If you’ve ever looked into intermittent fasting, a diet that requires followers to fast for 12 to 20 hours daily, you might’ve come across some dire warnings about the diet being really, truly, dangerously bad for women.
Women’s bodies are more sensitive to the signals of starvation, so going too long without eating could throw their hormones out of whack, some experts say. As a result, intermittent fasting can make you so ravenous that you end up devouring everything in sight. Or worse, it can cause your body to break down lean muscle for fuel.
A quick Google search of “intermittent fasting for women” will tell you that the best way to avoid this supposed fate is with crescendo fasting—a special type of fasting that works with our delicate lady hormones instead of against them.
Instead of fasting 12 to 20 hours daily, crescendo fasters fast for 12 to 16 hours at a time on two to three non-consecutive days per week. (So, they might stop eating at 7 PM and fast until 9 AM the next morning and then do the same thing again a few days later.) The origins of the diet are murky, but it seems to have a cult following among Paleo-leaning health blogs.
Folks who insist that women need to fast in a special way usually cite a single study that was performed on rats. The rats were deprived of food for a full day, every other day for 12 weeks. Just two weeks into the experiment, the researchers found that the female rodents’ hormones were out of whack, causing their periods to stop and their ovaries to shrink. Which, admittedly, sounds pretty horrible.
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Fasting for shorter, less frequent periods still restricts your calorie intake to help you lose weight, but it doesn’t restrict calories enough to send your body into starvation mode and cause the aforementioned hormonal changes to happen. At least, that’s the logic used by proponents of crescendo fasting.
But is crescendo fasting actually a superior strategy? And are you doomed to wreck your metabolism if you try any other type of fast to lose weight? The answers to these questions below, plus everything else you need to know before trying this weight loss method: