There isn't a simple answer, but I'd say it depends. Women have many phases of life complete with a hormonal scaffolding that can get disrupted leading to many issues. Synchronizing fasting with our hormonal levels can improve energy, sleep, blood sugar and many more troubling issues women face every day.
Fasting Like a Woman - The Fasting Cycle.
Our bodies are so complex, so in order to begin a fasting protocol, we must consider our hormones. When fasts are timed to work with our cycle, we can experience amazing results.
Super-charge our energy.
Become a fat-burner.
Restore metabolic health to stave off disease.
When we address the 4 phases of our monthly cycle; Menstrual, Follicular, Ovulatory and Luteal and focus on the unique requirements during each of these phases, we can begin to heal and thrive. This system of using a fasting cycle can be very effective for peri and post-menopausal women as well.
When we find our fasting rhythm, a tremendous amount of healing can happen.
Menstrual Phase - Days 1-10.
Choose a fasting window of no more than 11 hours and begin eating earlier in the day will support our hormones best. Our energy levels are usually lower on these days, so focus on nourishing your body.
Keep carbohydrates low by focusing on getting your carbs through vegetables.
Aim for 25+ grams of protein at every meal.
Increase quality fats at every meal.
Reduce sugars by eliminating added sugars and limiting fruits to berries, green apples, kiwi, lemons, limes, and grapefruit.
The benefits of eating this way includes; weight loss, steady glucose, optimal estrogen production, liver and gut support, brain health both ketosis [fat burning] and autophagy- the body's natural cellular clean-up system happens when we practice this system of fasting and eating.
Follicular Phase - Days 11-15.
Energy typically rises, so exploring longer fasts to maximize all the healing fasting can accomplish because sex hormones are at their lowest levels. During this time you should feel more emotionally stable, have more energy, and are less hungry, which makes it a great time to increase your fast to 16+ hours.
This is also a good time to pay attention to your carbohydrate intake. Estrogen is needed to signal the ovaries to release an egg and without adequate estrogen, ovulation cannot happen.
Eating a high carbohydate diet elevates insulin levels which creates a deficiency in estrogen production and long-term this can lead to too much testosterone - a classic PCOS scenario.
In menopausal women, insulin resistance becomes a larger issue and when insulin goes up, estrogen goes down and vice versa. So it's important to limit carbohydrates, increase fats and make sure to eat 30 grams of protein at each meal.
During this phase autophagy and ketosis is initiated. The body requires a longer fast for cellular repair. The neurons in the brain repair incredibly well with autophagy. This is great news for hormones, because healthy and balanced hormonal production requires both health in the ovaries and brain.
Foods to Eat.
Moderate protein, Complex carbohydrates in vegetables and Quality fats.
Save the fruit and starchy carbs like sweet potatoes for the Luteal phase.
Ovulatory Phase - Days 15-17.
Energy is good during this phase for most women. Estrogen and testosteron peak and women get a mild surge of progesterone. All of these hormones create improved well-begin. You will see improved hair and skin, and an increase in creative energy and the ability to accomplish many tasks. Life is good. This is the time to focus on metabolizing hormones through gut and liver support. Foods that improve bile production for better breakdown of fats, boost stomach acid to improve digestion, and support the body's ability to absorb B-12 and iron.
Eat for Healthy Hormone Metabolism.
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, brussel sprouts and cauliflower
Green leafy vegetables such as arugula, , kale adn watercress
Bitter lettuces such as radicchio, endive and arugula
Sesame and flaxseeds
Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, yogurt and kimchi
Green and dandelion tea
Turmeric, cumin, saffron and dill
It's important to keep your fast under 13 hours so that your body can thrive. This is when testosterone is highest which can fire up your libido and increase motivation.
Food choices and fasting are your best tools for improving testosterone production.
Luteal Phase - Days 18- 28.
This is a time to stop fasting and center on nourishment. There are huge hormonal consequences when we don't care for our body well. Rushing around, constantly putting others' needs ahead of our own and stressing our bodies with a lack of sleep destroys one of the most important hormones we have: progesterone.
Progesterone calms us and tells us everything is going to be okay. When we push through during this phase and don't slow down to care for ourselves, we can feel like the world around us is spinning out of control.
This is the time to nurture the body and allow progesterone to do it's magic.
3 Ways to Nurture Your Body.
Skip fasting to reduce cortisol spikes which threaten the production of progesterone.
Lighten up on extreme workouts. Pushing the body to extreme physical limits the week before your period can lead to depletion. Shift your workouts to more nurturing activities like yoga, hiking or long walks.
Stop trying to do it all. Rushing Woman Syndrome is actually a condition and it's killing us. We do not receive points for being an over scheduled, type- A woman. But, what we do get is messed up hormones, and climbing weight and fatigue.
It's very important to get control of our lifestyle choices especially in this phase of our cycle. When cortisol is constantly signaled, we loose the ability to make enough progesterone. And without progesterone, PMS symptoms increase, periods are lost, and we have less chance of becoming pregnant.
Be Strategic with Food Choices.
Support Progesterone by Eating these Foods;
Potatoes such as red, russet, yukon Gold, purple and new
Sweet potatoes and yams
Squashes such as acorn, spaghetti, butternut
lentis and black beans
Tropical fruits such as bananas, , and papaya
Wild and brown rice and quinoa
What if I Don't Have a Period?
The beauty of following a fasting cycle even if post-menopausal, is that this method will balance hormones that might have gone on a wild ride throughout the menopause years. Following this fasting cycle will balance your hormones within a couple of months. After a month or two, hot flashes, sleepless nights, stubborn weight gain, belly fat and mood changes like depression and anxiety will become less and less.
Building a fasting lifestyle timed to your cycle or mirroring a cycle is an incredibly effective path to mastering fasting for women of all ages.
Type 2 diabetes
Mood disorders, anxiety, depression
Detoxing from birth control
Gut repair from antiobiotic use
Fasting is a great practice, but our body needs to be prepared. Our modern diet high in starch and sugar and eating throughout the day and into the evening has put us into a metabolic disaster. Easing the body into fasting is important - so begin here.
Foods to Avoid.
Eliminate all seed oil [corn, canola, soybean, safflower, sunflower, cottonseed and vegetable oil].
Replace seed oils with olive, avocado, coconut, grass-fed butter, ghee andnut butters, olives, avocados and MCT oil.
Avoid refinded sugars and flours like bread, pasta, crackers, deserts.
Be aware of toxins in foods;artificial colors and flavorings, red and blue dyes, saccharin, NutraSweet, Splenda.
Focus on proteins like grass-fed beef, bison, turkey, chicken, wild-caught fish, cottage cheese, greek yogurt and eggs.
Shorten your eating window.
This will begin to train your body for fasting. Try eating breakfast 1 hour later or eating dinner one hour earlier each night. Every two days, continue to shorten your eating window until you can go 13 hours without food. Then remain with this schedule for several weeks and see how you feel.
There is no right schedule to consider moving to a fasting cycle. If you have a cycle, when you feel your body is ready, begin phase one on day 1 of your cycle and move through the phases. For menopausal women begin on the first day of the month and move through the phases.
I really believe that we can move our health forward by both what we choose to eat and when we eat each day.
I hope you will consider how fasting could improve your overall health.
Need some targeted help in developing a fasting schedule?
I can help.
Thanks for reading,