. 12 Hour Intermittent Fasting: Amazing Benefits for People Living with Diabetes and How to Get Started

12 Hour Intermittent Fasting: Amazing Benefits for People Living with Diabetes and How to Get Started

If you could make one small and easy tweak to your eating pattern and gain tons of health benefits, would you do it?

You probably are thinking “Of course I would, but what’s the catch?”  

You may have heard about fasting, including intermittent fasting, on social media or in conversations with friends and family in recent years.  While “fasting” can sound scary, especially if you have diabetes, there is a specific type of intermittent fasting called 12 hour intermittent fasting that has many health benefits. It is also super simple to follow, even for beginners – there really is no catch!

So what exactly is fasting?

The definition of fasting according to Britannica is abstinence from food or drink or both for health, ritualistic, religious, or ethical purposes.  Although lately we hear a lot of buzz around fasting, fasting is actually not new and it is not a fad.  Fasting has been practiced by both humans and animals around the world for centuries.

There are several different types of fasting such as intermittent fasting, water only fasting, and Fasting Mimicking Diets have gained popularity in recent years. Before starting any type of fasting program, always talk to your doctor to see if it is safe and recommended for you.

Let’s dive in to each of these types of fasting.

Intermittent fasting 

Intermittent fasting involves choosing regular periods of time to eat and to fast.  There are different ways to do this.  

One way to approach this is through Time Restricted Eating (TRE) which involves fasting for a certain number of hours each day.  12:12 Intermittent fasting is what we generally recommend to get started and what we will cover in this article. There is also 18:6 Intermittent fasting (fasting for 18 hours daily and eating in a 6 hour window), 14:10 intermittent fasting (fasting for 14 hours daily and eating in a 10 hour window), and other similar patterns.  

Another intermittent fasting approach is the 5:2 approach which involves eating regularly five days per week and limiting yourself to one 500–600 calorie meal on the other two days.

Water only fasting 

Water only fasting is just that, drinking only water and nothing else for 24 hours or more.  While you might see impressive results and health benefits from this type of fasting, water only fasting is very hard to follow and not safe for many people, especially people living with diabetes.  

Fasting Mimicking Diets 

Another form of fasting that you may not have heard of before is a Fasting Mimicking Diet.  Fasting Mimicking diets (FMD) trick your body into thinking it is fasting while still allowing some food intake.

This allows you to achieve the benefits of fasting while minimizing the hunger, fatigue, and other challenges associated with a water only fast.  Studies have shown this to be an effective way for people with Type 2 Diabetes to help lower their blood sugar and possibly reduce their need for medication.  

Benefits of 12 hour intermittent fasting

There are many benefits of 12 hour intermittent fasting including:

  1. Weight loss – fasting for 12 hours means that you will likely need to stop eating by a certain time in the evening, generally by 7 or 8pm.  This helps prevent us from snacking in the late evening hours which can aid in weight loss if that is your goal.  Studies have shown that intermittent fasting can indeed be effective for weight loss.
  2. Improved blood sugar control – similar to the previous point, if we are snacking less in the evening, this will also likely help prevent blood sugar roller coasters in the overnight hours leading to more time in range. 
  3. Improved sleep – Having a stable blood sugar before bed means not being woken up overnight by low or high blood sugars, resulting in better sleep.
  4. Reduced insulin resistance and improved insulin sensitivity–  Once you have been in the fasted state for around 12 hours, some amount of fat burning generally starts to take place.  The less often you are eating carb-containing foods, the less frequently your insulin levels will rise.  This in turn can aid in reducing insulin resistance and improved insulin sensitivity.
  5. Improved cardiovascular healthStudies involving intermittent fasting have also shown benefits in lipid metabolism including improvements to total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and blood pressure.
  6. Reduced inflammation – Intermittent fasting may reduce inflammation which in turn may lessen the risk of developing many chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, obesity, and some cancers.
  7. Potential to put (Type 2) diabetes into remission – If you put all of these benefits together, you can clearly see how they could lead to improvement in blood sugars and the possibility of needing less or even no medications for those with Type 2 Diabetes. *Apologies to my fellow type 1’s, while intermittent fasting still has many benefits for us, this is not one of them.

Is 12 Hour intermittent fasting safe?

So is fasting overnight for 12 hours really safe for people with diabetes?  

Please note that while 12-hour intermittent fasting is generally safe, it may not be suitable for everyone, especially children and people with certain medical conditions.  It is important to talk to your doctor before starting any new eating pattern or plan, especially if you have diabetes or other health conditions.

In addition, pregnant or breastfeeding women should not follow intermittent fasting and people with a history of disordered eating should also avoid intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is not recommended for children due to their rapidly growing bodies, brains, and muscles.

How does 12 hour intermittent fasting work?

Now you may be thinking that this 12 hour fasting thing sounds great, but how do I do it?  

The first step is to choose a 12-hour eating window each day, for example 7am-7pm.  You will begin eating with breakfast around 7am and stop eating for the night by 7pm.  You will fast for the remaining 12 hours.  

During the fasting window, you can drink water, unsweetened tea, and black coffee.

During the eating window, aim to eat healthy, balanced meals and snacks.

Tips for getting started with 12 hour intermittent fasting

Still not convinced that you could be successful with this eating pattern?  Here are a few tips to get started.

  1. Start slowly and gradually increase the fasting window as tolerated, for example you could start by fasting from 8pm-6:30 am and gradually increase the window by a few more minutes each day.
  2. Always listen to your body and break your fast if needed.
  3. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
  4. Make sure to eat a variety of healthy foods during your eating window.
  5. Limit processed foods, sugary drinks, and excessive amounts of saturated and unhealthy fats during your eating window.
  6. If you have diabetes, be aware of the potential for low blood sugars and monitor your blood sugar frequently as you get started with this new eating pattern.

Exercising while in a fasted state

Do you tend to have low blood sugars during exercise?  One of the biggest benefits about this eating pattern is how much it helps with blood sugar control during morning exercise.  

You will likely notice that your blood sugar will be steady all throughout the night and when you wake up in the morning when you start cutting out food in the late evening hours.  The morning is a great time to exercise because you won’t have much insulin on board and as a result you will have much less risk of having a low blood sugar while exercising.  

Exercising while fasting also means your body will burn fat for fuel instead of glucose.  Avoiding low blood sugars and burning fat – sign me up please!


In conclusion, while fasting may sound like a daunting idea, especially if you have diabetes, there are some types of fasting that may actually help with blood sugar management, weight loss, and overall health. We recommend getting started with 12 hour intermittent fasting because it is generally safe for most people, easy to implement, and sustainable.

If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of intermittent fasting, if it is right for you, and how to get started feel free to reach out at [email protected] and we can set up some time to chat more!

If coffee is how you prefer to break your morning fast, check out this article all about the lowest carb Starbucks drinks for some great options! 

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