: With a 12-12 fast, you might simply skip breakfast and wait to eat until lunch. If you prefer to eat your morning meal, you could eat an early supper and avoid evening snacks. Most older women find a 12-12 fast pretty easy to stick to. However, this length of fast may not be optimal for weight loss.
- 16-hour fasts: You may enjoy faster results with a 16-8 IF schedule. Most people choose to consume two meals and a snack or two a day within an 8-hour window. For example, you might set your eating window between noon and 8 in the evening or between 8 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon.
- 5-2 schedule: Restricted eating periods may not work for you every day. Another alternative is to stick to a 12- or 16-hour fast for 5 days and then relax your schedule for 2 days. For instance, you might use IF during the week and eat normally on the weekend.
- Every-other-day fasts: Another variation calls for very restricted calories on alternate days. For example, you might keep your calories under 500 on one day and then eat normally the next day. Note that daily IF fasts never call for restricting calories that low.
As with any diet, you’ll get the best results if you’re consistent. At the same time, you can certainly give yourself a break from this kind of eating schedule on special occasions. You should experiment to figure out which kind of intermittent fasting works best for you. Lots of people ease themselves into IF with the 12-12 plan, and then they progress to 16-8. After that, you should try to stick to that plan as much as possible.
What Makes Intermittent Fasting Work?
Some people believe that IF has worked for them simply because the limited eating window naturally helps them reduce the number of calories they consume. For instance, instead of eating 3 meals and 2 snacks, they might find that they only have time for 2 meals and one snack. They become more mindful about the kinds of food they consume and tend to stay away from processed carbs, unhealthy fat, and empty calories.
Of course, you can also choose the kinds of healthy food that you enjoy. While some people opt to reduce their overall calorie intake, others combine IF with keto, vegan, or other kinds of diets.
The Intermittent Fasting Benefits May Extend Beyond Calorie Restriction
While some nutrition experts contend that IF only works because it helps people naturally limit food intake, others disagree. They believe that intermittent fasting results are better than typical meal schedules with the same amount of calories and other nutrients. Studies have even suggested that abstaining from food for several hours a day does more than just limit the number of calories you consume.
These are some metabolic changes that IF causes that might help account for synergistic benefits:
- Insulin: During the fasting period, lower insulin levels will help improve fat burning.
- HGH: While insulin levels drop, HGH levels rise to encourage fat-burning and muscle growth.
- Noradrenaline: In response to an empty belly, the nervous system will send this chemical to cells to let them know they need to release fat for fuel.
Is Intermittent Fasting Healthy?
Is intermittent fasting safe? Remember that you’re only supposed to fast for 12 to 16 hours and not for days at a time. You’ve still got plenty of time to enjoy a satisfying and healthy diet. Of course, some older women may need to eat frequently because of metabolic disorders or instructions on prescriptions. In that case, you should discuss your eating habits with your medical provider before making any changes.
While it’s not technically fasting, some doctors have reported intermittent fasting benefits by allowing such easy-to-digest food as whole fruit during the fasting window. Modifications like these can still give your digestive and metabolic system a needed rest. For example, “Fit for Life” was a popular weight loss book that suggested eating only fruit after supper and before lunch.
In fact, the authors of this book said that they had patients who only changed their eating habits with this 12- to 16-hour “fruit” fast each day. They did not follow the diet’s other rules or count calories, and they still lost weight and got healthier. This strategy might have simply worked because the dieters replaced junk food with whole foods. In any case, people found this dietary change effective and easy to make. Traditionalists won’t call this fasting; however, it’s important to know that you may have options if you absolutely can’t abstain from food for several hours at a time.
Dr. Becky, a chiropractor, and over-50 fitness consultant, says it’s tough to find any downsides to intermittent fasting for women in the medical literature. She explained that during the fasting period, your blood sugar and insulin levels would drop to low levels. Without insulin’s hormonal fat-storing signal, your body will rely upon stored fat for energy.
You can also find an overview of women’s health-related intermittent fast results published by the National Library of Medicine. Some highlights of this report include studies on the use of fasting as a tool to reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes and other metabolic diseases, and heart disease. You’ll find that intermittent fasting for women over 50 makes a lot of sense.
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Is Intermittent Fasting the Best Fat-Loss Tool for You?
In any case, IF appears to work mostly because people find it relatively easy to adhere to. They say it helps them naturally limit calories and make better food choices by reducing eating windows. Some studies suggest that IF is better than only cutting calories, carbs, or fat because it appears to promote fat loss while sparing lean muscle mass.
Of course, most people use IF with another weight-loss plan. For instance, you might decide to eat 1,200 calories a day to lose weight. You may find it much easier to spread out 1,200 calories within 2 meals and 2 snacks than in 3 meals and 3 snacks. If you’ve struggled with weight loss because your diet either didn’t work or was simply too hard to stick to, you might try intermittent fasting for quicker results.
In Prime Women’s PLATE, an intermittent fasting program, Dr. Kathryn Waldrep recommends eating within an eight-hour window and choosing that time frame based on your body’s circadian rhythms. Early risers might eat between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Night owls would eat their first meal at noon and finish their last meal at 8:00 in the evening. As more and more research has been done around IF and circadian rhythms, there seems to be credible evidence of the soundness of this approach to eating for weight management.
Want to give intermittent fasting a try? Take a look at Prime Women’s PLATE program. Now available in an app on Apple or Android with reminders to keep you on track.
As with any dietary changes, be sure to check with your doctor before these suggestions into your own lifestyle. Information provided here is solely for educational purposes and not intended as medical advice.
*Benefits seen in a randomized, controlled study in 105 adults after a 15-hour overnight fast comparing the glucose and ketone results every hour for 4 hours in the Fast Bar group, breakfast group, and water-fast group. Data on file.