Benefits of Time Restricted Eating

By Michelle Donovan, MS, RD, LDN, ACSM-CPT

When people think of restricting the time of eating, they often think of Intermittent Fasting. However, a better way to think of it is to consider restricting the amount of time you will spend eating each day. Typically, the recommendation for Time Restricted Eating (TRE) is in the range of 8 to 10 hours per day. Early TRE encourages one to eat from about 7 AM to 3 PM. Late TRE allows the eating window to be from 12 noon to 8 PM. This differs from the idea of fasting because the limit is on the amount of time allowed to eat. On average, research has shown we eat for about 14.5 hours per day.

Research studies have shown some interesting benefits:

Weight Loss

Eating at night is associated with weight gain regardless of how many calories were consumed. In fact, studies asking participants to eat fewer hours during the day has been shown to lead to lower calorie intake for some people, which does lead to weight loss.

Increase in Insulin Sensitivity

If insulin sensitivity improves, this allows your cells to use glucose more easily and your blood sugar will go down more effectively.

Lower Blood Pressure

Eating earlier in the day lowers blood pressure and the oxidative stress on the body. Think of oxidative stress like you think of metal rusting; it is not a good thing. Eating more calories in the morning has been shown to decrease the desire to eat later which may lead to weight loss. Less oxidative stress may reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

How do you put Time Restricted Eating into practice? Eat your biggest meal in the morning. There is a saying attributed to Adele Davis, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a princess, and dinner like a pauper.” This goes against many of our norms, but your body is more prepared for those calories in the morning hours. It fits better with our circadian rhythms.

The Adventist Health Study 2 saw that those who ate their biggest meal in the morning had their greatest reduction in Body Mass Index, followed by those who ate their biggest meal in the middle of the day. Those eating their biggest meal in the evening did not experience appreciable reductions in Body Mass Index meaning they did not lose weight.

Start by eating a big breakfast and setting a time limit on how many hours a day you will eat. Tell yourself that you will not eat after a certain time in the late afternoon or evening. Set an alarm to remind you to stop eating. If you eat at 8 a.m., try to stop eating by 5 or 6 p.m. You may see a difference on the scale as well as with your blood sugar.

Michelle Donovan, MS, RD, LDN, ACSM-CPT
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