Intermittent Fasting and Menopause: A Guide to Manage Weight and Hormones

Last updated 11.22.2023 | by Sabrina Johnson | 9 Minutes Read

This article has been reviewed and fact checked by Dr. Karen Pike, a senior physician administrator and board-certified emergency room doctor actively working in northern California. Read more at our medical disclaimer page.


The IFIC (International Food Information Council) showed in a survey conducted in 2022 that intermittent fasting surpassed the ketogenic diet in terms of popularity. Estimates mention that around 10% of people in America aged 18-80 resort to this form of diet.

I would like to explain a little for those who aren’t aware of it. Intermittent fasting involves periods of eating normally and not eating at all. It’s a cyclical approach where you eat for a few hours daily. Meanwhile, you’ll have to take charge of your calorie intake for the rest of the day.

A friend in her late 40s was experiencing a spike in her weight just when her menses began getting irregular. The extra pounds, which made her look bulky, were worrisome indeed. She consulted a doctor and explained her woes. After a regular health checkup, she was referred to a dietician who suggested intermittent fasting. She opted for the 5:2 method, meaning five days of eating and two days of going without food; trust me, she got results in a month.

So, do you also belong to that group of women who have been troubled with sudden and excessive weight gain? You may have tried everything out, but in vain, Right? Have you also been advised intermittent fasting? Are you in two minds about whether to opt for it or not?

Intermittent fasting isn’t a new phenomenon, and people resorted to this kind of diet in ancient times when food was sparse. However, many people are shifting to intermittent fasting mainly to manage their weight, regulate their metabolism, and keep their basic parameters in control.

In this article, you will learn of the causes of weight gain in menopause and also if intermittent fasting in menopause is safe or not. I will also highlight the different types of intermittent fasting to assist you further.

Why Do Women Gain Weight During Menopause? 3 Possible Reasons

Since we discussed the main reason for intermittent fasting during menopause is to control weight gain. So, it is important to know the reason behind menopausal weight gain. I gained about 6 pounds in a year after my 45th year! Why menopause leads to those additional calories is debatable. Yet, the low estrogen level is one of the prime reasons behind weight gain in menopause.

1. Reduced Metabolism

Low estrogen means reduced metabolism, which results in the burning of fewer calories. So, when your calories do not burn soon, a lot of fat will accumulate, making you gain those extra pounds. It will likely happen even if you haven’t altered your diet and exercise regime.

2. Insulin Resistance

Insulin resistance is a condition where the cells in your liver and muscles don’t respond properly to insulin. As a result, it’s unable to absorb glucose from your blood easily. It leads to an increase in the sugar level in the blood, which may trigger weight gain.

It is pretty high in women in perimenopause and the menopause phase. It’s because of the changes in their metabolism. That’s why they are at an increased risk of weight gain.

3. Increased Sugar Cravings

As mentioned earlier, in menopause, women often have an increased sugar craving. The decreased hormone levels are to be blamed for the same. Increased sugar cravings will lead to greater consumption of foods rich in saturated fats and carbohydrates. It, in turn, will trigger weight gain. I was never a fan of sugary foods until my late 40s. But, after that, the sweet rolls, donuts, cakes, and candies became a regular affair for me. Controlling my temptation and cutting down on these foods was another mammoth task.

Is It Good to Fast During Menopause? 3 Probable Benefits

Is It Good to Fast During Menopause

There has been divided opinion regarding the effect of fasting on menopause. A study has shown that intermittent fasting positively impacts weight loss in women aged 50 and above. So, let us check the benefits of intermittent fasting during menopause, not just for reducing weight but in other aspects.

Helps in losing Weight

Much has already been spoken about weight gain and menopause. The role of intermittent fasting in losing weight has been reviewed positively. In one of the studies conducted in 2021, 19 postmenopausal and 13 premenopausal women were the participants. The result was that those who resorted to time-restricted feeding experienced weight loss.

Yet another study conducted in 2022 on postmenopausal women showed that women who followed a fasting program of eight weeks experienced a reduction in their body weight. However, the purpose of the study was different – to note the influence of time-restricted eating on female sex hormones.

Controls Blood Sugar

Menopause puts women at a greater risk of Type 2 diabetes. Someone I know was healthy throughout until her late 50s when she became diabetic. The main reason is the reduced estrogen levels and increased susceptibility to insulin resistance. Studies have shown that women who went for intermittent fasting experienced an improvement in their insulin levels. Moreover, intermittent fasting also played a significant role in bettering insulin resistance.

Lessens the Risk of Heart Disease

In menopause, women are at an increased risk of suffering from heart problems. The reason is the low estrogen levels that can make the cholesterol levels shoot up. High cholesterol means that you are more susceptible to suffering from heart disease. The role of intermittent fasting in reducing heart disease is debated. Some findings say that it helps to decrease bad cholesterol.

However, a few studies even say that skipping breakfast, a kind of intermittent fasting, makes you more prone to heart ailments.

Different Types of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting means eating during some time of the day and going without food for the remaining time. Now, you can follow many approaches when going for intermittent fasting.

Let’s take a look at each one of them:

1. 5:2 Fasting

You eat normally for five days and fast for two days. The calorie intake should be 25% less than your regular intake on the days you fast. Remember that it shouldn’t be more than 500 to 600 calories. Also, don’t consume all of them in one go.

For instance, it could be 200 calories for breakfast, 100 for lunch, and 200 for dinner. Or, it could be a ratio of 250:250 for lunch and dinner. You shouldn’t fast for two days back-to-back. Say, if you are fasting on a Wednesday, then your next fast day should be a Friday.

2. 16/8 Method

Here you fast for 16 hours, while you can be on a normal diet for the remaining eight hours. Women are usually advised to fast for no more than 14 hours initially. They can then proceed to the 16-hour fasting. Health professionals do not recommend reducing the eating window to less than 8 hours. It could put women at risk of gallstones.

3. Crescendo Method

In this method, you can fast for around 12 to 16 hours twice or thrice a week. But you shouldn’t fast for consecutive days. For example, if you fast on a Monday, you should eat on Tuesday, and again fast on Wednesday and Friday.

4. 24-Hour Fasting

As the name implies, you can fast for one or two days a week. You should start with 14 to 16 hours of fasting at first. You can fast for a full day once your body gets accustomed to the change.

5. Overnight Fasting

Understandable from its name, it means you eat your dinner and fast from then to the following morning. You are allowed to eat only water and nothing other than that. It could be a 7 am-7 pm window or an 8 am to 8 pm window. Of all the fasting methods, overnight fasting seems the most feasible to me. Post-dinner, I mostly go without a meal, and that doesn’t hurt my digestive system.

What to Keep in Mind When Fasting During Menopause?

When in menopause, you should take a lot of things into consideration when fasting. Otherwise, it could lead to health hazards.

  • Since you are not eating all days a week, ensure that your nutritional requirements are met well when you don’t fast. Eat healthy, and try to have food balanced with all essential nutrients. It may include fresh fruits, veggies, lean meat, etc.
  • Refrain from eating unhealthy foods or food high in calories on the days you don’t fast. It may result in adverse health effects. Binge eating is a no-no.
  • If you have any underlying health conditions or are on any medications, please consult your doctor before taking to intermittent fasting.
  • Suppose you aren’t habituated to fasting, fast for shorter periods. Once your body gets used to it, you may prolong the time gradually. This seems applicable to people like me, for whom fasting is a distant thing.
  • Keep yourself hydrated by drinking sufficient water. Drinking black coffee sans sugar during fasting is fine. That’ll be my choice as well.
  • It would help if you were patient with your weight loss effort; don’t rush into it.

FAQs

What is the warrior diet?

The warrior diet is the extremest form of intermittent fasting. The fasting window is prolonged to 20 hours. The eating window is just four hours. People should consume healthy fats, veggies, and fruits during this time. It isn’t recommended for women as it negatively affects their reproductive hormones.

Can you have water and beverages during intermittent fasting?

Water is the savior, indeed. Since water has no calories, it is allowed during intermittent fasting. It won’t break the fast. You can even go for unsweetened tea or black coffee.

Conclusion

To summarize, intermittent fasting during menopause isn’t a bad option until you have met all your parameters. In case you have any underlying health issues avoid fasting. If you wish to avoid rigorous fasting, you can skip meals occasionally. That way, you’re fasting for some time, if not for prolonged periods. Going without meals sometimes is my choice as well. However, rigorous fasting isn’t my thing at all. Just make sure you don’t resort to an unhealthy diet to compensate for the days you aren’t eating.

Reference:

  1. Intermittent Fasting: What is it, and how does it work?
  2. Intermittent Fasting Menopause: Weight gain and those extra 15 pounds
  3. The truth about metabolism
  4. Can Insulin Resistance Cause Weight Gain?

Author

  • Sabrina Johnson

    Meet Sabrina Johnson, a compassionate author and a seasoned expert in Obstetrics and Gynecology. She is a driving force behind Simply Menopause, where her extensive medical knowledge and empathetic nature come together to empower women in their menopausal journey. Sabrina offers culturally sensitive guidance and support through her approachable writing, making her a trusted friend on the path to menopause wellness.