Time Restricted Eating Update: There is Definitely Something to This!

In the wild, I believe this guy would spend most of his time hungry and primed for action – not fed round the clock. Image courtesy of Jean-Marc Buytaert

It’s been about a month since I wrote about my time restricted eating experiment and maybe two months since I started so here is an update. The title really sums it up; this experiment has produced far and away the most measurable results of any of the many I’ve conducted on myself over the years. It has me rethinking a lot of what I thought I knew about my body, nutrition, and so forth. Let’s get into the details.

I’ve been pretty successful about sticking with an eight hour eating window. I went with eight because that’s who I am; if I’m going to do something, I’m not going to half ass it. On a typical day, I start eating around 10:30am and stop by 6:30pm. When I know I’ll be out late – no later than eleven for me these days and usually more like ten –  I don’t start eating until a late lunch in order to maintain the experiment (remember, any calories count and that includes drinking anything but water). I’ve had only a few days where I slipped and wound up around a nine hour window and one where I screwed up completely and ended up at about twelve.

Overall, the most surprising element of this experiment has been how easy it is. As an avid food lover, I expected to suffer miserably. But that hasn’t transpired at all. After some modest discomfort the first week or two, I’ve barely even had to think about what I’m doing. The habit seems to suit me very well and it even seems to have made me noticeably more productive. Yes, I’m consistently referred to as “very disciplined,” although my worst critic (me) considers my discipline level to be atrocious. But nothing I’ve experienced makes me think anyone would struggle to implement this in any significant way. It just requires a little bit of mindfulness and a few adjustments.

And the results have been more than worth the effort. The most noticeable change has been weight loss and with this part, keep in mind that my body is very ectomorphic by nature so unlike many people, keeping weight on is my biggest challenge. Prior to embarking on my restricted eating journey, I had already been down about twenty pounds from my normal weight due to a dramatic reduction in both eating (intentional to account for a dramatic reduction in calories being burned) and gym time/efficacy as a result of a frustrating string of injuries I went through. I had a lean, muscular build prior to that weight loss so there was a lot of good weight in that twenty pounds and after losing it, I had very little fat left available to lose. Since there is definitely a limit to how low a healthy person’s body fat percentage can go, additional fat loss was not a goal for me.

However, I have lost about an additional five pounds since starting time restricted eating and my body fat has, in fact, almost completely disappeared. I believe there are two reasons for this. One, you only want to eat so much in an eight hour window. Once I noticed my weight dropping even further than it already had, I started forcing myself to eat more. I even loosened up on eating lower quality foods a little bit to make things easier. And still I’ve only managed to stop the bleeding. I’m stuck at the five pounds down mark and am gradually eating more and more in an attempt to start putting weight back on. Keep in mind that since I’m finally 100% physically healthy again, I’m back working hard in the gym along with this. The second reason I suspect is that I do almost zero snacking of any kind now. Since I seemingly can’t eat enough, I rarely feel hungry at all. So snacking not only doesn’t come naturally anymore, it would literally amount to an effort I would have to make. Long story short, if you’re after weight loss, fat loss, or both, time restricted eating seems very likely to help you.

There have been other very measurable changes as well – and much more positive ones in my case. My resting heart rate, which used to hover around an average of 60 bpm, now sits in the low to mid 50s. I suppose this makes sense since my metabolic functions are only happening about half to two thirds of the time they previously had been. That is a huge energy savings and my guess is this is much more appropriate for my body from an evolutionary perspective. But the most exciting change for me has been to my sleeping. I’ve struggled in this area all my life and even employing every method I’ve ever read about to an almost religious degree, I’ve never managed to average over 6.5 hours per night in a week outside of the occasional anomaly. However, since not long after I started time restricted eating, I’m averaging over 7 hours a night consistently. I don’t doubt for a second that this has made a huge difference in my day to day life. I have no precise way to measure this, but I feel more energetic and mentally sharper/more alert. I had been in the habit of drinking coffee twice a day – morning and early afternoon. Now I usually only do so once and sometimes not at all. Note that coffee isn’t harmful in any known way. But not feeling compelled to drink it is still a very positive sign in my book.

Overall, this has been a huge net positive for me and I’m going to continue with it. Yes, my strength in the gym has declined somewhat. But that can probably be almost exclusively attributed to the weight I had already lost prior to starting this experiment and the way I lost it (both eating and working out dramatically less). And given that my strength numbers are still excellent for a man my size (which has itself changed), I’m not concerned about this other than being motivated to gain back my good size in spite of the additional challenge. And for most people, the weight loss would be viewed as a positive. Other than that, everything has been a huge positive for me. My body and mind both seem to work much better this way. This experiment has been a huge success!

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