Time-Restricted Eating – A way to lose weight?
These days we seem to eat all the time. We rise early and have our milky coffee, eat our three meals plus snacks in between, and finish of our day with a lovely glass of wine and maybe another sneaky late-night snack. Evolutionary speaking, humans have always alternated between times of feasting and times of fasting. However, the modern world and its easy access to food has changed this.
"It is essentially an achievable type of practicing intermittent fasting"
Why is Time-Restricted Eating a good idea?
Time-restricted eating is essentially an achievable type of practicing intermittent fasting. Just like to name suggests, you restrict the time during which you eat your food for the day – your ‘eating window’. Recent research suggests that there are substantial health benefits from having a smaller eating window.
The health benefits are many and may include:
Better blood sugar balance
Lower risk for Diabetes Type 2
Lowered colesterol levels
Improved focus and increased energy levels
A bonus is that it’s also very good for our teeth as the break from food and drink reduces the acid erosion.
How does it work?
The research shows that our digestion and hormones run on a daily rhythm, just like our body clock, with our bodies optimised to process food during daylight hours. When we eat, our body digests and absorbs the food for the next 3-5 hours. Insulin rises significantly, completely shutting off fat-burning and also triggering excess calories to be stored as fat.
Time-restricted eating is based on the idea around giving our digestive system a rest: to give the body a chance to switch its priorities away from digestion and on to other important functions. By restricting the window for eating, and thereby extending your overnight fast, you will help your body to switch from burning sugar for energy to burning fat.
"It’s not just about what you eat, but when you eat”
One of the leading researchers in the field, Dr Panda a professor at the Salk Institute, says that the average person eats over a 15-hour or longer window each day. For example, let’s say you have breakfast or a milky coffee at 7 am and your last snack or milky tea at 10 pm - this gives you an eating window of 15 hours, leaving you a fasting window of 10 hours.
Considering that it typically takes 12 hours after your last meal to fully enter the fasted state, i.e. when your body switches from burning glucose (sugar) to burning fat. With an eating window of 15 hours, this never happens. Essentially, by restricting the eating window, you will make sure that your body burns fat.
In addition, late-night snacking is a bad idea in general, because your digestive system should not have to deal with breaking down food when it should be resting.
How can you put this into practice?
Firstly, it’s important to transition gradually from your current eating pattern to this new way of eating as your body may not easily adapt to this new fuel source (your fat cells). It needs practice, so a good idea is to build up the time in between meals slowly: allowing your body to switch more easily.
The first thing to do is to cut out the snack after dinner
Your initial aim could be to have a window of 12 hours, e.g. breakfast at 7am and last meal at 7pm.
Gradually shift either breakfast or dinner to decrease the eating window
You have to make it work around your timetable, but the easiest way may be to have a later breakfast, and eventually maybe skip it altogether.
For clarification, when it comes to drinks, apart from water you can drink black coffee (in the morning) and herbal teas during your fasting window.
The most common way is to only have 2 regular meals each day with a snack in between. Research suggests that the average optimal eating window is 8 hours, with a fast of 16 hours.
By carefully considering your food choices as well, you should ultimately lose weight. Let’s face it, if you eat fish & chips for lunch, a burger & chips for dinner with several snacks in between, losing weight is not going to happen not matter how small an eating window you have.
Once you have reached you ideal weight, it is a good idea to continue this regime in order to keep the weight off and to feel good in general. You may just adjust it slightly and find a healthy balance that works for you.
One final note…
Remember that it’s important to not become obsessive – if you overrun your window every now and again, it won’t make much difference. In addition, please remember that we are all individuals and our bodies have different preferences as to how to create energy. If you find that skipping breakfast has a negative impact on your mood and wellbeing, then breakfast is an important meal for you. That doesn’t mean that Time-Restricted Eating isn’t an option. You simply need to find what 'window' works for you.
Time-Restricted Eating isn’t suitable for those who are underweight, have an eating disorder or psychiatric disorder, children, pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, or if you are recovering from surgery. If you have a medical condition it’s important to check with your GP before making any changes to your diet.
Hope this helps. Keep well!
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