Intermittent fasting is a trend on the rise. The main benefit of intermittent fasting in menopause would definitely be that it is easy and no-fuss but another important benefit is that it can stop bloating, menopause weight gain and other uncomfortable menopause symptoms. It is similar to being on a keto or low carb diet only with much less input and energy from you.
Women in perimenopause and menopause are likely to find intermittent fasting a far easier way to lose weight and reduce some of the menopause symptoms such as bloating that they may be suffering from at this time of their lives. Imagine how good it will feel to finally reduce that bloated menopause belly.
Of all the menopause weight gain remedies I have written about this is my all time favourite and I consider it to be the best diet for menopause weight gain.
Back in the "olden days", as my two verbal terrorist teenagers put it, I used to do the 40 Hour Famine to raise awareness and donations for refugees and displaced people around the world. Intermittent fasting is nothing that extreme so if I can do 40 I can do 14 or even 16 hours and I am sure, with a little practice, so can you.
Why Do Bloating And Weight Gain Happen In Menopause
The fluctuation of your hormones during perimenoause and menopause are the cause of many of the symptoms you will experience.
Estrogen is plays and important role in maintaining the correct amount of water and bile in the body. As estrogen levels lower the body can store more water leading to that bloated feeling. Bile affects the way you digest fats, as the levels in your body go up and down so does your ability to digest fat. This can open the way for wind or gas in the digestive system.
Poor dietary habits and some serious health problems can also contribute to bloating.
Some foods can contribute to bloat:
- Fizzy drinks.
- Onions, broccoli, beans, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.
- Foods high in fructose such as apples, cherries, watermelon, and pears. Check the label on processed foods.
- Sugar substitutes, such as sorbitol, mannitol, or xylitol.
- High fiber foods. Of course fiber is good for you but having too much or jumping from none to a lot can cause changes in you digestion.
Muscle mass decreases with age, while fat increases. Losing muscle mass slows down your metabolism making it difficult to stop yourself from putting on weight.
Continuing to eat as you always have and not changing up your exercise routine to include muscle building routines may mean you put on weight.
What Is Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting allows the body to burn of energy by using excess body fat.
When we eat we don't immediately use all the energy that food gives us so it is stored in the body for later use. Insulin is the hormone that manages how that energy is stored.
The first bit of energy is stored for immediate use in your liver and muscle. There is limited storage though and once the limit is maxed out insulin turns the excess into fat.
When we fast though this time line works differently
To lose weight or restore balance in our bodies you need to increase the amount of time you body gets to use stored energy or fat.
The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting In Menopause
Of course the ease of weight loss is one of the main reasons intermittent fasting is popular. There are other potential benefits:
Key benefits of intermittent fasting you may see in menopause:
- More energy
- Weight loss
- Increase in lean muscle mass
- Reduction in stress and inflammation
- Improvement of insulin sensitivity leading to reversal of type 2 Diabetes
- Better brain power
There is one other benefit which for women in midlife is huge. It certainly is for me. It is the time factor. You can continue to eat a normal healthy diet. All you are doing is not eating for a specified period. No special foods, tools or anything else which clutters up some of the other diets out there.
I did keto for a while and I found it to be fairly time consuming. Intermittent fasting is just easy.
In contradiction to these benefits menopause often sees us suffer the exact opposite of these desired benefits :
- Lack of energy
- Weight gain
- Loss of lean muscle mass
- Increased stress and inflammation
- Insulin resistance possibly leading to Type 2 Diabetes
- Brain fog
When you gain weight in menopause it generally pools around your middle enveloping important organs. This makes it dangerous to your health, increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure among other things.
This way of fasting could easily improve your health as you move into midlife.
Three fabulous books specific to women in midlife that can further explaing the process of fasting are:
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Fasting gives your body
a break from digesting food allowing it to do other things such as repair and regeneration. After your last meal is digested (usually about 8 hours after eating) your body uses fat as energy, leading to weight loss.
Intermittent fasting's success possibly lies in the fact that aside from eating between your chosen times there's not much else you need to change. That assumes of course that what you eat now is healthy wholefoods that are low in sugar, refined carbohydrates and saturated fats
This way of eating is not a green light for binge eating rubbish in your chosen eating timeslot.
Fasting is not deprivation. You aren't depriving your body of the nutrition it needs. In fact fasting is more like to increase your metabolic rate.
Do Not Fast If...
- you're pregnant
- you're underweight
- you're are under 18
- you're breast feeding
- you have an eating disorder
Exercising While Fasting
This is perfectly okay and in fact may increase the ability to burn fat. You don't need to eat to give yourself energy before you exercise but you may find that it will improve aerobic performance if you are doing a particularly sustained period of exercise like running long distances.
I exercise every morning and don't eat before hand. I find I have all the energy that I need.
Possible Side Affects
Of course when you are just starting out you may feel hungry but as you get more used to it this reduces.
I found glass of water or a cup of tea helps with this and allows me to go a little longer.
You might find you get a little constipated although I haven't found that. In fact I am more regular than I have ever been. To help this make sure you are eating plenty of soluble fibre such as chia, nuts, linseeds and lentils.
How To Put Intermittent Fasting Into Practice
While pracitising intermittent fasting you don't change WHAT you eat. Not unless your regular diet includes a barrow load of sugar and empty carbohydrates. Then it would be prudent to cut out most of the sugar and useless carbs too enable you to better lose weight and have improved health.
What does change is WHEN you eat or rather how long you wait since your last meal before you eat again.
The premise is that you stop eating for a length of time that is longer than the time it would take to digest your last meal which is 6 to 8 hours depending on your metabolism.
The length of time you wait or fast before you eat again can vary, it depends on you and the type of intermittent fasting you have chosen.
There are various methods you can use to try intermittent fasting:
- 12 or more hours without eating every day
- 12-20 hours of fasting a couple of days a week.
- Not eating for a full 24 hours one or two times each week
There are other variations which require more input and longer lengths of time without food.
It is important to find what works for you to better your chances of sticking to it.
When I started this journey I could only really manage 12 hours from my last meal at night to when I ate again in the morning. At that point I was doubtful that I could stretch it much beyond that.
If I eat my last meal at 7.00pm then I can eat again at 7.00am. These times are good for me as I don't really eat in between those times anyway.
Generally, I only fast during the week as it fits into my schedule well.
I am now stretching breakfast out to 9.30 to 10.30am and sometimes beyond that.
It seems to have been a natural progression to these longer fasting time and I've found it easy.
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It is important, as with any way of eating, to combine intermittent fasting with exercise, good sleep, and a healthy eating regime.
Fasting is often seen as controversial due to the impact it can have on hormones and regular eating patterns.
This is a “restrictive diet” and so can exacerbate unhealthy eating patterns. I don't recomment you try this way of eating if you have a history of disordered eating such as emotional eating, binge eating, and eating disorders.
It is also important when you are eating not to see this time as an opportunity to binge on unhealthy foods. Eat healthy whole foods in normal size portions.
Due to the effect intermittent fasting can have on hormones I would suggest if you are trying to conceive or have a history of metabolic disorders you should consult a doctor before undertaking an eating pattern such as this.
Start intermittent fasting by,
- Setting a routine by first trying 12 hours daily
- Gradually build to 14 or 16 hours depending on what suits you.
- Drink plenty of clear fluids such as water, herbal tea, clear soup. I allow myself coffee if I want it but beware the effects of coffee on a fasting body are much greater.
- Ease into exercise - maybe a walk and some yoga until you are used to how your body feels during the fasting period.
Listen to your body.
If you can't sleep, or you feel anxious or nauseous, stop.
My last point is something that I live by and you may choose to also.
I aim to live with healthy habits for at least 90% of the time. The other 10% I allow myself to relax. If we go out for dinner and it's outside my 12-hour window of eating I don’t stress. I certainly don’t stress about the delicious dessert we share either.
This philosophy, for me, is healthy.
There is less stressing over what to eat and more living and in my mind that is only a good thing.
My Top Tips For Intermittent Fasting
- Drink plenty of water - this will help with any hunger and possible constipation
- Drink coffee or tea - there is nothing like a warm drink to tell you body it's not hungry anymore. I find a black coffee works well for me.
- Stick to low-carb whole foods during your eating period.
- Don't let intermittent fasting be your excuse to go crazy and binge inbetween your fasting periods
Have you tried intermittent fasting? How did it work for you?
If you are struggling to with bloat, menopause weight gain or other menopause symptoms I would certainly recommend you try intermittent fasting.