While many diets focus on specific foods, time restricted eating is a popular diet pattern that relies on when you eat instead of what you eat. Time restricted eating is a popular technique to lose weight and avoid overeating. A popular time restricted eating schedule is 16:8 – a 16hr fasting window with an 8-hour eating window.
While a lot of people use this technique to aid weight loss, there are a few other benefits worth considering too. Let us run you through them and how it works here.
- What is Time Restricted Eating?
- What are the Benefits of Time Restricted Eating?
- How to Follow a Time Restricted Eating Diet
What is Time-Restricted Eating?
Time restricted eating is planning the hours of the day during which you will consume your calories for the day and the hours during which you will fast, or not consume any calories.
Many people choose to start their eating window in the late morning to keep the majority of the fasting hours during sleep, i.e., 11am-7pm eating window with a 7pm-11am fasting window. The idea behind this diet is the fact that our ancestors went long periods without meals, and to give your digestive system a break. This can be efficient for those who are trying to lose weight but feel they’re set back by late night snacking
Much of the success of time restricted eating can be attributed to lower total calorie consumption during the day. If you have only 8 hours to fit in three meals (plus snacks if desired), you are less likely to overeat and feel too full for your next meal.
When you eat all day long, it gives you more hours to stretch between your meals, making it easier to overeat. While it’s not a guarantee that you’ll eat fewer calories on a time restricted diet, a little bit of planning can help make it successful. Recent research has shown there may be additional benefits to time restricted eating even if you aren’t looking to lose weight.
What are the Benefits of Time Restricted Eating?
The primary benefit of time restricted eating is that it’s been shown to be effective specifically in those who are overweight to help them lose weight and improve their body composition.1
These changes over time can also impact metabolic measures like blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar control. Keeping track only of time and not calories or macros can be an effective, simple solution for those who want a simple method of weight loss.
Blood Sugar Levels
A large study that included a review of many publications on time restricted eating, showed that it can help to regulate blood sugar levels.3 Well controlled blood sugar levels indicate healthy metabolism and your body’s efficiency at turning food into energy. Poorly controlled blood sugar levels can lead to overeating and long-term complications.
Targets Fat Loss
The same large overview study showed data that indicated that time restricted eating can help target fat loss. While many diets promise weight loss, it can be tricky to target fat loss without burning muscle while in a calorie deficit.
Research has shown that it is possible to lose fat mass while still preserving muscle mass using time restricted eating.3
Supports Healthy Gut
The microbiome of the gut is a popular new area for research. Scientists have found many links between overall health and the health of the bacteria in your gut. A study at Cambridge found that people who followed a time restricted diet had healthier gut microbiomes.4 This is thought to be due to the long break in demand on digestion that happens during the non-eating hours.
Can Improve Performance
To build on the science that showed time restricted eating as effective at maintaining muscle mass and targeting fat loss, another study showed that those following a time restricted eating pattern showed greater endurance than those who did not.5 If you’re finding yourself struggling to find enough energy to finish your workout, time restricted eating might be worth trying.
Get more info on gut health and performance here...
How to Follow a Time-Restricted Eating Diet?
Determine Your Time Restrictions
To set up a time restricted eating diet, you first need to determine which hours of the day will be fasting and which will be for eating. If you choose the popular 16:8 pattern, think about your typical schedule and when you feel most hungry.
If you sleep for an average of 8 hours per night, you’ll need to fast an additional 4 before bed and 4 after waking - another alternative is 2 hours fasting before bed and 6 after waking, based on your preference.
If you know you’re hungry at night after a workout, use more morning hours for fasting; if you can make it until lunchtime without feeling hungry, you can start your restriction period later.
Think about your meals
Once you know you have a specific eating window (in this example, 8 hours), think about how you’ll fit your meals into that time frame.
While there is no “right” answer, consider if you want to have your three regular meals, or two larger meals, or 4 small meals or snacks. Make sure you’re still getting adequate protein, carbs, fat and overall calories in addition to the vitamins and minerals you need to meet your nutrition goals.
Stay on Target
Develop your plan as outlined above, and then stick to it. This plan is very flexible - the idea is to not have to count every macro or calorie, and it can be adapted with any other diet pattern (low carb, high fat, etc).
Consider Your Workouts
You may want to time your workouts differently depending on what type of training you plan on and whether or not you like to eat soon before or soon after a workout.
Here's how to time your protein shakes right...
Take Home Message
Time restricted eating is a flexible eating pattern that can fit into almost any lifestyle or diet preference. While it has shown effective results for weight loss, it can also bring improvements in heart health, blood sugar control, gut health, and even performance. The added benefit of proven fat burning while preserving muscle makes time restricted eating a popular diet and one worth trying if you’re not seeing results.
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Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you're concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.
- Chow, L. S., Manoogian, E. N., Alvear, A., Fleischer, J. G., Thor, H., Dietsche, K., … & Mashek, D. G. (2020). Time‐restricted eating effects on body composition and metabolic measures in humans who are overweight: a feasibility study. Obesity, 28(5), 860-869.
- Wilkinson, M. J., Manoogian, E. N., Zadourian, A., Lo, H., Fakhouri, S., Shoghi, A., … & Taub, P. R. (2020). Ten-hour time-restricted eating reduces weight, blood pressure, and atherogenic lipids in patients with metabolic syndrome. Cell metabolism, 31(1), 92-104.
- Moon, S., Kang, J., Kim, S. H., Chung, H. S., Kim, Y. J., Yu, J. M., … & Kim, T. (2020). Beneficial effects of time-restricted eating on metabolic diseases: a systemic review and meta-analysis. Nutrients, 12(5), 1267.
- Zeb, F., Wu, X., Chen, L., Fatima, S., Haq, I. U., Chen, A., … & Li, M. (2020). Effect of time-restricted feeding on metabolic risk and circadian rhythm associated with gut microbiome in healthy males. British Journal of Nutrition, 123(11), 1216-1226.
- Tinsley, G. M., Forsse, J. S., Butler, N. K., Paoli, A., Bane, A. A., La Bounty, P. M., … & Grandjean, P. W. (2017). Time-restricted feeding in young men performing resistance training: A randomized controlled trial. European journal of sport science, 17(2), 200-207.
Claire is a Registered Dietitian through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a board-certified Health and Wellness Coach through the International Consortium for Health and Wellness Coaching. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master’s degree in Clinical Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Pittsburgh.
Talking and writing about food and fitness is at the heart of Claire’s ethos as she loves to use her experience to help others meet their health and wellness goals.
Claire is also a certified indoor cycling instructor and loves the mental and physical boost she gets from regular runs and yoga classes. When she’s not keeping fit herself, she’s cheering on her hometown’s sports teams in Pittsburgh, or cooking for her family in the kitchen.
Find out more about Claire’s experience here.