12:12 Intermittent Fasting Plan: A Practical Guide.

Al Feky October 29, 2021

The benefits of 12 hours fasting are very encouraging for many to start their journey with intermittent fasting (IF). But, what is a 12 intermittent fasting plan? How is this 12:12 IF model different from other models? Does the 12:12 method have benefits vs. the 16:8 or 20:4 method?

The easiest and newest type of IF is the 12:12 diet. This plan is the most beginner-friendly type of IF: you fast for 12 hours and eat for 12 hours. It’s a diet proven with scientifically proven health benefits, And it is great for weight and fat loss too. When paired with healthy meals, you will feel a positive change in your health.

While other IF plans allow you to eat for a maximum of 8 hours a day, with the 12:12 diet you have a larger eating window, which makes it easier to follow. If you are looking to start an IF diet, then this diet is the way to go.

For more than two years, IF has become a lifestyle for me, one that reminds me that food serves me and that I shouldn’t live to eat.

I have tried almost every other type of intermittent fasting method that is there, and after I told you my story with OMAD fasting, how I started with 16:8 intermittent fasting, and what I what do I think of 5:2 IF plan. It is time for a practical guide on 12:12 IF plan.

This article is a beginner’s guide to the 12:12 diet in which you will find out:

  • Definition of 12:12 intermittent fasting
  • Why it works
  • How does it compare to other IF diets
  • Health benefits of the 12:12 diet
  • How to follow the plan
  • What you can eat
  • If it is the right diet for you


What is the 12:12 diet?

It is the least extreme variation of IF in which you fast for 12 hours and eat for 12 hours as well. Unlike traditional diets, IF restricts when you can eat, not how much you can eat. Basically, it’s a time-restricted diet rather than a calorie-restricted one.

The 12 fasting hours include your sleeping time, so if you sleep for at least 7 hours a day, you will technically be fasting for only 5 hours. During those fasting hours, you are allowed to drink water, black coffee, or tea, but no food consumption is allowed.

You will then have 12 hours in which you can eat, preferably still following a healthy diet.


How does the 12:12 diet work?

12:12 Intermittent Fasting
@elie_jarrouge

Intermittent fasting relies on the “feed-fast” cycle. With regular food consumption, the main source of our energy is sugar, but when fasting, the blood sugar levels drop. This drop stimulates our body to utilize its storage of fatty acid as a source of energy [1]. This cycle is known as the feed-fast cycle.


12:12 vs other IF diets

There are many variations of IF that range from easy to extreme, such as:

  • The 5/2 plan: only requires you to fast for 2 days in which you restrict your calorie intake down to 600-500. For the rest of the days, you are free to eat as usual. This variation is the only IF diet that restricts calories. It is still considered IF because the 600-500 calories are consumed within a time-restricted window.
  • The 24 hours fast: you fast for 24 hours once or twice a week. Complete fast. Only water or coffee are allowed.
  • Alternate day fasting: fast for a day, eat the second day, repeat. This diet is the extreme version of the 24 hours fast. It is also one of the most researched IF diets and studies have highlighted its great health benefits.
  • 20:4 Plan: the most extreme IF plan where you would have to fast for 20 hours and are only allowed to eat for 4 hours.

As you can see, compared to other IF diets, the 12:12 diet is the least extreme, and that’s why I really recommend it for someone just starting on their IF journey.


What are the health benefits of this diet?

Benifits of 12:12 Fasting

As with other forms of IF, the 12:12 diet is associated with many health benefits, which are listed below.

Weight loss

Because fasting for long hours forces the body to use its fat storage, many people lose both body and fat mass following an IF plan [2]. Additionally, limiting the hours in which you can eat per day will also determine how much you eat. In general, you are less likely to consume the same amount of calories you usually have in just 12 hours.

Lowers blood sugar and insulin levels

Several studies have shown that IF can improve diabetic parameters by lowering blood sugar levels and insulin levels in the body [3,4].

Lowers blood pressure

IF has been shown to reduce blood pressure. This effect was maintained throughout the diet. By lowering blood sugar levels and blood pressure, IF also reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases [5].

Improved workouts

Fasting and aerobic exercises have been shown to reduce body and fat mass by increasing fat breakdown in fat and muscle cells [6].

Performing endurance training while fasting increases fat oxidation and promotes long-term health and well-being [7]. That being said, it is best to avoid very high-intensity workout on a fasting state.

For those of you who are worried about their gains, don’t worry, you can still gain muscle as long as your protein intake is enough. Alternatively, if you are hooked on pre and post-workout drinks, you can choose to exercise during your feeding window.


How to follow the plan?

The 12:12 plan is easy to follow, and more importantly, it’s customizable. For example, if you wake up at 7 am, you can have your first meal at or after 7 am. You will then have a 12-hour eating window that ends at 7 pm.

That’s right; you can have three meals if you wish.

You can change the time your fast starts and ends to synchronize with your sleeping schedule as long as your last, and first meals are separated by 12 hours.

If you are used to always eating when hungry and having three meals every day, don’t expect an easy ride.

You will most likely experience “hunger pains” for the first few days but don’t worry, humans are masters of adaptation, and your body will get used to its new feeding schedule.

I recommend you start slow and test the waters before jumping head first to make the transition smoother and enjoyable. Also, before starting this diet, slowly decrease your eating window until it is reduced to 12 hours. Or you can try skipping a meal for a few weeks to get used to fasting.

Remember, IF is not a quick-fix diet; it’s a lifestyle, it takes time. You should enjoy doing it, and you should feel comfortable throughout your IF journey. It is not a punishment; it’s a new routine to improve your overall health and lifestyle. So start slow, and don’t get discouraged if you don’t see results quickly.


What can I eat?

intermittent fasting
@paula.boniface

Technically, IF does not restrict calories, and you can eat whatever you want in moderation.

But to maximize the health benefits and weight loss, it is recommended you follow a nutritious and healthy diet. If you tend to get very hungry, you should opt for foods that help keep you full, such as whole grains, proteins, nuts, and healthy fats.

Due to the popularity of IF, the internet is bombarded with recipes you can follow. There are even meal plans if you struggle to decide what to make for lunch and dinner every day.

If you are opting to lose weight, you can incorporate low-calorie foods into your meals, such as:

  • Vegetables such as broccoli (I know, I know, but broccoli is delicious, sue me) and bean sprouts which are rich in fiber and will also make you stay full for longer. 
  • Kelp noodles, which are fat, gluten, and cholesterol-free. 
  • Konjac rice and noodles, highly rich in fiber and low in calories.

And water, drink lots and lots of water throughout the day, especially when fasting. You need to stay hydrated.

Drinking water will not only help you “feel full,” but it will also make sure you don’t experience the side effects of dehydration such as headaches, fatigue, and dizziness.

You can also have black tea and coffee, as I’ve mentioned before, but with no sweeteners in order to maintain low blood sugar levels. Herbal teas are also an excellent choice.


Is 12:12 right for me?

If you are a healthy adult looking to lose weight slowly and improve your lifestyle, then yes.

There are no severe side effects from fasting. You might experience:

  • Headache
  • Hunger pain 
  • Lack of energy
  • Dehydration

But those side effects are only temporary and will be relieved within the first week.

For example, headaches are mostly caused due to dehydration. Dehydration will happen if you are not used to drinking water or love some extra salt with your food. This can be resolved by making sure to drink at least 2-3 L a day and especially during your fasting time.

Hunger pains will last a few days; your body will get used to limiting its eating window.

As for lack of energy, you really shouldn’t be experiencing a decrease in energy levels that last more than one day.

However, the following people are not advised to follow any variation of IF:

  • Diabetic people
  • Pregnant or lactating women


Final thoughts on the 12:12 Plan

Intermittent fasting has been shown to lower blood and insulin levels, protect from heart diseases and help in fat and weight loss.

The 12:12 diet is pretty straightforward: you abstain from food and drinks (except water) for 12 hours, most of which you’ll spend sleeping, then eat for 12 hours. So, for example, if your last meal was at 7 pm, your next meal should be at 7 am. So it’s pretty easy to do the math with this diet.

My tips for you would be: 

  • Drink a lot of water during fasting and eating hours
  • Don’t have sugary meals as your first meal otherwise, you might experience a sugar crash 
  • Take it easy on yourself and start by slowly increasing your fasting hours until you reach 12 hours of a full fast
  • Remember that this is a journey and a lifestyle change, not a quick diet
  • Incorporate food that will help you stay full for longer
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet for optimal health and wellness results

Compared to other types of IF, the 12:12 diet is easy to follow.

Restricting your feeding time, or fasting, might sound hard at first, but it is very achievable and sustainable given that you will spend most of your fasting time sleeping.

Sustainability is key with any diet. All you have to do in this diet is not eat for a few hours of a given day. If you’ve unintentionally skipped breakfast because you don’t have the time, you are probably already following an IF diet.

If you are ready to start your IF journey, the 12:12 diet is the best for you. Don’t be afraid to take control of your feeding time and your body. Good luck on your journey.


References:

[1]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17291990/

[2]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8102292/

[3]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5394735/

[4]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5042570/

[5]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17291990/

[6]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19127177/

[7]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21051570/

Al Feky

Al Feky, M.SC (Masters of Science), is an absolute health nut with a passion for investigative writing, biohacking, and everything nutrition. When he is not writing, he likes to read, go swimming or bouldering, and plays tennis.

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