We often mention that you should limit the hours in the day that you eat to when the sun is shining, that this eating style is part of a smart plan to achieve a younger RealAge, and it's the basis of Dr. Mike's book "What to Eat When." But it's time to dive more deeply into the science behind the recommendations and the amazing benefits that are being discovered all the time.
What is time-restricted eating - and how flexible is it? Timing your food consumption is all about tuning in to how your body reacts to food (hormone shifts, immune changes, that sort of thing) and how food affects your body through its 24-hour sleep-wake cycle. You don't have the same juices flowing or process nutrients in the same way at 11 a.m. as you do at 11 p.m. For example, during the day, your body is in a fat-burning mode, but in the evening, it's designed to be fat-storing. Eat more food late at night and you accumulate more stored fat, leading to an increased risk for cardiovascular and metabolic problems.
When you stick with early, daytime food intake, you take advantage of your natural body rhythms, so they help you maintain a healthy weight, blood glucose levels and metabolism, and protect your brain function and organ systems.
The basic schedule is to eat 80% of your daily calories before 2 p.m. and have a minimum of 14 hours between a light, early dinner and breakfast. If you cannot eat your last meal of the day before an early sunset in the winter, just make sure you eat light - and that you have that time span between dinner and your first meal of the next day. Also, if you get hungry in the early evening, it's OK to have a cup of tea, a handful of walnuts or crunchy, raw veggies, like celery and carrot sticks.
What are the health benefits? There are so many it is hard to know where to start.
- Research shows that when women eat more of their calories before 6 p.m., they reduce their risk for hypertension, weight gain, heart disease and elevated blood sugar levels.
- A new study published in Nature Communications found that time-restricted eating that's in sync with the body's circadian rhythms helps control insulin levels and reduces the risk of breast cancer in obese mice that have a menopausal physiology.
- If you eat the same meal in the morning and at night, the morning meal will cause significantly less of a rise in your blood sugar level. Seems your fat cells are 50% more sensitive to insulin at midday than at midnight. That may be why nurses who go from a day shift to a night shift burn fewer calories while working, even though they're doing the same activities.
- Sticking to a weight-loss plan can be tough. Well, a study in Plos One of 50 obese females, around age 50, has found that following a weight-loss plan with an eight-hour eating window is easy to stick with and effective. In fact, more than a quarter of the participants lost at least 5% of their starting body weight after 12 weeks. That's enough to improve control of glucose levels, reduce the risk of complications from diabetes and obesity, and provide rewards that help a person keep going.
As you adopt time-restricted eating, following simple guidelines will make it easier and more effective:
- Eat the same healthy amount of calories daily. Varying your intake wildly increases your risk for metabolic syndrome, visceral belly fat, higher lousy LDL levels and increased insulin resistance.
- Eat breakfast, lunch and a light dinner at about the same time daily. Keeping your food rhythm steady lays down a steady beat for your circadian rhythm.
- Mistakes shouldn't derail you. The sun rises every morning, and that means that every day you have a chance to get back in tune with the sun.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into "The Dr. Oz Show" or visit www.sharecare.com.
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.