At this point in your health and wellness journey, you’ve likely heard of intermittent fasting (IF) and how it can be a true game-changer in the way you look and feel.
It’s also an excellent companion to the keto lifestyle.
Intermittent fasting can offer many of the same benefits of fasting but in a much more digestible format. It’s possible to follow an IF protocol without it greatly affecting your day-to-day life.
This means that, instead of depriving yourself of food for a long period, IF involves set periods of times in which you eat and fast.
The most popular method is 16/8 or Leangains, which has you fasting for roughly 14-16 hours a day, giving you an eating window of about 8-10 hours. Beyond this, some people choose to fast up to even 20 hours daily.
Some potent benefits can come with this sort of eating and fasting pattern. For those following a keto diet, it can be the extra boost you need to promote the production of ketones.
It can also increase energy, promote weight loss and mental clarity, and potentially even extend your lifespan.
Now, while these benefits may all sound wonderful—maybe even too good to be true—it’s also not a reality for some people — especially women.
And it all has to do with hormones.
Women in particular often have a hard time with IF. Women’s bodies treat signs of starvation (which is essentially what fasting is doing) much differently than men’s bodies.
This is because a woman’s body is designed and prepared to grow and protect a fetus—and it will behave that way whether you’re pregnant or not.
IF can cause severe hormonal imbalances that can affect how hungry and satiated you feel, and even disrupt your menstrual cycle. Over time, these imbalances may even lead to fertility issues.
IF, if done incorrectly, may also lead to unhealthy eating patterns, which could potentially turn into eating disorders like anorexia or binge eating.
So, how can you reap the benefits of IF without causing such detrimental side effects?
Fortunately, there’s another type of fasting that takes these hormones into account.
This is called crescendo fasting. It’s a modified version of IF that can still bring on weight loss—just without all those nasty hormonal shifts.
Below, we dive into how crescendo fasting works and how to follow it to achieve your keto and weight-loss goals.
What Is Crescendo Fasting?
Instead of the typical IF protocol, which may have you fasting anywhere from 12 to 20 hours every day, crescendo fasting cuts that time down to 12 to 16-hour fasts for just two to three non-consecutive days of the week.
The term “crescendo fasting” describes exactly its intent—to gradually increase the amount of fasting that your body can handle.
So, for example, you may choose to fast for 14 hours, starting on Sunday night at 9 pm until Monday morning at 11 am. You’ll then eat as you normally would for the next few days before doing this same type of fast all over again.
It’s fairly simple and incredibly easy to follow. It also takes a lot of pressure off of you if you struggle with doing IF daily.
And, you may find that over time, your body will be able to adapt to longer fasts and you could potentially follow a more traditional IF plan.
Benefits Of Crescendo Fasting
If you’re a woman, you’ve most certainly noticed that, in general, men have a much easier time with weight loss. This can be frustrating for us ladies!
This means we have to be extra in tune with our bodies. A woman’s health is dependent on her hormones, and when they start to get out of whack—due to things like stress and the way we eat—it can greatly affect our energy levels, mood, and even how hungry or full we may feel.
When we’re on a mission to better our bodies, we sometimes go a little overboard: with calorie restriction, fasting, and especially exercise.
All these things end up creating a lot of unwanted stress on our bodies. And the way our bodies respond to this stress is through the increased release of certain hormones that start to do things like hold on to our fat or even store more of it.
Imbalanced hormones can make weight loss extremely difficult, and if you’re starving yourself daily via IF, you may just feel fatigued and eventually ravenous and end up eating everything you can get your hands on. Your body may also start to break down lean muscle—instead of fat—to use as fuel.
Contrastly, crescendo fasting works gently with the hormones to maintain a healthy balance, so that you can keep your metabolism and energy up, and even lose body fat.
You’ll still be fasting, just in shorter and less frequent bursts. This is a good way to keep your calories down to initiate weight loss, without forcing your body into a stressful starvation state.
After a while, you may start to feel more comfortable with fasting for longer and more frequent periods.
How to Do Crescendo Fasting
Here’s a quick guide with some easy-to-follow rules to get you started on a crescendo fasting plan:
- You should fast on alternate days of the week. Choose 2-3 non-consecutive days to fast. For example, you may want to schedule your fasts on Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday.
- On these days, try to fast for 12-16 hours at a time. This isn’t as daunting as you may think. This means, if you stop eating at 9 pm, you can still eat your next meal by 9 am or as late as 1 pm the next day.
- On the days you fast, you may also want to supplement with BCAAs (branched chain amino acids). These can satisfy your hunger, support protein synthesis, and help the body build new muscle tissue, reduce muscle damage, and speed up healing. The recommended dosage is approximately 5-8 grams (1).
- Also on your fasting days, choose light exercise or yoga over a high-intensity workout.
- Reserve your more intense workouts—i.e., HIIT or strength training—for your non-fasting days.
- Remember to stay hydrated, both when you’re fasting and when you’re not. Water is best, of course, but you can also add in tea and coffee, though these can be dehydrating on their own. Aim to drink at least 64 oz. of water daily, and be sure you’re getting your electrolytes as well. (This is why electrolytes are so important, especially when you’re following a keto diet.) And if you are drinking other liquids, make sure they do not contain any added sugars or artificial sweeteners.
- If this plan goes well for you after two weeks, you may want to consider adding another day of fasting to your schedule.
The most important thing to keep in mind is not to get frustrated! The intent of crescendo fasting is to train your body to adapt to fasting. This is a much more sustainable and ultimately effective approach to IF, especially for women.
Why Crescendo Fasting is Better for Women
While not all women will respond negatively to typical IF protocols, most will likely find more success with crescendo fasting—especially if you’re just trying fasting for the first time.
Jumping right into a daily IF plan could end up being too stressful on your body, and your hormones will respond with unbearable hunger pangs, mood swings, fatigue, and maybe even weight gain.
Since you’re only starting by fasting 12-16 hours for just 2-3 days, you’re also less likely to form any unhealthy eating habits. Too often women eat too few calories when they start a rigorous IF plan. This will only slow down your metabolism and chip away at your lean muscle.
The key is to ease into intermittent fasting so that you can work with your hormones not against them. Women tend to benefit more from 2-3 days of crescendo fasting per week versus jumping right into a hardcore IF schedule.
Just like with IF, though, crescendo fasting involves calorie restriction, which can lead to a reduction in body fat, an increase in energy, and even a decrease in risk for chronic diseases, like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (2).
These benefits can be amplified further if you’re following a keto diet.
The Science Behind Crescendo Fasting
Crescendo fasting is a rather new concept, so the scientific world has some catching up to do.
However, one major study that looked at IF’s effects on female rodents may clue us into how intermittent fasting can be harder on women if done too quickly and aggressively.
In this study from 2013, rats fasted for a full day, every other day for 12 weeks. Just two weeks in, the researchers noticed that the females’ hormones were completely out of balance.
Their menstrual cycles stopped, their ovaries shrunk, and they experienced more insomnia than their male counterparts (3).
While these are some pretty shocking results, they also don’t say a whole lot about the effects of IF in female humans. They also performed a rather rigorous form of fasting, one most of us wouldn’t find sustainable anyway.
Beyond animal studies like this, there is limited research on how IF can affect men and women differently.
So, for now, we can only go off of our own experience, and if you’ve found that IF just doesn’t feel right for your body, we recommend trying out crescendo fasting.
One of the great things about following a keto diet, and also fasting, is that it forces you to start to focus on what your body responds to and is triggered by.
You can start to become in tune with what exactly affects your weight, mood, and energy levels and what you can do to improve all of these variables.
When to Stop Crescendo Fasting
While crescendo fasting is the most gentle form of fasting, it still may not be for everyone.
If your menstrual cycle becomes disrupted, or you consistently feel tired and run-down, there may be something else going on in your body.
There’s also a chance you may be eating too few calories. This can be the first sign of an eating disorder—sometimes one you may not even be fully aware of.
Fasting can increase the risk of anorexia, binge eating, and bulimia, especially in younger women (4).
If you’re feeling this way, it’s best to stop fasting and get back on a regular eating routine. You may also want to see a doctor if you suspect anything else may be going on.
Should You Try Crescendo Fasting?
If you’ve been curious about intermittent fasting, or have tried it and felt it just wasn’t for you, you may want to consider taking things down a notch with a crescendo fasting plan.
Jumping into a daily IF plan right away can do quite a number on your body—especially if you’re a woman.
You may find that cutting down your fasting times to 12-16 hours and fasting days to just 2-3 days per week is far more beneficial—and sustainable—for you.
Pick specific days and times that work best for you and your schedule so that you can stick to your plan.
Mostly, crescendo fasting is about getting more in tune with your body. In the process, you’ll be able to naturally cut out a fair amount of calories, which can help with weight loss.
Overtime, you’ll also start to detect some of the other benefits that have been linked to intermittent fasting, including an increase in energy, a clearer mind, and, for women, a healthy hormonal balance.
As your body starts to adapt to this fasting lifestyle, it will eventually be able to handle more of it. You may find that you can even build up to a full-on intermittent fasting plan if you desire—as long as it continues to serve you and your health goals.
And, if you’re following a keto diet and looking for a little boost in ketones and weight loss, crescendo fasting is a good way to kick-start that process.
- Coombes, J. S., & McNaughton, L. R. (2000, September). Effects of branched-chain amino acid supplementation on serum creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase after prolonged exercise. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11125767
- Varady, A, K., Hellerstein, & K, M. (2007, July 01). Alternate-day fasting and chronic disease prevention: A review of human and animal trials. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/86/1/7/4633143
- Kumar, S., & Kaur, G. (2013, January 29). Intermittent Fasting Dietary Restriction Regimen Negatively Influences Reproduction in Young Rats: A Study of Hypothalamo-Hypophysial-Gonadal Axis. Retrieved from https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0052416
- Stice, E., Davis, K., Miller, N. P., & Marti, C. N. (2008). Fasting increases risk for onset of binge eating and bulimic pathology: a 5-year prospective study. Journal of abnormal psychology, 117(4), 941-6.