Optimizing Health and Weight through Time Restricted Eating (TRE)

May 29, 2023

Martin Kuchynka

Time Restricted Eating (TRE) emphasizes the importance of meal timing, with Dr. Satchin Panda's research highlighting the benefits of consuming most calories within a 10-hour window, promoting metabolic efficiency and overall well-being.

What we’ll talk about

Time Restricted Eating is all about the timing and frequency of meals. From the nineties of the 20th century, it began to be recommended to eat 5-6 meals a day (for fat loss and even treating diabetes), thus high-frequency eating. Too frequent eating during the day leads to disruption of the circadian rhythm, which of course has a negative impact on health. Eating too often will also teach your body to rely on a stable supply of energy from food (metabolic flexibility is lost), and lead to physical dependence on food.

Time-Restricted Eating (TRE) is a new therapeutic form of intermittent fasting. It involves eating within a 10-12 hour window after first consuming anything that triggers liver enzymes. TRE shows more stable results in patients with diabetes and metabolic syndrome, as well as active and exercising people.

The Downsides of High-Frequency Eating

It is quite well known that what and how much are you eating is taking important part when we want to feel better, look better and in overall, be healthier. But did you know that timing and frequency of meals (Time Restricted Eating) play same or even greater part in your efforts to change your physique.

Therefore, in addition to the circadian rhythm, the next most important factor for health and increasing overall performance, is the frequency and timing of meals.

While basically throughout human history we were used to eating 2-3 meals a day (without snacks), and eating in accordance with the circadian rhythm (i.e. during the day), today people consume food basically constantly (various snacks between meals), right up to the moment they go to sleep.

It is even more paradoxical that sometime from the nineties of the 20th century, it began to be recommended to eat 5-6 meals a day (for fat loss and even treating diabetes), thus high-frequency eating. In addition, as you surely know, in the fitness world it is still recommended to have the last meal before sleep (preferably cottage cheese or protein), which is not only counterproductive, but also reduces melatonin and sleep quality.

The recommendation to eat so often during the day is based on older studies, the results of which were not completely conclusive from today’s point of view. New scientific findings (mainly the 2018-2019 study) are slowly but surely coming to the exactly opposite conclusion:

In terms of evolution, circadian genes and how our metabolism works, it is healthier and more efficient for the human body to eat less frequently during the day (2-3 meals a day).

What’s wrong with high-frequency eating?

Relatively recently was discovered that our organs work with maximum efficiency at precisely defined time intervals during the day, and thus are also dependent to circadian rhythms.

The organs for digestion and processing of nutrients (stomach, intestine, pancreas, liver) are therefore able to function very efficiently during the main and clearly defined meals, but they need to rest between them.

But if a person forces body to work basically all day (like eating every 2-3 hours), then very quickly exhausts body’s ability to produce hormones and enzymes, and organs get wear out and tired more quickly (which can manifest as a lack of gastric acid in the stomach as well as problems with high blood sugar).

Not only eating before bed and at night, but in general too frequent eating during the day, according to new studies, leads to disruption of the circadian rhythm, which of course has a negative impact on health (especially on the mentioned wear out of organs, and their enzymes and hormones).

Eating too often, will also teach your body to rely on a stable supply of energy from food, thanks to which the body has no will to burn stored fat tissue for energy (metabolic flexibility is lost).

This then creates a physical dependence on food, during which a drop in energy, irritability and ravenous hunger occur after several hours without food.

  • Needs to eat carbs for breakfast
  • Feeling sick after skipping breakfast
  • Eating before bed, otherwise you will not fall asleep

These are all signs of food addiction, as a result of a destroyed metabolism. Don’t worry, everything can be restored! And after resetting the circadian rhythm, the only thing left to restore is switching to low-frequency eating.

Time Restricted Eating (TRE) Explained

Dr. Satchin Panda is a pioneer in the research of the circadian rhythm, and his team was behind the discovery and integration of a lot of information that I use in a practical form. In recent years, he has focused with other experts around the world on “time-restricted eating” (TRE), which is a promising therapeutic strategy for diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and overall optimization of health.

In research on rats, and later on humans, it has been repeatedly shown that if you eat outside of your normal biorhythms (i.e. at night in humans), it leads to disruption of metabolism, increased fat storage and the gradual development of diabetes and obesity (observed, e.g. in night shift worker).

In addition, late eating was associated with weight gain, reduced energy expenditure, circadian rhythm abnormalities, excessive appetite, worse dealing with stress and poorer overall sleep.

The Importance of Meal Timing

In our body, the metabolism is closely linked to the circadian rhythm, and the timing of meals is therefore at least as important as the composition of the diet in terms of body transformation.

Our body is adapted to eat most meals within a time-limited period of approximately 12 hours from the first activation of digestion/liver enzymes, which is determined by the activation of circadian genes in the liver. During this time, it can ensure maximum efficiency in the processing of nutrients.

Today, most people normally eat 15 hours a day (e.g. 7:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.) and manage to consume up to 35% of their calories between dinner and bedtime. On weekends, they also expose themselves to social jet-lag, when they eat and drink alcohol even during the night.

Eating healthy food at night can paradoxically be just as unhealthy as eating junk food during the day.

From the point of view of overall health and longevity, it is optimal to eat only 10 hours a day (2 are then a reserve for digesting the last meal). This may be close to intermittent fasting from a certain point of view, but it is extremely important that most calories are eaten in the first part of the day, when our ability to process nutrients is maximal (with respect to circadian rhythm).

Time-Restricted Eating (TRE) is a new therapeutic form of intermittent fasting, where you eat most of your calories during the first part of the day, or within a 10-hour window after first consuming anything that triggers liver enzymes (food, coffee, supplements).

The connection between eating and the circadian rhythm explains why studies on classical intermittent fasting (IF) have often provided conflicting results. While some health markers improved, it often had no effect on weight and loosing fat.

On the other hand, TRE shows far more stable results in research, in patients with diabetes and metabolic syndrome, as well as in active and exercising people.

Rules for Time Restricted Eating

From the first moment you have food, coffee/tea or supplementation in the morning, 10 hours start to count, during which plan 3-4 main meals

There are three basic schemes for setting up meals:

   - 7/12/17: If you have breakfast at 7:00, then lunch should be at 12 and dinner at 17:00. It is ideal to do the training between 15:00 and 16:00.

   - 9/14/19: If it doesn’t suit you in terms of work, you can postpone the meals by a few hours. So breakfast can be at 9:00, late lunch at 14:00 (after the main work block) and dinner at 19:00, after training. But of course you can have it earlier. Before nine o’clock in the morning with this variant, you are not allowed coffee, tea, herbs or supplements – only pure water (no lime or salt).

   - 7/12/15 - 8/14: In addition, from time to time you can try a more extreme option where you will only eat for 6-8 hours. In one case, you can have breakfast at 7:00 a.m., lunch at 12:00 p.m. and a second lunch at 3:00 p.m., or settle for two meals and simply have a big breakfast (eg at 8:00 a.m.) and a big late lunch at 2:00 p.m.

On weekends, you can break the time restricted eating and eat normally from the morning until three hours before going to bed. In research, taking two-day brake from TRE did not have a negative effect on overall results.

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