The Only Guide on Time-Restricted Eating You Need

October 1, 2021

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With a focus on the time of your food intake, many people find time-restricted feeding much easier to stick to than diets where calorie intake is monitored as they do not feel so restricted by the foods they can eat.

Time-restricted eating comes in many forms, including intermittent fasting methods like the 12:12 fast and the 16:8 fast.

TRE is thought to come with many health benefits as well as aid in healthy weight loss.

In this article, we’re going to cover a range of the different aspects of TRE, including the following.

  • What is time-restricted eating?
  • What are the benefits of time-restricted eating?
  • Does time-restricted eating have any effects on the circadian rhythm?
  • How to do time-restricted eating
  • Is it possible to follow time-restricted eating and grow muscle mass?
  • Does time-restricted eating have any side effects?
  • Who should avoid doing time-restricted eating?

What Is Time-Restricted Eating?

Time-restricted eating (TRE) is a diet that is controlled by the time that you eat rather than the calories you eat.

Any diet where the time that you may eat is restricted is considered time-restricted eating and there are many intermittent fasting diets that are time-restricted.

Time-restricted feeding is considered a less restrictive form of dieting as it does not monitor calorie intake but involves a daily eating-fasting cycle that restricts calories naturally.

Time-restricted feeding has been proven to benefit metabolism in animal studies. A boost in metabolism means better digestion and weight loss as well as benefits to other bodily processes.

Other time-restricted eating benefits include improved cardiovascular health and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, increased longevity, and reduction of insulin resistance and risk of type 2 diabetes.

What Are the Benefits of Time-Restricted Eating?

As mentioned above, the time-restricted eating benefits are numerous. We have summarized a few of them below for you to check out.

TRE aids weight loss because of the reduced number of consumed calories

The focus of dieting is usually on weight loss and TRE has proven effective in helping people to reduce body weight. Indeed, it has been a particularly successful method of losing weight in obese adults.

With a restricted eating window comes a natural calorie restriction. This is due to the body not being able to take in as many calories in a shortened space of time, rather than an imposed caloric restriction.

By restricting calories, you are eating at a calorie deficit which is necessary for weight loss as your body burns more calories than it takes in.

There are other ways that time-restricted feeding can contribute to weight loss, including the boost to metabolic health and other metabolic benefits and the activation of ketosis that comes with fasting for more than 12 hours.

Ketosis is a metabolic state which forces the body to boost lipid metabolism, and therefore fatty acid oxidation, to burn fat rather than blood glucose for fuel, helping to reduce body fat, and by extension, body weight.

Cardiovascular health may be improved by following a time-restricted eating

Fasting diets, like time-restricted feeding, are thought to significantly reduce cardiovascular risk factors like high cholesterol levels.

Time-restricted eating studies show that this kind of diet can help to reduce LDL cholesterol, known as the bad kind of cholesterol.

A reduction of LDL cholesterol in the blood can help to improve heart health and reduce the risks of developing cardiovascular diseases, like heart disease.

Time-restricted feeding is also thought to help reduce blood pressure which is another risk factor for poor heart health.

It may also lower the risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Diminished insulin sensitivity is very prevalent in adults and can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes. TRE and regular fasting are thought to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Studies have shown that regular fasting can also lower blood sugar levels in those with elevated levels, indeed studies have shown a significant reduction in fasting glucose, further improving insulin sensitivity and protecting against some risks associated with type 2 diabetes.

In addition, abdominal obesity and metabolic syndrome are closely linked, and metabolic syndrome has close links with insulin resistance too. TRE helps to manage weight loss which could further help to prevent type 2 diabetes, as well as metabolic syndrome.

TRE may help to extend the lifespan

Fasting can increase what is known as autophagy in the body. Autophagy is a natural process in which cells are recycled and regenerated into newer, healthier cells.

Elevated autophagy has a number of benefits, including a reduction of the risk of cancer, protection from liver problems, and healthy aging.

Autophagy may also extend our lifespan

Fasting is a known trigger for elevated autophagy, but the process can take more than 24 hours to begin, which is why the time restrictions must be adhered to experience this benefit.

Autophagy is activated when cells get fewer calories as it induces stressful conditions at a cellular level.

Does Time-Restricted Eating Have Any Effects on the Circadian Rhythm?

The human circadian system is a series of bodily processes that happen across a span of 24 hours. These processes work in a cycle and have evolved in response to light, body temperature, humidity, and access to nutrients.

Our circadian rhythms work within the day-night cycle.

Time-restricted feeding is thought to have a positive impact on circadian regulation.

People with disrupted circadian rhythms are at risk of developing certain health issues, including metabolic diseases, cancer, immune system problems, mood changes, and reproductive issues.

Our circadian clock can be affected by increased food intake outside of the correct time and so erratic diurnal eating patterns can lead to disrupted circadian timing.

Time-restricted eating, particularly methods that involve an overnight fasting period, is thought to reduce metabolic disease risk factors as well as the risks from other diseases.

Circadian rhythms associated with peripheral organs and the brain are heavily affected by the times at which we get out nutrition which is why this kind of TRE can support a healthier circadian clock.

Studies show that the length of the eating period may affect how well TRE supports our circadian regulation. 

Twelve hours may be considered too long an eating period to have a significant impact, whereas an eating window of 4 - 6 hours has positive effects but can disrupt the quality of life of the user.

The optimal eating window is thought to be between 8 - 10 hours, where there are fewer side effects but eating is restricted enough to rebalance the circadian rhythm and protect against metabolic and other chronic diseases.

How to Do Time-Restricted Eating?

We have explored the negative consequences of an erratic eating pattern on both body weight and other aspects of health. The health-promoting time-restricted eating effects are incredibly desirable, and so below we’ve given a few tips on how to successfully do TRE.

Get an app that can track both eating and fasting windows

One of the best ways to stay on track with time-restricted eating is to download an app that can help you track things like your meal timing, your physical activity, and your caloric intake.

The DoFasting app can provide all of this and more. With recipes designed for fasting and workouts to choose from, you’ll be able to track everything from your daily energy intake to your calorie-free beverage consumption in one handy place.

Apps like this are also helpful when it comes to planning the meals that break the fast. This is important to avoid binge eating and weight gain or shocking the digestive system after a prolonged fast.

The fasting dietary strategy works best when things are planned in advance and an app can help you to do this.

Choose a comfortable amount of hours to eat all your daily calories 

Time-restricted eating can be challenging to begin with. Your body is not used to not eating and so you may experience some side effects. There are a few things you can do to minimize any negative effects.

You can begin by trying a less challenging form of TRE. Try out manageable methods like the 12-hour fast, the 14:10 fast, and the 16:8 method. Work your way up to more challenging fasts like alternative day fasting and the 24-hour fast.

You should also consider whether you are able to eat all of your daily calories in the allotted time. If you get full very quickly, it may be best to choose a fasting schedule with a slightly longer eating period to avoid restricting calories too much.

Once you have chosen your schedule, it may also be helpful to pick when you would like to have your eating period. Most intermittent fasting methods have recommended schedules but you can alter them to suit your lifestyle.

Early time-restricted feeding could be good for you if you know you cannot function without breakfast. This could mean having your eating period in the morning and fasting through the evening.

Others may find early time-restricted eating more difficult and may prefer a later eating period. It all depends on you and your body.

Decide whether changing the eating habits may be needed

When it comes to your eating window, TRE is most successful when you eat a healthy amount of calories. If you have found calorie restriction difficult in the past, a shorter eating window may be for you so that cannot physically eat too much.

You may also consider eating in a specific way to boost your weight loss while eating with a time restriction.

Good diet methods to try include the keto diet and the Mediterranean diet, as both aid healthy weight loss and can help the body stay in ketosis even during eating periods.

Stay consistent with the routine to see results

One of the reasons tracking your fasting and eating times is so important is because routine makes TRE much easier.

Knowing when you are fasting each day helps you to plan your days around this. You can still socialize as you know when you’re able to eat and when you’re not.

Planning your daily eating patterns in advance also helps you to plan your workdays, giving yourself tasks that require less focus during fasting periods when your concentration levels may be more limited.

The benefits of fasting are also much more pronounced when you follow the routine for a few weeks or more. Your body adjusts to the fast and helps you to lose weight.

Keep to a routine when you try TRE for the best results.

Is It Possible to Follow Time-Restricted Eating and Grow Muscle Mass?

While TRE is very good for weight loss, there may be some restrictions to growing muscle mass when following this kind of diet.

With a focus on the reduction of body weight and fat mass seen using TRE, research is limited on muscle mass growth during fasting.

In a randomized controlled trial, it was found that participants could build strength and maintain lean body mass when fasting but muscle gain was not as high as in those not following a TRE pattern.

TRE is an effective solution to reducing fat mass and body weight, but may not be suitable if your goal is to gain muscle mass.

Does Time-Restricted Eating Have Any Side Effects?

Like with many weight loss methods, TRE does come with some side effects. Side effects can be minimized by building up to longer fasts and your body will eventually adjust to prolonged periods without food.

Side effects of TRE include

Who Should Avoid Doing Time-Restricted Eating?

While many find TRE an effective method for weight loss, some people should not try out this method of dieting. People who should avoid time-restricted eating include

  • Anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Anyone taking medications that should be taken with food
  • People with conditions that could be exacerbated by fasting
  • People with a history of eating disorders

If you would like to try TRE but are concerned about the health implications, speak with a doctor about the risks and benefits.

Conclusion

Time-restricted eating is an effective method of losing weight for many and it comes with many other benefits too.

From reducing blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk factors and regulating blood glucose and reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes to helping to manage chronic metabolic diseases and boost metabolic health, TRE is great for improving overall health.

TRE may have positive effects on circadian rhythm but may be unsuitable for those trying to build muscle mass.

There are some side effects that may ease the longer you follow a TRE schedule and some people should totally avoid this kind of diet.

For all others, TRE is considered a safe and effective method of losing weight and boosting health.

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