There are so many hot nutrition trends these days. Some are short lived, some have questionable health benefits or efficacy, and some are downright dangerous! Until very recently, we were told that we absolutely had to eat breakfast, we were forbidden to skip meals, and we must add in mid morning and mid afternoon snacks, all in the pursuit of optimal health. Is this really the case? Move over breakfast and hello Time Restricted Eating (TRE).
TRE is not a new concept. If you look back to the good old days, we didn’t munch away all day long. Look at the Paleo ra and beyond, people alternated between times of feasting and times of fasting. In the World Wars, where rationing of food was commonplace, it was not possible to eat all day long. Food was scarce and a highly prized commodity. Furthermore, many different cultures and religions have been practising intermittent fasting without suffering any ill effects.
What Exactly is Time Restricted Eating?
Time Restricted Eating is not a diet. It focuses on the timing of eating rather than what you are eating, although what you eat is still important! The timeframe can vary person to person. Here is a rough idea of fasting windows:
Beginners 12 hour eating window with 12 hour fasting window
Intermediates 10 hour eating window with 14 hour fasting window
Pros 8 hour eating window with 16 hour fasting window
Within these fasting windows, no calories are consumed. Water, no sugar drinks, black tea or coffee are allowed. Rookie error alert! If you are adding in milk or cream to your tea or coffee then you are not fasting!
What are the potential benefits of TRE?
Many have been listed such as reducing inflammation, enhanced detoxification, through to improved immunity and aging. Here are some of the findings from the scientific studies we have looked at:
Reduced Calorie Intake
Many, though not all studies done on the subject, found that TRE may help reduce overall energy consumption as most people are cutting out one meal, usually breakfast. One study we reduced our daily calorific intake by a whopping 20%!
With reduced calorie intake then surely weight loss is a welcome side effect? However, in some studies, some people lost weight, while others did not. Those who were overweight or obese lost more than those who of average weight.
In one study, cholesterol levels improved by 10-35%, with a greater drop in the overweight and obese categories than it those who were of a normal weight. It is good news for those of you who are worried about your cholesterol, levels fell even further when the feeding window was slightly extended from 8 to 10-12 hours.
Blood Sugar Levels
Some research has shown that TRE lowers blood sugar, but others found the opposite. Why the difference? Our body is designed to switch between using glucose and fat for fuel. While it prefers glucose, as it is instant fuel, it can use fat, but only in the absence of insulin. If we haven’t used fat for fuel in a while, it may take a little time for the relevant pathways to work efficiently again (and we may feel hungry during that transition), a process that is accelerated by a diet that is lower in carbs and higher in fats, exercise, calorie restriction and intermittent fasting.
Gut Health & Digestion
Periods of not eating allow the gut to ‘rest and digest’, especially over night. While the gut is empty, a self-cleaning process sets and cells of the intestinal lining are renewed and replaced. TRE also affects the composition of the gut flora. The bacterial species Akkermansia, a desirable species associated with healthy body weight, thrives on mucus rather than fibre, and will only get fed in the absence of food waste.
Is TRE suitable for everyone?
TRE may not work for everyone. If you are pre diabetic you are diabetic or very stressed, it is important to get your blood sugar levels at a stable level before trying out TRE. If you have trouble with hormone balance e.g. PMS, PCOS, menopausal symptoms, or thyroid issues, TRE may or may not work for you. In most cases it is a case of giving it a go to see how you feel.
For those of you who wish to try it out, we recommend that you start with the beginner version and build up from there. If you would like more help then contact us HERE.