Time restricted eating is a true game-changer

Want to improve your health in 2018? Grab the Low Hanging Fruit!

You’ve probably heard of intermittent fasting and if you haven’t tried it yourself, you surely know someone who has. In the world of food and wellness trends this one has really taken off . While many fad diets turn out to be unsustainable or even dangerous, the scientific community is finding heaps of compelling arguments for implementing a fasting practice to increase energy, improve sleep and repair processes in the body as well as to encourage safe and sustainable weight management.

In its most basic form, the practice simply involves fasting for an extended period of time to allow your body to activate the crucial cellular repair processes.  

One specific type of intermittent fasting that has been catching our attention recently is called time-restricted eating (TRE). It follows the same basic principles of intermittent fasting by restricting food consumption to 8-12 hours per day but also draws connections to our natural circadian rhythm to produce some amazing effects on health and longevity. Researchers at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, CA are some of the leaders in this field.

Here’s the high-level

The Light Effect

There’s this very specific part of your hypothalamus called the Superchiasmatic nucleus (SCN). This tiny area, which is mediated by specialized bright-light sensors in the eye, is responsible for managing our circadian clock. This clock allows our bodies to adjust to our specific environment and the seasons.  Every organ in the body has its own individual clock as well which is coordinated, to some extent, by this master regulator clock. These internal clocks tell each organ and system in the body when to be metabolically active and when to rest and repair. The proper regulation of this cycle impacts cellular coding, metabolism, hormone production, wake/sleep cycles, and various important repair processes.

This system worked very well when humans lived and subsisted mostly outdoors. The problem today is that many of us spend our days in offices under artificial lights which are not bright enough to stimulate these eye sensors (about 10,000 lux is required to reset the clock. Many indoor lights only give off a couple hundred lux). Additionally, we flood our eyes with blue light from phone, computer and tv screens late at night after the sun has gone down. Frequent travel and variations in our schedules can also throw off the cycle contributing to a disruption in the regulation of our bodies cellular processes When this process gets out of whack, it leads to hormone dysregulation which may cause you to be tired and unfocused during the day, age more quickly and result in excess fat accumulation among a myriad of other effects. For those of you who travel frequently for work or work odd hours, read on not all hope is lost!

Food Matters-and maybe not the way you were thinking…

While studying these circadian clocks, Salk researchers discovered that food can actually override the circadian clock and tells the liver and other organs when to activate gene cycling that impacts metabolism and nutrient storage.

Keeping calories and food content the same, Salk researcher, Dr. Panda found that mice that were restricted to an 8-12 hour feeding window avoided high cholesterol, had 70% less body fat, experienced increase in lean muscle mass (yes, they lost weight and increased muscle!), reduced inflammation, improvements in gene expression and were protected from age related fatty liver even when fed a high-fat or high-sugar diets compared to mice who ate whenever they wanted. This demonstrates that it’s not just what you eat but when you eat that has profound health impacts.

To bring it all together, the regulation of every organ system in your body is determined by the first sight of bright light and the first bite of food. This timing and daily resetting of our internal clocks has a huge impact on the proper function of our metabolism, immune system, hormone regulation and gene expression, and can even slow tumor growth;basically everything your body does.

We all know how difficult it is to monitor calorie intake, eat that perfect balance of vegetables, healthy fats and proteins, and maintain a regular sleep schedule. For those of us who need something clear cut and simple, implementing a time restricted eating schedule may be the the most direct way to make a significant impact on our health and longevity.

Want to give it a try? Here are some practical tips for implementing time restricted eating:

  1. Seek exposure to bright light, either outdoors or with a 10,000 lux light bulb (Get a Happy Lamp like this to help indoors) within 30 minutes of waking and restrict food consumption to 8-12 waking hours. This sets your clock and stimulates your bodies natural hormones that wake you up and put you to sleep

  2. Fasting means ingesting water only. Yes, that means No black coffee before your feeding window! I know this will be the hardest part for some of you. But once you wean yourself off of the early morning caffeine boost you will be surprised at how much natural energy you have and the happy lamp I mentioned earlier will help. Plus you can have as much coffee as you want within your window:)

  3. Stop eating 2 to 3 hours before bed to avoid taking in food when the body is more insensitive to insulin. If you suffer from acid reflux (I do) or irritable bowel this will make a HUGE difference for you! Adjust your feeding window so you have adequate time to digest before bed.

  4. Get a friend or partner to try it with you or enlist your Atlas coach! It’s much easier to stick to a new routine if you have a buddy to talk you down when you reach for that late night snack.

  5. Brunch and Happy Hour are your new jams! Many people find it difficult to be social on an intermittent fasting schedule. Inviting people to join you for brunch and happy hour can help you stay within your schedule without sacrificing your social life.

  6. If you miss your window one day, it’s not all over! Just do your best again the next day. Mice were also able to “cheat” up to two days a week and still get the benefits. Implementing something like this takes time and some diligence until it becomes habit. Be kind to yourself and flexible when necessary:)

Happy eating!

Have you tried TRE or intermittent fasting? What is the hardest part for you? What results have you felt/seen?

To learn more about TRE stay tuned for the first episode of our podcast where we interview Dr. Panda. Or check out his work at the Salk Institute.


Dr. Pandas research- https://www.salk.edu/scientist/satchidananda-panda/publications/

Interview with Dr. Panda by Dr. Rhonda Patrick- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-R-eqJDQ2nU