Are Keto Diets & Fasting Safe For Older Women?sarapugh
You might have heard about keto diets and fasting but are they safe?
The keto or low carb diet and intermittent fasting are gaining popularity and millions of men and women are now successfully following this way of eating.
In a nutshell for anybody brand new to these ideas, the standard keto diet would involve removing nearly all carbohydrates/sugar from the diet and eating just fats and protein. Fasting means no calories at all in a given ‘time window’ to encourage your body to use its own fat stores. There is much more to this are LOTs of variations or ‘different flavors’ of keto and fasting which can confuse lots of people. It is a case of ‘one size doesn’t fit all’
Is this way of eating safe for older women?
When done properly low carb or keto diets and/or fasting offer many health benefits which include:
- Fat loss
- Reduction in inflammation
- More energy
- Improved mood
- Lower triglycerides (fat) in the blood
- Reduction in blood sugar
- Management or reversal of pre diabetes or Type 2 Diabetes
The answer is YES!
As we age we get more inflamed and more insulin resistant. Inflammation not only a major factor in most illnesses, but inflammation on a biological level also makes a perfect environment for fat storage even if you do everything else right. When you become insulin resistant the way your body burn and stores carbs and sugar ‘ becomes messed up’ and lots of fat-storing happens and not much fat burning and being insulin resistant can actually slow your metabolism down by up to 300 cal per day. Fasting and keto diets help to restore insulin sensitivity and metabolism.
In saying this there are many ways to do a keto diet or intermittent fasting wrong and not get the results you want. One big mistake is people get taken in by ‘keto processed food’ or ‘keto candy bars’, which interferes with hormones, creates inflammation and stall or kill fat loss. Another mistake is being too impatient as it can take longer to become fat-adapted when you are older, so SOMETIMES it can take longer for keto diets and fasting to work. On the other hand, for many women it works straight away and the weight falls off.
There are other factors older women should take into account when fasting or doing a keto diet that are often overlooked.
Should older women do intermittent fasting with the same eating windows as men or younger women ?
Should older women eat the same ratios of fat and protein as younger women?
Women particularly those approaching the menopause, going through it or have been through it have different hormonal circadian rhythms to men and younger women.
Anecdotal data and emerging studies suggest that older women struggling with weight loss do better when they eat in the morning / earlier in the day, then fast until the next day, rather than fasting for the morning / early afternoon then having the eating window later in the day.
This traditional method of OMAD, 16/8 or 20/4 (fasting in morning, eating in early evening) works well for men but not for all women. This is very frustrating if your husband or brother is doing very well with their fasting and you are not.
As an older woman and scientist working with clients, I have found that eating more protein and less fat (appx 35 – 40% of calories from protein, 60-55% fat ) can kick start weight loss that has plateaued on a keto / fasting way of eating. There are also other tweaks that can be made to make a way of eating more personal
When I switched to eating more protein and less fat I found that this got me out of a weight loss plateau. Protein is particularly important for older women as it is needed for maintaining lean muscle or ‘toning’. Muscle is very metabolically active and it burns calories, so if you lose muscle it will slow your metabolism down. Protein can also help with hunger as it inhibits appetite and makes you feel fuller for longer.
If you are not insulin resistant and not a ‘carb burner’ as in you are ‘fat adapted’, the insulinogenic effect of protein is less pronounced so you don’t need to worry about protein and gluconeogenesis (making sugar out of protein) kicking you out of ketosis AKA fat burning mode.
Everybody is an individual and understanding the science behind a way of eating helps you tweak it to your needs so it is safe and effective.
I have lots of blog on the science of metabolism where you can learn more. I regularly post on my Instagram or Facebook Page as well as reply to comments.
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Have a great day!