Intermittent Fasting and Menopause

Is Intermittent Fasting the answer for Menopausal Weight Gain?

Have you noticed a difference in your body as you enter menopause?

As our bodies age, progressive changes to our metabolism and hormones can lead to natural and normal changes like weight gain and other less than welcome symptoms (hot flushes, poor sleep, etc.).

Even though weight gain during menopause is a well-known phenomenon, experiencing it for yourself may still come as an often negative and undesired surprise.

Looking for ways to avoid experiencing hormone-associated weight gain, it is common for women to explore many different nutritional fads and diets, including current trends like intermittent fasting.

Because every woman’s body is unique, there is no universal approach, or pill, to figure out how to lose weight during menopause.

Why do women experience weight gain during menopause

As a time of adjustment and change, it is common for women to notice various changes in their bodies as they enter into menopause.

From hot flashes, sleep disturbances, and possible weight gain, it comes as no surprise that many women may not be looking forward to entering this next chapter of their life. 

Interested in finding out what they can do to prevent menopause-associated weight gain, many women turn to their primary care provider for answers. But, because this symptom of menopause comes from a mix of different factors, it can be hard to pinpoint the specific cause for each woman.

Some of the most common reasons why weight gain occurs around the time of menopause include:

  • Lower estrogen levels — While we still do not know the full extent of estrogen’s role in weight maintenance, research has shown that decreased hormone levels play a role in weight gain. As one of the primary physiological changes experienced during menopause, it makes sense that this might be one of the primary causes of weight gain for women entering this phase of their life.
  • Loss of muscle mass — As we age, it is common for both men and women to lose pre-existing muscle mass, especially if they are not actively working to maintain it. When this occurs, the body’s metabolism slows, leading to weight gain.
  • Increased sedentary lifestyles — If you are not staying on top of your physical health, it is very easy to slip into a more sedentary lifestyle as you age. A fitness tracker can be a great way to check in on yourself, as it is easy to convince yourself that you are doing more activity than you are, and the data doesn’t lie! The less exercise a person does, the fewer calories they burn throughout the day, which is one way that women begin to gain weight in this stage of their lives.
  • Decreased overall metabolism — Our energy metabolism slows every year as a natural part of the human aging process. While this process is inevitable, it almost plays a small role in menopausal weight gain.

What is intermittent fasting?

Instead of being hyper-focused on what types of food you eat, intermittent is a currently popular dieting trend that prioritizes restricting when a person eats. Based on the perceived health benefits of fasting (a prolonged period where you purposefully do not eat), this diet aims to encourage your body to dip into its sugar and fat reserves during the periods of fasting in a phenomenon called metabolic switching

Depending on a person’s lifestyle and routine, the duration of time that they choose to fast and the length of their eating windows can dramatically differ from person to person. As a good rule of thumb, it is essential for anyone new to intermittent fasting to start slow, with shorter fasting windows that can be extended as they listen to what is comfortable and safe for their body.

Intermittent fasting and menopause — what you need to know

Whether you are looking for a way to control your weight better or are interested in introducing more mindful eating practices into your daily routine, intermittent fasting may be a good fit for your needs. There are a few safety precautions that we recommend every woman follow as they explore intermittent fasting:

  • Speak with your primary care provider — If you are entirely new to any fasting, we highly recommend speaking with your healthcare provider before starting. Because fasting can induce physiological stress that your body may not be used to, getting professional advice about your options is one of the best ways to ensure that you don’t overwhelm yourself.
  • Make a plan — While it is tempting to jump into fasting right away, we highly suggest taking the time to plan out your eating windows. Using a calendar, piece of paper, or phone app, having a written schedule and plan can be very helpful in ensuring that you stay on track.
  • Listen to your body — Just because a particular length of fasting works for another person doesn’t mean that it will work for you. If you notice that you are incredibly hungry, have low energy, or are not feeling well with your current intermittent fasting set-up, it may not be best suited for your needs.
  • Start slow and build — When it comes to losing weight, it is common to rush the experience by pushing our limits with how little we can eat or how long we can fast. Do your best to fight this urge and start slow, as sustained and consistent change is the best way to make significant changes in your overall health.

Explore your options for menopause-related weight gain

Just because weight gain during menopause is a common experience doesn’t mean it is inevitable. While it is important to practice self-compassion while your body evolves and changes during this next chapter of your life, there are steps that you can take to reduce your risk of gaining weight during menopause. Whether you decide to increase your daily exercise, cut out certain foods, or try intermittent fasting to manage your weight during your transition into menopause, as long as you feel well and have the support of your primary care provider, you are doing the right thing for your unique body.

At Fit4100, we believe that all women should have access to high-quality educational resources that explain the shared experiences of menopause, aging, and everything in between. We hope this article can be a helpful guide and resource for any woman interested in making dietary changes to manage their menopausal symptoms better.

Learn more about other age and menopause-related topics by reading our other available articles on our website blog today.

The 16 8 Diet Explained

Why the 16 8 Diet works, how keto and fasting are linked, and how to do it.

intermittent fasting hours

What is the 16 8 diet and how can it help you live longer?

The 16 8 diet is a popular form of Intermittent Fasting (IF) that is sometimes also called Time Restricted Feeding (TRF).

This diet has quickly gained popularity in the last five years and scientific study is beginning to indicate that it is more than a fad. Human and animal trails of the 16 8 diet show early indications that it is an effective tool for weight loss, can help reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers, is a treatment option Type 2 diabetes, and can improve brain function. Each of these outcomes are defences against major diseases of aging and can help you to live longer and live better.  

While the 16 8 diet is a version of Intermittent Fasting, it has some major lifestyle benefits not available with other kinds of IF. The 16 8 diet does not require you to fast for long periods and does not impose severe calorie restrictions. Instead, it closely mimics your Circadian rhythm by prescribing that you eat for eight hours in every 24-hour cycle and observe a 16-hour fasting window.

Most people choose to have their eating window during daylight hours; from 10am-6pm or 12pm-8pm, allowing them to keep eating two regular meals each day and snacks in between. Relatively recent evidence points to an increase in effectiveness of the 16 8 diet when the eating window is located earlier in the day, for example from 8am-4pm.

Keto and Intermittent Fasting

Keto is shorthand for Ketosis – a process that is triggered by food deprivation. Researchers have discovered that Keto is a major reason that Intermittent Fasting interventions like the 16 8 diet have such wide-ranging health benefits.

Keto involves what experts call a metabolic switch, which occurs when the body isn’t provided with food.

When not in Ketosis, the body uses glucose from food for energy, but when ketosis occurs the body changes and begins converting stored fat into ketones, which become its energy source.

This results in weight loss as fat is burned off, but researchers – like those who conducted this 2017 study on “The impact of intermittent fasting on health and disease processes” –  say food deprivation also triggers “adaptive responses of the brain and autonomic nervous system” that “play major roles in the fitness-promoting and disease-allaying effects of IF”.

These adaptive changes lead to health improvements like decreases in inflammation, reduction in cholesterol levels, and lower blood sugar levels.

The 16 8 diet is one Intermittent Fasting keto schedule that can induce a metabolic switch and help you enhance your longevity.

How to follow the 16 8 diet

If you want to try keto and fasting, experimenting with the 16 8 diet is an excellent place to start.

To induce Intermittent Fasting Keto, researchers have determined most people need to fast for 8-12 hours, after which the level of ketones in the blood will begin to rise. The 16 8 diet creates a daily fasting window of 16 hours, meaning the body will be in a state of ketosis for 4-8 hours in each 24-hour period.

Before beginning the 16 8 diet it is important to talk to your doctor as your medication or individual nutrition and energy needs could make it inappropriate for you. If you are cleared to try Keto and Intermittent Fasting, then look at your normal schedule of meals and determine which eight-hour eating window will result in the least disruption to your routine. For example, if you normally eat between 8am and 8pm, you could consider swapping to eating between midday and 8pm, so you can still eat dinner with your family.

During the eating window, you can eat any food you like, but experts say the 16 8 Diet works best when paired with healthy food choices such as the Mediterranean Diet.

If you are having trouble making the change to eating only eight hours each day, try phasing the change in gradually. Start with a ten-hour daily eating window. After two weeks of transition, narrow the window down to eight hours. Many proponents of the 16/8 diet and Intermittent Fasting say their bodies eventually adapted to eating only during a four-hour daily window.

Intermittent Fasting and Type 2 Diabetes

The evidence behind intermittent fasting as a treatment for Type 2 Diabetes and what it means for you.

Since Michael Mosley super-charged the world’s awareness of Intermittent Fasting (IF) in 2012 with his TV series Eat, Fast and Live Longer, the diet has been steadily gaining popularity.

Eat and Fast For Type 2 Diabetes

But Intermittent Fasting is more than another nutrition craze. Slowly, research is mounting to show the method can be used to manage serious life-threatening and life-shortening diseases, including Type 2 Diabetes.

How Intermittent Fasting works for Type 2 Diabetes

The underlying cause of Type 2 Diabetes is insulin resistance. Insulin is produced by the pancreas and its role is to transfer sugars from the blood and into the tissues, where it can be used as fuel or stored as fat.

For many people with Type 2 Diabetes, this process does not work efficiently, resulting in the body producing more insulin while blood sugar continues to climb. The ongoing production of higher levels of insulin creates even greater resistance to it, often resulting in Type 2 Diabetes getting progressively worse over time.

Most traditional Diabetes treatments and medications focus on reducing blood sugar levels, but some experts argue this addresses only the symptom of the disease, but not the cause.

Advocates of Intermittent Fasting as a treatment for Type 2 Diabetes say the method treats both symptom and cause. Fasting periods trigger a series of changes in the body that allow insulin levels and blood sugar levels to simultaneously reduce. Intermittent Fasting proponent Dr Jason Fung explains the process in this short video and this more in-depth video.

The evidence of the benefits of Intermittent Fasting for Type 2 Diabetes

Intermittent Fasting is a relatively new intervention for Type 2 Diabetes and the research behind it is qualified, but hopeful.

Anecdotal evidence tells of Type 2 Diabetes patients making significant improvements using IF – with some people no longer requiring medications and others ridding themselves of all signs of the disease.

The scientific evidence is more cautious, but still shows tentative positive results.

In a 2018 case study and a 2017 pilot study, strong improvements were shown in patients using Intermittent Fasting to tackle Type 2 Diabetes, but the authors caution that further research – with larger sample sizes and over a longer period of time – are needed.

A systematic review from 2020 compares Intermittent Fasting with a consistent low energy diet and finds that both are effective in patients with Type 2 Diabetes, although the researchers go on to stress that the link between IF and remission needs further investigation.

This 2019 in-depth review article is also encouraging. It was analysed by Harvard Medical School’s Dr Monique Tello – who is skeptical of IF’s superiority as a diabetes treatment – but still says this article provides evidence of IF as “a more realistic, sustainable, and effective approach for weight loss, as well as for diabetes prevention”.

What does the research mean if you have Type 2 Diabetes?

These early results indicate that Intermittent Fasting can be useful to treat and prevent Type 2 Diabetes, but it’s important that you choose an intervention that is sustainable and realistic for you.

All health treatment is personal. If you think IF might work for you, get started by following these steps:

1) Talk to your doctor about whether intermittent fasting is safe for you.

This is important for everyone, but especially if you have Type 2 Diabetes as you may need your medication adjusted and require close monitoring to guard against the possibility of low blood sugar incidents.

2) Choose between the different types of intermittent fasting.

Some popular variations are the 5:2 diet, the 16/8 diet, or the Circadian Rhythm fasting method.

Some recent research shows the Circadian method – which involves limiting eating to a 6 to 10-hour window during the daylight hours of each 24-hour cycle – may be more sustainable and effective.

3) Pair Intermittent Fasting with good nutrition.

Many experts encourage those with Type 2 Diabetes to follow a low-carb diet that includes plentiful fats, vegetables and proteins. The Mediterranean Diet is an often-cited and easy to understand example, and IF advocates like Dr Jason Fung encourage patients to pair their fasting with this kind of nutrition.