Flexibility has been my secret to sticking with intermittent fasting. That’s twice as true now that I’m back to hitting the gym early in the morning. While I enjoyed the benefits of 16:8 fasting over the summer, my return to strength training forced me to retool my strategy. Here’s what happened.
I was loving my daily yoga practice, but I missed the endorphin high of a heart-pounding, sweat-inducing spin class or strength training session. So early last month, I decided to mix things up and started Kelsey Wells PWR At Home program on the Sweat App. At that point, I had been doing 16:8 intermittent fasting for almost two months and was feeling great! That changed as soon as my workouts did.
If I worked out at from 5:30-6:30am, I was hungry by 7 and ravenous by 8. I tried to push through it for a couple weeks to see if my body would adjust. After all, these feelings weren’t all that different from what I experienced when I first tried intermittent fasting.
Then I began feeling foggy and tired in the afternoons. I was still sleeping great, so I assumed it was just what I was eating rather than when I was eating. I shifted my calorie intake to a larger breakfast and a lighter lunch, and avoided sugar like the plague. No change. Instead, I began feeling downright depleted. I even fell asleep in James’ bed one night around 7:45!
Then one morning I stood up after bending over and saw stars so badly that I had to sit down on the floor and put my head between my legs. That’s how I knew it was time to throw in the towel. This was beyond mere discomfort; it was straight up unhealthy! It was time to stop.
Intermittent Fasting IS Possible With Morning Workouts
Never one to give up easily, I began Googling ways to incorporate intermittent fasting into a morning workout routine. Every nutritional expert said the same thing: you need to have a protein-rich snack within 30 minutes of finishing a workout not only for muscle recovery but also to avoid fatigue and brain fog.
Thus, if I want to do a 14-16 hour fast with a 5:30am workout, I need to start my fast at 4:45p to ensure at least a 14-hour fasted period. That would mean skipping family dinners. Not only is that a special time for bonding, but can you imagine how hard it would be to convince my 4-year-old to clean his plate when I hadn’t eaten anything?
No thank you.
12:12 Intermittent Fasting
This realization had me really bummed. I loved the lack of bloat and better sleep I experienced with intermittent fasting, but I knew a 16-hour fast wasn’t for me. However, I wondered if those positive results had less to do with the length of the fast and more to do with the gut-sleep connection.
I decided to test this theory by moving our dinner slightly earlier so that I could begin my fast at 7p, which gave my stomach at least 3 hours to digest before I went to bed at 10p. I then broke my fast just before 7a with a matcha collagen latte, followed by a light breakfast. This created a 12-hour fasted period, which still provides anti-inflammatory and digestive benefits.
A few weeks into my new routine, I’m sleeping great and am still feeling digestively on point! I also like that 12:12 enables me to be even more consistent with intermittent fasting, particularly on weekends since I don’t wake up for pre-dawn workouts. Rolling from a late dinner with friends on a Saturday to brunch with the family on Sunday feels natural, not scheduled!
While I do feel like I had a little more energy with the 16:8 plan, I’m happy to have found a solution that enables me to enjoy the health benefits of intermittent fasting without overtaxing my body.