The science behind why when you eat is more important than what you eat.
4 Minute ReadFeature
02.05.21 (Updated 01.12.22)
We all want to feel our best. Stronger. Healthier. Able to take on whatever life throws our way. Diet is a key component of looking and feeling great. But with so much information out there about what and what not to eat, it can be confusing and overwhelming. What should I eat? Should I be skimping on the carbs? Eating keto? Following a vegan diet?
We talked to LYMA’s resident clinical pharmacologist and pharmaco-nutritionist, Prof. Paul Clayton, in order to cut through the noise and get to the bottom of why the timing of your meals might be the key to optimal health and longevity.
Unlike diets that tell you what to eat, LYMA-approved time-restricted eating (TRE) focuses on when to eat. There are a number of benefits to TRE which we’ve explored below. Scroll on to find out everything your need to know about time-restricted eating.
The difference between intermittent fasting and TRE.
Intermittent fasting has been popping up everywhere over the past few years. It’s a broad term and refers to any eating plan that requires the eater to limit the time they spend eating. Advocates count improved body composition, heightened focus and productivity, enhanced gut health and increased energy among the perks of intermittent fasting. But in reality, there’s only one form of IF that actually delivers the desired results. Time-restricted eating.
TRE doesn’t dictate what you should eat within your eating window (as is the case with other forms of IF) but rather the focus, according to Prof. Clayton, is on the time frame itself.
How long should you fast for?
TRE is a way of eating that limits food intake to a certain number of hours per day.
Prof. Clayton explains, “The minimum fasting time most people agree on is 14 hours. So, if you eat your last meal at 7pm, your next meal should not be before 9am. That leaves a 10 hour period for eating, and the latest refinement is that you should really eat three meals, five hours apart. So, if your first meal was at 9am, your second should be at 2pm and your final meal of the day should be eaten at 7pm.”
The same schedule should be repeated every day.
What results can you expect to see with TRE?
TRE has several notable and clinically proven health benefits, including the potential for improved body composition, better heart health, reduced blood sugar levels, increased energy, better focus and productivity, increased immunity and decreased inflammation.
There are a few reasons that TRE may result in increased metabolic function and improved body composition, one of which is that it is not uncommon for somebody who is not following a TRE plan to graze all day long, picking at the office fruit basket, snacking unthinkingly and forgetting to prioritise the mindful eating of three nourishing meals.
It is not unusual for people to eat from the time they wake up until the time they go to bed, day in, day out. This approach to eating can wreak havoc on your metabolism.
Switching from all-day snacking to a regimen of TRE may result in a natural decrease in calorie consumption. Without having to monitor your intake or limit what you put on your plate.
Scientific research has demonstrated that TRE can have a discernible impact on the number of calories a person eats in a day, with one such study finding that the caloric intake of healthy adult men who ate in line with Prof. Clayton’s advice was naturally reduced by around 20%. And that’s without any calorie counting or conscious effort to eat less.
Lucy said, “I've been doing TRE since March last year and I haven't looked back. I feel more energised and have seen a noticeable difference in my body composition and fitness levels. I actually feel less hungry too."
How TRE works to improve health.
Prof. Clayton is a leading expert on all things diet and nutrition, and he explained why understanding how the mitochondria in our cells work to power our bodies is the secret to grasping just why TRE can be so effective at reversing metabolic issues, improving body composition, enhancing energy and helping people to feel their best.
“Mitochondria are minute structures inside our cells that act as the cells’ power generators. They were originally bacteria that infected us and never left; and because the original bacteria had circadian rhythms of activity, our cells do too.
Most human activities display circadian rhythms. We are generally more active during daylight hours and require higher levels of mitochondrial function. This creates circadian rhythms in insulin sensitivity which is the key to time-restricted eating. This is why getting out of sync with your natural rhythm (shift work, eating late at night, staying up until the small hours) can lead to pretty serious metabolic problems.”
He continued, “Poor decisions when it comes to meal timing can force nutrients into the blood when the mitochondria are in a low energy phase (late at night, for example), and therefore less able to process them, putting extra strain on the body. This dysrhythmia is only exacerbated by today’s ultra-processed diet, and goes some way to explaining why shift work has been linked with an increase in the likelihood of developing obesity and diabetes. Sleep-deprivation makes things worse again, and leaves our tired brains over-responsive to food stimuli and likely to overeat.”
“Overall, clinical trials show that time-restricted eating, which brings food intake and mitochondrial function back into sync, can lead to improved body composition and major metabolic benefits, even without calorie restriction.”
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