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Intermittent Fasting (TRE): Friend Or Foe?

There an optimal daily feeding pattern.

Time-restricted eating is heavily promoted in the online health sphere and for good reason: It offers potential benefits that go beyond the diet.


1

What Is A Feeding Window?

When we intentionally eat at specific times and avoid eating the rest of the time, this is called time-restricted eating.

Rule 1

Eat only when the “window” is open.

Example: The window is open from 9 AM to 5 PM.

Rule 2

Fast (don’t eat) outside the window.

Example: Stop eating after 5 pm –> until the next morning at 9 am.

There Are Many Variations

There are all sorts of odd methods, (such as “one meal per day” or “36 hour fast/12 hour binge”). The more extreme the approach, the larger the amount of risk.

However, the most popular approach is an 8-hour feeding window. All calories for the day are eaten between 9am and 5pm.

There are some variations to the 8-hour window, but 9AM-5PM is the safest, most effective option for most people.

Intermittent fasting is eating within a window of time — and fasting the rest of the day.


Intermittent fasting is also known as
“time-restricted eating.”


2

The Benefits Of Time-Restricted Eating

There are some interesting effects when eating this way (TRE).

Questions To Ask

  • Are these benefits available to everyone?
  • Are these benefits sustainable in the long-run?
  • Is time-restricted eating the only way to achieve these benefits?

You can lose weight.

  • You’ll probably eat fewer calories. It’s difficult to eat as many calories in a short time span.
  • Going hours and hours without eating causes your body to burn through its glycogen stores and burn fat for fuel.

It can be convenient.

  • Your whole day “opens up” when you don’t need to stop and eat.

Temporarily benefit gut health.

  • Microbes living in your gut largely determine gut health.
  • In poor gut health, bad microbes are fed at every meal.
  • When fasting, bad microbes are not fed — which means virtually zero endotoxin is released (by the bad microbes) for many hours of the day. This can represent a powerful relief from “systemic endotoxicity” caused by poor gut health for much of the day.

It can increase autophagy.

  • Autophagy — When the body cleans up old, junk proteins inside cells.
  • Occurs when food is not being digested — beginning after about 12 hours of fasting.

You can avoid circadian mistakes.

  • Eating is a signal to the brain that it is daytime.
  • Daytime eating tells the brain “It is daytime.
  • Therefore, eating at night confuses the brain’s clock, dysregulating the circadian rhythm.

Possibly improved NADH to NAD+ ratio.

  • A higher NAD+ ratio (to NADH) is associated with better longevity and metabolism.
  • This research is entirely in its infancy. Many notice no improvement from attempts to boost this ratio. It’s possible this ratio reflects, rather than causes, improvements in health.
3

What The Science Says

Perhaps surprisingly, the research about intermittent fasting is scant.

There simply aren’t many studies performed on the subject of time-restricted eating. Given how much internet attention this approach is enjoying, it’s amazing how little science is out there to back it up.

However, there is a 2018 study that demonstrated that time-restricted eating improved the following markers in pre-diabetic men, even though none of them lost weight:

  • insulin sensitivity
  • blood pressure
  • oxidative stress
  • appetite

The 6-hour feeding window these men followed was 8am to 2pm.

Therefore, the suggested benefits of time-restricted feeding are largely theoretical.

3

Many Options

There are many ways to implement a feeding window. Here are examples of different popular approaches.

2-Hour

Feeding Window

This is essentially “one meal a day” (OMAD).

Typically, one massive mid-afternoon meal.

4-Hour

Feeding Window

Typically, four hours of intense grazing — or, one long meal.

8-Hour

Feeding Window

Highly popular, though somewhat extreme for many.

Two meals per day is the most common method, here.

Two popular Options
  • 9am-5pm
  • 12pm-8pm

12-Hour

Feeding Window

A more sustainable option.

Three meals per day works, here.

5

Who Benefits?

Some folks might benefit from experimenting with time-restricted eating.

Those who could benefit most from intermittent fasting are those struggling with:

  • Poor gut health
  • Controlling calories
  • Needing to “change things up”
  • Needing a plan to follow
  • Sleep problems
  • Weight problems
  • Fatigue
6

The Risks

The challenges of intermittent fasting are not often mentioned, but they can be significant.

Skipping… Breakfast

It’s popular to skip breakfast when following an 8-hour window.

This usually results in a 12-8 feeding time, with meals eaten at lunch & dinner. The result is often lots of afternoon-snacking, too, to make up for inadequate caloric intake, or pushing the window later in the evening.

While the potential problems with skipping breakfast aren’t a terrible threat for most average people who only need to control caloric intake, it is still quite far from optimal.

The main issue: Research suggests that eating earlier in the day is better for all sorts of health metrics: weight, circadian rhythm, gut health, inflammation, hormone balance, and more.

8

The Best Option

The best meal timing is time tested. It’s even, perhaps, boring.

But it works — in all sorts of situations, goals, and health challenges.

Meal times are all but disappearing in modern society. In fact, only 27% of people eat three square meals per day.

Instead, 3/4 of Americans are eschewing meals and snacking whenever they can find a minute in their day.

What’s more? New research is showing the benefits of time-restricted eating can even be found with a large eating window of 16-hours. That’s hardly a feeding window at all.

Perhaps intermittent fasting is developing to combat the erosion of our meal times — to prevent us from snacking all day without any structure.

Three Meals Per Day

Our grandparents’ generation knew what they were doing — at least when it comes to meal timing.

This generation ate at times that supported every single biological function. They at early. They ate often. They stopped eating pretty early.

Back then, a typical daily meal schedule might look like this:

A traditional “three meals” is essentially a 12-hour feeding window.

Eat Dinner As Early As You Like

The best feature of eating three square meals: Folks without blood sugar instability can nudge dinner earlier to lengthen the overnight fast.

Earlier dinners will create a longer fasting window overnight while sustainably supporting high-energy performance throughout the day.

An earlier dinner means finishing dinner around 6 pm (in most locales).


9

A Solid Approach

Benefits Of “Three Meals” Per Day

Eat Early

Take advantage of the metabolism-boosting effects of a solid, early breakfast.

Eat Often

Support the metabolism by skipping the extremely long fasting periods.

Eat Enough

You aren’t trying to squeeze an entire day’s food into a small window, just so you don’t fall short on calories.

It’s Sustainable

This way is likely to serve you well indefinitely. No gimmicks, it just works.

Eating shortly after waking up each morning is best for your metabolism and your circadian rhythm.

Finishing dinner by 7 pm is perfect for sleep.

  • You’ll have plenty of time for digestion to begin before bedtime.

No approach adequately solves as many problems as “three meals a day.”


10

Experiment!

The spirit of experimentation is almost always a good thing.

Especially for those who “need something different,” feeding windows can be a great way to change things up.

Feeding windows can counter the constant snacking that’s dominating modern society.

What’s the main risk with diet experimentation?

Some dietary theories teach dangerous theories and bad habits. Some instill fear of entire food groups. Eating disorders among health-seekers are all-to-common in the growing internet health sphere.

Don’t keep bad theories and bad habits after the experiment is over. If something isn’t truly serving you — and producing results — leave it behind.

Finally, over the long run, don’t forget that eating “three meals a day” — at proper times — is potentially the most optimal approach, because it:

  • Creates a sustainable “feeding window”
  • Promotes sleep
  • Support a strong metabolism
  • Allows for a “fasting” period

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