Why I decided to try Time Restricted Eating, the changes I’ve seen, and how to make it work for you
So much of our lives revolves around eating. Whether it’s a special birthday dinner, a holiday spread, a home cooked meal, or the simple smoothie you make every morning for breakfast, food plays a significant role in our lives. Of course, eating is a human need, and the food we consume drastically affects our health. It’s not only what we eat, but how we eat, as well as when we eat, that matters. That’s where time-restricted eating comes in. As a health and fitness professional, time restricted eating has changed my health significantly over the past 10 months–more than I expected. Here’s how…
What is Time Restricted Eating?
You’ve probably heard of intermittent fasting, so what is Time Restricted Eating? Time Restricted Eating, or TRE, is a type of intermittent fasting that involves eating within a specific time frame. Usually, the time frame is between 6 and 10 hours. In this way, you will fast anywhere from 14-18 hours each day. During your fasting window, you cannot consume any calories from food or drinks (besides water), including those with sugar substitutes. In addition to water, you can also have plain black coffee or tea without any sugar or calories. I always have a cup of coffee every morning, and I find it helps satisfy my cravings before I break my fast. Plus, the caffeine boost always helps curb the hangry feelings. During your eating window, you can eat as you normally would!
How does Time Restricted Eating work?
Time Restricted Eating is not necessarily about calorie restriction, but rather time restriction (as the name implies). So, you can technically eat what you want, but in a shorter time frame. How does this work? A shorter eating time frame will give your body more time to “reset.” Studies show that fasting for 12-16 hours significantly affects our hormones that influence blood sugar and metabolism. In short, your body spends less time digesting food and more time burning the calories that you’ve already consumed in your eating window.
It doesn’t matter so much the time you begin eating; it’s about the ratio of eating to fasting. So if you’re a breakfast person, you can still eat breakfast–your window could be from 9 AM to 5 PM. Or, if you aren’t an early riser, you could push back your time restricted eating to begin at 12 PM and stop around 8 PM. Again, what matters is the ratio of eating to fasting, allowing for at least 12 hours of daily fasting.
Of course, what you eat does matter to an extent. You will absolutely see better results with Time Restricted Eating when you follow a clean, whole food diet. I do TRE on the Plant Paradox diet and have done so since September 2018. For tips on how to start a healthy eating plan, see here. Moreover, there is no need to count calories, macros or eliminate food groups. It is highly customizable to your dietary needs and preferences–which, in my opinion, is the key to maintenance.
Why I decided to give Time Restricted Eating a try
About a year ago, I decided my health needed an overhaul. I was already living a healthy lifestyle, but I realized that I wasn’t paying enough attention to the quality of the foods I was eating and products I was using. I had recently read Dr. Gundry’s books and examined his research on inflammation and gut health, and I became determined to improve my own gut health. Along these lines, I adapted the Plant Paradox lifestyle, and changed my nutrition as well as the products I was using. You can read about my experience here. Fasting is a part of the program, too. I was a little reluctant at first, because I love food. I couldn’t imagine forgoing my morning smoothies or avocado toast. But my husband, who saw weight loss results with TRE, encouraged me to give it a try.
There are many reasons to try Time Restricted Eating, and many people implement it as a way to lose weight–and this is a great reason to give it a try! However, I use TRE as a way to reduce inflammation in my body–weight loss was and is not a goal of mine. There are various benefits of TRE, including:
- reduced inflammation
- improved blood sugar regulation
- better regulation of hormones that control appetite
- better immunity
- improved heart and gut health
- enhanced recovery from workouts
- lower risk of disease, like cancer, dementia and diabetes
- improved brain function and mental clarity
- protection against oxidative stress and aging
- improved sleep
Benefits of Time Restricted Eating I’ve experienced
While some of these benefits will take time to materialize, my health changed within days of starting Time Restricted Eating. One of the first changes I experienced was improved mental clarity. Since I didn’t eat my first meal until around noon, I spent the first 5 or so hours of the day fasting. I know what you’re thinking–weren’t you starving? I’ll admit, the first several weeks were tough, but I hung on hoping that the benefits would outweigh the hangry feelings. I began noticing that I was more focused, alert and had more energy in the mornings while fasting. The more I stayed on schedule, the easier it became to fast and the fewer cravings I experienced. Now, it is far less of a struggle for me to fast 15 or even 16 hours.
Another significant benefit I’ve experienced is reduced inflammation and bloating. Time Restricted Eating has improved my gut health and digestion to the point where I am hardly bloated anymore–which feels amazing! I feel lighter, and have less post-meal lethargy than before. I am also more “regular” and experience less digestive discomfort.
In addition, my sleep quality has improved, and I feel more rested overall. TRE also aids in muscle recovery from my workouts–which as a fitness instructor, is a huge benefit, because I am constantly sore!
Another reason I implement TRE is that brain disease runs in my family, and a few of my family members have suffered from Alzheimer’s. So, part of my motivation to stick to TRE is based on evidence that it decreases the risk of degenerative brain disease.
After 10 months of consistently doing Time Restricted Eating, I can say 100% that it has changed my health. I see and feel the difference, daily.
How Time Restricted Eating can help you lose weight
While research is limited, there are several studies that suggest that Time Restricted Eating can promote weight loss. This study shows that obese people who implemented TRE without changing any other aspects of their diet lost a small amount of weight over 8 weeks. Since TRE involves shortening the eating window each day, many people will naturally consume fewer calories. Let’s be honest–how many of us mindlessly eat during the evening while watching our favorite Netflix show? TRE can help you cut out unnecessary snacking, which will aid in weight loss.
While Time Restricted Eating can promote weight loss, long term results will only happen with a clean, whole food diet. Furthermore, all of the benefits of TRE are possible only via good nutrition.
What if you’re looking to build lean muscle?
Whether or not weight loss is your goal, building lean muscle is also possible with TRE. One study observed males who fasted for 16 hours and ate for 8 hours daily for 8 weeks. They followed a strength training regimen while doing TRE, and results showed no reduction in muscle mass. However, the men did lose body fat. So, TRE may help you see muscle definition and also aid in body fat loss for a leaner physique.
Other considerations–why TRE may not be for you
On another note: Time Restricted Eating is not a way to punish your body or starve yourself. The point is not to limit certain foods or calories–you should still be eating within a healthy calorie range for your body and lifestyle. The only thing you are changing is when you eat, giving your body more time to utilize your food for optimum nutrition and cellular function. However, if you’ve had patterns of disordered eating in the past, TRE may not be right for you.
TRE is also not recommended for women who are pregnant or nursing. In addition, if you suffer from anxiety, depression, or are under extreme stress, TRE is not the best option and may make these issues worse. Always consult your doctor if you have any health concerns about starting TRE.
Thinking about trying TRE? What to do next…
Time Restricted Eating has changed my health in numerous ways, and it has the potential to change yours, too! But starting a new habit is always the hardest part. My advice with starting TRE: ease into it. I started with a 14 hour fasting period, from 8 PM to 10 AM. After a few weeks, I increased my fasting period to 15, then 16 hours.
You can still experience benefits of fasting in as little as 8 hours, but hour 15 to 16 of fasting is when your body really starts to reap the benefits of blood sugar regulation and fat burning. You’ve got to start somewhere, so take your time with increasing you fasting window and do what feels best for your body.
After you determine your fasting window, it’s best try to maintain the same fating/eating schedule each day. This way, you will reap all the benefits of fasting by consistently fasting for at least 12 hours each day. In addition, creating a schedule will make adherence easier, because you won’t waste time deciding when to eat and fast each day.
Begin a healthy eating plan (I talk about how to do this here). Like I said before, a nutritionally balanced diet is essential to seeing results with TRE. While TRE will definitely help you burn off a pizza-and-wine night, it is more so intended to heal your body, which can only be accomplished with the supplementation of nutritionally valuable foods.