Author: Bree Sarkisian
When Lynn was in high school, her dad wanted to lose weight. He began cutting out his late night snacks, and Lynn’s mom began cooking dinner earlier in the evening to help with the diet. As a result, Lynn usually had her last meal around 4:30pm each day, and she avoided snacks in the evening with the rest of her family. Without realizing it, Lynn had started a diet of time-restricted feeding (TRF).
Now, at 45, Lynn usually gets done with work around 4:30pm. She will not eat anything when she gets home. She will see her family snacking, and she might even make dinner for them, but she won’t feel the need to eat: “I’ve always been a firm believer that one shouldn’t eat late. It seemed intuitive to me that eating at night would mess up my sleep.”
Lynn was fortunate to develop these habits early on in life. Most people have gotten so used to eating at night that they actually feel they can’t fall asleep without a snack or a drink. Lynn is proof, though, that enough time on TRF will actually change your body’s hunger patterns. For example, today Lynn had her last meal at a little after 12 noon. She might have another snack before heading home, but she says she essentially won’t have anything except water from then until the time she goes to bed. She doesn’t feel hungry before bed and, confirming what most people experience with TRF, Lynn says she has no problem falling asleep. She usually wakes up hungry and ready to eat a meal, but she consistently wakes up feeling well-rested and ready to face the day. This is especially impressive considering Lynn wakes up at 3:30am most days. “I am a naturally early riser… Mornings are when I do my best thinking and when I exercise.”
Lynn sleeps at least 7 hours almost every night. She says that her sleep is always restful, something that was confirmed when she participated in a year-long sleep study that showed she rarely wakes up at night. She attributes much of this to not eating at night, “When your body is getting ready to sleep, it doesn’t need energy from food. What is it going to do with all that fuel?”
Lynn is healthier than most Americans. The average BMI for American women is 26.5 (25-29 is considered overweight). Lynn has a BMI that is at least 36% lower than the average, and her consistently healthy sleep pattern is also something to be envied, especially when insufficient sleep is being termed a “public health problem,” by the CDC (Center for Disease Control, 2009). Despite her astonishing results, her family and friends sometimes have a hard time understanding Lynn’s “diet,” usually because they are so accustomed to their late-night snacks and drinks. However, Lynn explains that she doesn’t feel she is dieting. “I don’t seek out diets; I seek out a healthy lifestyle.” This seems to be providing immense benefits in Lynn’s life, especially with regards to her sleep and overall metabolism. There is a lot of science to back up Lynn’s instincts. Time-restricted feeding has been shown to improve metabolism, sleep, and energy in animal studies, and these promising results have propelled TRF to the forefront of metabolic research.
What’s more is that you don’t have to wake up at 3:30am and stop eating at noon as Lynn does. Research suggests that you can pick any 8 to 12-hour window that works for you, and try to stick to it every day. Lynn still enjoys coffee in the morning, eats out occasionally with friends, and enjoys a beer from time to time. Studies in mice show that TRF can have benefits even without caloric restriction (Chaix et al, 2014). Lynn has adopted TRF (almost by accident) as a part of her healthy lifestyle. When she found the research done by Dr. Panda’s lab (via an interview with Dr. Rhonda Patrick), which showed the immense benefits of watching the timing of your meals, it merely confirmed what Lynn had already experienced to be true for most of her life: that being mindful of when you eat can have many benefits for your health and overall sense of well-being.
Center for Disease Control. Insufficient Sleep Is a Public Health Problem. (2009). Retrieved July 14, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/features/dssleep/
Chaix, et al. Time-Restricted Feeding Is a Preventative and Therapeutic Intervention against Diverse Nutritional Challenges. Cell Metabolism. 2014;20(6):991-1005.