10 years ago, back in high school health class, I remember learning about meal timing. We were taught that spreading your food out over the course of the day through meals and snacks was optimal for your body. I started following this advice and haven’t really revisited it since. That means I had my breakfast at 6:30am and ate approximately every 3 hours after that until my nightly smoothie bowl that could be at 10:30pm. What this meant was that my body was in a state of eating, digesting and absorbing nutrients for at least 16 hours everyday (6:30am – 10:30pm). That also meant my body was only in a fasting state, where most healing and self-repair happen, for 8 hours straight (while I slept). But, research is showing that increasing the duration of the fasting state provides a litany of benefits. This research is reshaping the way I and tons of other health focused individuals are eating everyday.
What is Time-Restricted Eating?
Time-restricted eating is a process of limiting the window for which you can eat during the day. With my example above, I had been eating during a consistent 16 hour window (6:30am – 10:30pm). While in that feeding state, the body is taking consumed food and turning it into stored energy. Think of this as a state of growth because you’re adding calories and nutrients to the body. During the other 8 hours of my day (10:30pm – 6:30am) I was in a fasting state. During the fasting state, the body is breaking down stored energy for food and performing cellular restoration. Think of this as a state of maintenance and repair because you’re burning stored energy and removing damaged components from cells and tissues.
With time-restricted eating, you’re decreasing the amount of time you’re in the feeding state and increasing the amount of time in the fasting state. First, I’ll discuss the benefits of this and then I’ll provide my recommendations on how to implement it.
What Are the Benefits of TRE?
A growing body of evidence is showing that sustained periods of time in the fasting state has a ton of benefits. This is because your body will remain in a state of maintenance and repair longer. Some of these benefits include:
- Reduced risk of the three major diseases (heart disease, cancer and stroke)
- Lower blood pressure and inflammation
- Weight and fat loss
- Increased lifespan and healthspan
- Improved immune function
- More sustained energy levels
While most of these benefits have been proven in animal studies, studies on humans are starting to emerge too that reinforce these same findings.
How Can I Get Started?
Since most research on time-restricted eating has focused on animal studies, the optimal eating window for humans has not yet been identified. But, most research on humans has shown that the smaller the feeding window, the better the results. The most popular popular version is actually the opposite of my old diet. The version is a 16:8 ratio of fasting to eating. While this is the most popular method, the benefits listed above have also been shown with 12:12, 14:10 and 18:6 ratios of fasting to eating. There are even numerous people like Jack Dorsey (CEO of Twitter), Penn Jillette (World Renowned Magician) and Peter Attia (Longevity Doctor) who believe and follow an extreme 23:1 ratio of fasting to eating. That means they’re eating all their daily calories within a single one-hour meal. That’s crazy and a little ahead of any science I’ve seen.
Based on the research I’ve performed, this is what I recommend:
- Calculate your current feeding window by looking at the time of day you start and stop eating. If you eat breakfast at 7am and an evening snack at 9pm, then your feeding window is 14 hours.
- Reduce your feeding window by around 2 hours. You may accomplish this by eating your breakfast at 7am but now forgoing the evening snack and having your final meal at 7pm. You’ll now have achieved a 12 hour feeding window.
- Test that out for a couple weeks and if all is well, reduce your feeding window another two hours and test again. Do this until you’re around the popular 16:8 ratio. In the end, this would look like a 11am to 7pm feeding window of 8 hours. The other 16 hours would be in a fasting state where you’re only consuming water.
I’ve been experimenting with restricting my feeding window for the past couple months and so far I’ve noticed two main benefits and no downsides. 1) I seem to have more sustained energy levels. For the first time, I’ve figured out how to reduce my afternoon drowsiness. I’ve always experienced severe drowsiness between 1pm and 4pm but since reducing my feeding window to 10 hours (11am to 9pm), this issue seems to have cleared up. 2) In the past couple months I’ve lost about 4lbs. While this isn’t much and could be related to fitness, sleep or other factors, it does seem to correlate to when I started time-restricted eating. Usually, my weight has been pretty consistent over the years so to lose four pounds, in the winter holiday months, seems to indicate that there could be a correlation. Over the next few months, I plan on continuing my experiments with time-restricted eating in hopes of testing a 6 hour window but probably settling on an 8 hour window.
Time-restricted eating is quickly gaining in popularity after more and more positive studies and benefits emerge. By reducing your time in the feeding state, and increasing your time in the fasting state, you allow your body to perform more cellular repair and restoration. This in turn helps with disease prevention, weight loss, blood pressure and longevity. What I recommend is using time-restricted eating to narrow your eating window down to an 8 hour period each day. This simple approach to nutrition can have life changing benefits that I encourage you to try (after you’ve consulted with a professional regarding your personal situation).
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Hey, I am Brandon Zerbe
Welcome to myHealthSciences! My goal has always been to increase quality-of-life with healthy habits that are sustainable, efficient and effective. I do this by covering topics like Cognitive Health, Fitness, Nutrition, Sleep, Financial Independence and Minimalism. You can read more about me here.
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