As we started a New Year, many of us started experimenting with a 24-hour fast or longer…or some of us stuck with intermittent fasting for sixteen hours or longer.
The big learning opportunity for us ALL to pay attention towards is …
We are unique individuals with different genetics, lifestyle habits, external stressors and internal H.I.D.D.E.N. stressors that we are not always are aware about.
BUT we forget we are not the same and we try to follow the same program as someone else …a friend, a co-worker, a Facebook post or other social media resources.
We all, well most of us, strive to improve our ability to lose fat, athletic performance and the aging process.
Just to make a point that should be obvious… we are not only different from each other but we are also male or a female then we are also an endurance athlete or sedentary individual or battling a chronic illness.
So WHY do we all follow the same program as someone else and expect the same result?
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”https://quoteinvestigator.com/2017/03/23/same/
Since I am a female, I am going to dive into some thoughts and attempt to gather more research on eating low carb, keto, intermittent fasting and fasting differences between:
- Men and women
- Athletes and non-athletes
- Female athletes and females
- HPA Axis dysregulation (chronic stress disease or “METABOLIC CHAOS”)
- Low thyroid
I have had questions on our recommendations for those individuals with HPA Axis dysregulations as many of my keto and carnivore friends say “carbs are not necessary”.
Many of my friends are doing 24-hour fasting and 2-3-5 different types of fast.
My big question from my own experience, education and observations is …how do you know if you are creating additional sources of CHRONIC Stress when you eat too low of carbohydrates and fast for too long of time – or too frequently?
The big answer is always … “it depends”.
Other questions people are asking me from the podcast and from their own curiousity….
- Do we NEED carbohydrates in order to reset our hormones and to regain a regular cycle?
- What is the exact mechanism for carbs being necessary for treating amenorrhea? How much would be necessary if they are needed? Is it necessary to target them around exercise? Or are they needed regularly?
- Fats are essential for our hormone production; won’t just increasing fat be sufficient to get into a calorie surplus and to help with hormone re-balancing?
- We all hear a lot from the keto/carnivore community that carbs are totally unnecessary, and that increasing fat and protein will be the best way to balance reproductive hormones. But I hear the contrary often too…
So when are we eating too low of carbohydrates or fasting too often or for too long?
My friend at Get Kion, Kelsey Hess, wrote two amazing articles on fasting as she gave a deep dive investigation…
Kelsey Hess wrote…
“Final Thoughts on Fasting for Women- It’s true that fasting can have an incredibly positive impact on health. We’re huge believers in the powers of fasting and have written about it extensively (here, here, here, here, and here). We even host a 5-day fasting challenge each year to educate more people about it!
But we’re also not blind to the fact that female-specific studies (or lack thereof) are often left out of the discussion.
Yes, there’s still research to do.
Until then, if you choose to practice fasting as a female—especially a young woman of reproductive age—pay attention.
Listen to your body. If it’s telling you something, don’t ignore it for the sake of self-discipline, or ‘autophagy’, or abs. You’ll likely do more harm than good. On the other hand, if you find fasting to be a beneficial practice in your life and only experience positive results, then continue on your journey! You’re the one that knows your body best.https://getkion.com/articles/fasting-for-women-2/
How to Fuel for Performance?
Intermittent fasting is an option for the individual who is trying to lose some body fat, as limiting the window of eating helps decrease your total caloric intake. But when your main goal is high performance, intermittent fasting will hinder your success.
When considering performance and recovery, it’s best to make sure you are eating enough of each macronutrient for your energy levels:
Eat enough carbohydrates to fuel your activity: Around 1-3g per pound of body weight depending on your activity level.
Eat enough fats to help fuel your recovery in between hard sessions: Around 0.1-0.3 g per pound of body weight.
Eat enough protein to stimulate muscle growth and prevent muscle catabolism: Around 1g per pound of body weight.
Only once your optimal caloric intake and macronutrient ratios for your body type and activity level are set, should you then focus on the best times to eat.https://www.stack.com/a/why-intermittent-fasting-doesnt-always-make-sense-for-female-athletes
For the female athlete, we talked on recent podcast episodes on the differences on how women fuel, train and perform for peak performance gains, recovery and repair is different that their male training partners.
Women have a thing called “hormone cycle”… our hormones rise and fall different times of the month.
Dr. Stacy Sims wrote a lot about the female hormone cycle in her book ROAR but to sum it up:
Female cycle: two phases
As a certified Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP) and a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P), after 25 plus years of being a top fitness trainer, triathlon and run coach, plus my own health struggles with “adrenal exhaustion” or “HPA Axis Dysfunction” …or as we sum up in our FDN program- “METABOLIC CHAOS”.
So, what is metabolic chaos®?
Metabolic chaos® is a state of health that exists because of complexities in one’s metabolism and underestimated influences from the environment; so correlation between the symptoms and cause is unpredictable.
One clue of metabolic chaos® is when intervention, based on a traditionally reliable cluster of symptoms, produces only a marginal therapeutic response.
Metabolic chaos® is responsible for symptoms that would otherwise be ascribed to other causes. Contributors to metabolic chaos® can be inborn, but they can also come from hidden stressors in the world today.
As a certified FDN Practitioner, I am a sort of “health detective”, as we collect data using a variety of intake forms and well-chosen functional lab testing to uncover the metabolic chaos® that is occurring with our clients.
We stop the cycle of “trial and error”, as we collect solid clues to solve our client’s health mysteries. It is like putting the missing pieces of a puzzle together- a unique puzzle that is individualized case to case.
My point is that we are not the same so we should not get stuck in the “one size fits all approach”.
With that said, you probably want to learn more on how many carbs are too low and when is fasting too much for the female athlete.
I look at a few variables with each individual client in my 90-day coaching programs:
- Metabolic Type
- Genetics …DNA Fit
- Food sensitivities
- Microbiome diversity (Microbiome Labs test here)
- Lifestyle …external stressors
- HIDDEN Internal stressors – test and not guess what your internal stressors are that are impacting your hormone balance, immune function, detoxification, digestion, energy system and, nervous system- neurotransmitters.
If you are fasting too frequently, eating low carb, low calorie and keto- you may be adding more fuel to the fire of CHRONIC STRESS! Your “beaker of stress” may be overfilling already and by adding an additional stress may be causing more dysfunction and imbalances instead of restoring function and re-balancing.
Hormetic stress is “good stress”.
Chronic non-stop, re-occuring, constant, ongoing stress is “bad stress”.
Intermittent fasting day after day for 16-20 hours may be too much for your body… eating too low of carbohydrate every day for an active female may be too much.
We need to get out of mindset that “MORE IS BETTER”… if 16 hours of fasting helps me burn fat and 20-plus hour fasting improves cellular clean up (autophagy) then we should do more.
What about if you are training everyday 1-2 hours with two workouts sessions per day?
What if your life is filled with stress and constant busy-ness?
What if you go to bed to late and get up too early…never having a quality deep sleep?
What if… the list goes on.
There are so many variables to answer how long should you fast… how many carbs should you have per day… how high of ketones should I strive for each day?
The Metabolic Typing Diet is what we recommend for our coaching clients plus taking their results from the food sensitivity and their DNA Fit report. Then we use the “diet check record” sheet to help a client learn to pay attention to how they feel, their energy, their satiety, their mood, their cravings and more. Then I have my clients measure their blood sugar a few times a day to figure out their micro-adjustments needed for feeling happy, full, satisfied, and energized for hours after a meal.
How is your energy, performance and recovery in your workout sessions?
Listen to your body and pay attention to your red flags… your body will tell you if you are doing something too much or eating too much or eating the WRONG foods.
Do you know when you need a recovery day or when to reschedule a key training session?
Or do you over ride your body’s feedback and over ride the message.
There is a big debate if women need to eat more carbs than men as well as if women should fast as long or as frequently as men.
Then what about the female athlete?
Wow… we have so much to research, study and learn about ourselves but how do we conduct research studies on females and female athletes when we all have different hormone cycles?
That is why we need to learn how to fuel, train and perform by more of an intuitive approach.
Questions – thoughts as I study and write a blog/presentation/podcast
- Are carbs needed to make serotonin and dopamine neurotransmitters?
- Are carbs needed to make melatonin? Or can we just take protein to make tryptophan – or do you need carbs with the protein to get the serotonin over the BBB? Serotonin makes melatonin in the gut.
- What if trying to do low-carb/high fat keto to teach a client how to be a fat burner and get off the blood sugar roller coaster?
- Does a low carb diet help the client, as above, if they have HIDDEN chronic stressors or not? Doesn’t feeding someone with HPA Axis dysregulation and blood sugar dysregulation cause more stress…just as putting fuel on a fire?
- The recommendations in the HPA Axis protocol makes me curious if carbs are really needed to be consumed throughout the day.
- When are women and athletes needing carbs – when fat adapted- when is too low of carb a “STRESSOR” alert to the body based on hormone cycles? fasting?
- Eating macros- based on food sensitivities (as the MRT), genetic reports, blood sugar, ketones, and metabolic typing
- Do you think everyone should start with a keto carnivore or low carb-high fat diet that balances their blood sugar?
- Digestive support as HCL, enzymes and ox bile.
I am trying to explain that everyone is unique and needs different mixtures of fuels to optimize fat burning. A great podcast topic to do and explain how MT diet works. Everyone is so on keto for everyone – and now carnivore. It works amazing for some people but not others- that is the point I am trying to make. Bio-individuality.
Is it safe for a female to eat low carb and be in nutritional ketosis ongoing?
Is it safe for a female to do intermittent fasting or prolonged fasting?
Less is More for women. I feel that we, females, may gain more benefits from eating low carb-keto and intermittent fasting if we think of it as interval training or cyclical training… instead of non-stop. From what I am reading, hearing and experiencing, we/females, may respond best to the many benefits of keto and fasting if we are intermittent and not non-stop because our body systems (hormones) respond best to the hormetic stressors (on/off, short burst, intermittent, and cyclical) instead of non-stop as that becomes CHRONIC and anything chronic or ongoing (for most of us) becomes another source of CHRONIC STRESS which leads to “METABOLIC CHAOS” for a female as well as a female athlete.
Where do we get the facts, scientific proof and research studies to prove my point?
Well I don’t know if there are many sources of scientific data but YOU can be your own scientific experiment because (as I always say) … N = 1 and you are your own unique bio-individual self with your own characteristics. No one es exact to you.
My dream would be have a simple way to measure our hormones each day on our own as we are able to easily measure our blood glucose and ketones. Some day… just as with a continuous glucose monitor.
Here are some articles and I will find more if possible with the help of my new friends on a similar mission – Dina, Kelsey, Kristy and Kristin.
Intermittent Fasting May Affect Men and Women Differently
There is some evidence that intermittent fasting may not be as beneficial for some women as it is for men. One study showed that blood sugar control actually worsened in women after three weeks of intermittent fasting, which was not the case in men (6Trusted Source).
There are also many anecdotal stories of women who have experienced changes to their menstrual cycles after starting intermittent fasting.
Such shifts occur because female bodies are extremely sensitive to calorie restriction.
When calorie intake is low — such as from fasting for too long or too frequently — a small part of the brain called the hypothalamus is affected.
This can disrupt the secretion of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), a hormone that helps release two reproductive hormones: luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) (7Trusted Source
, 8Trusted Source).
When these hormones cannot communicate with the ovaries, you run the risk of irregular periods, infertility, poor bone health and other health effects (7Trusted Source).https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/intermittent-fasting-for-women#effects-on-women
In general, these therapeutic diet and lifestyle changes should be considered anytime there is HPA Axis or hormone dysfunction.
What is the “PERFECT DIET”? It is different for everyone! Especially if you have “HPA Axis Dysfunction”… or chronic stress “disease” which impacts your hormones and every body system (“METABOLIC CHAOS”).
Should you eat breakfast..or wait until you are hungry to eat and “break-your-fast”? We need to balance our blood sugar and some people may still experience elevated blood sugar in the morning for various reasons – CHRONIC STRESS will impact cortisol rhythm and glucose levels.
Should you eat meals throughout the day to keep your blood sugar stead while you are experiencing HPA Axis dysfunction as you heal and rebuild? We don’t want to have those high and low fluctuations of blood sugar (blood sugar roller coaster) and increasing surges of insulin (think fat storage hormone to lower blood glucose levels). Ideally we are eating the right mix of macro-nutrients and the right type of foods for your METABOLIC TYPE to feel energized, full, happy and satisfied for hours.
When you have hormone imbalances and HPA dysregulation- intermittent fasting and consuming too low of calories as this could be a contributor to your “beaker of stress” and you are overloading your beaker of stress -your total chronic, non-stop stressors accumulate into one funnel.
We learn in our FDN Practitioner program to teach our clients with hormone imbalances (HPA Dysregulation – cortisol: DHEA ratio) to eat consistent meals throughout the day to keep their blood sugar steady and to avoid skipping meals -as well as to avoid intermittent fasting when the adrenals or thyroid are dysfunctional. Remember- chronic stress accumulates and sometimes too long of over night fast can be a stressor to your body as it things you are starving – as females are designed to reproduce so their body works a little different each month as compared to our male partners.
If blood sugar drops too low, the adrenals will have to kick in and release stress hormones to bring it back up which results in some clients needing to eat every 2-3 hours, if necessary, to keep blood sugar levels stable- instead of being stuck on the blood sugar roller coaster. WHAT they eat is important as we don’t want to feed the fire with fuel and creating more of a wild roller coaster ride. We want to eat right for our METABOLIC TYPE and avoid sensitive foods that we react to as tested on the Vibrant Wellness zoomer test or MRT Food Sensitivity test. See how everyone is unique?
I have been told to not deprive our body of healthy sources of carbohydrates by Dr. Stacy Sims and other leaders and the industry … but just the opposite by the keto carnivore community. What should you eat and how many carbs should you consume? It depends. Measure your glucose and ketones to discover your happy place to maintain 80-90 on your glucose measurements.
I always wonder if the brain’s preferred source of fuel is glucose, which we get in the diet from carbohydrates is true when you are in nutritional ketosis but what if you are in cyclical ketosis? Do we need as many carbs as we think …but how low of carbs do we need to keep our blood sugar and hormones steady as well as brain fueled up? It depends.
If you are following a low-carb, ketogenic, or carnivore diet/food plan, we do lower insulin levels but do we RAISE CORTISOL for females?
Years ago, I learned in my Nutritional Therapy Practitioner program that we want to balance our blood sugar and avoid the surges in insulin.
BUT if we, the female, eat the wrong foods for our METABOLIC TYPE, not even to low of carbs, but I am talking about the wrong diet for YOUR BODY… do we creating additional STRESS that is constant because we are eating the wrong mix and types of foods day after day …plus fasting too long each day for our own body and exercising daily plus other external and hidden internal stressors?!?!!?
We may may lower insulin, BUT we may raise cortisol if we eat the wrong foods for our body.
In my FDN Practitioner course, I read that “If blood sugar levels get too low and glycogen stores (the storage form of glucose) have been depleted due to low dietary intake of carbohydrates, the body must release cortisol to make new glucose (gluconeogenesis).”
Of course we all need to avoid the inflammatory and toxic foods as “bad” carbs including refined white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, refined grains, gluten-containing grains, but also we need to avoid vegetable oils, toxic factory farm animal products, processed dairy, fake sugars and other chemicals. We should be eating a CLEAN diet which includes REAL food that is local sourced, in season, organic, and non-GMO… that balances your blood sugar and is right mix for your METABOLIC TYPE.
Some people (slow oxidizers) and heavier workout days can include healthy nutrient-dense carbohydrates as sweet potatoes and – if tolerated – small amounts of gluten-free grains and starches (rice, sorghum, cassava, tapioca, etc) if properly prepared. It depends on the person, their body, their cells and their activity load that day (type, duration, intensity).
I have been curious on the comments my carnivore friends make- “carbs are not needed”. Perhaps for some people but others may need some carbs if they have hormone imbalances from HPA Axis dysfunction because the low carb causes a source of stress for the female.
Again…everyone is unique and “it depends”.
One of my courses explained that “carbohydrates help raise serotonin (which also gets converted to melatonin), so restricting carbs can lead to low mood, anxiety, and insomnia.”
Does it for you? You don’t know unless you track your emotions, sleep, energy and more with our diet check record … plus your carb intake may vary per time of month as per Dr. Stacy Sims research on women and their cycles. Are you aware of your body’s feedback, red flags and signals?
In one of my FDN Practitioner courses on HPA Axis dysfunction, If we eat some carbohydrates with foods that are high in tryptophan, which is the the amino acid that gets turned into serotonin, will help the tryptophan get from the bloodstream across the blood brain barrier (BBB) into the brain. The carbohydrates act as a “police escort” to bring the tryptophan into the brain.
One source said “that most of us need a minimum of 100 grams of carbohydrates per day (100-150 grams per day is a good amount for the majority of individuals) – not counting non-starchy vegetables. Those who are very active need even larger amounts to keep their glycogen stores replenished.”
Again, balancing your blood sugar levels, fine tuning your meal (type and amount of macros for your metabolic type), and carb timing are important steps to incorporate into your investigation to determine your “perfect diet” at this time (it changes!).
Perhaps some people can time their carb intake before their workout and during (see VESPA for athletes). Some people may feel their best if they add a little carbohydrates into their meal later in the day when their cortisol levels are lower naturally.
Do we want to avoid gluconeogenesis as an athlete?
If we have higher than normal cortisol levels, our body makes glucose to response to the “emergency” from our protein and fat stores… but I always think of my precious protein stores being depleted or broken down (CATABOLIC vs. ANABOLIC… cortisol vs. DHEA).
Those with chronic stress issues may experience gluconeogenesis if they do not get enough carbs later in the day -and as a female athlete with low hormone levels, I don’t want my body to make glucose from my precious muscles. Stress hormones would be released to make this glucose – then would cause someone to have a difficult time to fall asleep and possibly wake up in the middle of the night with high cortisol and low melatonin..
There is so much to discuss, research, learn and to experiment as we are all our own experiment.
My main point in these blogs and my podcast is to remember – there is not once size fits all approach to eating, training and performing as the Low Carb Athlete. Females are different than males as well as for the high performing female athlete.
We don’t know everything so until then experiment with CYCLICAL fasting, keto and carnivore. Maybe less is more and more is not better for YOU. Experiment with your low carb meals during the week and higher carbs on the weekends (good food – not crappy carbage) as the 5/2 plan.
Try 16 hour fasting during the week days, starting Sunday night for five days then eat right mix of foods for your metabolic type (www.mtdiet.com) then carb timing for your workouts (www.vespa). Plus make sure you read the posts and listen to the podcast on amino acids and higher protein intake for females based on your hormone cycle and for the female athlete.
I have been taking Kion Amino tablets (5 grams) before my morning workouts (30-minutes prior) then drinking my Kion Aminos (5-7 grams) after my workouts- ideally 30 minutes. Then for my meals, since I am a fast oxidizer and protein type (Type O blood type), my body does its best with a higher protein food plan with lower carbohydrates…. and my big meal is best for me in the afternoon as my circadian rhythm impacts my digestion as well.
Learn more about your metabolic type and the FDN Health Detective process by contacting me via www.debbiepotts.net
A few of my Recommended Lifestyle Supplements Links:
- Keto Mojo Blood Glucose and Ketone Measuring Kit
- BiOptimizers and kAPex digestive supplements
- Megasporebiotic and BiomeFX test for gut health and leaky gut repair
- Quicksilver Scientific glutathione, Liver Sauce, Methyl-B Complex drops and Mitochondria Support.
- Swannie Blue Blocking Glasses
- Athletic Greens Nutritional Support
- Butcher Box Membership
- Kion Supplements as Organic Coffee, Aminos and Kion Flex
Learn more about living life as a journey with “The WHOLESTIC Method” approach on my website… as I was fasting too much, eating too little and exercising too much the past ten years. I am starting to understand even more for my body… LESS IS MORE. The past year, I was fasting more during the day as it is easier NOT to eat when busy and training clients plus I can’t eat before a workout (especially swim and running) or else the food comes back up …PLUS I can’t eat before bed without disrupting my sleep and having indigestion.
I am now learning that being a “superhero” by not eating all day until 3pm on my busy Wednesdays when I would lift/run intervals at 530 AM then run/walk with a client at 10:45 AM then swim masters 12pm then more clients in the afternoon when I finally arrive home to eat my meal at 4pm…maybe is not good for my hormones and my health so I am experimenting by taking my bottle of Athletic Greens with Kion Aminos mid-morning then taking Vespa when needed if a harder workout or needing an energy boost.
Experiment with your own lifestyle and exercise routine to find out what food and fasting plan works best for YOU!!!! Let me know if you need help getting started as I do 90-day coaching program with an individualized approach. It is my passion and my mission to help others similar to myself to avoid going down the route that I did ten years ago!