How do you feel about capping your feasting at 2p.m.? Devastated? Hungry just thinking about it? How about if this so-called early time-restricted feeding (eTRF) could be the key to unlocking significant weight loss? You’d probably be more inclined to at least try it; besides, you’re not actually eating any fewer calories—but just distributing them differently throughout the day, according to new research from the Obesity Society.
In the study, 11 men and women carrying excess weight tackled two different meal timing strategies. For four days, participants ate between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. (eTRF) and didn’t eat again until breakfast the following morning; then, for four days, they ate between 8a.m. and 8p.m. (the average feeding time frame for Americans). The men and women ate the same number of calories both times, and were monitored under pretty strict supervision to make sure they stuck to the protocol. The researchers analyzed how many calories and how much fat were burned, as well as how eTRF influenced appetite.
The researchers found that although the fasting strategy didn’t change how many calories men and women burned over the course of a day, it diminished hunger pangs, increased fat burning for several hours at night, and improved metabolic flexibility, which is your body’s ability to switch between burning carbs and fats for fuel. Your body transitions to burning whichever fuel source is more readily available; so, if you haven’t eaten since 2.p.m, your body will revert to burning fat rather than glucose. Combined, these effects could help you lose weight.
“Eating only during a much smaller window of time than people are typically used to may help with weight loss,” Courtney Peterson, Ph.D., lead study author said in a press release. “We found that eating between 8a.m. and 2p.m. followed by an 18-hour daily fast kept appetite levels more even throughout the day, in comparison to eating between 8a.m. and 8p.m., which is what the median American does.”
The researchers add: Your body has an internal clock, so there are optimal times during the day to maximize your health and fitness; for example, many aspects of metabolism are at their peak in the morning, so there’s definite merit to eating earlier in the day.
Also, something to keep in mind: If you want to try this method and become a fat-burning furnace, you might need to tweak your workout schedule. Your body needs carbs and protein post-workout to repair the micro-trauma to your muscles. So, to maximize the study’s findings, work out in the morning. This will also help further supercharge your metabolism and give you plenty of time to refuel. Read how else you can get an early-morning edge.