Should women fast?

November 27th, 2012  |  Published in Stumpblog  |  11 Comments

A thought-provoking article from Lauren Brooks (she of Kettlebell Training: An Introduction and Baby Bells: The Fit Pregnancy Workout) about women and intermittent fasting.

Stumptuous readers may recall that I contributed to a free e-book with my colleague Dr. John Berardi on intermittent fasting. He experimented with IF on himself, with mixed and interesting results. The book was less of a wholehearted endorsement of IF and more of a demonstration of the power of science and the value of testing hypotheses on oneself. Nevertheless, overall, his response to IF was pretty good.

Mine was somewhat more reserved. I’d reviewed dozens of studies on IF, and was initially interested in the potential health and longevity benefits, as well as the decrease in inflammatory markers and improved insulin sensitivity that IF seemed to produce.

Of course, when fitness-minded people, especially women, start doing anything, it’s not long before our minds wander into I wonder if this’ll help me lose fat? Not-eating suddenly seemed like the perfect way to cut weight for grappling. It seemed pretty darn easy! Just not-eat periodically, and you’ll be riptshizzled! I started off strong and felt pretty good.

My body had other plans. And so did many other women’s bodies. Which brings me to this article.

Lauren’s interviewed several women working in the field of nutrition, fitness, and health, and they’ve all come to the same conclusion — IF, done long-term, is not a great idea for most women — especially active women. Check it out: It’s an interesting read. (Also check out some of the linked pieces, such as Stefani Ruper’s excellent work, and How Intermittent Fasting Saved Me… While Slowly Killing Me.)

What’s your experience been? Feel free to share in the comments below.


  1. meredith says:

    November 27th, 2012at 10:01 pm(#)

    thanks for this. in regard to fasting; i’m not going to lie. at first i was all jazzed up and energetic. loving it. then i got super cranky at night. then i stopped sleeping. then stopped bleeding. all while taking in plenty calories, or so i thought. fasting requires being able to eat big and i think many women like myself cannot do the whole cheesecake after steak dinner type thing. fasting just sucks for me, my performance and my outlook on life. i’m back to smaller balanced meals thanks very much. my lifting is much better for it.

  2. Kaja says:

    November 28th, 2012at 2:55 am(#)


    I think you forgot to post a link to the thought-provoking article that you talk about in this post (my google-fu tells me it is

    My own experience… I have been doing IF for a few months and although everything else is super, I do have a acne breakout on my face since starting, and this is the only problem. I do not feel hungry skipping breakfast and when I eat, I eat mostly paleo. I sleep well, I enjoy what I eat, my lifts are progressing, I like my body, I am feeling in control… If it just wasn’t for that quite permanent acne on my chin! I would really not like to start eating breakfast again, it is just so convenient not to.

  3. john says:

    November 28th, 2012at 8:25 am(#)

    I’m sure I’m missing the obvious place to look, but I’m not seeing the link to the article. There’s only 2 links to reviews, a link to the e-book and 2 links to articles linked by the article.

  4. Katja says:

    November 28th, 2012at 10:12 am(#)

    Is this the article? Train Like A Man, But Eat Like A Woman!

  5. Katharine says:

    November 28th, 2012at 10:14 am(#)

    Is there supposed to be a link to Lauren’s article in here someplace?

    And yes, most of the man-approved systems of Xtreme Diet! which I tried back when I was still doing Xtreme Things! to my body did not work as advertised. Fasting wasn’t the worst, but it wasn’t good.

  6. Violette_R says:

    November 28th, 2012at 7:01 pm(#)

    What’s “sparingly” and what’s “long term”? I thought the whole point of IF is that you weren’t fasting long enough and often enough to suffer lasting ill effect.

  7. Mistress Krista says:

    November 28th, 2012at 8:37 pm(#)

    @Violette — you would be right, of course! :) And that’s a great question. Technically anything after about 6-8 hours (depending on the definition you use) is “fasted”. (So for example, for fasted blood tests they’d generally request you fast for about 8 hours.)

    The research seems to show that something like a 12-24 hour fast has some health benefits, and after that point you seem to get diminishing returns. There’s no real consensus on the optimal duration or frequency. Something like Leangains, which is just a relatively compressed eating window, seems to be the sanest for most folks.

    But of course, along the lines of “If 1 drink is fun, 15 must be friggin hilarious!”, many folks push themselves to longer (e.g. 36 or 48 hours) or more frequent fasts (e.g. several times weekly). It’s an interesting self-experiment, and it can really change your relationship with hunger (for better and possibly worse)… but an experiment that must be undertaken with great caution and self-compassion.

  8. Violette_R says:

    November 29th, 2012at 1:24 pm(#)

    Thanks for the answer.

  9. Kelly says:

    December 14th, 2012at 9:59 am(#)

    I am a 50 year old woman who has been doing Brad Pilon’s Eat Stop Eat program for 4 years and 3 months now. Two 24 hours(give or take) twice a week while following a strength based training program. I simply love it. I haven’t experience anything negative, sleep is still good, skin is clear, energy, very happy with my training which I do fasted. I lost 5 lbs initially which was all I needed and this seemed to be mostly from the belly where I haven’t been able to lose it before. Also I have increased rate of hair and nail growth and stubborn plantar warts that didn’t respond to traditional treatment disappeared during the first few months I fasted. Also enjoy the lifestyle change of a bit more free time where I’m not cooking/eating/cleaning up. I’m sticking with it as I truly feel FOR ME, it is working just fine.

  10. Mistress Krista says:

    December 14th, 2012at 10:24 am(#)

    @Kelly: Thanks for the report! Glad it worked so well for you. I have heard from a few older women (not that 50 is substantially older, but it’s not, say, 25) who say that IF has been pretty good for them. So I am wondering as well whether this is a reproductive age phenomenon? Many questions lingering!

  11. greg says:

    January 21st, 2013at 10:51 am(#)

    @ Kaja. Thats intersting about the chin acne. My GF started doing IF, leangains style, so pretty much eating between noon and 9pm and she has developed some acne on her chin. reports no other negative effects apart from the acne.

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