Intermittent fasting is one of the best and reliable ways to lose weight and improve overall health. It involves avoiding food for most of the day and eating all your meals in a shortened time frame. Beyond weight loss, it comes with various benefits ranging from increased mental clarity to healthy aging.
Intermittent fasting(1) is great for many people—but what if you’re perimenopausal or menopausal? Will fasting still work for you? Is it even healthy during this time?
Here’s a quick look at how menopause changes your body and how intermittent fasting can help with many general symptoms.
Why you gain weight during menopause
Menopause is the natural weakening in sex hormones that happens as women reach their forties and fifties. During this time, the ovaries stop producing progesterone and estrogen, which, in turn, pauses menstruation.
You’ve formally reached menopause when you haven’t had your period for a year. However, the loss of the period (amenorrhea), is not the only symptom of menopause.
Menopause comes with various symptoms, including:
- Decreased libido
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal dryness
- Increased heart disease risk
- Mood changes
- Night sweats
And, most noticeable for many, menopause also alters the metabolism. The metabolism slows down during menopause because progesterone and estrogen levels fall out of balance. The unexpected hormonal shift causes many women to put on weight.
Women may also become less sensitive to insulin during menopause, meaning they have trouble processing refined carbohydrates and sugar —a metabolic change known as insulin resistance. Insulin resistance often comes with sleeping troubles and fatigue.
Menopause can be a scary phase. They may feel like they don’t understand their body as well as they used to, and symptoms, like sudden weight gain, can cause them to feel depressed and anxious.
[Also Read: How to Treat Menopause]
Luckily, intermittent fasting is an ideal tool to help them through menopause. If they’re struggling with fatigue, weight gain, and insulin resistance during menopause, they should give it a try.
Will intermittent fasting help with menopause symptoms?
Absolutely, yes! Intermittent fasting can help with multiple symptoms of menopause, including:
1. Weight Gain
Research has found that intermittent fasting helps with fat loss, and many people find it’s an excellent long-term strategy for staying slender.
2. Insulin Resistance
Fasting improves insulin sensitivity, which makes your body better at processing carbohydrates and sugar. It may also decrease your risk of diabetes, heart attack, and other metabolic disorders.
3. Mental Health Changes
Menopause often causes depression, anxiety, brain fog, fatigue, psychological stress, and mood swings. Studies have found that fasting eases depression and stress levels, improves self-esteem, and encourages an overall positive psychological outlook.
4. Brain Fog
Research in animals has found that fasting helps them clear out waste materials, protects brain cells from stress, repair themselves, and makes them super-efficient.
There are no studies on how fasting impacts the human brain yet, but one of the most common things people report while fasting is enhanced mental clarity. The evidence isn’t all based on this benefit, but you can give fasting a try and observe if you notice the difference.
How to intermittent fast during menopause
Intermittent fasting is quite easy to do. You pick an eating window that’s feasible for you—say, from 11 p.m. to 7 p.m.—and you eat all your calories in that time. Outside of your eating window, you fast—non caloric drinks like tea or coffee and just water.
In other words, you’re fasting for sixteen hours every day, and eating for 8 hours every day. That’s known as 16:8 fast, and it is one of the most basic intermittent fasting structures.
The most significant thing about intermittent fasting is that it’s adaptable. Many people start with brief fasts (14:10 fasts are renowned, 14 hours fasting, ten eating) and slowly increase their fast length. Few people go all the way to eating only a single meal a day. You can try different fasting schedules and see what works best for you.
How can intermittent fasting support with menopause weight gain?
Intermittent fasting minimizes the overall number of calories you consume. Having a calorie deficit is crucial for weight loss. This can be useful during menopause because this is a time when many women gain unnecessary weight, due to aging, hormone changes, poor sleep, and other reasons.
A 2017 research showed that when people ate only during a 4-hour window, their energy intake was reduced by approx 650 calories.
Another research found that when healthy women and men fasted for 36 hours, their overall caloric intake was decreased by 1,900 calories, despite eating more in the period following their fasting.
Studies also show that for postmenopausal women, mainly, intermittent fasting can be beneficial for weight control and weight loss.
Besides supporting weight loss, intermittent fasting also can reduce your risk for various conditions like diabetes and heart disease. It may also help improve mental health and muscle loss.
Should you try intermittent fasting during menopause?
Intermittent fasting is an excellent tool for insulin resistance, managing weight gain, and other common symptoms of menopause.
That said, some people may not want to try intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting puts mild stress on their body, and if they have a chronic illness or adrenal fatigue, they may not want to incorporate intermittent fasting into their daily regimen.
If you have decided to give intermittent fasting a try, pay attention to how you feel. If fasting makes you ill or weak or feels too stressed during fasting, you may want to skip intermittent fasting entirely or either shorten your fast. Remember that you don’t have to fast each day, either. You can always fast just a couple of times a week or every other day.
Menopause can be tough, but with the right lifestyle changes and diet, you can stay happy, fit, and healthy, even as your hormones fluctuate.
[Also Read: Home Remedies for Menopause]