The many benefits of time-restricted eating
The how and why of time-restricted eating for health.
Written by
Dan Cable
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Last updated
March 25, 2024
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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 newsletter isn’t to provide a literature review — our focus is on actionable insight instead [2].

Choosing your eating windows

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.

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].

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.

Compound is a digital clinic for performance health, for men. Once the exclusive domain of billionaires and Hollywood stars, we're on a mission to make premium concierge care accessible to every man who wants more.

We are integrating diagnostics (bloodwork, scans, etc), treatment (medication, supplementation), performance programming, and support (coaching, accountability, care) — wrapped around a growth mindset.

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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