Time-Restricted Eating – A Fascinating Key to Better Energy and Weight Loss 

In recent years, there has been a large surge of diet fads that claim to help people lose weight and maintain health. While some of these fads may not provide much help, others may be damaging to your health in the long term. However, recent research has shown that your health may not just be dependent on what you eat, but also when you eat.   

Time-restricted eating, also known as intermittent fasting, is a method of consuming your total daily caloric intake within a restricted window of time. There are several methods of making this method work for you. The most beneficial, however, may not be exactly what you expect, so you may need to experiment with different time periods to see what works best for you.  

The most common intermittent fast is structured as a 16-hour window of time in which no food at all is eaten, followed by an 8-hour window where eating (as often as you like) is permitted. During the fasting period, only water, unsweetened tea or coffee are permitted. This practice works well for many people, but other fasting/eating time periods may be chosen as well (such as a 14-hour fasting/10-hour eating window or a stricter sequence such as 18-hour fasting/6-hour eating window).  

New research has shown that intermittent fasting may help manage blood pressure, oxidative stress, and insulin resistance. This is achievable while eating the same amount of food during the eating window that you would have normally eaten when not restricting time periods. The only difference is the time of day the food is consumed. With intermittent fasting, you may also focus on eating earlier in the day, beginning around 8 AM, and beginning to fast in the afternoon, around 3 PM. In this example, the 8-hour eating time period would be from 8 AM to 3 PM.  

In a 16-week pilot study, eight participants were instructed to eat only during a 10 to 12-hour feeding window of their choice. On average, they were able to lose seven pounds, felt more energetic, and reported sleeping better. Following the study, many of the participants elected to continue following restricted eating patterns and were able to successfully maintain the energy boost, healthy sleep, and weight loss achieved during the study. These participants did not change their nutrition quality or quantity but consumed food only during the restricted time frame.  

The positive health effects of this eating practice are also found in one of the longest living populations in the world, the Seventh Day Adventists in California. This population practices several well-known, life-extending practices, including eating a vegetarian diet, regular consumption of nuts, getting regular exercise, and refraining from smoking or consuming alcohol. They are known to have an extended life expectancy that is ten years longer than the general population. Their healthy behaviors certainly seem to help them live longer, but historic Adventist teachings also called for members to eat only two meals a day, with breakfast and lunch eaten earlier and as larger meals. This practice is no longer strictly followed, but many members of the group still make breakfast or lunch their largest meals of the day.  

Eating earlier in the day is associated with lower levels of inflammation and better blood sugar control, which is known to lower the risk of several diseases. Likewise, eating close to bedtime can encourage weight gain because your metabolism slows down when you sleep. As a result, undigested food is more likely to be stored as fat. In addition, late-night snacks eaten before bed may not be as healthy which may also lead to an increase in overall caloric intake for the day.  

If you are struggling with your overall health and wellness, consider restricting the hours in which you eat food to an 8 to 9-hour period each day. During your eating time periods, you can front-load your meals earlier in the day (such as 8 AM to 3 PM) and then wait patiently for breakfast the next morning. The wait may be worth the weight!