18-Hour Fasting: Your Guide to 18:6 Intermittent Fasting

by Lisa Ledoux
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If you’re over 40 weight management can be tough, especially with metabolism and hormone level changes.

The good news? Intermittent fasting (IF) offers a potential way to address these challenges!

Among the various IF methods, such as the 16:8, 5:2, and Eat-Stop-Eat, the 18-hour fast is achievable and effective.

This guide provides you with a peek into the 18-hour fasting routine.

With everything from understanding the fasting window to working it into your daily life and monitoring your progress.

Introduction to 18-Hour Intermittent Fasting (IF)

So, what is 18-hour intermittent fasting?

It’s a fasting method where you eat all your meals in a compressed window of 6 hours, leaving the remaining 18 hours as your fasting period.

This is the method I’m currently using. 🙂

The Benefits for Women Over 40

IF may benefit women over 40 because it:

  • Regulates blood sugar levels (blood sugar remains more elevated as we age).
  • Boosts metabolic health (assists in weight loss and maintenance).
  • Balances hormones (potentially relieving menopause and perimenopause symptoms).

However, individual results may vary, and it’s important to approach IF with due diligence.

Understanding the 18-Hour Fasting Period

An 18-hour intermittent fasting cycle typically involves no consumption of anything except water, unsweetened tea, and black coffee in the fasting window.

This fast challenges a body’s reliance on regular meals and results in better fat utilization as it extends the natural fasting state that occurs overnight.

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The Fasting Window and Eating Window

Your eating window is when you eat, naturally, but it’s not a free-for-all all-feasting window.

Meals should include healthy fats, protein, and plant-based carbs, as well as high-fiber foods.

The fasting window extends from the end of your last meal each day, lasting for a continuous period of 18 hours.

My current eating window is 12 p.m.-6 p.m. and fasting from 6 p.m. until the next day at noon, and I find it very manageable.

The goal here is to give your body a substantial break from digestion which, over time, may enhance certain aspects of metabolic function.

Getting Started

Making significant shifts to your eating patterns requires preparation.

Here’s how to ease into the transition:

  • consult a doctor before beginning any fasting regimen. They can assess your current health and see if it is right for you.
  • slowly adjusting your meal timings over 2-3 weeks. ex) Start with 13 hours, then 14, then 16, and eventually ease your way into the 18-hour fasting window.
  • mentally, prepare for potential energy fluctuations as your body adapts to a new eating schedule.
  • make your meals the most nutrient-dense you can, to get the most out of your eating window.

The 18-Hour Fasting Period

The fasting window is the crux of 18-hour intermittent fasting.

Here are some strategies to navigate it:

1.) Stay Hydrated

Dehydration can sometimes be mistaken for hunger.

During fasting hours, drink plenty of water. Infuse it with lemon, ginger, mint, cucumber, or other citrus fruits for interest and flavor.

2.) Manage Your Hunger Pangs

At first, you’ll experience hunger, boredom, and restlessness during the extended fasting period.

To manage this, start your fasting window after dinner, and drink plenty of water, tea, or decaf coffee.

Go to bed early, exercise in the morning (this staves off hunger but honestly, the morning is not too bad for hunger), and stay hydrated.

3.) Suitable Activities During Fasting

Hunger is worse in the evening so try to go for walks or bike rides, meditate, have baths, read, or do things you don’t normally do, to avoid your snacking pitfalls.

But try to stay off social media and TV for a while, since the very act of sitting and being mindless encourages snacking.

Breaking the Fast

How you break your fast is as important as the fasting itself, popular advice says to start slowly with a broth or a piece of fruit, and a half hour later, have your first meal. But. I usually don’t follow this advice and dive straight into my first meal.

Do what feels right for your body- sometimes “diving in” leads to gas…😒

1.) Importance of Nutrient-Dense Meals

Focus on quality over quantity.

Your first meal should include a good amount of protein, healthy fats, and fiber-rich sources of carbohydrates.

2.) Timing and Content of the First Meal

As mentioned- when breaking an 18-hour fast, ideally, you’ll ideally eat lightly- a cup of broth and a small fruit item, and then have your larger main meal just a little later- your bigger breakfast or brunch.

I break my fast at noon and have a huge brunch right away and it keeps me full until supper after 5, with maybe a small snack in between- which I never would’ve believed possible before.

Motivation for Consistency

The key to reaping the health benefits of 18-hour intermittent fasting is consistency.

1.) Track Your Results and Adjust as Needed

Use a journal to monitor:

  • your fasting periods,
  • your meals and the quality of your meals,
  • and how your body responds to fasting: satiety, weight, energy, clarity, and mood.
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If you find 18:6 too difficult, try playing around with the length of your fasting window- there are endless types of fasts and eating windows to choose from.

2.) Incorporate Exercise and Recovery Care

Daily exercise (yes, daily!), self-care, and “other-care” practices can amplify the effects of intermittent fasting.

  • Strength training is best, but walk, swim, bike, or watch YouTube videos in addition to strength training and feel your very best moving forward.
  • Baths, saunas (or sauna blankets, tents), massages, heating pads, and topical pain relief for recovery.
  • Make a set bedtime every night and do everything possible to stick with it.
  • Make a conscious commitment to turn off ALL screens an hour or 2 before bedtime as rest becomes a priority.

3.) Incorporate Self-Care and “Other Care”

  • Bake a treat for a neighbor, friend, or family member.
  • Pitch in and help someone.
  • Smile at someone and hold the door open.
  • Be extra kind to people who serve you- a grocery clerk, a receptionist, counter staff in a restaurant or bakery, a librarian, a postal worker, a hairdresser, etc.
  • Don’t forget to have fun or do something relaxing for you. It can’t be- go, go go, weight, weight, weight, nutrition, nutrition, nutrition all the time!

Helping others changes the chemistry of your brain and keeps you positive. A positive attitude will keep you motivated.

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4.) Celebrate Small Wins

Remember to celebrate your progress and small wins along the way.

  • Did you complete a successful 18:6 fast for the first time? Woohoo!
  • Did you hit your weight loss goal for the week? Celebrate with a lovely skin care product, a decadent cup of joe, or a picnic!
  • Did you notice more energy and focus after incorporating intermittent fasting into your routine? Let this be the motivation to KEEP GOING!

Important-

Hey- it’s important to listen to your body.

Although 18-hour intermittent fasting can be a great tool for women over 40, or 50+, it might not be right for everyone.

Be patient and flexible with yourself as you adjust to this new routine.

Remember, the most sustainable approach (is one that) won’t overwhelm you, but CHALLENGES you, and is EFFECTIVE. However- it can’t be effective if you don’t follow through, and you won’t follow through if you don’t ease in gradually and stay committed.

So, don’t break any kinks in the chain and you will reach your goals!!!!

Good luck as always, I’m rooting for you!

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