Why do we eat the way we eat? For health? Marketing? Societal standards? Or just because that’s the way we have always done it? If your answer is the last one, please never use that as a reason ever again.
With breakfast, lunch, dinner and grazing for snacks throughout the day; we could be eating for a 16 hour window. Increasing research is showing that we should narrow that window and give our body a chance to reset and cleanse itself. Let’s introduce time restricted feeding.
What is Time Restricted Feeding?
Time restricted feeding is not a way of telling you WHAT to eat, but a system of telling yourself WHEN to eat. Some people have referred to this as intermittent fasting, but the researchers who coined TRF thought feedingwould seem more inviting than the scary fasting word.
The time constraints of Time Restricted Feeding vary anywhere from a 12 hour eating window, an 8 hour eating window, all the way to 4 hours and fasting for 24 hours. The window starts when you first ingest something that isn’t toothpaste and ends when you have your last bite or sip of beverage that isn’t water at the end of your day. We will touch on those basic time frames further down, but the minimum effective dose is usually between 12 and 10 hours of eating per day.
Matching this time with your circadian rhythm and internal clock also looks to be beneficial. Your eating clock starts the moment you ingest something that isn’t water. For most of us, that would be our first cup of coffee in the morning. Holding off on that first bite, or sip allows you to start your feeding segment a bit later in the day.
It is suggested to try your best to halt your eating window before 7pm, so that your body can properly digest your food before entering your sleeping and fasted state. In all reality, do we want to eat a huge meal and then lie down for 7–8 hours? How silly does that sound?
What Are the Benefits?
1. Easier Implementation
Once we get over the idea that we need to eat every three hours, adapting to this schedule of eating overshadows any other diet or routine. This is a behavior based adjustment, not a complete overhaul of your eating or physical activity habits. Just do what you normally do and shorten the window.
“Diets are easy in the contemplation, difficult in the execution. Intermittent fasting is just the opposite — it’s difficult in the contemplation but easy in the execution.
Most of us have contemplated going on a diet. When we find a diet that appeals to us, it seems as if it will be a breeze to do. But when we get into the nitty gritty of it, it becomes tough. For example, I stay on a low–carb diet almost all the time. But if I think about going on a low–fat diet, it looks easy. I think about bagels, whole wheat bread and jelly, mashed potatoes, corn, bananas by the dozen, etc. — all of which sound appealing. But were I to embark on such a low–fat diet I would soon tire of it and wish I could have meat and eggs. So a diet is easy in contemplation, but not so easy in the long–term execution.
Intermittent fasting is hard in the contemplation, of that there is no doubt. “You go without food for 24 hours?” people would ask, incredulously when we explained what we were doing. “I could never do that.” But once started, it’s a snap. No worries about what and where to eat for one or two out of the three meals per day. It’s a great liberation. Your food expenditures plummet. And you’re not particularly hungry. … Although it’s tough to overcome the idea of going without food, once you begin the regimen, nothing could be easier.”
— Dr. Michael Eades
2. Decrease Body Fat
In it’s simplest description, TRF keeps the bad weight off and keeps the good weight on. While using an eating schedule, it is much easier to decrease body fat and maintain or increase lean muscle mass.
This all plays on our insulin levels. After you eat something, your insulin levels rise. Insulin is a hormone that’s made by the pancreas, which is used to regulate your blood sugar. It’s job is to take up the glucose that comes from sugar or carbs and either use it for energy or store it for later use. When you don’t eat for an extended period of time, say 8 to 12 hours or so, you enter a fasted state, your insulin levels are low, and your body starts to use fat as it’s source of energy.
Most people who only implement this schedule, with no other change to diet or exercise, tend to lose body fat because of this timing.
3. Reduces Chance of Cancer and Metabolic Disease
Occasional caloric restriction and fasting have been key weapons in the fight against cancer and metabolic disease. There hasn’t been tons of research on these issues, but the future looks bright.
One study fed rats a high fat diet, put them on a time restricted feeding program, and didn’t reduce calories. This protocol helped to prevent metabolic disease in this group versus the control group.
Dr. Dom D’Agostino, a researcher and professor at USF, focuses on the ketogenic diet and metabolic therapies. One of his suggestions for those heading to chemotherapy is to implement a fast beforehand to increase the benefits and help ward off the crappy after-effects.
4. Increases Lifespan
We can mention again, caloric restriction has been shown to increase the years of your life. When you are in a fasted state, your body looks for ways to keep you alive.
I don’t think many of us want to go on week long fasts to live a couple years longer. Let’s enjoy the years we have on this earth while lengthening when we can.
Good news for us is that time restricted feeding activates many of the same mechanisms that caloric restriction activates. We can have our cake and eat it too, within proper time frames…
5. Increases money in your wallet and time in your day
When I first implemented TRF into my lifestyle, I found so much more time and dollars lying around. You are essentially wiping out one meal from your old schedule. Gone were the Cheerios in the morning or the late night pizza. Want to be creative? Need more hours? Implement a time restricted feeding schedule and watch yourself come alive.
Popular Eating Schedules
16:8 This is quite possibly the most popular eating schedule in the intermittent fasting world. It allows for an 8 hour eating window usually starting with a late lunch and dinner. Skipping breakfast is easier for most because lunch and dinners seem to be the most social times for meeting up and eating together.
14:10 This is the window prescribed by Dr. Rhonda Patrick and the one she utilizes on most days. It’s essentially the largest feeding window you can get away with to realize the benefits. It accounts for 10 hours of eating and 14 hours of fasting. She wakes up and starts her window while ending with an early dinner or late lunch.
18:6 Want to one up the 16:8 community, here you go.
20:4 Some folks go for one BIG meal, usually dinner, and opt for FEASTING during this time.
24:0 or 24 Hour Fast You can implement a 24 hour fast once or twice a week to see benefits of decreasing your insulin levels for extended time. This usually can be done by eating dinner, then fasting until dinner the next day. Just make sure your time is used up and you’re not sitting around all day thinking about eating…
You Are an Experiment of 1, See What Works for You
The biggest takeaway anyone can glean from this post, I hope, is that you are your own experiment. Don’t let society, your family, or anyone else tell you what is right FOR YOU. Time Restricted Feeding has more and more research showing the positive effects, but it might not be right for you. Maybe you think you can get into 14:10 or 16:8 eating windows, GREAT! Maybe you want to try a 24 hour fast, that’s awesome. Lean into the edges of your comfort zone and see what happens. Many people are reaping the benefits of TRF, and you could be the next.