In an effort to shed unwanted pounds, odds are you’ve dabbled with calorie restriction or intermittent fasting. But have you tried time-restricted eating?
A new study published in JAMA International Medicine 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 improved mood when compared to an eating window greater than 12 hours (1).
Is time-restrictive eating (TRE) an answer for simplified weight loss? All you need to know about time-restrictive eating and if you should try it below.
What is Time-Restricted Eating?
TRE is a specific type of intermittent fasting that limits the number of hours you can eat each day. Intermittent fasting is popular for its potential to reduce weight (2), reset digestion (3) cut cravings (4), and protect you from a variety of conditions and diseases (5).
What makes TRE different? Time-restricted eating not only limits your eating window but also fixes it to start and end at a set time every day.
For example, with intermittent fasting, you might eat for only eight hours a day, but somedays you might break your fast at 8 a.m. and others at 9 a.m., shifting your schedule as needed.
With TRE your eating window is fixed. If you break your fast at 8 a.m., you break it at that same time every day.
Timing is important, but what you eat still matters. Proponents argue that by cutting time spent eating, you might nosh on fewer calories throughout the day, and therefore lose more weight.
Does Time-Restricted Eating Work?
The study found that TRE led to an overall reduction of 214 calories a day (in comparison to the control group), a sum that could make a big difference in weight loss efforts.
But, the slashed calories of the TRE group may explain the weight loss more than the eating schedule itself.
An April 2022 study found with the same caloric limits, time-restrictive eating was no different than calorie restriction for weight loss, fat loss, or reduction in metabolic risk factors (6).
These findings show further research is needed to confirm how timing plays into weight loss. But if you’re struggling to lose weight, TRE has shown that calorie restriction isn’t the only way.
Dr. Louis J. Aronne, director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Center in New York, said that, in his experience, some people who have trouble with calorie-restrictive diets do better when they can eat only during a limited time each day.
“While this approach hasn’t been shown to be better, it doesn’t appear to be worse than calorie counting,” he told the New York Times. “It gives patients more options for success.”