- Researchers say a diet plan that restricts eating to between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. can help you lose weight.
- They add that such a time-restricted diet plan can also help improve blood pressure and overall mood.
- Experts say it’s important to craft a diet plan that works for your schedule.
Time-restricted eating is effective for weight loss, but it can also improve mood and blood pressure.
That’s according to research published today in JAMA Internal Medicine that found that early time-restricted eating for a period of 8 hours between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. led to more effective weight loss, blood pressure control, and mood improvement in adults with obesity when compared with a group who ate in an eating window greater than 12 hours.
“Early time-restricted eating (eTRE) was more effective for losing weight and lowering diastolic blood pressure than eating over a period of 12 or more hours at 14 weeks,” the study authors wrote.
“The eTRE intervention may therefore be an effective treatment for both obesity and hypertension. It also improves mood by decreasing fatigue and feelings of depression-dejection and increasing vigor, and those who can stick with eTRE lose more body fat and trunk fat,” they added.
The researchers found that the impact of early time-restricted eating on participants with obesity was the equivalent of decreasing calorie intake by 214 calories a day.
Experts say this could make a significant difference in weight loss.
“Over a 14-week period, an additional 214 calories/day amounts to 6 pounds (2.7kg) difference in weight loss. For many people, losing 5 percent of the weight is considered a significant health benefit and so, yes, this many calories can absolutely make a difference because in a year this would amount to losing roughly 10kg of weight (22 lb), which for some people would be close to a 10 percent weight loss,” Dana Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RD, a senior dietitian at the RR-UCLA Medical Center in California, told Healthline.
Time of day matters
The study is the latest in a growing body of research examining the impact of time-restricted eating but focuses specifically on early time-restricted eating.
“We tested a version of TRE called early TRE (eTRE), which involves stopping eating in the afternoon and fasting for the rest of the day. Because key circadian rhythms in metabolism — such as insulin sensitivity and the thermic effect of food—peak in the morning, eTRE may confer additional benefits relative to other forms of TRE,” the study authors wrote.
The study participants who were tasked with following an early time-restricted eating plan were instructed to eat 500 calories less than their resting energy expenditure every day between the hours of 7 a.m. and 3 p.m.
In the afternoon and evening, they were instructed to fast. They were asked to follow this program at least 6 days a week for 14 weeks.
“What was interesting about this study is the timing of the restriction. Earlier restriction seems to have a greater benefit. This would make sense as insulin levels can remain lower for a longer period of time and thereby increase calorie burning,” Dr. Mir Ali, a bariatric surgeon and medical director of MemorialCare Surgical Weight Loss Center at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, told Healthline.
“Anyone trying to lose weight may benefit from intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating. The downsides to this way of eating are that a person may feel hungrier during the period where eating is not allowed and may have difficulty adhering to the plan,” Mir added.
When it comes to the timing of eating, experts say it is important for those attempting time-restricted eating to find a suitable eating window that suits their needs and lifestyle.
“For individuals who don’t like to go to bed feeling ‘hungry’, this can be a difficult way of eating. Alternatively; for some individuals, beginning to eat later in the day, shifting the time restriction for example to noon to 8 pm works better than 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. It really depends on the person. Also, if you are someone with a history of disordered eating habits, time restriction can be a trigger,” Hunnes said.
Benefits besides weight loss
The study participants who followed early time-restricted eating lost an additional 2.3kg compared with other participants.
They also experienced a reduction in diastolic blood pressure.
Time-restricted eating was also found to be more effective at improving mood disturbances among study participants.
“What we eat, how we eat, affects our mood for many reasons,” Hunnes said. “Dopamine can be triggered from eating certain foods, The way we feel about ourselves can be affected by what we are eating. Inflammation (or anti-inflammation) from foods can affect our mood. The ups and downs of our blood-glucose levels can affect our mood. So, yes, the way we eat, what we eat, when we eat, like circadian rhythms, can affect our mood.”
How to start on a diet plan
But before embarking on a time-restricted eating plan, experts advise it is a good idea to speak with a doctor for advice.
“The first step before trying a time-restricted diet plan, or any diet really, is to see your primary care physician and make sure it is appropriate for your health concerns. Diabetes and other conditions can certainly have an impact on any diet plan,” Ali said.
“There are a number of ways to implement an intermittent fasting or time-restricted plan, so trying different options to see what will work for your lifestyle is important,” he added.
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