Meal Frequency: It’s Different For Women

If you are a regular reader of the SOF blog or follow me on social, you may know that I am a proponent of intermittent fasting (IF) and practice it myself. I have written many papers on the topic and it is included in my E-book I released years back. But you may have also noticed that I talk about how it may not be as advantageous for women like it is for men.

Dr. John Berardi of Precision Nutrition conducted a case study:

  • 85% of men showed many improvements and adaptations to IF
  • Only 15-25% of women did.

This is in large part to differences in body chemistry, brain, reproductive system, and hormones.

Now IF can come in many variations. So it is still ok to go for periods of time (10-12 hours seem favorable), and can, in fact, do things to improve insulin sensitivity and control hunger in females. So, this does not mean that you should eat every 2-3 hours. In my book, I reference that the good old 3-meals a day with minimal to no snacking seems to work best (anecdotal and science-based).

Cellular

One of the biggest benefits of IF is Autophagy (the process by which our body clears cellular debris and repair damaged cellular structures such as mitochondria). This has been shown to be amazing for men but for women not as much. This could be due to hormones, notably that a women’s body is made to reproduce, so it becomes resistant. Women are also less likely to get certain diseases in which Autophagy can be associated with to help minimize or delay.

Now keep in mind that these studies are done with people in a truly fasted state (only water, no buffers). Having a “buffer” meal/snack during a period of time without what I call a full meal (or not eating for 10-12 hours) can do wonders to get you through to the next meal.

Things that are fatty and protein dense as “buffers” such as nuts, seeds, RX bars, bone broth, whey protein shakes, coconut oil, 1-2 whole egg, etc. can help improve:

  • Cognitive function
  • Insulin sensitivity
  • Reduce ghrelin (hunger hormones)
  • Improve leptin (fat burn hormone)

Ok, so lots of info here but I think it was needed.

What to do?

Women

Listen to your body. You should work to “embrace the process” of finding what works. Take certain philosophies and principles, combined with science, intuition, and common sense, and work toward daily habits that you can follow. We do know that eating frequently and snacking can put fat loss to a stop. Frequent meals can even make you gain weight, increase insulin, and hunger. So eating frequently may not be the way to go. So, it goes back to the good old 3-meals a day. Maybe a snack that is fat and protein dense on a workout day if needed. And going 10-12 hours without food can improve health and fat loss. Extended fasts don’t seem to be as good.

Men

You have a lot of flexibility. Studies show amazing benefits for males. I have worked with many men that experience great results from IF. You can experiment with 3-meals a day or long stretches of IF. “Embrace the process”.

In the end, you have to take in ample amounts of essential fatty acids (focusing on omega-3), quality protein, water, minerals, chlorophyll, and digestive fibers and bacteria. Superfoods are the best way to do this.

A quick list of superfoods:

  • Super seeds (flax, chia, hemp)
  • Fish and fish oil
  • Berries
  • Wheatgrass
  • Spirulina/chlorella
  • Leafy greens
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Coconut
  • Fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchee)
  • Grass-fed beef
  • Ginger
  • Tumeric
  • Cacao

There are many more, but this is a good starting point.

For more info on intermittent fasting for women, take a look at this Mark’s Daily Apple article. They put out lots of great content.

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