Are you tired of feeling hungry all the time? It might be time to give time-restricted eating a try. For those unfamiliar with the concept, time-restricted eating is an eating plan that involves restricting all eating to a specific window of time. You might think of it as a diet of sorts, but unlike other diets, time-restricted eating allows you to eat three meals and three snacks, and you can eat whatever you want at night.
The subjects of time-restricted eating are increasingly in the spotlight, particularly with the rise of intermittent fasting and 8-hour sleep, which aim to maximize the body’s fat-burning potential. Time-restricted eating is also a popular approach for doctors and dietitians to help their patients achieve their weight loss goals. This article will cover the basics of time-restricted eating, including the benefits and drawbacks of different approaches.
How to improve:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Metabolic syndrome
- Insulin resistance
- Goose liver
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- High triglycerides
- …and more…
Without doing anything!!!
A guide by Dr. Ted Nyman
Time-limited power supply
Food for the hungry
You can see your body as two different and opposite states: Fed and sober.
When you’re full, insulin levels are raised, which tells the body to stop burning fat, deposit the extra calories in fat cells and burn glucose (from the last meal) instead.
In the fasted state, insulin decreases (while glucagon and growth hormone, the hormone that opposes insulin, increase). The body first burns the glucose stored in glycogen, and then begins to mobilize and burn the fat stored in fat cells for energy (instead of glucose).
The practical meaning of this is that you can burn more fat stored in your body when you fast and store more fat in your body when you eat.
Unfortunately, we seem to spend less time fasting and more time satiating. As a result, our cells spend less time mobilizing and burning stored fat and instead continually utilize glucose burning pathways. This leads to chronically high insulin levels and an almost total dependence on glucose.
Over time, this chronic exposure to too much insulin leads to insulin resistance, where the body releases even more insulin in response to satiety. Chronic insulin resistance can lead to metabolic syndrome: Obesity, deposition of abdominal fat, high triglycerides, low HDL and high glucose levels with the risk of type 2 diabetes (currently 1 in 12 people worldwide have full type 2 diabetes and 35% of adults and 50% of the elderly have metabolic syndrome or prediabetes).
People with insulin resistance burn glucose primarily at the cellular level and have a poor ability to burn fat. When these people run out of glucose from their last meal, instead of just fasting to burn fat, they begin to feel hungry and demand more glucose (from carbohydrates) because their bodies and cells have reduced their ability to mobilize and burn fat for energy. Such a pattern can initiate a cycle of eating every few hours, which raises glucose and insulin levels, and then eating more when blood glucose levels drop.
Let’s just say. Why is an obese person often hungry? They have enough fat reserves to survive for a very long time. The world record for fasting belongs to a 456-pound man who fasted for 382 days, consumed only water and vitamins, and lost 276 pounds with no painful consequences (although we don’t recommend it!).
But the overweight person is used to being full, is hardly used to fasting, and constantly burns glucose rather than fat at the cellular level. They have insulin resistance, both caused by and resulting in chronically high insulin levels, which promotes fat deposition and suppresses fat mobilization from adipocytes (fat cells). They even have changes in their mitochondria, the tiny energy factories in their cells.
Mitochondria can burn both glucose (sugar) and fat as fuel, and over time they prefer one over the other; sugar burners have increased the glucose burning pathway in the mitochondria and decreased or down-regulated the underutilized fat burning pathway.
A good analogy is a tanker truck full of oil on the highway. When a tanker runs out of fuel, it stops, even if it still has 10,000 gallons of potential fuel on board. Why? Because it prefers to run on purified gas and cannot burn stored oil as fuel.
Humans are capable of adapting to fat and increasing their ability to obtain fuel from stored fat rather than glucose. However, it takes time and practice, and your body has to do a number of things to slowly activate (or increase) your fat burning pathways.
This includes improving insulin sensitivity to lower insulin levels and promote the mobilization of fat into free fatty acids from adipocytes (fat cells), as well as regulating fat burning pathways at the cellular level (in the mitochondria). There are several ways to improve fat adaptation, i.e. the ability to successfully burn stored fat for energy:
- Low-carb diets. The LCHF (Low Carb High Fat) diet improves the body’s ability to use fat for energy by having more fat and less glucose available at any given time.
- Practice. High intensity training rapidly depletes glucose and glycogen stores, forcing the body to use more fat as fuel. Exercise also improves insulin sensitivity.
- Caloric restriction. Eating fewer calories also means that there is less glucose available as fuel, forcing the body to resort to stored fat. Of course, you will consume as few calories as possible if you maximize nutrient density by eating whole, natural, unprocessed foods found in nature.
- Intermittent fasting and spending more time in a fasting state, giving the body more exercise to burn fat.
Intermittent fasting is a strategy to train and enhance the body’s ability to exist in a fasting state and burn fat instead of constantly burning sugar (glucose).
Like any other skill, this skill can be strengthened over time through practice. But this ability also atrophies or diminishes with lack of use, just as muscles atrophy when you break your arm and have to wear a cast for weeks. You can think of fasting as a form of training – METABOLIC WORK.
In fact, there are many parallels between exercise and fasting. Exercise is beneficial in all of the following:
- Lowers blood sugar levels.
- Reduces insulin levels.
- Increases insulin sensitivity.
- Increases lipolysis and mobilization of free fatty acids.
- Increases cellular oxidation of fats.
- Increases glucagon levels (the opposite of insulin).
- Increases growth hormone (the opposite of insulin).
But did you know that you can achieve all this without even doing anything? The secret is to *lose*.
By increasing the amount of time you spend in a FASTED state during the day (as opposed to a FED state), you can achieve all of these goals, which is very similar to exercise. This is why I say that extending Lent is a form of metabolic training. It can train your body to mobilize free fatty acids more efficiently from fat reserves.
Just as overweight, poorly fit people find it difficult to jog, lift weights or do other forms of exercise, they generally don’t do exercise to mobilize stored fat for fuel. Maybe they just need to practice more!
Eat less, fast more
In my opinion, one of the best ways to lose fat permanently and effortlessly is to train yourself to eat two meals a day (and stop having snacks). The easiest and most effective way to do this? Take advantage of your natural nighttime fast by skipping breakfast (some people find it easier and more enjoyable to have coffee).
In general, satiety begins when you start eating, and for the next three to five hours your body digests and processes the food you just ate. Insulin increases dramatically, completely crippling fat burning and depositing extra calories as fat.
After the first few hours mentioned above, your body enters a so-called post-absorption state, in which the components of your last meal are still circulating. The post-absorptive state lasts until 8-12 hours after the last meal, when a state of starvation occurs. Usually it takes 12 hours after the last meal to get into a full fasting state.
When you are fasting, your body can burn fat that was not available during the fast. Since we don’t enter fasting mode until 12 hours after our last meal, our bodies are rarely in this fat-burning state. This is one of the reasons why many people who start intermittent fasting lose fat without changing what they eat, how much they eat or how often they exercise. Fasting puts the body in a state of fat burning that is rarely achieved with a normal diet.
Physical activity can also contribute to fat modification. Glycogen (a form of glucose storage in the muscles and liver) is depleted during sleep and fasting, and will be depleted even more during exercise. This can further increase insulin sensitivity.
Myths about fasting
There are many myths about famine:
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!
We all had to have breakfast. Unfortunately, this advice is incorrect.
When you wake up in the morning, insulin levels are quite low, and most people transition into a sober state 12 hours after their last meal the night before. Eating at this time increases insulin and glucose levels and immediately prevents fat burning. This is especially true for a high-carb breakfast. The best solution may be to delay your first meal for a few hours, during which time you can continue fasting and burn stored fat.
It is interesting to note that many people on a modified diet do not feel like eating in the morning and have no problem skipping breakfast.
That is right, because man has always been a hunter-gatherer in his evolution. Instead of eating breakfast in the morning, we would hunt and gather during the day and then eat more. I recommend you follow this model and skip breakfast.
Eat small and regular portions.
There was a lot of disturbing advice here. We had to eat regularly to keep our metabolism up and prevent our bodies from starving. All of this is probably the exact opposite of the truth: To burn fat, you need to spend as much time as possible in a state of fasting, living very efficiently on stored fat, not calories from a constant diet.
Fasting leads to the burning of muscle, not fat.
Many people fear that if they start fasting, they won’t build muscle or even burn it. If you are underweight and constantly hungry, this may be the case. Otherwise, it’s not true.
In fact, growth hormone increases during fasting (both during sleep and after a fast).
Growth hormone is an anabolic (muscle building) steroid and is used in combination with testosterone by bodybuilders who want to build as much muscle as possible and at the same time burn as much fat as possible. Growth hormone increases during fasting, which can help maintain muscle, and that makes sense. For our hunter-gatherer ancestors, fasting and lack of food would have weakened and slowed people down, prevented them from catching or finding food, caused them to die and disappear.
Your metabolism slows down when you fast.
For short posts, this is all wrong. A number of studies have shown that 72 hours of fasting does not slow down metabolism at all, but can slightly speed it up by releasing catecholamines (adrenaline, noradrenaline and dopamine) and activating the sympathetic nervous system (the sympathetic nervous system is often called the fight-or-flight system, while its opposite is the parasympathetic or rest-and-digest system).
Logically, the sympathetic nervous system is activated during the day, when hunter-gatherers are most active and in a state of hunger (searching for food), and in the evening, after a rich meal, it switches to the parasympathetic mode of rest and digestion.
If I don’t eat, my blood sugar is low [hypoglycemic].
Studies have shown that healthy people who have no underlying disease and are not taking diabetes medication can fast for long periods of time without developing hypoglycemia. In fact, many people think that the feeling of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar (in non-diabetics) is the result of eating food with a very high glycemic index a few hours before (blood sugar rises, then insulin rises, then blood sugar drops rapidly).
However, if you have diabetes, especially if you are on diabetes medication, you should consult your doctor before starting a fasting protocol. Some diabetes medications can cause severe hypoglycemia during fasting (especially insulin and sulfonylurea derivatives such as glipizide, glimepiride, and glyburide). Consult your doctor before starting a fasting diet if you have a medical condition, whether it is diabetes or something else. You and your doctor can use our guide to low-carb diets and diabetes medicine, as the same concepts apply to fasting].
How fast periodic
There are many methods for intermittent fasting, but the simplest and most popular is to take advantage of natural overnight fasting by skipping breakfast and pushing your first meal forward a few hours. If you pass the 12-hour mark after eating dinner the night before, you’re really hungry and start relying on stored fat for fuel.
It is likely that the longer you stay in a fasting state, the deeper your fat adaptation will be. If you can sustain this intermittent fasting for 20 to 24 hours, you may even achieve a higher rate of lipolysis (breaking down fat stored in the body into free fatty acids available for burning in the cells) and fat oxidation (burning fat in the mitochondria).
When you start intermittent fasting, you may feel hungry and lack energy. In this case, I recommend starting small, first delaying breakfast for an hour or two, and then gradually lengthening the fasting interval. Over time, as you get used to the fat, you’ll find it easier to fast. It’s the same as exercise for people living a sedentary life: it’s painful and extremely difficult at first, but as you adjust, it becomes easy and even enjoyable.
Fat adjustment plan LCHF
Many people and doctors think that fasting is easier if you are already on a low-carbohydrate, high-fat (LCHF) diet, because this type of diet naturally leads to fat adaptation and a natural decrease in insulin secretion and glucose utilization.
In fact, I strongly recommend combining a very low carb diet with intermittent fasting.
The closer you get to a ketogenic diet (extremely low in carbs, moderate in protein and high in fats), the easier it will be to get through many hours without eating.
For those who include carbohydrates in their diet, I would recommend that they consist primarily of fiber, which is not digested and does not contribute to glucose and insulin levels, and can also promote satiety. If you do decide to eat digestible carbs, I recommend not eating them first thing in the morning, as this can promote fat storage and sabotage fat burning, putting you on a roller coaster of blood sugar and hunger for the rest of the day.
Popular forms of intermittent fasting
There are several popular methods of intermittent fasting, and I will discuss the three most popular variations below. They all consist of extending the nightly fast by skipping breakfast and postponing the first meal of the day. In addition, no calories are consumed at the beginning of the day and most calories are consumed at the end of the day – a concept called reverse calorie intake.
Note that in this discussion we assume that the standard baseline diet consists of 12 hours of fasting (at night) and a 12 hour daytime feeding window consisting of three meals – breakfast, lunch and dinner. The sad reality, however, is that most people eat from early morning to late afternoon, with lots of snacks in between, so the time the average American has to eat is probably even longer than 12 hours.
Leangains – also known as 16:8
Leangains, made popular by bodybuilder Martin Berhan, is by far the most popular intermittent fasting method. In this form of fasting, breakfast is skipped each morning and the first meal of the day is moved to lunch. The idea is to fast for 16 hours (the night plus the first 6 hours of the day), and then consume all calories within 8 hours.
For example, let’s say you get up at 6am. They skip breakfast and don’t eat for six hours, then have lunch at noon and dinner at 8pm. Snacks within your meal window are allowed (although I would point out that you should generally try to gather calories in larger portions rather than snacking). This 16:8 ratio (16 hours fasting and 8 hours eating) is recommended every day.
If you were to rest on one day of this protocol and follow it the other six days of the week, that would mean an additional 4 hours of fasting per day, compared to the 12:12 standard we use as a reference (12 hours fasting and 12 hours eating). Four hours per day multiplied by six days per week gives about 24 hours of additional fasting per week. (4 hours of fasting per day times 6 days per week = 24 hours).
The Warrior Diet, made popular by Ori Hofmekler, involves fasting most of the day and then eating all the calories in the evening. The goal is to skip breakfast and lunch, and then eat a big dinner within four hours of the end of the day. This is equivalent to 20:4 (20 hours of fasting and then 4 hours of eating at the end of the day).
This method of fasting allows you to eat a very large meal at the end of the day, and can be ideal for people who are eating out in a social setting where there can be a lot of calories and food (like at one of those Brazilian steakhouses where you can eat anything!)
This prolonged daytime fasting can be more difficult for some, but it can also lead to deeper fat adaptation and lower insulin levels. If you follow this protocol approximately every other day (say, three days a week), that would equate to eight hours of additional fasting compared to the standard 12:12 diet times three days a week, which would also equate to approximately 24 hours of additional fasting per week. 8 hours of fasting per day times 3 days per week = 24 hours].
The Eat Stop Eat diet, made popular by bodybuilder Brad Pilon, involves fasting for 24 hours two days a week. Let’s say you eat your last meal of the day at 8pm the night before. You fast all night and all day the next day, skipping breakfast and lunch and moving dinner to 8pm (for a full 24 hours without calories).
I recommend doing it only two days a week (not consecutively). Many people think that they will eat so much the next day that the benefits of the previous day’s fasting are negated, but this is usually not the case, especially if you are aware of the risks.
Studies have repeatedly shown that people can eat a few hundred calories too many the next day, yet not come close to the amount they would have eaten if they had eaten normally both days (in other words, there is still a net caloric deficit even if you eat more the day after fasting).
Each day you fast in this way adds 12 hours of fasting to the 12:12 standard we call basic, and two such days per week add up to about 24 hours of additional fasting per week. 12 hours of fasting per day times 2 days per week = 24 hours].
The goal of all these fasting methods is to skip one or two meals, avoid snacking and limit calories. All of these methods are effective, and you can combine as many as you like. I strongly recommend staying flexible. Fasting as much as you want in a day, and breaking the fast when you need or want to. Anything longer than 12 hours is at least somewhat conducive to achieving one’s goals.
If you planned to fast for 16 hours and it only turned out to be 14, that’s not a bad thing and you’re still much better off than if you had eaten all day. I think a good goal would be an additional 24 hours of fasting per week (in addition to the standard 12:12 core program). It can be 2 days of 24 hour fasting (Eat Stop Eat), 3 days of 8 hour fasting (Warrior Diet) or 6 days of 4 hour fasting (Leangains).
Coffee = great
During fasting, you can drink any calorie-free beverage, including, but not limited to: Water, coffee, tea (hot or iced) or another beverage that does not contain calories. I would NOT recommend calories though, because it takes a lot to stimulate insulin and sabotage starvation. Fats are the macronutrients that cause the least increase in insulin. That’s why many people add fats (butter, coconut oil, etc.) to their morning coffee.
However, I do not regularly recommend consuming this or any other source of calories while fasting, as it may limit some of the benefits of fasting. If you are absolutely willing to die without even a little cream or fat in your coffee, do it. It’s probably better than the ban on fatty coffee that keeps you from trying interval fasting (95% fasting is much better than 0% fasting)!
However, I would try to keep the amount of cream in your coffee to the absolute MINIMUM, and you should also take the opportunity to learn to drink black coffee (this is something anyone can learn over time, believe it or not).
Enjoy your newfound food freedom
Once you get into it, intermittent fasting can be easy, fun, enjoyable and liberating, making you slimmer and healthier! Let’s say you follow the Leangains protocol. Breakfast during the work week, any day now, is just black coffee, tea or water, how easy is that? You no longer have to worry about what to eat for breakfast when you’re in a hurry to get to work on time or get the kids ready for school.
It saves you time, work and effort and is literally a form of metabolic training! In the meantime, improve your insulin sensitivity and increase your fat adaptation. This is a victory in many ways. This will allow you to eat large, hearty meals later in the day without feeling shortchanged, needing to watch calories, or restricting yourself.
And on the days you skip breakfast and lunch, you’ll be surprised how much more time you have to not worry about what you’re eating, where you’re eating it, and when you’ll find the time to eat it. Your productivity will be higher and you will have more free time. (See our OMAD guide for more information on the potential pros and cons of once-daily feeding).
- Consult your doctor before starting intermittent fasting, especially if you have diabetes and are taking medication for diabetes!
- You can take all the vitamins and supplements you want while fasting, as long as they don’t contain calories, but you won’t need supplements because you’ll be eating foods rich in nutrients every day.
- You don’t have to worry about losing muscle mass due to protein deficiency during fasting, if you include enough protein in the meals before and after fasting.
- You won’t lose muscle during fasting if you exercise regularly, and I especially recommend resistance training like weights.
- An LCHF (low-carbohydrate, high-fat) diet is well combined with intermittent fasting, as both methods improve adipose tissue adaptation.
- You can exercise while fasting, either endurance or strength training (strength training is better for body composition, and I recommend it to everyone, as it will greatly improve your goals).
- Drink plenty of water and calorie-free drinks while fasting; coffee and tea in the morning make fasting much more enjoyable.
- Don’t use intermittent fasting as an excuse to eat a lot of junk food in restaurants. Keep eating responsibly, choosing whole, natural, nutritious foods and avoiding highly processed foods!
Intermittent Fasting for Beginners
Video course about intermittent fasting
Questions and answers about fasting
Frequently Asked Questions
Will I lose weight on time-restricted eating?
Some people do lose weight on time-restricted eating, but it is not a guarantee. Some people may even gain weight. What are the benefits of time-restricted eating? Time-restricted eating can help you lose weight, improve your mood, and reduce stress.
Should you do time-restricted eating every day?
No. Time-restricted eating is not a good idea for most people.
Does the 6 hour diet work?
The 6 hour diet is a popular weight loss plan that promises to help you lose up to 10 pounds in just six weeks. The diet consists of eating only for six hours and fasting for the other 18 hours. The 6 hour diet is not a healthy way to lose weight, as it can lead to malnutrition and dehydration.
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