Intermittent Fasting for Women: Amp up Your Healthy Lifestyle

Looking for a way to get the most out of your healthy lifestyle? Intermittent fasting for women may be just the thing you need!

Simply put, intermittent fasting for women is a tool used in conjunction with healthy eating and exercise that tells you when to eat rather than what to eat. I’m sure you’ve all heard of fasting in a traditional sense, after all, people have been doing it for many years for religious reasons and everyone does it at night when they sleep. It is generally understood that fasting is essentially not eating for a period of time. That period of time ranges from a few hours to a few days.

Who can benefit from intermittent fasting?

Health symbols

Intermittent fasting isn’t just for people who wish to lose weight. Body builders also incorporate intermittent fasting into their health routine. But how can body builders (who wish to gain weight) and those seeking to lose weight use the same tool and receive equally beneficial results? Both groups have the same goal: to reduce body fat. The tool of intermittent fasting is the same for both groups. It is the difference in diets that separates the two.

Typical intermittent fasting schedules:

  • 16:8 – The 16:8 intermittent fasting schedule is the most commonly used. You will fast for 16 hours each day and consume only during an 8-hour eating window.
  • 20:4 – The 20:4 intermittent fasting schedule is less common and much more difficult to sustain on a daily basis. Generally, a person may use this schedule only on rare occasions such as when a body builder is preparing for an upcoming competition. The body builder may use this technique for a few days before a show. During this schedule you would fast for 20 hours each day and only consume during a 4-hour eating window.
  • 5:2 – The 5:2 intermittent fasting schedule is the most difficult and the least sustainable schedule. During this schedule you would eat regularly for 5 days and then fast for 2 whole days. It should be noted that this schedule is here mostly for contrast. It is much more extreme and rarely followed.

For the purpose of this article, we will speak about intermittent fasting pertaining to the 16:8 fasting schedule as it is the most commonly followed because it is the easiest to sustain.

When on the 16:8 intermittent fasting schedule, you would usually skip breakfast and start eating around 11 or 12 and then have your last meal around 7 or 8, respectively. You would essentially be skipping breakfast and making lunch the first meal of your day.

Why skip breakfast? Why not dinner? Most people find it much easier to fast in the morning rather than at night. If you were to begin eating in the morning when you wake up around, say, 8 am your eating window would be from 8am to 4pm. Most people cannot stop eating that early in the day.

Is there anything you can consume while fasting?

Women who drink water

Yes! First of all, you can have as much water as your heart desires. You’ll find that while on a fasting schedule you drink much more water than you did before. After that, things get a little fuzzy.

Some say it is okay to drink black, sugarless coffee or have a piece of chewing gum but others won’t risk it. It is best to stick to just water, but if you find it easier to get through the fasting period with some black coffee in the morning… go for it! As long as you do not have over 5 calories (usually 8 ounces) then you should be fine.

Benefits of intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting is based on the scientific fact that the body begins to metabolize stored glycogen after at least 8 hours. Since most people sleep for 8 hours each night, it is recommended that, in order to aid in fat loss, a person fasts for at least 12 hours. (This has proven to be relatively easy to do. So, the 16:8 fasting schedule is recognized to be the perfect amount of fasting time each day. )

When a person eats the normal 3 meals a day, the body never needs to use its glycogen stores because it has a constant flow of energy coming from the food you consume.

Aside from just lowering body fat, intermittent fasting can be beneficial in many other ways. This list from explains the many different ways intermittent fasting is beneficial:


  • blood lipids (including decreased triglycerides and LDL cholesterol)
  • blood pressure (perhaps through changes in sympathetic/parasympathetic activity)
  • markers of inflammation (including CRP<, IL-6, TNF, BDNF, and more)
  • oxidative stress (using markers of protein, lipid, and DNA damage)
  • risk of cancer (through a host of proposed mechanisms; we’ll save them for another review)


  • cellular turnover and repair (called auto phagocytosis)
  • fat burning (increase in fatty acid oxidation later in the fast)
  • growth hormone release later in the fast (hormonally mediated)
  • metabolic rate later in the fast (stimulated by epinephrine and norepinephrine release)


  • appetite control (perhaps through changes in PPY and ghrelin)
  • blood sugar control (by lowering blood glucose and increasing insulin sensitivity)
  • cardiovascular function (by offering protection against ischemic injury to the heart)
  • effectiveness of chemotherapy (by allowing for higher doses more frequently)
  • neurogenesis and neuronal plasticity (by offering protection against neurotoxins)

Is intermittent fasting dangerous?

As you can see from the lists above, intermittent fasting is not dangerous for healthy adults.

Just as certain diets are not recommended for some, intermittent fasting is not recommended for some. Those with eating disorders, diabetes, heart conditions and other serious health issues, or those on very restrictive diets (it is generally thought that women should not try intermittent fasting if they are on a paleo diet) should talk to a health care professional before trying any intermittent fasting schedule.

As for those who think intermittent fasting will cause their body to go into “starvation mode”, don’t worry, that will not happen. Starvation literally means starvation. Simply going without food for a few extra hours a day is not going to starve you.

Is exercise okay while fasting?

woman exercising in gym

Yes! Many people claim that they have more energy and train harder while intermittent fasting. If you don’t like to train on an empty stomach then you may have to move your workout window to some time within your eating window.

Some studies show that exercising in a fasting state will cause your body to lose muscle mass rather than fat.

However, it is uncertain how long the participants fasted during these experiments and what types of exercises the people were taking part in. We also want to point out again that many successful body builders use some form of intermittent fasting along with their exercise and diet routine, so this idea that you will lose muscle rather than fat cannot be completely true.

The main reason why the statement about losing muscle isn’t completely true is because fasting increases growth hormone in the body (mainly in men, but women benefit from this as well), which is essential for muscle, skeletal, and neurological growth. It is higher during fasting because insulin is much lower when you are not consuming nor have consumed food for a period of time.

While you need both growth hormone and insulin equally, they cannot be “out” in your body at the same time. When insulin is present, growth hormone is not and while growth hormone is present, insulin is not.

Are you ready to try intermittent fasting?

If you’ve made the decision to try intermittent fasting… great! Here are a few tips on how to get started and how to keep up the good work:

Start Slow – Don’t try to jump into a 16:8 intermittent fasting routine too quickly. Chances are you will not be able to sustain it for long. We suggest that you ease into the new schedule by adding an hour or 2 of extra time fasting every few days until you get up to being able to fast for the full 16 hours.

Do not restrict calories. For some, you will find that after fasting for a while, the food cravings will be few and far between. This may cause you to not get the adequate amount of calories and nutrients your body needs every day. This is detrimental to your health and will make it much easier for you to want to binge later on.

Make sure you eat as many calories as you need (You can use a BMR calculator to help you figure this out) even if you have to eat a little bit of breakfast. Better to break it for the extra calories now than to binge on a ridiculous amount of poor foods later.

Follow intermittent fasting health blogs for support. Becoming a part of the intermittent fasting community will surely help you keep up the good work. You will find a ton of support and great information on the internet!

Don’t give up! Most people who intermittent fast will admit that they do not fast every single day of the year, but they get right back on their regular schedule afterwards. Just know that if you don’t fast for a day or so then you haven’t “failed”. You can just get started again!

Listen to your body. If you don’t feel right, you’ve got to listen to yourself. Maybe your eating window is too small or maybe you jumped into this thing too quickly. There are a lot of factors that can affect how your intermittent fasting is treating you. Don’t ignore them! Not feeling right is a sign that something is wrong.

Words of the great intermittent faster: James Clear


James Clear has been intermittent fasting for quite some time and he writes about his experiences on his website. Here’s his list of “12 Lessons Learned from 1 Year of Intermittent Fasting” for your reading pleasure:

1. The biggest barrier is your own mind.

Implementing this diet is pretty simple; you just don’t eat when you wake up. Then you eat lunch and dinner and go about your day. At least, that’s how I do it.

But there is a mental barrier to get over. “If I don’t eat will I not be able to think? Will I faint? Will I feel sick? What will it be like?” These are all thoughts that went through my mind before I started.

What ended up happening? Nothing. Life went on just fine.

Thinking you need to eat every 3 hours or six meals a day or always have breakfast or whatever it is that you’re convinced you have to do to survive … is all mental. You believe it because you were told so, not because you actually tried it.

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed that separates successful people from unsuccessful ones in life is not just the ability to think differently, but the ability to act differently as well.

2. Losing weight is easy.

When you eat less frequently you tend to eat less overall. As a result, most people who try intermittent fasting end up cutting weight. You might plan big meals, but consistently eating them is difficult in practice.

For this reason, I think intermittent fasting is a great option for people who are looking to lose weight because it offers a simple way to cut down on the total number of calories you eat without changing your diet. Even if you tell people that they can eat two large meals at lunch and dinner, they typically end up eating fewer calories than they would at 3 or 4 normal meals.

Most people lose weight while intermittent fasting because when they cut out meals, they don’t make up for it with bigger meal sizes.

3. Building muscle is quite possible (if that’s what you want).

I have managed to gain weight while intermittent fasting (I’ve added about 12 pounds of lean body mass and cut 5 pounds of fat over the last year), but only because I have focused on eating a lot during my feeding period.

As I mentioned above, the natural tendency is to lose weight on intermittent fasting because it’s easy to eat less when you cut a meal out of your day. However, at the end of the day eating 2,000 calories is eating 2,000 calories whether it comes during a 16–hour span or an 8–hour span. It just takes more effort to make sure you eat it all within 8 hours.

It’s totally reasonable to build muscle as long as you eat enough.

4. My best work is usually done when I’m deep into my fast.

I’m most productive during the first 3 hours of my morning, which is about 12 to 15 hours into my daily fast. This is the exact opposite of what I expected when I started out. I assumed that if I didn’t eat for hours, then I wouldn’t have any energy to think. The reality is just the opposite.

I have a lot of mental clarity in the morning when I fast. I can’t say for certain if this is due to the fasting or the fact that I’m just refreshed when I wake up, but one thing is clear: fasting is not hindering my ability to get things done in the morning. In fact, I’m almost always more productive in the morning when I’m fasted than in the afternoon when I’m fed.

5. For best results, cycle what you eat.

Intermittent fasting works, but I didn’t start cutting fat at a significant rate until I added in calorie-cycling and carb-cycling to my diet. Here’s how it works…

I cycle calories by eating a lot on the days when I work out and less on the days when I rest. This means I have a calorie surplus on the days I train and a calorie deficit on the days I rest. The idea behind this is that you can build muscle on the days you train and burn fat on the days you rest. And by the end of the week, you should have done both.

Additionally, I cycle carbs by eating a lot of carbohydrates on the days I train and few carbohydrates on the days I rest. This is done to stimulate fat loss. I eat high protein all the time and moderate to low fat on most days. Cycling carbohydrates has also led to additional fat loss.

For me, this is when the intermittent fasting seemed to pay off the most — when I coupled it with calorie-cycling and carb-cycling.

6. Like most things, you should take a long–term view of eating.

Too often we think about our diet in super short time frames.

It’s better to think about what we eat over the course of a week than over the course of a day (or worse, a few hours). For example, whether or not you have a protein shake within 30 minutes of working out is largely a non–issue if you’re getting a meal of quality protein within 24 hours of working out.

One reason intermittent fasting works is because the super short timeframes that we are pitched by food companies and supplement companies are largely a myth. Let’s say you eat 3 quality meals per day. That’s 21 meals per week. Over the course of a week, do you think your body cares if the meals are eaten from 8am to 8pm (the normal eating schedule) or 1pm to 8pm (an intermittent fasting schedule)?

How about if we stretch it out over the course of a month? Wouldn’t it make sense that if you ate 80 quality meals every month (about 3 per day) that your body would make the most of those meals whether you ate them in an 8–hour block or a 12–hour block on each individual day?

When you take a slightly longer view, you start to realize that the time difference between eating from 8am to 8pm versus eating from 1pm to 8pm isn’t that large over the course of a week or a month.

7. It’s strange, but when I’m fasting, I want food less.

Now that I’ve started fasting, I want food less. I’m not addicted to it. I’m not a victim to my diet. I eat when I want because I want to, not because my body tells me I have to.

This is a marked change from my previous eating schedule and I think the additional power and flexibility I have over my diet now is a benefit.

8. Losing fat and gaining muscle can both be done, just not together.

If you’re looking to lose fat and build muscle mass, then the combination of intermittent fasting, calorie cycling, and carb cycling that I have mentioned here is one of the best solutions you’ll find.

You see, it’s basically impossible to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time. To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you take in. You need to have a net calorie deficit.

To build muscle, you need to eat more calories than you burn. You need to have a net calorie surplus.

It should be fairly obvious that you can’t have a net surplus and a net deficit at the same time. For example, you can either eat more than 2,000 calories or you can eat less than 2,000 calories … but you can’t do both at the same time. This is why it’s basically impossible to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time.

However, if we get away from the small timeframes and start thinking about our diet over the course of a week or a month, then we start to have more options. For example, let’s say that you work out 3 days per week.

You could organize your eating routine to have a calorie surplus on the days you train (i.e. gain muscle) and then a calorie deficit on the days you rest (i.e. lose fat). That way, by the end of the week, it’s possible for you to have spent 3 days gaining muscle and 4 days losing fat.

9. When fasting, I have made more gains by training less.

I’ve recently begun testing a new hypothesis for strength training, which I call “Do the Most Important Thing First.”

It’s as simple as it sounds. I pick one goal for the workout and do the most important exercise first. Everything else is secondary. For example, right now I’m working out Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I do two sessions each day: Upper body in the morning, lower body in the evening.

But I’m only doing one exercise each time (push ups in the morning) and squat or dead lift in the evening. If I feel like it, I’ll finish my evening workout with kettle bell work or body weight stuff (handstands, front levers, and so on).

The results have been very good. I’ve seen improvement each and every week over the last three months. It’s worked so well that I’m starting to think that it has very little to do with fasting, but instead, is just a better way of training.

I’ll write more about this in the future, but I wanted to note it here because when I compare it to the previous way I trained while fasting (snatch and clean and jerk three days per week, plus squat or dead lift), I seem to be making more progress.

10. As long as you stay under 50 calories, you’ll remain in the fasted state.

A lot of people like to start their day with a cup of coffee or a glass of orange juice. Maybe you’re one of them. I have a glass of water. Well you don’t have to dump your morning routine if you want to give fasting a try.

The general rule of thumb is that if you stay under 50 calories, then you’ll remain in the fasted state. I’m not sure where this number came from, but I’ve seen it dished around by enough reputable people that I’m going to go with it for now. Following the opinion of the majority is typically a lazy move, but in this case, I think you’ll be alright if you want to have a cup of coffee in the morning.

11. Prepare to drink a lot of water.

I drank a lot of water before I began intermittent fasting, but now I drink an incredible amount. I’m usually over 8 glasses for the day by the time I get done with lunch.

Your mileage may vary, but even if you don’t drink as much water as I do, I recommend having it at the ready.

12. The best diet for you is the one that works for you.

Everyone wants to be handed the ultimate diet plan. We all want the answers on one sheet of paper. “Here. Just do this and you’ll be set.”

This is why diet books sell so well. A lot of people are willing to pay for a quick fix, a diet in a box, or the nutritional solution to a long life.

Here’s my problem with marketers telling everyone that their diet is the best: it’s like telling the whole world to wear medium sized shirts and then wondering why they don’t fit a lot of people.

In most ways, your body is the same as everyone else’s. But in some very important ways, it’s also different than everyone else’s. To find the diet that works best for you, you need to experiment and see what your body responds to.

This is why I enjoy intermittent fasting. You can play with your eating schedule very easily. Choose one that fits your lifestyle and that your body responds to. Once you figure out when you should be eating, then you can move on to the harder part: what you should be eating.

As always, your mileage will vary, but the most important thing is that you’re covering ground and moving forward.

We hope you learned a ton about intermittent fasting from this article. If you have anything to add or have decided to give it a try yourself, leave us a comment and send us a like on Facebook!

About the author


Lauren is a writer and painter. When she's not painting or writing, she enjoys cooking, exercising, playing music, singing, and getting lost on YouTube for hours on end.

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