You can eat whatever you want and still lose weight — provided you nosh between certain hours. So say researchers from the University of Surrey in the U.K., who performed a 10-week pilot study on "time-restricted feeding," (TRF) a form of intermittent fasting.
Intermittment fasting means you restrict your food intake either on alternate days or to a particular window of time each day (TRF). During this study, 13 participants were split into two groups — those who ate at their normal times (the control group), and those who breakfasted 90 minutes later than normal and ate their dinners 90 minutes earlier. Both groups could eat anything they wanted, unlike some previous studies.
The scientists found that those who ate their meals within a shorter window of time every day lost more than twice as much body fat as those who dined normally. Part of this weight loss can be attributed to the fact that those on the restricted schedule ate less food compared to the control group. A follow-up questionnaire showed 57 percent of those on time-restricted feeding said they ate less than normal because they weren't as hungry, there was less time in the day to eat and/or they were snacking less, especially in the evening.
Researchers also tried to determine whether time-restricted eating was something people could stick with. Fifty-seven percent of participants said the diet would be too difficult to maintain in their regular family and social lives, while 43 percent said they might be able to stay on the diet plan if eating times were more flexible. The study was published in the Journal of Nutritional Science on Aug. 30, 2018.
"Although this study is small, it has provided us with invaluable insight into how slight alterations to our meal times can have benefits to our bodies," said Jonathan Johnson, one of the study authors in a statement. "However, as we have seen with these participants, fasting diets are difficult to follow and may not always be compatible with family and social life. We therefore need to make sure they are flexible and conducive to real life, as the potential benefits of such diets are clear to see."
So why does TRF help us to lose weight? One theory is that TRF seems to create molecular changes in the body that help it generate more energy and burn more calories. Our circadian rhythms weren't designed for day-long noshing. They were designed for humans to eat during the day and sleep when the sun set. When we eat outside of these hours, it messes up our metabolism.
The University of Surrey researchers are planning a larger, more comprehensive study to see how slight alterations in our mealtimes may help us lead healthier lives.