Menopause is a natural part of life. However, these hormonal changes pose challenges to the female body, such as hot flashes, mood swings, or slow metabolism.
In this article, you will learn from studies on how women over 50 can balance their hormones through intermittent fasting and thus lose weight safely and efficiently.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
In intermittent fasting, you eat for a set period and fast for the rest of the day or week.
Only water, tea, and coffee are allowed during the fasting period. Furthermore, you must consume these drinks without additives (e.g., milk) and sweeteners (sugar, stevia, etc.).
Since there are countless intermittent fasting schedules, this article will examine which suits women over 50.
Challenges for Women Over 50
The menopausal transition is a change in the female body that starts years before menopause.
As a rule, menopause in women can occur starting from 45. The process is slow as the natural decline of estrogen and progesterone begins in the 30s.
This transformation is complete with the permanent absence of menstruation for at least 12 months. On average, menopause occurs at age 51 (Peacock et al. 20221).
The menopausal transition presents new challenges to the female body.
Due to menopause, the production of the following reproductive hormones in particular decreases:
- Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
- Luteinizing hormone (LH)
As a result, the ovaries, urogenital organs, bones, and arteries change (Peacock et al. 20222).
The most common and first signs of menopause are vasomotor symptoms. They occur due to the decrease in estrogen production by the ovaries.
Vasomotor symptoms affect the nerves of the blood vessels and are particularly noticeable as hot flashes, night sweats, and headaches (Peacock et al. 20223).
Hot flashes occur when the blood vessels in the head and neck dilate. They may occur during the day or night, with or without sweating and other symptoms such as dizziness, faster heartbeat, or headache.
Moreover, menopausal hot flashes often accompany sleep disturbances (Okeke et al. 20134).
A particular challenge of menopause for most women is weight gain, especially around the middle. This fact is colloquially referred to as a slow metabolism.
The sex hormones estrogen and testosterone, in particular, are affected by the changes of menopause. They can fluctuate significantly as part of this process.
Since estrogen is essential in regulating insulin, blood glucose, metabolism, appetite, and body fat distribution, low estrogen levels are associated with weight gain (Mauvais-Jarvis et al. 20135).
Therefore, menopausal women gain abdominal fat more quickly due to low estrogen levels (Lovejoy et al. 19986).
Moreover, estrogen is directly involved in regulating the fat-storage hormone insulin. If estrogen levels drop, you gain body fat more quickly.
In summary, changes in energy balance and metabolism promote the following risks (Mauvais-Jarvis et al. 20138):
- Fatty liver
- Type 2 diabetes
The decline in testosterone and estrogen makes it more difficult to build and maintain lean mass, further slowing metabolism (Maltais et al. 20099).
In addition, low estrogen levels decrease the feeling of satiety and the activation of brown fat, the metabolically active body fat that is more readily burned for energy (González-García et al. 201710).
In turn, appetite increases due to the hormone drop (Geary 199811).
Is Intermittent Fasting Good for Women Over 50?
It is natural that body awareness and caution increase with age. However, menopause brings a decisive advantage when changing eating habits.
With the absence of menstruation, the problem of unbalancing those hormones that are significantly involved in the female cycle also becomes less important.
Because reproduction is no longer the primary goal of the female body, it must be less sensitive to calorie reduction and exercise (Meczekalski et al. 201412).
Also, during menopause, lifestyle factors like diet and exercise can maintain lean mass, balance hormones, and reduce insulin resistance and inflammation.
As a result, women can reduce body fat effortlessly and maintain a healthy weight. And now, let’s take a closer look at how this can work.
Fights Stubborn Menopause Belly Fat
Many women who are going through menopause try to lose weight with diets. But conventional calorie reduction promotes muscle loss and can severely limit basal metabolic rate even years after dieting (Fothergill et al. 201713).
Considering that women 50 and older also experience age-related atrophy, conventional diets are a poor approach to menopause.
Intermittent fasting, on the other hand, was able to help women over the age of 60 significantly reduce body fat while not losing muscle mass in a recent study (Domaszewski et al. 202014).
In addition, studies show that intermittent fasting can lower inflammatory markers contributing to weight gain and insulin resistance (Faris et al. 201215).
The balance between eating and fasting also stabilizes blood glucose levels, which are often responsible for sweet cravings during menopause.
According to a study on uncontrolled eating behavior, intermittent fasting reduced cravings and depression after just two months and significantly improved the participants’ body image (Hoddy et al. 201516).
Reduces Hot Flashes
Hot flashes are closely related to poor sleep (Freeman et al. 201517).
And this drastically impacts mood (Triantafillou et al. 201918).
Women whose hormones are out of balance may suffer from sleep problems. Intermittent fasting can help significantly improve sleep quality, according to a study on 14 women.
After only one week of intermittent fasting, the participants were already able to observe the following improvements in their sleep patterns (Michalsen et al. 200320):
- Reduced awakenings
- Fewer leg movements
- Longer REM sleep
- Improved sleep quality
- Increased energy level
- Improved concentration
- Emotional balance
This improvement in sleep hygiene can help reduce hot flashes and night sweats.
Intermittent Fasting Benefits for Women Over 50
Fasting is considered the fountain of youth for a reason. This natural anti-aging program is not only enormously compelling but also freely accessible.
For decades, advertising campaigns and lobbyists have told us to eat more to fight our aches and pains.
Yet the most effective way to live a long, energetic, and fulfilled life is the opposite. Thanks to science, we now know that eating less often means a better quality of life.
1. Increases Longevity
Recent studies suggest that this intracellular recycling system can significantly slow aging and increase lifespan (Nakamura et al. 201821).
Meaningfully, intermittent fasting promotes the transition to alternative metabolic modes to ensure the organism’s survival.
Thus, intermittent fasting counteracts aging, diabetes, autoimmunity, cardiovascular disease, neurodegeneration, and cancer. At the same time, food quality plays an equally important role in organ and cell rejuvenation (Longo et al. 202222).
For example, there is growing evidence that 18/6 intermittent fasting triggers a switch in metabolism from glucose to ketone energy, leading to increased stress resistance, longer life span, and lower incidence of cancer and obesity (de Cabo et al. 201923).
2. Boosts Metabolism
Researchers have long demonstrated intermittent fasting boosts metabolism (Drenick et al. 196424).
The increased release of hormones and neurotransmitters, such as norepinephrine, keeps the basal metabolic rate high during fasting (Zauner et al. 200024).
In addition, intermittent fasting uses various metabolic pathways (including gluconeogenesis and synthesis and breakdown of ketone bodies) to increase cognitive ability in people over 60 (Ooi et al. 202026).
3. Improves Memory
Burning ketone bodies derived from fat stores through regular intermittent fasting activates signaling pathways that increase learning and memory function.
One of these signaling pathways is the neuronal growth hormone BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), responsible for forming new nerve cells.
Therefore, high BDNF levels are also associated with increased intelligence.
4. Boosts Vision
Damage to the retina from oxidative stress, known as age-related macular degeneration, is the most common cause of vision loss in the elderly population (Beatty et al. 200029).
A new study conducted on people aged 55 and older demonstrates a significant reduction in the risk of age-related macular degeneration.
Obese individuals under 70 could particularly benefit from skipping breakfast (Choi et al. 202230).
5. Reduces Inflammation
Aging is accumulating cellular damage with a decreasing ability to repair it. As a result, aging fundamentally causes some degree of inflammation in the body.
In addition, ketosis during fasting lowers blood sugar and insulin levels, reducing inflammation and the body’s free radicals that cause disease.
Therefore, another recent study notes increased life expectancy as a direct effect of intermittent fasting (Catterson et al. 201831).
6. Boosts Muscle Gain
Fasting is the most effective natural means to increase the release of growth hormones.
Accordingly, combining intermittent fasting and an appropriate workout effectively increases muscle growth (Ho et al. 198832).
7. Inhibits Muscle Atrophy
Scientists have found that autophagy maintains and protects muscle tissue.
In addition, autophagy can prevent age-related muscle atrophy. This effect on skeletal muscle further proves autophagy can slow systematic aging (Jiao et al. 201733).
8. Reduces Osteoporosis
Autophagy can counteracts not only muscle but also bone loss.
For example, studies suggest that autophagy also acts as a maintenance service in bone cells, recycling defective parts of the cells (Florencio-Silva et al. 201734).
9. Boosts Energy
Recent human studies show that even short fasting intervals can bring about a measurable increase in energy levels.
Researchers who shortened the eating window of overweight individuals to 10 to 11 hours daily noted more energy, improved sleep, and weight loss in the subjects (Gill et al. 201535).
10. Improves Mood
Countless clinical observations point to an antidepressant effect of fasting, sometimes even accompanied by euphoria.
According to a meta-analysis, patients consistently reported improvement in three primary factors (Fond et al. 201336):
According to the researchers, changes in neurotransmitters and sleep quality could be responsible for this, who generally classify fasting as safe.
11. Burns Fat
Intermittent fasting aims to burn fat as a primary energy source during fasting periods.
Therefore, fasting is the ultimate ketogenic diet, so to speak, since the body can only obtain energy from body fat without food intake. At the same time, muscle mass is protected from breakdown.
Intermittent fasting-induced ketosis helps regulate appetite, stabilize blood sugar, and burn fat reserves incredibly quickly (Paoli et al. 201937).
12. Fights Problem Areas
Intermittent fasting not only burns visually unflattering fat deposits.
With this in mind, recent studies state intermittent fasting burns dangerous visceral fat more effectively than low-carb diets (Catenacci et al. 201638).
This intra-organ fat significantly contributes to non-alcoholic fatty liver, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease (Bray et al. 200839).
13. Reduces Insulin Resistance
Insulin resistance is the body’s protective mechanism against the vast amounts of insulin caused by our Western diet dominated by refined carbohydrates. It is the root of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
The scientific record on the therapeutic effects of fasting against insulin resistance dates back to 1969 (Jackson et al. 196940).
Recent studies also now refer to intermittent fasting as a safe treatment for insulin resistance (Catenacci et al. 201641).
14. Regenerates Tissue
Intermittent fasting is effective against age-related loss of tissue function.
A recent study shows that short-term fasting helps improve stem cell function by initiating a fat-burning process.
According to the researchers, intermittent fasting is a viable approach to improving tissue regeneration (Mihaylova et al. 201842).
15. Boosts Gut Health
Intermittent fasting improves intestinal health, according to a study that found an increase in life expectancy even with short fasting periods.
In particular, reducing inflammation, which often originates in the intestine, slows aging.
Accordingly, according to one study, intermittent fasting also reduces age-related diseases and strengthens the intestinal wall (Catterson et al. 201843).
16. Supports Immunity
Defects in the immune system are significant drivers of aging and disease development.
Researchers showed that fasting could alter stem cells to promote stress resistance, self-renewal, and regeneration (Cheng et al. 201444).
17. Improves Heart Health
The self-healing power of fasting does not stop at the heart either. In this sense, scientists suggest autophagy can also renew damaged proteins and organelles in heart cells.
Thus, they conclude that autophagy can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (Sasaki et al. 201745).
18. Helps Fight Cancer
In addition to the preventive factor, intermittent fasting may contribute to the better efficacy of cancer therapies while protecting healthy cells (Antunes et al. 201846).
In light of this, researchers used the essential polyphenol in green tea in a new treatment method to activate autophagy in a way that triggers cancer cell death, apoptosis (Prasanth et al. 201947).
19. Harmonizes Circadian Rhythms
Humans have evolved an internal clock influencing behavior and physical health, such as gut flora (Patterson et al. 201748).
Food intake is the most crucial zeitgeber for the function of this circadian rhythm. Therefore, it controls physiological, behavioral, and metabolic processes (Hatori et al. 202149).
Unlike constant eating, intermittent fasting can help synchronize circadian rhythms, leading to reprogramming metabolism and the natural regulation of hormone balance and body weight.
An intact sleep-wake rhythm is crucial for optimizing health and longevity.
Is Intermittent Fasting Safe for Women Over 50?
Intermittent fasting is not only the most effective natural method of reducing insulin levels and counteracting insulin resistance, diabetes, fatty liver, and obesity, but also a safe one, according to studies (Catenacci et al. 201650; Halberg et al. 200551).
Accordingly, studies state that time-restricted eating (e.g., 16/8 intermittent fasting) is a viable dietary approach even for overweight, mobility-restricted adults over 65 (Anton et al. 202052).
Along the same lines, another recent study of women over 60 finds intermittent fasting suitable for weight loss (Domaszewski et al. 202053).
Although intermittent fasting does not involve an age limit, there are situations in which it may increase risks.
Therefore, women struggling with chronic stress or eating disorders should overcome these challenges before starting intermittent fasting.
If you suffer from a medical condition, you should consult your trusted physician before experimenting with fasting, especially if you:
- Have diabetes or
- other problems with blood glucose,
- take medication,
- suffer from low blood pressure,
- or are significantly underweight.
That being said, Intermittent Fasting is generally considered safe. If you are healthy and nourished, there is nothing dangerous about not eating for a while. Fasting is a natural state we have inevitably unlearned in times of plenty.
Eating constantly is far more dangerous to our health than giving the digestive tract a break now and then. Today, the average person eats almost every waking hour (Gill et al. 201554).
This modern lifestyle does not allow insulin levels to recover during the day. The logical consequence is an increased risk of insulin resistance, obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease (Ferreira et al. 201855; Athauda et al. 201656; Herman et al. 201757; Orgel et al. 201458; Kong et al. 201359).
How Long Should Women Over 50 Fast?
How long you fast is entirely up to you. 16/8 intermittent fasting is very popular with women over 50 because it only requires skipping breakfast and snacks.
This way, you can achieve significant anti-aging and weight loss success, even with minimal daily routine changes.
According to studies, autophagy’s disease-preventive and anti-aging effects become noticeable after about 14 hours of fasting (Yang et al. 201760).
However, it may take 3-6 weeks for the body to relearn how to burn fat efficiently through intermittent fasting, especially if you have been eating a diet based on sugar and other refined carbohydrates for years.
That’s why intermittent fasting should not be considered another fad diet. With the proper method, intermittent fasting is a long-term and sustainable lifestyle that will save you the yo-yo effect of conventional diets.
Let’s look closer at how you can find the proper method for your everyday life.
Best Intermittent Fasting Plans for Women Over 50
In my experience, 16/8 is the best fasting method for women over 50. It’s easy to implement into your daily routine and consistently balances hormones naturally.
As we now know, losing weight is a hormone issue. The storage hormone insulin is the key player in this process (Kong et al. 201362).
Since it is the most effective way to lower insulin levels, countless people successfully lose weight with fasting.
Once you get used to an intermittent fasting daily schedule, the hunger hormones will adjust to the plan, and fasting will become almost effortless.
For example, the essential hunger hormone ghrelin decreases as the fasting duration increases and only increases in the short term at times when we expect to eat a meal (Natalucci et al. 200565).
Therefore, people with a fixed eating schedule have more success than people with irregular eating schedules. Now, look at which well-known intermittent fasting plans are best for women over 50.
Alternate Day Fasting (ADF)
This method sounds simple: eat one day, fast one day:
- Fasting window: 24 hours (small meal)
- Eating window: 24 hours
However, most people on Alternate Day Fasting (ADF) eat a small meal (about 500 calories) on the fasting day.
Therefore, although it is widely used, this method is not a favorite of mine.
Not only does an incomplete meal make you hungry, but it also negates the rejuvenating effects of autophagy.
Plus, the 500-calorie snack also inevitably means that your body will start producing insulin again in the middle of the fasting period. And as we already know, the antilipolytic effect of insulin ensures that no body fat can be broken down.
This is not a good starting position to lose weight or improve your health.
So why is this fasting method so widespread?
Chances are good that you have also heard from acquaintances that they have tried ADF. However, that is usually where it stops. People try ADF, fail, and give up.
It is easy to explain why the lion’s share of people does not succeed in losing weight with ADF.
Most people abuse ADF because they think it allows them to maintain their unhealthy Western diet, which is dominated by refined carbohydrates.
Many even think they must reward themselves with junk food on food days. This shot can only backfire.
Therefore, it is difficult for most people to integrate ADF into their daily routines. I don’t recommend this method to men or women because there are better methods that will help you lose weight not only more efficiently but also more sustainably.
A more beginner-friendly option is limiting fasting to one day a week.
24 hours of fasting are also known as the Eat-Stop-Eat method. Brad Pilon is responsible for naming this schedule, another pioneer in intermittent fasting.
Eat-Stop-Eat has been a popular intermittent fasting method for several years. It involves fasting once or twice a week for 24 hours. For the rest of the week, you eat normally:
- Fasting window: 24 hours (1-2 days)
- Eating window: rest of the week
For example, you fast from 8 PM on Monday after dinner until you eat dinner again on Tuesday at 8 PM.
However, this daily schedule is not set in stone, so you can also fast from breakfast to breakfast or from lunch to lunch.
Unlike ADF, no snacking is allowed on this daily schedule. With Eat-Stop-Eat, you always fast strictly, making it a more effective method.
However, this is also a possible disadvantage of this fasting plan. Strict 24-hour fasting is challenging for many people, especially beginners.
Therefore, it is recommended to start with a shorter fasting window. You can comfortably begin with 14-16 hours and slowly work up to 24 hours.
As with other plans, it is generally true that natural, unprocessed foods with high nutrient density give better results during eating.
However, since the 24-hour fast may only have one night in the fasting window, you’ll still eat every day of the week.
While this may sound beneficial, it has efficiency disadvantages, in my opinion. Finally, it is easiest to fast while sleeping. Therefore, below, we come to an intermittent fasting plan that exploits this fact.
Intermittent Fasting 16/8
It is not only for women over 50 that eating 8 hours a day has proven effective.
16/8 Intermittent Fasting is also called the Time-Restricted Eating or Lean Gains method because it allows you to gain muscle and lose body fat simultaneously.
That’s why bodybuilders have been using this method for decades.
As the name Time-Restricted Eating suggests, this fasting protocol is the mother of modern intermittent fasting. It specifies a strict period each day during which eating is allowed. During the rest of the day, however, there is strict fasting:
- Fasting window: 16 hours
- Eating window: 8 hours
For example, you eat between noon and 8 PM, allowing your body to fast for 16 hours. Since you sleep 8 of the 16 fasting hours, intermittent fasting is more comfortable than you might think.
Modifications have also proven successful for some women. These are, for example, 14/10 or 18/6 fasting protocols.
These methods likewise represent time-restricted eating with a shorter or longer fasting window. Here, it’s up to you what you feel most comfortable with in your daily routine.
You’ll notice that you can adapt intermittent fasting plans to your particular day and body with little effort.
In my experience, 16/8 Intermittent Fasting is the best method for women over 50. The ease of use with minimal sacrifice makes time-restricted eating so successful. Just cut out one meal and unnecessary snacks.
I recommend my female clients skip breakfast.
Only for the food industry is it important to fill your belly after getting up. The lack of time favors convenience foods. Cereals, milk, and sugar start the blood sugar roller coaster, guaranteeing energy slumps throughout the day.
The body provides energy as soon as you wake up by increasing adrenaline, glucagon, growth hormone, and cortisol levels (Wüst et al. 200066).
Best Foods for Menopause
- Fatty fish and seafood (salmon, mackerel, oysters)
- Grass-fed beef (especially liver)
- Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, various cabbage vegetables)
- Green tea
You can learn more about these foods’ effects in my article on the ideal menopause diet.
Intermittent Fasting Recipes for Women Over 50
The best recipes for women over 50, especially in intermittent fasting, comprise the previous foods.
Therefore, here comes the ultimate recipe. This pizza will be equally well and tasty to men and children. Because of the polyphenols, I recommend green tea or a keto-friendly wine to accompany it.
The best thing about the following recipe is that it does not require exotic ingredients and can be prepared in no time without any cooking knowledge.
Keto Pizza (Menopause Diet)
- 1 cauliflower head medium
- 2 cups mozzarella
- 1/2 cup parmesan
- 2 eggs pastured
- 1/2 tsp Himalayan pink salt
- 1/2 tsp basil
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 cup marinara sauce organic
- 6 oz smoked salmon
- 1 red onion small
- 1 tbsp capers
- 2 tbsp flax seeds organic
- Preheat the oven to 500°F.
- Remove the stems from the cauliflower and cut into small pieces. Then place in a blender and pulse until it has the consistency of rice. If you don't have a blender, you can use a cheese grater or chop the cauliflower very finely.
- Microwave the processed cauliflower in a microwave safe bowl on high for about 4 minutes. Take the cauliflower out of the microwave and then let it cool for at least 5 minutes. Transfer the cooled cauliflower to a kitchen towel and squeeze out all the liquid from the cauliflower.
- Combine the cooked cauliflower, egg, garlic, 1/2 a cup of mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese and seasonings. Stir until a dough forms. Spread the cauliflower mixture on lightly greased baking paper or in a pizza pan in the shape of a pizza crust.
- Bake the crust for about 10-15 minutes (depending on your oven) or until the crust is golden and crispy. Once the crust is golden, remove from the oven, spread with the marinara and top with flax seeds and the remaining mozzarella.
- Place the pizza back in the oven, but this time turn on the broil function and bake for about 2-5 minutes until the cheese melts.
- Top the pizza with the raw salmon, onion and capers, slice and serve.
The Bottom Line
Women do not have it easy during their entire life cycle. Due to body changes, sex hormones fluctuate continuously, which is also decisive for well-being. Consequently, many women feel tired, drained, and overweight.
When the first menopausal symptoms appear, this fact becomes all the more noticeable.
But menopause does not only bring disadvantages. After the body no longer focuses on reproduction, it becomes less sensitive to dietary changes.
Do women over 50 have an easier time with intermittent fasting than men? Not at all!
However, they can use it as a safe and effective lifestyle to go through life more dynamically, prevent illness and achieve and maintain their feel-good weight.
If you’d like to start intermittent fasting today in a playful way, get my free 30-Day Intermittent Fasting Challenge PDF printable.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Does intermittent fasting work for women in their 50's?
Intermittent fasting effectively allows women over 50 to balance hormones naturally and boost metabolism and longevity.
How many hours should a woman over 50 fast?
Due to the minimal change in everyday life and high flexibility, a daily fast of 16 hours with an 8-hour eating window is the best intermittent fasting schedule for women over 50.
Does intermittent fasting work for women after menopause?
According to recent research, intermittent fasting is not only a practical but also a safe way to improve the health of women over 65.
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Mag. Stephan Lederer, MSc. is an author and blogger from Austria who writes in-depth content about health and nutrition. His book series on Interval Fasting landed #1 on the bestseller list in the German Amazon marketplace in 15 categories.
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