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Timing is everything

When I ask my clients to do something that they might find a bit challenging, I like to try it first myself to make sure it is reasonable to do, whether that is giving up fizzy drinks, cutting down on alcohol or reducing sugar intake.

Recently, I have been learning about the evidence behind time-restricted eating. It is not something I have used yet in clinic, but I thought I would try it for one week to see how I felt while doing it, and what consequences it might have for my health.

Time-restricted eating does not focus on what is being eaten but restricting the amount of time the person spends eating. A person on a time-restricted diet will only eat during specific hours of the day. There is evidence that time-restricted eating can be beneficial for managing weight[1], chronic disease[2] and increasing longevity[3].

Time-restricted feeding studies differ in the number of hours to which food is restricted. Some studies restrict to a 12 hour period, e.g. 8am – 8pm, and others use an 8 hour period, e.g. 10am – 6pm. Being the sort of person that likes to make compromises, I used a 10 hour period for my trial week!

Usually I eat breakfast around 7.30am, lunch anywhere between 12 and 1pm and dinner between 6 and 8pm depending on what activities the other members of the family are doing that evening, plus a couple of snacks – with one often being later in the evening. Therefore a 10 hour period of eating was going to require some changes!

I shifted my first meal of the day to late morning (sometimes at 10am but often as late as 11.30am), made it a more substantial meal and took a little more time over it than I usually would for breakfast. I found that I was hungry around 4pm, so had a good-sized snack at this time – perhaps a piece of fruit and some nuts, or some oat cakes with avocado or cheese. I had dinner as usual later in the evening, with the only big change there being no snacking after dinner.

I feel that I ate well during the week, taking as much food as I wanted and going back for seconds if I was still peckish after my dinner. I had cakes and chocolate when they were offered as long as it was within my time-period of 10am-8pm. Surprisingly, I wasn’t even hungry in the evening after a good dinner – probably my evening snack is more of a habit – something I often tell my clients ( so why don’t I listen to my own advice?!).

I felt fine during the week and carried on my usual activities. In fact, I did not feel at all deprived. Sometimes I would feel hungry if I hadn’t managed to eat my first meal by 11am, which is why I might find an 8 hour restriction period very challenging.

At the end of the week, I had lost 2lbs in weight, which surprised me at first, but when I thought about it, I realised I had eaten less snacks and had essentially cut out breakfast. I still felt that I had eaten a nutritious diet and were I to continue with this plan, I would eat more food at my afternoon snack to avoid unnecessary weight loss.

It is important to note that drinking water and herbal teas is permitted throughout the day and night. People who have issues with their blood glucose levels should seek advice from their GP before trying this type of eating plan.

[1] Gabel, K., Hoddy, K. K., Haggerty, N., Song, J., Kroeger, C. M., Trepanowski, J. F., … Varady, K. A. (2018). Effects of 8-hour time restricted feeding on body weight and metabolic disease risk factors in obese adults: A pilot study. Nutrition and Healthy Aging, 4(4), 345–353.

[2] Trepanowski, J. F., Canale, R. E., Marshall, K. E., Kabir, M. M., & Bloomer, R. J. (2011). Impact of caloric and dietary restriction regimens on markers of health and longevity in humans and animals: A summary of available findings. Nutrition Journal, 10(1), 1–13.

[3] Longo, V. D., Panda, S., Adamello, V., & Jolla, L. (2017). Fasting, circadian rhythms, and time restricted feeding in healthy lifespan Valter. Cell Metabolism, 23(6), 1048–1059.

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