Does fasting work as well for women as it does for men? Yes and no.
Fasting is good for everyone! But there are some subtle differences to be aware of.
Why does it matter?
Being aware of biological realities will help you find what works best for YOU. It’s not a one-size-fits-all scenario!
Before we start, let’s acknowledge that this subject is often confusing and sometimes contentious.
Social differences between sexes are disappearing fast. In developed countries, men and women have the same rights and opportunities - which is obviously great.
But some people try to apply the same logic to our biology. They declare that there are no physiological differences between men and women at all.
That, of course, is nonsense. And one that is usually more harmful to women than men.
Because we are not built the same. From a purely evolutionary standpoint, men’s bodies are optimized to be hunter-gatherers and women’s to be child-bearers.
Obviously, these ancient roles are no longer tied to biological sex in modern societies. But our bodies don’t evolve at the same rate as our technologies or our social progress.
You can deny this biological reality and keep banging your head against the brick wall.
Or you can choose to accept it - and develop the right strategy to reach your health and fitness goals.
The key difference
The most fundamental biological difference between men and women is that women can bear children. From the evolutionary standpoint, that’s what female bodies are designed to do.
And that’s why - on average - it’s easier for women to store fat and harder to lose it.
Let’s look into this in more detail.
Hormonal cycles affect your weight loss
Women’s hormones vary a great deal depending on their reproductive cycles.
During child-bearing years, if your body thinks you are ready for pregnancy, it will try to store extra fat to support you and your baby.
If you are postmenopausal, your estrogen levels decline bringing a host of changes to your metabolism and appetite.
Think about which hormonal stage you are currently at and plan your fasting approach based on that.
We recommend Dr. Mindy Pelz podcast and blog for more information about fasting for women, including hormone-based strategies.
Hunger and cravings during fasting
Women may have a harder time with hunger and cravings when fasting.
Some studies suggest that women are more prone to craving sweet foods when dieting or fasting compared to men.
There are many reasons as to why this could be the case.
If you suffer from strong food cravings, try to figure out the underlying cause - and then find out how to fix it. Read more on how to cope with sugar cravings at the Carbophobic blog.
Most importantly, don’t beat yourself up about cravings or occasional slip-ups! It’s completely natural and you can find a way to deal with them.
On average, men have faster metabolisms than women.
It doesn’t seem fair, but that’s just another biological reality. That’s the way we’re wired!
Again, it’s all linked to specialization. Men needed to have higher metabolisms to be more efficient hunter-gatherers. Whereas women needed to store extra fat for childbearing.
Unfortunately, this means that you may need to work harder to achieve the same results as men in terms of losing weight or gaining muscle.
Should women avoid fasting?
No! Women can fast. Women should fast!
And most women will get great results with fasting. But there are some things that are worth noting.
Extended Fasting might not be your best option
We support Extended Fasting when done safely. If you’re doing Extended Fasting and everything is going ok, then great - don’t change a thing!
But if you’re struggling with EF, or if you are not losing weight, consider switching to an Intermittent Fasting schedule.
IF is less radical and produces better results for some women.
Don’t compare yourself to men
That annoying guy who lost 20 pounds on his first week of fasting, while you’re losing a few pounds a week … ignore him.
Seriously, don’t do that to yourself!
It doesn’t matter how fast or how slow the weight comes off.
All that matters is that it does come off. And it will.
Body fat percentage
If your body fat is less than 18.5, according to Dr. Fung, you should not fast.
While this is true for everyone, it’s especially true if you’re a woman with a regular cycle.
Because fasting without enough body fat can disrupt your menstrual cycle, and even make it disappear!
Fasting can change your cycle
Be aware that fasting can affect your menstrual cycle in all kinds of different ways.
It can get irregular, or lighter, or heavier.
But on a positive note, I’ve seen many women have a regular cycle restored by fasting!
Do not fast during pregnancy
If you are pregnant or lactating, you shouldn’t fast at all.
Both you and your baby need all the nutrients you can get during this stage of your life!
The same applies to women who are actively trying to conceive.
Fasting may help your fertility indirectly if you do it beforehand due to its overall health benefits. But you should stop a few months before you start trying for a baby.
This all sounds so unfair to us ladies. But we got this!
In our Official Fasting for Weight Loss Facebook group, the majority of our members are women.
And guess what? Those women are losing fat and getting healthier with fasting!
Fasting is a powerful tool for health and weight loss.
Take note of the differences, but have faith in the process and keep going!
Author: Roo Black
Roo is a fasting coach with over 5 years of experience. She leads the admin team of the Official Fasting for Weight Loss Facebook group - one of the largest fasting communities on social media with over 125,000 members. We highly recommend this group for anyone who is looking for fasting advice or coaching.