Intermittent Fasting: How to Start When You Work 12-Hour Shifts

Interested in learning how I implement Intermittent Fasting while working at the hospital? Especially during rotating 12-hour shifts? I’ve got you covered.

Today I’m sharing more details and answering the most common questions I get about Intermittent Fasting. Plus I’m excited to announce my Intermittent Fasting 90 day JumpStart is officially open.

What’s that? It’s my proven, step-by-step plan for anyone interested in getting started with Intermittent Fasting. This is the exact 12 week plan that has gotten amazing results for so many nurses and other shift workers, and I can’t wait for you to experience it!

Update: Since this article was written, many of you have asked for individual fasting guidance and have been interested in personalized fasting plans designed to fit your unique schedule.

Drum roll please……I am so excited to be able to offer these options to you as well. You can find out more about all the services I offer, as well as access the course that started it all: The 90 day Intermittent Fasting Jump Start right here.

Now without further delay…..

Tips to set yourself up for success with Intermittent Fasting: 

I wrote a quick article about my top tips for starting IF. Think of it like the ‘prep work’ before you fully dive into Intermittent Fasting. You don’t wanna miss that post.

Pro Tip: Start small and be consistent. 

Check in with your body

Start consciously noticing how you feel on your days off or on the weekends. Pick a day where you aren’t working or you aren’t bombarded with a million tasks as soon as you wake up. Really tune into what your body is saying, and how it’s responding to your meals, hydration, exercise etc.

You’ve likely been ignoring or overriding your body’s signals for years. But tuning into your body gets easier with time and practice.

It’s important to notice how you are feeling as soon as you wake up. Are you hungry? It is out of habit that you eat breakfast first thing? Is last night’s dinner still sitting in your stomach?

Write it down!

Keep a journal or use the notes section on your phone. Helpful things to keep track of:

  • How late did you eat last night? What did you eat? Did you have any cocktails or wine with dinner? Did you drink a glass of water before bed?
  • Take notes what you ate and drank throughout the day too.
  • How hydrated are you?
  • Are you drinking water before you feel thirsty?
  • Are you mistaking your body’s need for water with thinking it needs food?
  • What ‘cues’ is your body sending and how are you reacting?
  • Think rumbling stomach or excess gas or heartburn etc after a meal.

Fun fact: When we are thirsty or our body needs water (because we aren’t hydrating enough), the body sends signals to the brain that it’s ‘hungry’.

The goal is to increase water intake, so if the body can’t get it from liquid, it attempts to get the needed water from food. Check out this post on how to increase your water intake through food.

Hydrating with food is less efficient than hydrating with water, but it works (in a pinch).

How much water do you need to drink while Intermittent Fasting? 

The standard guideline for hydration is to drink half your body weight in ounces of water every day.

So, if you are a 150 pound female, you would drink 75 ounces of water a day.

Be sure to add additional water on days you workout or on hot days when you are sweating. (Oh those insensible losses.) If you workout, try to add an extra 16 ounces of water to your hydration goals. Definitely drink more if you feel thirsty.

Side note: If you’ve been under-hydrating, you’ll be making SO many trips to the ladies’ room. It gets better over time and the number of ‘trips to the powder room’ will decrease.

Science based fact: If you’re dehydrated by just 5% your energy levels can decrease up to 20%!

What eating window do you start with? 

I eased into intermittent fasting by starting with a 12-hour eating window. So 12 hours where you can eat and 12 hours of not eating (aka fasting).

Minimize and Streamline: For me, starting with this time-frame was fairly seamless. Because of my shifts at the hospital, I was already used to thinking about things on a 12-hour timeline. Start here first.

There are many studies that have shown a 12-hour fasting window just as effective as a 16-hour fast and is enough time to provide health benefits! So don’t get discouraged when you hear people chatting about their 20 hour fasts. You will get there.

Use a schedule to figure out what works for you (meal spacing, hydration goals, etc) and make small adjustments as you go.

This 12/12 schedule might feel easy at first. That’s ok! Don’t forget all the other things you need to be working on for your health during these easier, longer eating windows.

How to adjust the eating/fasting window?

Once you’ve figured out a good rhythm and pattern utilizing the 12-hour window, you can start to adjust your times.

You can snag my exact strategies and how to guide for adjusting your fasting and eating windows, as part of my Intermittent Fasting 90 day Jump Start.

If you’re looking for a quick answer, start working in 30 minute increments and go slowly. Slower than you think. Don’t forget to give your body time to adjust before you change the window again.

Give yourself room to experiment, take notes, and see what works for you and your body.

How to find that ‘sweet spot’ when Intermittent Fasting? 

In an ideal world, you want to ‘open the window’ and start eating when you are hungry, but not to the point of ‘starving’. Try not to watch the clock or force yourself to eat if you aren’t hungry.

Remember all the work you did in the beginning, to better listen to your body’s signals? Here is where it comes in handy!

You want to make sure your body is primed and ready for food, and that it’s sending signals it’s truly hungry.

I find the ‘exact right time‘ can depend on a variety of factors, like when I closed my eating window the previous day, or what I ate for dinner. Or even if my hormones are fluctuating.

In the beginning you want to wait for your body to signal that it’s hungry and needs food before you open the eating window and start the clock.

Another way to do this, if you are having a hard time listening to your body’s signals, or wanted to skip that step, is to track when you normally finish dinner. This works best if you have dinner at about the same time each day.

Note the time you finish eating and count backwards the number of hours in your eating window, and that will give you the ideal time for breakfast (or your first meal of the day).

No matter how you arrive at your ‘eating time’ just write it down.

If you don’t write down when you started your eating window, you will likely forget. After a while, the days can start to blend together and life gets busy, so get in the habit of writing it down now. Your future self will thank you!

Should I be tracking things when Intermittent Fasting?

Short Answer: Yes. In the initial stages of intermittent fasting and while you are tweaking and adjusting eating windows, I recommend writing down as much as you can. An old journal or the notes section on your phone is perfect for keeping track of times, foods, body signals etc.

This way you can track how your body is reacting to the fasting period, the types of food you are eating, your hydration levels, etc.

Writing things down will help you spot patterns easily. You’ll be able to quickly identify what foods your body is responding to or what foods are upsetting your stomach. It may even clue you into a food sensitivity you didn’t realize you had.

I found I was better able to predict the amount of energy I would have for a workout based on my meals from the previous day.

Writing things down will also help you stay consistent with your eating windows.

A few *too many* times, I forgot when I opened my eating window, so for me, writing it down eliminates any confusion.

Important Reminder: Remember that you aren’t trying to snack continuously during the eating window (whether it’s 12 hours, 8 hours, or even 4 hours). You are simply timing your meals so that you are eating within a specific time slot.

Remember: We dive into what to eat, and when to eat it, (based on research and science) plus meal suggestions, and overviews of a typical day of eating at a variety of different fasting times in the 90 day IF JumpStart. You don’t wanna miss it!

What the heck do I eat when I’m following Intermittent Fasting?

It’s important to choose healthy, fresh foods as much as possible while you are following intermittent fasting.

A popular saying is “eat close to the ground“.

So what does that mean? Basically, you want to eat foods that are handled or processed very minimally from the time they are picked, plucked, or harvested until the time you consume them.

Another great way to think of it, is to choose foods that still look the way Mother Nature created them. I try to avoid any items that no longer resemble their natural form.

A Cheeto doesn’t really look like anything Mother Nature produced right? Same goes for spray cheese in a can. Both things I secretly love, but have eliminated from my diet. *sigh*

Fresh fruits and vegetables are ideal. Avoid processed and prepackaged food as much as possible.

A super easy, and delicious option:

If you like the idea of a meal delivery service, and want one that delivers nutritious, delicious meals every week, check out Sakara. I’ve been eating Sakara meals for nearly 2 years, and combined with Intermittent Fasting, I feel amazing.

If you’re new to Sakara, here’s some quick info to get you up to speed. Each meal is created around specific pillars of nutrition, based on the science of a whole-food, plant-based diet. Meals are optimized with a perfect balance of plant-based protein, hydrating fresh produce and nutrient-dense superfoods.

They’re 100% organic and free of common allergens like gluten or dairy. Every bite is packed with body-loving vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber to keep you glowing from the inside out! The result is brighter skin, better moods, more energy and a body you love living in.

If you want to try Sakara, just click the picture below and use code: xoDEE for 20% off your order!! Bonus: They ship nationwide and have super flexible options.

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No matter what you eat: Check the labels.

I highly recommend reading nutrition labels. You’d be surprised how many so-called healthy snacks and protein bars are actually terrible for you.

(Most ‘health’ bars deserve a post of their own regarding the true impact on health and nutrition…so stay tuned).

What about rotating to night shift?

I am fairly consistent with my eating on the days I do intermittent fasting. I have a schedule that works well during day shift, so when I find myself rotating and working nights, I keep it super simple by just flipping my times.

Simple is best: I look at my eating log and just change the AM time to PM.

For example: I normally have my first meal around 12:30 PM when I am working dayshift, so I try to have my first meal around 12:30 AM (just after midnight) when I’m working night shift.

It’s easier for me to stay on track and keep things organized if I keep my schedule roughly the same no matter what shift I am working. Keeping my eating schedule the same makes shift rotations less disruptive to my life and a teeny bit more bearable.

Should those who work rotating shifts bother with IF?

YES! I absolutely believe that implementing an intermittent fasting protocol is possible for healthcare professionals. It is something simple you can do that will have a direct positive impact on your life and health.

It’s easy to maintain once you get started and there are so many benefits.

We spend our days taking care of others and putting everyone else’s health first. This is one small way we can ensure we are taking care of ourselves and making our own health a priority.

The first couple of weeks may be a little challenging and may even raise some eyebrows from your coworkers, but you will find a rhythm fairly quickly and your body will respond to IF.

Stick with it and trust the process. And if you’re looking for a hand-holding, complete program to guide you:

I invite you to check out my 90 day Intermittent Fasting JumpStart. It’s a proven, step-by-step strategy to help you crush your goals and be successful with Intermittent Fasting.

Now it’s your turn to take action!

Join us for the next 90 day IF Jump Start and take your fasting knowledge and results to the next level! A fitter, healthier, and happier YOU is just a click away. I’ll see you inside!

In wellness,

Dee

And if you’re wondering….Who are you & why I should listen to you?

If you’re new to my blog: Welcome! I’m Dee, a Nurse living and working in Boston. I typically work 12-hour shifts, from 7a-7:30p a few days of the week. I also rotate to nights at a different facility 7p-7:30a.

On my days away from the hospital, I’m an advocate for advancing nursing as a profession and focusing on provider health and wellness. I figured out how to make IF work with my busy schedule, so I know you can too! 

My goal is to help you get started with Intermittent Fasting no matter what your schedule looks like. If you’re looking for more focused guidance, check out the Intermittent Fasting Guidance in the menu at the top of this website or head here to see all the ways we can work together.

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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