5
MIN READ
The many benefits of time-restricted eating
The how and why of time-restricted eating for health.
Written by
Dan Cable
Medically reviewed by
Dan Cable
Last updated
June 19, 2024

Time-restricted eating (TRE), the practice of compressing calorie intake into a shorter feeding window, originated from research by Dr Satchin Panda in 2012 [1].

To avoid confusion, TRE is different from intermittent fasting (calorie restriction), but the two practices are often popularly combined. It’s now so popular that people might ask if you’re 16/8 or 18/6, but the more important question may be the timing…

Reaping the benefits of time-restricted eating

I began experimenting with a broad range of fasting, fasting-mimicking and TRE practices in my mid-20s, almost a decade and a half ago, and experienced breakthrough benefits.

Many are increasingly familiar with the headline benefits of fasting — increased fat loss, improved glucose tolerance (insulin sensitivity), improved satiety hormone sensitivity (leptin), reduced inflammatory markers, upregulation of cellular renewal (autophagy and mitophagy), and improved digestion (MMC activation).

More and more research is emerging (e.g. TRE improves microbiome diversity) but the scope of this article isn’t to provide a literature review — our focus is on actionable insight instead [2].

The goals of time-restricted eating

There are generally 3 types of goals for time-restricted eating, which I discussed on an episode of Compound's podcast, called How To Get Good. The first is that you're looking for a productivity hack of having more energy and probably why you'd opt for morning fasting, to optimise for increased cortisol and noradrenaline.

The second goal is to achieve a leaner body composition and better metabolic health, where TRE is used as a long-term practice. And the last is longevity — this is where you're looking to optimise more for cellular maintenance and renewal and a 24-36-hour practice can be more beneficial.

Intermittent fasting vs time-restricted eating

The popular, mainstream TRE protocol is to ‘fast through the morning and feast into the evening’, likely because of lifestyle preferences (evening social lives), ease of adherence (suppressed morning appetite), and the epinephrine buzz during a morning fast.

This involves eating your maintenance level of calories or the amount of calories your body naturally needs and compressing that into a short period. And while most people fast in the morning and feast in the evening, you may be going to bed without having fully digested the food you've eaten and in turn, could disrupt your sleep quality.

However, emerging research suggests that earlier eating windows (eTRE) are superior to the popular delayed eating window (dTRE) as described above [3].

The diurnal cycles of our endocrinology likely explain these benefits and it was the overarching premise of Dr Panda that we should eat in alignment with our circadian rhythm. As a corollary, there’s a plethora of studies showing the poor health outcomes among shift workers who experience extreme dysregulation of circadian rhythms [4].

While time-restricted eating is a type of intermittent fasting, the principles are slightly different to the popularised version.

As I discussed in How To Get Good, TRE involves having breakfast in the morning, perhaps after you've some morning sunlight exposure and a bit of movement, and then having your final meal of the day as a light dinner and as early as possible in the day, so you're going to bed more fully digested, which helps to maximise your sleep quality.

Another type of intermittent fasting involves more calorie restriction, which is where you might engage with the 5:2 way of eating, where you have 5 days of consuming your normal calories and 2 days of consuming around half of your calories, let's say.

Rounding out these fasting methods is the concept of fasting for longer periods like a day, 2 days, 3 days, 7 days.

Choosing eating windows

On these principles, I’m active at 6am, have breakfast at 9am, and consume my last meal at 4pm. If I have dinner plans, I snack at 4pm to ensure I keep dinner light, ideally lean protein plus leafy greens (polyphenols have circadian benefits) so that I’m more fully digested before bed.

I have gained comfort from studies showing that total protein intake (grams in a day) is more important than timing or regularity of protein intake [5][6]. Therefore, it doesn't matter that I don't have a protein shake every couple of hours.

The intention should not be to make our social lives comport to our nutrition habits, it should be to find solutions within our lifestyle and constraints — this is the value of working with a coach and something we can assist you with at Compound.

What to eat during time-restricted eating

The saying 'eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper' is helpful when it comes to TRE.

For breakfast, I'd recommend sticking with a dish filled with protein, healthy fats and if you can, some level of lower GI carbohydrates. This means steering clear of things like cereal and toast — having toast with butter and Vegemite or butter and jam in the morning can spike your blood sugar and may lead to a blood sugar crash later in the morning.

As I mentioned on the How To Get Good podcast, you might also like to start your day with a bit of bone broth, maybe with some olive oil if you're particularly hungry, which is going to help quell hunger and is also packed with collagen and glycine, amongst other things, which positively impacts sleep quality.

If you're eating out for lunch, opt for a bowl of some sort and ask for no sauce and added protein. This means steering away from a sandwich or a wrap.

To make it super simple for both lunch and dinner, a good rule of thumb is to have lean protein with some leafy greens or other vegetables and some lower GF carbohydrates.

Using time-restricted eating on your longevity journey

Time-restricted eating is about optimising your calorie intake to your circadian rhythm, in order to experience greater metabolic health benefits. If you're interested in learning more about the ins and outs of TRE, listen to the How To Get Good episode on fasting — we dive into everything you need to know there.

For those looking to take their health optimisation a step further, you've come to the right place. At Compound, we take a multi-disciplinary approach to preventative care to help men unlock barriers to everyday performance. 

Compound’s program is executed in 3 stages — starting with a suite of diagnostics to get the clearest picture of health you’ve ever had, using tools like DEXA scans, a VO2 max test and HbA1c blood testing. This is followed by a complete diet, health and training program, all guided by an expert health coach.

The final piece of the puzzle is medical treatment, supplements and hardware, like a CGM device, that you need to boost performance and meet your goals. 

Once you commit, our team is dedicated to ensuring you see returns. Your part won’t be easy but we’ll equip you for success like never before.

Obligatory note! Nutrition and sports sciences work within extremely complex systems (our bodies) and struggle to conduct perfect study designs (in humans) and the evidence is never black and white on emerging topics (eTRE vs. dTRE). It’s important to continue re-evaluating our mental models based on the weight of new and extant research and strike the right balance between being progressive and sceptical.

This post contains general information about health and wellness practices. It is not intended as medical advice and should not be treated as such. Please consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new health regimen. This information is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.

Time-restricted eating (TRE), the practice of compressing calorie intake into a shorter feeding window, originated from research by Dr Satchin Panda in 2012 [1].

To avoid confusion, TRE is different from intermittent fasting (calorie restriction), but the two practices are often popularly combined. It’s now so popular that people might ask if you’re 16/8 or 18/6, but the more important question may be the timing…

Reaping the benefits of time-restricted eating

I began experimenting with a broad range of fasting, fasting-mimicking and TRE practices in my mid-20s, almost a decade and a half ago, and experienced breakthrough benefits.

Many are increasingly familiar with the headline benefits of fasting — increased fat loss, improved glucose tolerance (insulin sensitivity), improved satiety hormone sensitivity (leptin), reduced inflammatory markers, upregulation of cellular renewal (autophagy and mitophagy), and improved digestion (MMC activation).

More and more research is emerging (e.g. TRE improves microbiome diversity) but the scope of this article isn’t to provide a literature review — our focus is on actionable insight instead [2].

The goals of time-restricted eating

There are generally 3 types of goals for time-restricted eating, which I discussed on an episode of Compound's podcast, called How To Get Good. The first is that you're looking for a productivity hack of having more energy and probably why you'd opt for morning fasting, to optimise for increased cortisol and noradrenaline.

The second goal is to achieve a leaner body composition and better metabolic health, where TRE is used as a long-term practice. And the last is longevity — this is where you're looking to optimise more for cellular maintenance and renewal and a 24-36-hour practice can be more beneficial.

Intermittent fasting vs time-restricted eating

The popular, mainstream TRE protocol is to ‘fast through the morning and feast into the evening’, likely because of lifestyle preferences (evening social lives), ease of adherence (suppressed morning appetite), and the epinephrine buzz during a morning fast.

This involves eating your maintenance level of calories or the amount of calories your body naturally needs and compressing that into a short period. And while most people fast in the morning and feast in the evening, you may be going to bed without having fully digested the food you've eaten and in turn, could disrupt your sleep quality.

However, emerging research suggests that earlier eating windows (eTRE) are superior to the popular delayed eating window (dTRE) as described above [3].

The diurnal cycles of our endocrinology likely explain these benefits and it was the overarching premise of Dr Panda that we should eat in alignment with our circadian rhythm. As a corollary, there’s a plethora of studies showing the poor health outcomes among shift workers who experience extreme dysregulation of circadian rhythms [4].

While time-restricted eating is a type of intermittent fasting, the principles are slightly different to the popularised version.

As I discussed in How To Get Good, TRE involves having breakfast in the morning, perhaps after you've some morning sunlight exposure and a bit of movement, and then having your final meal of the day as a light dinner and as early as possible in the day, so you're going to bed more fully digested, which helps to maximise your sleep quality.

Another type of intermittent fasting involves more calorie restriction, which is where you might engage with the 5:2 way of eating, where you have 5 days of consuming your normal calories and 2 days of consuming around half of your calories, let's say.

Rounding out these fasting methods is the concept of fasting for longer periods like a day, 2 days, 3 days, 7 days.

Choosing eating windows

On these principles, I’m active at 6am, have breakfast at 9am, and consume my last meal at 4pm. If I have dinner plans, I snack at 4pm to ensure I keep dinner light, ideally lean protein plus leafy greens (polyphenols have circadian benefits) so that I’m more fully digested before bed.

I have gained comfort from studies showing that total protein intake (grams in a day) is more important than timing or regularity of protein intake [5][6]. Therefore, it doesn't matter that I don't have a protein shake every couple of hours.

The intention should not be to make our social lives comport to our nutrition habits, it should be to find solutions within our lifestyle and constraints — this is the value of working with a coach and something we can assist you with at Compound.

What to eat during time-restricted eating

The saying 'eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper' is helpful when it comes to TRE.

For breakfast, I'd recommend sticking with a dish filled with protein, healthy fats and if you can, some level of lower GI carbohydrates. This means steering clear of things like cereal and toast — having toast with butter and Vegemite or butter and jam in the morning can spike your blood sugar and may lead to a blood sugar crash later in the morning.

As I mentioned on the How To Get Good podcast, you might also like to start your day with a bit of bone broth, maybe with some olive oil if you're particularly hungry, which is going to help quell hunger and is also packed with collagen and glycine, amongst other things, which positively impacts sleep quality.

If you're eating out for lunch, opt for a bowl of some sort and ask for no sauce and added protein. This means steering away from a sandwich or a wrap.

To make it super simple for both lunch and dinner, a good rule of thumb is to have lean protein with some leafy greens or other vegetables and some lower GF carbohydrates.

Using time-restricted eating on your longevity journey

Time-restricted eating is about optimising your calorie intake to your circadian rhythm, in order to experience greater metabolic health benefits. If you're interested in learning more about the ins and outs of TRE, listen to the How To Get Good episode on fasting — we dive into everything you need to know there.

For those looking to take their health optimisation a step further, you've come to the right place. At Compound, we take a multi-disciplinary approach to preventative care to help men unlock barriers to everyday performance. 

Compound’s program is executed in 3 stages — starting with a suite of diagnostics to get the clearest picture of health you’ve ever had, using tools like DEXA scans, a VO2 max test and HbA1c blood testing. This is followed by a complete diet, health and training program, all guided by an expert health coach.

The final piece of the puzzle is medical treatment, supplements and hardware, like a CGM device, that you need to boost performance and meet your goals. 

Once you commit, our team is dedicated to ensuring you see returns. Your part won’t be easy but we’ll equip you for success like never before.

Obligatory note! Nutrition and sports sciences work within extremely complex systems (our bodies) and struggle to conduct perfect study designs (in humans) and the evidence is never black and white on emerging topics (eTRE vs. dTRE). It’s important to continue re-evaluating our mental models based on the weight of new and extant research and strike the right balance between being progressive and sceptical.

This post contains general information about health and wellness practices. It is not intended as medical advice and should not be treated as such. Please consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new health regimen. This information is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.

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