Many of the people in my life that I would consider the most fit share a few of the same healthy habits. Many are members of the dawn patrol, tackling early morning workouts before most people wake up. They seldom drink alcohol, except for a few special occasions. More recently, I noticed many of them follow a time-restricted feeding schedule.
Time-restrictive eating is sometimes referred to as intermittent fasting, but depending who you talk to they’re entirely different. Whereas during time-restricted feeding, you’re only permitted to eat within an 8–10-hour window, intermittent fasting can mean many things. Perhaps your approach is eat normally five days of the week, then follow a modified fast for two days by consuming 500–600 calories. Or, a person could fast for a full one or two days each week, then eat normally the other six.
Time-restricted feeding has been shown to help with weight loss and reduce blood pressure, according to new research published in the Journal of Nutrition Health and Aging. It can also reduce inflammation and insulin resistance, according to University of California research.
I’ve always been curious about this eating pattern. As someone who definitely has an issue consuming too much added sugar, I thought adopting this different method of taking in my meals could help with that. But as a morning exerciser, I worried my hunger would run rampant. Nonetheless I decided to give it a try. For one week, my eating window would be between 12 p.m.–8 p.m. That means I’d fast for 16 hours. Here are the four biggest lessons I learned following a time-restricted feeding plan:
Most days, I’m up and out of bed at 5:50 a.m. I’m usually sweating — whether it be on a run, at a class or at the gym — by 6:30 a.m. That means by 7:30 or 8, I’m back home getting ready for the day. Typically during this time, I make coffee, drink water mixed with some powdered greens and have breakfast.
Going into this, I told myself I was willing to go all-in aside from sacrificing my morning greens that clock in at 40 calories. Maybe that makes my whole experiment flawed since other drinks like coffee aren’t permitted, but for me, it was a non-negotiable. The first couple days, it felt weird not to be warming up my meal-prepped frittata or making oatmeal, but I wasn’t starving by the time I got to my desk at 9:30 a.m. I often looked at the clock around 11:15 a.m., wondering if it was time to head over to the fridge and get my lunch. But other than that moment of curiosity, I didn’t feel particularly hungry without food before noon.
By noon, I was looking forward to having something substantial. Most days, I would have a mixed green salad with a decent slice of prepared frittata and a Beyond Meat “sausage.” Other days, I would opt for that first meal to be a larger salad with grilled tofu or chicken. I noticed that after I had that meal — which I intentionally made a little bigger than the lunches I’d normally bring — I was less likely to munch on sweet snacks. Even after dinner, when I typically reach for anything chocolate, it wasn’t appealing to me.
Most days, it was a huge stretch (and admitted stressor) to finish dinner and/or socializing before 8 p.m. Yes, I’m aware you can socialize without eating or drinking, and two different nights I did. However, I noticed that throughout the week I would have been eating around 8 p.m. on the dot had I not made a conscious effort to grab something on the move before getting home. When a date coincided with night 4, starting at 7:30 p.m., I had to make an exception. Lesson: This takes a lot of diligence and advanced planning if you’re the kind of person who lives a social, on-the-go lifestyle.
I heard this result would be something that took a couple weeks, but I noticed I woke up in the morning with more of a boost than usual. I didn’t feel weighed down and definitely felt less bloated than when keeping my normal, late-night eats. The craziest part is I didn’t really notice how bloated I was used to feeling come morning until I wasn’t bloated at all.
At my desk each day, I felt more tuned in to the task at hand. Between the amped up productivity and beating the bloat and sugar cravings, I slowly became a fan of time-restricted feeding. Still, given my busy, on-the-go schedule, I don’t think it’s something I could abide by every single day. Even though this was only a weeklong experiment, I feel like I know more about what works and doesn’t work for my body.