Fasting is catching a lot of attention lately due to the positive health benefits it helps. There are many ways to fast and you may want to do your own research in this area, but I am going to focus on a type of intermittent fasting called Time Restricted Eating (TRE).
TRE means consuming all your calories — whether from food or drink — within a specific time frame each day called the eating window.
Studies show time-restricted eating (TRE) increases lifespan while decreasing the incidence of major diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Setting an eating window and sticking to it is one of the most important things you can do for health and longevity. This is because every time you eat — even just a bite of food — it triggers a process of digestion, absorption, and metabolism that takes hours to complete. And when your body is dedicated to processing food, it can’t also repair and restore.
Of course, the quality of your diet still matters, but the success of TRE lends credence to the idea that WHEN you eat is even more important than WHAT you eat.
Scientists say the minimum time you should go without consuming calories for TRE is 12 hours. For example, not eating anything from 8 pm the night before to 8 am the next morning.
While the science at 12 hours is impressive, lowering your window to as few as eight hours is significantly advantageous suggests Dr. Satchin Panda, arguably the world’s top expert on TRE. (Panda is a professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and author of the book The Circadian Code.)
His research shows that the health benefits you get from eating within a 12-hour window double at 11 hours and double again at 10, and so on until you reach an eight-hour window. That would mean fasting for 16 hours and eating for the other 8 hours, or 16:8 TRE pattern.
“Eating late at night is by far the worst choice you can make,” says Panda. He advises giving yourself at least three hours between your last bite or sip and the time you go to sleep — eating your last meal around 6 or 7 p.m.
Your body needs that digestion time in order to have restorative sleep.
Panda personally adheres to an 11-hour TRE. He eats his first meal of the day around 8 a.m. and finishes dinner by 7 pm, which is several hours before his 10:30 pm. bedtime.
He acknowledges that not every day goes perfectly according to that schedule — but he does his best to stick to the routine. Even if he winds up eating a later dinner, he still tries to give his stomach at least 12 to 13 hours of rest before his next meal.
I use an app called ZERO to help me track my fasting and eating windows and cycle between 14:10, 16:8, and 18:6 fasting/eating windows throughout the week.
It’s not hard, I just try to eat earlier in the evening, don’t snack between meals, and don’t consume calories until after 11 or so.
I find I sleep better, have more energy, and am able to stimulate my metabolic pathways (mTor, IGF-1, and AMPK) for better health and longevity.
For me, the takeaway is clear: TRE is a simple tool available to everyone — and it doesn’t require any significant changes to what or how much you eat.
The best reason to shorten your eating window? It may, in turn, prolong your life.