Intermittent fasting mistakes that can affect women's health | Health - Hindustan Times

Intermittent fasting mistakes that can affect women's health

By, New Delhi
Nov 05, 2022 05:11 PM IST

Experts say that intermittent fasting could be beneficial for female health if the fasting period is not too long and the diet is nutritious. Here are some common IF mistakes made by women.

Intermittent fasting is fast gaining popularity across the globe for its many amazing benefits including weight loss, improved metabolic health, protection against disease and increasing longevity to name a few. In this type of fasting, rather diet plan, people eat during a fixed time window every day or alternate days to detoxify the system, burn fat and reap many other benefits. No wonder many celebrities from the world of entertainment from Alia Bhatt to Malaika Arora Khan to Bharti Singh swear by this diet plan and considering it's such a hit, many fitness enthusiasts too have started following it. But can intermittent fasting affect your health negatively in long run or are there just benefits? A recent study published in the journal Obesity finds that intermittent fasting can affect women's reproductive hormones negatively. The study was conducted for eight weeks on a group of pre and post-menopausal obese women. These women were following warrior diet which allows those on diet to eat anything without counting calories in a fixed window of 4 hours post which they go on a water fast till the following day.

A recent study published in the journal Obesity finds that intermittent fasting can affect women's reproductive hormones negatively. (Shutterstock)
A recent study published in the journal Obesity finds that intermittent fasting can affect women's reproductive hormones negatively. (Shutterstock)

So are all kinds of intermittent fasting harmful for women's health? Is there a way to fast in a healthy way for women aiming to lose weight? Experts say that intermittent fasting could still be beneficial for female health if they do not fast for too long a period and eat healthy.

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"Intermittent fasting is the time period of 'no eating' from the time you finish the last meal until the time you have the next meal which could range from 10-18 to even 22 hours. The fasting period is generally from after dinner to the start of breakfast or lunch the next day which is the most predictable time frame for this fast," says Nutritionist Anupama Menon.


Menon says while it is a researched and much-appreciated concept with a rainbow of benefits from weight loss to health, it is a lot of the time not done the right way. She adds that the theory of the actual fast gets applied with actual requirements on how the food needs to be put together in the eating window not being done right.

Anupama Menon further tells us the top mistakes women make with intermittent fasting.

1. Not doing what works for you: A 16-hour fast or more is not the blanket rule for IF. The theory says that the body actively starts to burn fat after 12 hours of fasting and hence a 16-hour plus window may be beneficial for fat loss. But most people follow this rule blindly even assuming that if they stretch the 16-hour window to an 18 hour-22-hour window, they would benefit even more and accelerate their loss.

Remember a simple rule, do not do what you cannot do forever and do only what works for you. Be aware of what your body is comfortable with. And so it follows that while you explore IF, it’s important to know what and how much of a regular fast your body can take.

2. Too long a fasting window: This is risky especially for women. A fasting window of more than 14 hours could affect a woman’s period cycle. The reproductive cycle and its hormones rely on a good balance of complex carbs, fats and proteins to work efficiently, along with a required amount of calories. Fasting for long periods could affect the balance of estrogen and progesterone which are the key female sex hormones.

3. Not eating as per requirements: Women on IF need to eat well and right during the eating window. Many of us humans are creatures of the extreme. They want quick results and are willing to do anything to make it work. So, the instinct is to either eat less during the eating window for more results or then eat whatever one feels to reward themselves for fasting.

4. Acidity issues, diabetes: Women with a poor gut must also be very careful on the IF, choose a fasting window that does not trigger headaches and acidity. It has also been observed that for some people (men and women), very long fasting windows may play havoc with sugar levels, fluctuating unreasonably. On the IF, be aware of your system and play the game sensibly.


Anupama Menon says the eating window is very much a part of the IF schedule if one wants to make it work for themselves.

- Eat well balanced meals during the eating window with a combo of protein and carbs for two main meals and a combination of fruits and nuts/seeds for snacks.

- Also eat a variety of complex carbs and proteins through the week. The food you eat has matter just as much as keeping to the fasting window.

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