If you’ve been asking yourself if you can do intermittent fasting over 50 then the short answer is yes.
As you get older, you often experience problems when trying to lose weight. There can be several reasons that can cause this but one of the primary causes is that your metabolism is slower than before.
The faster your metabolism, the more lean muscle you have. As time passes, you lose lean muscle mass and you can most likely become less active, making stubborn body fat challenging to get rid of.
Intermittent fasting has grown in popularity in recent years due to its numerous health benefits and the fact that it does not limit your dietary options. Most people can just implement intermittent fasting into their routine but with your age, combined with the lifestyle you had in your 20s and 30s, there are numerous special considerations.
Keep reading to learn more about intermittent fasting, its benefits and how you can use the simple strategies to shed the extra pounds.
What Is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) restricts your eating to a specific time frame. It has a wide range of protocols but doesn’t require strict dieting. Intermittent fasting mainly focuses on limiting the calories you take in for varying periods of time, in a repeating pattern.
Most people make an IF schedule that requires them to fast for 12 to 16 hours a day. When done correctly, you shouldn’t feel deprived from extended periods of fasting.
There are several types of intermittent fasting to choose from which is one of the great things about it. You can choose the type that best fits your lifestyle, and you can even have the option to eat the foods you enjoy.
When you fast, the hormone insulin decreases. Low insulin, in turn, facilitates the breakdown and oxidation of body fat. This fat-burning state is what drives most of the potential benefits of IF.
However, there are risks with this. Anything longer than the usual fasting hours is considered an extended fast. Fasting can also be harmful for people with certain conditions that require stable blood glucose levels.
You should always discuss your eating habits with your medical provider before making any changes.
Fasting And Insulin
Being aware of the role of insulin is essential for understanding how to conduct intermittent fasting.
Insulin is a hormone that controls blood sugar levels. It is produced in the pancreas and released into the circulation in response to food.
Once insulin is released, it causes the body to store energy as fat. To put it plainly, the more insulin generated, the more fat you accumulate.
The periods when you do not eat during an intermittent fast allow your body to reduce insulin levels, which reverses this process and boosts fat burning.
Intermittent Fasting Basic Guidelines
If you’re over 50 and planning to implement intermittent fasting to your diet, there are a few considerations to remember.
First and foremost, you must ensure that you eat lots of protein and nutrients and that you are consuming enough food to suit your nutritional needs.
You will need to put effort in consuming extra protein-rich meals and also consider taking multivitamins. Your diet must include a variety of healthy fats, protein, and veggies.
Second, you must keep hydrated during intermittent fasting. This includes drinking lots of water consistently and avoiding sugary beverages.
Lastly, while beginning an intermittent fasting diet, it is important to be patient. It may take some time for you to adjust to the new routines. Give yourself time to adapt and experiment with the strategies so you know what works best for your body.
Types Of Intermittent Fasting
Since there are a variety of ways to partake in the practice, it is advised to research the intermittent fasting types mentioned below and choose one that suits your needs and timetable the best.
The 12-hour fast is one of the daily fasting types. For 12 hours, you are in the eating period. During this time, it’s best to seek good food that’s healthy and benefits your body.
After the eating window, you enter the fasting period that lasts another 12 hours. This is one of the easiest intermittent fasting schedules to follow, hence its popularity. This type is ideal for daily plans and works well with a healthy diet.
Once you start getting accustomed to fasting you can then progress to more stringent types of fast and a shorter eating window to continue to lose weight.
Another daily fasting method, the 16:8 fasts is also one of the popular schedules. You may enjoy faster results with a 16:8 IF schedule since it uses an extended nightly fast of 16 hours and reduces your daily eating window to 8 hours.
You can eat two to three meals during your eating window as long as you keep your meals within the eight-hour time frame. An added benefit is you can choose and adjust the time you wish to start your fast. An example is you might set your eating window between noon and 8 in the evening or between 8 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon.
It’s important to note that the daily fasting type is the most sustainable method for most who are over 50.
The 5:2 eating pattern is a simpler option if you don’t want to keep track of your eating windows daily, and would rather track calories two days a week. This involves normal eating meals over the 5 days of the week and keeping your calorie intake under 500 to 800 for the other 2 days of the week.
The food you eat has to be healthy and nutritious for your body. It is recommended that women consume 500 calories and 600 calories for men during fasting days.
Alternate Day Fasting
Alternate day fasting involves normal eating every other day without a set calorie restriction. Then on fasting days, you only consume 25% of the total calorie intake you normally consume on the non-fasting days, which is about 500 calories.
One of the benefits of this approach is that you only have to restrict what you eat half of the time, rather than fasting every single day. Although, this is a more aggressive type of fasting so try a modified approach for a couple weeks and then transition to fully fasted days.
An extreme type of fasting, this requires fasting for 24 hours straight. An example of which is dinner to dinner or lunch to lunch.
The day-long fast targets body weight and body fat extremely efficiently. When you apply this fast, your body burns more fat cells, leading to longer windows of ketosis, autophagy, and insulin reduction, three of the most important stages of fasting.
If you choose to do the 24-hour fast, make sure to hydrate with water and other non-caloric beverages like black coffee and green tea. These drinks help prevent dehydration while keeping you in a fasting state.
The disadvantage of this is that it’s challenging to get all the nutrients your body needs to function optimally with just one meal. In addition, this approach is tough to stick to.
Before considering trying a 24-hour fast, you should start with a less restrictive fast first that prepares your body to go without food.
Benefits Of Intermittent Fasting For Ages Over 50
Weight loss isn’t the only benefit of intermittent fasting. Its popularity is not only due to its weight loss effectiveness but because of its potential side effects, albeit in a good way.
One of which is it can assist you in enhancing your health and general well-being by reducing age-related issues. So, it’s reasonable to assume that intermittent fasting is worth a try, but you’ll want to do it safely to optimize the benefits.
Other benefits include:
- Reduces inflammation
- Improves blood pressure
- Lowers cholesterol
- Reduces insulin resistance
- Reduces your risk of coronary heart disease
- Helps activate a cellular longevity program called autophagy
Not all fast have the same advantages. These can sometimes depend on how long you fast based on the stages of fasting.
Fasting can be broken into 5 stages and each stage of intermittent fasting can deliver specific effects on your energy, metabolism, and hormones that showcase significant health benefits. It may also help you decide which type of intermittent fasting is best suited for you.
Stage 1: Feeding (0-4 Hours)
After eating, stage 1 lasts from 0-4 hours. During this time, there is a lot of glucose in your body from eating a mix of protein, carbs and fats and all the cells of your body are using glucose as their main source of energy.
When you eat carbs or proteins, you trigger the nutrient sensor, and insulin rises. The insulin signals your body to store some of the supplied energy for later.
Stage 2: Postabsorptive Phase (4-16 Hours)
At this time, four to 16 hours after eating, your body digests the ingested food energy. However, during this process, insulin levels begin to fall again. Your body is then getting its energy now from glycogen in the liver and not so much from the food you consumed as that’s being stored away as mentioned in stage 1.
Stage 3: Gluconeogenesis (16-30 Hours)
At this stage the glycogen (stored glucose) in the liver is running out and you haven’t completely switched over to burning body fat. This stage is then generating glucose from protein and glycerol from fat.
The process is called gluconeogenesis in which your liver makes new glucose from protein. Your body will then go through what’s called autophagy where it’s breaking down old and damaged proteins and breaks them down into their amino acids and uses them to rebuild what’s necessary.
It is also beneficial for weight loss since during this process of autophagy, the body will reabsorb the excess skin and connective tissue.
Stage 4: Ketosis (2-7 Days)
For the fourth stage of fasting, you move to a more prolonged fasting. After two days, your brain isn’t able to rely primarily on glucose for energy as there isn’t enough glucose being produced in your liver by glycerol (from fat).
So your liver now takes fat and turns it into ketones which can cross the blood-brain barrier and fuel your brain. By ketosis, it may help manage neurodegenerative diseases1. Additionally, ketones unleash anti-inflammatory properties in the body2.
Stage 5: Protein Conservation (>7 Days)
The final stage is where your body is in a protein conservation phase. After about a week of fasting, you are supplying your body with energy almost exclusively from stored fat reserves.
In this stage of fasting, hunger really starts to disappear as measured by hunger hormones such as ghrelin being low because your body is, again, feeding itself from its own body fat.
Intermittent Fasting Over 50: 7 Starting Tips
Now that the benefits and stages are clear to you, here’s how you can boost your chances of intermittent fasting success:
Start with a basic overnight fast if you’re new to intermittent fasting. Try a 12-hour overnight fasting since it only requires just about 4 hours of wakeful fasting. After you’ve become used to overnight fasting, you can start trying for longer fasts.
Get Enough Calories
While most intermittent fasting diet plans are flexible and allow you to eat as much as you want during your eating window, it is best to restrict calories overall.
Excessive calorie restriction can defeat intermittent fasting’s purpose and you’re likely to overeat especially when you’re new with fasting. Maintain a small caloric deficit of roughly 10% by recording your one meal to minimize exhaustion, sleep difficulties, and other daily calorie restriction side effects.
Meager protein consumption speeds up age-related muscle loss. A disorder known as sarcopenia is a significant source of illness in the elderly as it is an age related, involuntary loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength. The more you fast, the more challenging it is to consume 100 grams of protein each day.
Get Enough Electrolytes
Fasting leads to a more significant loss of electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium. These losses of electrolytes must be supplied to avoid the headaches, exhaustion, and cramping caused by electrolyte deficits. You can restore this by including seasoning to your diet with salt, eating electrolyte-rich food such as spinach, and potentially taking an electrolyte supplement.
Consider a Keto Diet
Keto and intermittent fasting can be a beneficial combination for ages over 50. Both regimens may aid insulin resistance, ketosis improvement, and body fat loss.
Eat a Nutrient-dense Diet
Practicing IF means you have fewer opportunities to provide your body with the needed nutrients. You must be aware of what you consume and make those opportunities count. Include foods high in nutrients such as meat, fish, eggs, offal, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats. Skip the processed foods and instead shop in supermarkets or from fresh markets.
Best Food To Eat For Intermittent Fasting
When you have chosen the best intermittent fasting type for your body, you’re probably wondering what to eat during your fasting or your eating window.
Have a look into the best drinks and foods to make the ideal intermittent fasting meal to help curb your hunger and also prevent vitamin deficiencies.
Hydration is one of the most important aspects of keeping a balanced eating pattern when you apply intermittent fasting. As you go without food for 12 to 16 hours, your body’s main energy source is the glycogen stored in the liver.
As this energy is burnt, a large volume of fluid and the electrolyte are released. Drinking at least eight glasses of water per day during an intermittent fasting routine will keep you hydrated while encouraging better blood flow, memory, and muscle and joint support.
Coffee is fine to drink while doing intermittent fasting because it is a calorie-free beverage in its natural condition. It can potentially be taken outside of a scheduled feeding window.
However, if there are any syrups, creamers, or candied flavoring that are added, it can no longer be drunk during fasting hours.
Carbohydrates are necessary because, since you’re fasting for much of the day, whole grains contain healthy amounts of fiber which have been shown to promote feelings of fullness. It’s important to plan your meals properly to acquire enough calories before feeling bloated.
Though a healthy diet limits processed food, there is a time and place for whole-grain bread, bagels, and crackers, which are more easily absorbed for quick and simple nutrition. If you exercise or train regularly while IF, they will be a terrific source of energy on the move.
White potatoes make an excellent post-workout snack when combined with a protein source. Another advantage that makes potatoes an important part of the intermittent fasting diet is that as they cool, they produce a resistant starch poised to fuel healthy bacteria in your gut.
Remember that the cooking style is important. Fried or over-processed potato goods, such as french fries or potato chips are not recommended.
Salmon is often recognized as one of the most nutrient-dense superfoods. The best part is that 100 grams of sockeye salmon has fewer than 170 calories.
Salmon is good to eat in your eating window because it is high in brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.
One of the suggested theories for why IF causes loss of weight is that the individual has less time to eat and therefore eats less.
When talking about fasting, what isn’t commonly discussed is the risk of vitamin shortages while on a caloric deficit. Though multivitamins are not required with a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, life may be stressful, and a supplement can help cover the gaps in your nutrition.
If a daily supplement doesn’t seem appetizing, consider making homemade smoothies filled with fruits and veggies for a double dose of vitamins. Smoothies are an excellent method to eat a number of foods, each of which is individually filled with essential nutrients.
There is certainly a lot to learn about intermittent fasting, but so far, it has shown that it can promote weight loss and provide abundant health benefits. If you’ve been contemplating where to begin your weight loss journey if you’re over 50, intermittent fasting can be a great first step.
Intermittent fasting is considered safe for the elderly provided you are well-hydrated and eat a balanced diet when not fasting. Likewise, if you want to succeed with your fasting, you need to make healthy fasting part of your routine. You need to make healthy habits.
Most importantly, be aware of symptoms such as weakness, energy levels, mood changes, and hunger. These symptoms may occur at first, but for the most part they subside as your body adjusts.
It is always important to speak with a medical provider before starting any new diet or health regimen, especially if you are elderly or have any health concerns. If you are healthy or given an all-clear, there seems to be little downside in giving IF a try.
1 Napoleão A, Fernandes L, Miranda C, Marum AP. Effects of Calorie Restriction on Health Span and Insulin Resistance: Classic Calorie Restriction Diet vs. Ketosis-Inducing Diet. Nutrients. 2021 Apr 15;13(4):1302. doi: 10.3390/nu13041302. PMID: 33920973; PMCID: PMC8071299.