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PCOS and Intermittent Fasting | How Intermittent Fasting Can Help

You might have heard some mixed reviews regarding PCOS and Intermittent Fasting. Some say it's terrible for hormones while others say it helped with their PCOS. As a Nutritionist, I'm breaking down what the research says regarding PCOS and Intermittent Fasting and who might benefit from Intermittent Fasting.

Let's dive into it.

Disclaimer: Intermittent Fasting can be a great tool, but it's not necessarily the right tool for everyone. It's important to make sure you check with your doctor to ensure that Intermittent Fasting fits your health history before making any adjustments to your eating schedule.

intermittent fasting and PCOS

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

There are a variety of self reported and research backed benefits of Intermittent Fasting in general:

  • Decreased blood levels of insulin while fasting (1)

  • Boosted cellular repair (autophagy) (2)

  • Reduced visceral fat (3)

  • Reduction in fasting blood sugar and fasting insulin (3)

  • Reduced oxidative stress (4)

  • Help improve brain health by boosting a brain hormone called BDNF (5)

  • Improved gut health by stimulating the Migrating Motor Complex during the fast

Psssst... curious how long YOUR Intermittent Fast should be? Take my FREE Intermittent Fasting Schedule Quiz by clicking the button below!

PCOS and Intermittent Fasting

With all of these benefits of Intermittent Fasting, can it also help with PCOS? Considering the majority of women who have PCOS also have insulin resistance (and we've seen that Intermittent Fasting could help with insulin resistance), it's a possibility.(6) As one study states:

"Fasting-induced fuel switching has the potential to overcome the issues seen in patients with PCOS, as seen in other populations with underlying insulin resistance, including metabolic syndrome, obesity, and type 2 diabetes."(6)

There are also individual case studies of those who have used Intermittent Fasting and have seen great results. Below is Leah's story of incorporating Intermittent Fasting with her history of PCOS. You can also read Leah's full story HERE.

"I purchased the 21 day IF bundle a little over a year ago, and have lost 50 pounds since then. It's not a dramatic weight loss story that some people have, but it's HUGE for me. I have PCOS and Hashimotos and have always had an extremely difficult time losing weight and gaining muscle. I've been able to stop my medications for PCOS and insulin resistance as my hormones have leveled out. Autumn Bates' Program is the first that has ever worked for me, and I'm never going back.❤️"

Leahs intermittent fasting and PCOS results

The research on Intermittent Fasting and PCOS specifically is still a bit scant, meaning a conclusion can't be made either way.

However, one 2021 clinical trial found that 5 weeks of a specific form of Intermittent Fasting (called Time Restricted Feeding, or TRF) improved menstrual regularity, insulin resistance, inflammation and body fat in women with PCOS aged 18-31.(7)

It's important to note that Intermittent Fasting is just one tool that can be used to potentially help improve insulin sensitivity. Intermittent Fasting on its own is likely not enough to see long term benefits. Other factors that could be useful when combined with Intermittent Fasting include resistance training, improved sleep quality and eating a blood sugar stabilizing diet. Although, these factors have not been studied in combination, each individual strategy has been studied on its own as a useful tool for improving metabolic health.

autumn bates intermittent fasting bundle

This is why in the Complete Intermittent Fasting Bundle, we not only focus on Intermittent Fasting, but also eating the right types of meals, adding in the right type of exercise and getting the right amount/type of sleep.

You can checkout the Complete Intermittent Fasting Bundle HERE for more details.

Best Intermittent Fasting Hours For PCOS

Not all Intermittent Fasting schedules are equal. In fact, longer fasts likely will not support PCOS goals. Although there aren't specific studies on fasting lengths that work best for PCOS, there are studies that show certain types of fasts that are better for helping to balance hormones.

Multiple studies have found that a type of fast called early Time Restricted Feeding (eTRF) can help to balance our circadian rhythm, balance cortisol levels and be more effective at fat loss. (8,9)

eTRF focuses on breaking the fast earlier in the day, such as around 8am-10am, rather than later in the day or early afternoon (12pm or later). As a result, it also aims to have the fast begin earlier in the day as well. This might be as early as 2pm or as late as 6pm. In practice, this might mean you have your last meal of the day around 5:30pm.

From my experience, this is generally a good schedule for most individuals to follow if they choose to use Intermittent Fasting and assuming it fits their lifestyle.

The goal isn't to specifically end the eating window and begin the fast at 6pm, rather to eat the last meal of the day as early as possible while still ensuring it fits your schedule. If with your schedule that means eating the last meal of the day at 6 or 7pm, then that could be helpful as well.

Intermittent Fasting Length

Regarding how long a fast should be, this is highly variable and dependent on the individuals health history and goals. As a Nutritionist, I've found longer fasts aren't ideal for most individuals. We need to make sure we can balance the benefits of a fast with the benefits of eating high quality nutrients during the eating window.

With this in mind, I've found a sweet spot to be between 12-16 hours of fasting when paired with high quality nutrients that support the body's needs during the eating window. This includes (but isn't limited to) enough high quality sources of protein, fat and low glycemic load carbohydrates.

autumn bates high protein recipes

Additional Factors to Consider

Additionally, it has been speculated that Intermittent Fasting should not be followed for women in general during their period. But again, this is speculation and research has not yet weighed out whether or not this is accurate. Following the body's individual cues is likely a great way to determine if a fasting day should be skipped or not.

But in addition to Intermittent Fasting, it's extremely important to still focus on other lifestyle factors, such as quality sleep, eating the right type of foods during the eating window, resistance training, walking and stress reduction ~ all factors that have been found to help improve insulin resistance.

Intermittent Fasting can be a great tool, but it's not necessarily the right tool for everyone. It's important to make sure you check with your doctor to ensure that Intermittent Fasting fits your health history before making any adjustments to your eating schedule.

Unlock the Intermittent Fasting tips, meal plans and recipes that have helped thousands of men and women around the world with the Complete Intermittent Fasting Bundle!

100+ recipes, 8 weeks of meal planning, science-backed Intermittent Fasting tips and so much more!

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❤️ Autumn

Autumn Elle Nutrition

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