Intermittent Fasting and Time-Restricted Eating: What the Research Says
If you’ve searched “Best Diets for Weight Loss” online over the past two years, you’ve likely come across articles talking about Intermittent Fasting. Now, a variation of IF called Time Restricted Eating (TRE) has started to come into the spotlight. Following the body’s natural circadian rhythm, TRE claims to help us lose weight and lower our blood pressure, but does it work and is it sustainable over time?
What is Time-Restricted Eating?
TRE requires fasting for 14 to 20 hours per day. You are allowed a 4-10 hour “eating window.” Outside of this eating window, you are not to consume any food or calorie-containing beverages.
Where Does the Research Stand?
The research behind this eating pattern is based on the science of circadian rhythms, the body’s natural cycle of physical, mental, and behavioral changes. The circadian rhythm responds primarily to light and darkness in our environment, controlling our hormones to make us more active during the day and less active during the night.
The TRE fasting period gives the digestive system time to rest, and the body uses this time to ‘repair itself’ on a cellular level. Early studies on TRE also show it may help with losing or maintaining weight, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing insulin resistance.
Is TRE for You?
While existing research is promising, long-term studies are needed before TRE becomes a mainstream way of eating. However, if you’re considering giving it a try, do your own research, and keep in mind the following limitations. Finally, talk to your healthcare provider before getting started to make sure TRE is appropriate for your needs.
- Weight loss is not guaranteed. Counting calories is not a part of TRE. It’s possible to eat less with a smaller eating window, but if you get too hungry in the fasting periods, it could be easy to eat more than intended.
- Nutrition can vary based on what you eat. TRE doesn’t provide guidance on what foods to focus on for good nutrition. To create a balanced diet to support a healthy functioning body, we recommend focusing on veggies, fruit, whole grains, protein, and healthy fats and limiting foods high in added sugars or refined grains.
- TRE is not safe for everyone. It is not recommended for people with type 1 diabetes, people taking diabetes medication, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or anyone with a history of an eating disorder.
- You know your life best. It’s up to you to decide whether TRE will work with your schedule and lifestyle, and if so, how you will make it fit. For a sustainable change, you want to fit the eating pattern to your life, not your life to the eating pattern.