Time-Restricted Eating – A Simple Habit to Usher in Powerful Change

 

There are a myriad of nutrition and diet plans filling magazine racks and bookshelves all across America.  What is one to do?  Lots of fads with some proving harmful after the fact. Too many choices, so most of us just do nothing.  

If I could give you one very simple eating plan would you consider it?  

Consider time-restricted eating (TRE) as your eating plan.  Obviously, please talk to your doctor before starting any big health change in your life to make sure your unique situation would not be harmed by changing the timing of your eating.  

But why TRE?  The reason is partially from the strong science backing TRE as well as its simplicity advantage over intermittent fasting.  As I’ve delved into the research on intermittent fasting, it seems there are a myriad of plans all with supporting claims, and as a busy entrepreneur wanting to implement multiple new habits, I put intermittent fasting in the “too hard” pile and chose TRE.

Let’s start with some basics.  When you eat, a lot happens in your body:

  1. Depending on what you’ve eaten, your blood glucose (sugar) levels will rise.
  2. Your pancreas produces a hormone called insulin.
  3. Insulin tells your cells to fuel up on glucose as your gut breaks down your food.
  4. Your body releases hormones like cholecystokinin (CCK) and leptin, which signal when you’re full.

However, when you eat a lot of carbs and sugar, ignore your body’s “I’m full!” signals and eat frequently without burning off all that energy, your body struggles to keep up. Your pancreas must work overtime, and any extra glucose gets stored as fat.  Over time, those factors can increase your risk of weight gain, insulin resistance, and diseases like diabetes and cancer. Yikes.

TRE follows the circadian clocks of all the organs involved in your digestive process.  There are functions that need to happen during the day when you are inside your eating window and there are critical functions that need to happen in the evening and throughout the night according to a routine rhythm.

When you continue eating from early morning to late at night, processes opposite digestion fail to occur, which leads to problems.  When you take a break between meals, your glucose levels remain stable, your insulin levels drop, and your body has a chance to clean up shop — all of which can support major benefits like weight loss and longevity.

Let’s summarize three major areas that improve when you follow TRE:

  1. Weight management – in fasting, you use up the glucose and your body transitions to burn fat – a process called ketosis.  This will support good overall weight management.  It’s also good for leveling out blood glucose levels, therefore improving insulin resistance. 
  2. Autophagy – this is a cellular waste removal process that happens when you fast.  The result in simple terms is your body functions better from the improved cellular efficiency.  
  3. Healthy aging – fasting protects your cardiovascular system, blood sugar management, and brain cellular performance.  Animal studies support the anti-aging effects of intermittent fasting. 

Overall, if you can build a habit of daily TRE, you should experience improved cognitive function, energy levels, alertness, immune function, and long-term reduced risk of life-threatening and shortening chronic diseases.  

These benefits lead to better day to day performance and likely give you more time, better time for enjoying your family, future children, and grandchildren, and more time to advance your goals.  

How to Do Time-Restricted Eating 

TRE is elegantly simple. You eat within a shortened period, and you fast the rest of the time. If you’re not eating right now, you’re fasting. And if you extend your fast a bit longer, you can benefit from it. Potential benefits include more energy, brainpower and weight management. 

When you follow TRE, you eat within a shortened time window — usually 8-12 hours. Here’s what that might look like:

  1. Finish your last calorie intake (including non-water drinks) by 6:00 pm for example. 
  2. Wait until 6:00 am or better, 7:00 am – 8:00 am for first calories.  Coffee must wait, it includes calories. 
  3. Eat freely, cleanly between 7:00am – 8:00am and 6:00pm.  Try to follow a regular time routine. 
  4. Repeat this schedule the next day.

So, why do people do TRE? Although weight management is one of the benefits, it’s not really a diet. It’s an eating schedule that has big payoffs over time, like regulating your insulin levels, protecting against disease, and — yes, helping you manage your weight.  TRE also is beneficial in regulating your digestive rhythm with your circadian rhythms to improve sleep.  This might go against what you’ve heard about eating frequency in the past. Skipping a meal won’t send your body into “starvation mode.” And although there’s nothing wrong with eating breakfast, there are major benefits to giving your body an extended break between meals.