Time restricted eating (TRE) is a pattern of eating that limits caloric intake to a reduced period of time within the 24 hour cycle. The standard American diet often stretches from breakfast through a post-dinner snack leaving a “fasting” period through the night of 8-10 hours. We were taught that “breakfast was the most important meal of the day”. Now research shows that if caloric intake can be compressed into a shorter period of the day, there is significant improvement in metabolic and cellular health. By stressing our cells with periods of fasting, they become stronger and more efficient in generating energy. From a cellular level up, we get healthier.
How is TRE done? The goal is to take in calories in the shortest period of the 24 hour cycle as possible. Ideally the period should be 6-8 hours. Most of us don’t want to give up dinner time, so the eating period could be 12 noon through 8 pm. If dinner is not so important and you love breakfast, the eating period could be 7 am through 2-3 pm. The hours of eating can be your choice with your goal being a 16+ hour period of no caloric intake.
Will you lose weight by using TRE? Probably not if that is all you are doing. However, as part of a food plan that eliminates alcohol, too much fruit, beverages with calories, and processed foods high in sugar you may have weight loss.
Is it dangerous? No. Fasting as a whole, and TRE as a specific type of fasting, was first noted to be an effective tool for diabetics in controlling their impaired glucose metabolism. All of us will benefit metabolically with improved glucose utilization when we fast.
How do I start? First try to restrict caloric intake to a 12 hour period of time. Then slowly decrease time to 6-8 hours.
If I eliminate breakfast and TRE from noon to 8pm, can I have coffee or tea? Yes. And it is OK to add a bit of creamer.
What if I feel weak or hungry? Usually that is not a low sugar problem but rather a mild dehydration problem. Drink 8-10 ounces of water when you are feeling weak. You will be surprised that 30 minutes later your hunger or weakness will have resolved.
Best advice? Give Time Restricted Eating a try. Make it a bit of a game (rather than deprivation) to see how long you can go before starting your day of eating. Have fun and good luck.For more information, we suggest “The Complete Guide to Fasting” by Jason Fung, MD