Level2 Editor’s Note: Talk to your health provider before you try time restricted eating. If you take certain medications or have certain conditions explained in more detail below, time restricted eating may not be right for you.
Time restricted eating is an eating pattern where you intentionally cycle between periods of eating and not eating. In other words, you will eat during specific hours of the day and outside of this period, you will fast. Cycling between fasting and eating can help you lose weight, while also providing flexibility and saving you time (and even a little money while you’re at it).
Eat Within Your Window
We like to think about eating within a specific window of time. Common fasting windows are 12:12 (12 hours fasting with 12 hours eating), 14:10 (14 hours fasting and 10 hours eating) or 16:8 (16 hours fasting and 8 hours eating). In other words, if you chose a 12:12 window, you might eat only within the hours of 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., or if you chose a 14:10, you might eat only between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Although many people choose to fast in the overnight hours (because most people sleep during those hours and are not eating anyway), you can choose the fasting window that works best for your lifestyle.
Does time restricted eating mean that you are skipping meals? Level2 coaches recommend only skipping breakfast or dinner if you are comfortable doing so and it works for you. However, you should not gorge yourself all day during your eating window. Continue to eat in a healthy, balanced way, avoiding sugar as much as possible.
Why We Recommend This Approach
Level2 recommends time restricted eating to our members because recent peer-reviewed research shows that it’s safe and effective for people with type 2 diabetes.
The health benefits that have been observed include:
- Improved blood sugar and glucose levels
- Improved insulin sensitivity (cells in your body can use blood glucose more efficiently)
- Weight loss
- Weight gain prevention
- Lower blood pressure
- Improved heart health
- Decreased inflammation
Additionally, people who use time restricted eating as part of their eating plans report other benefits.
These potential benefits include:
- Feeling less hungry
- A better understanding of what it feels like to be hungry and full
- Improved eating habits
- Saving time that would normally be spent preparing and eating food
- Increased energy levels
- Improved mental clarity and concentration
- Reduced dependency on medication
Tips and Tricks for Time Restricted Eating
Are you sold on the benefits and ready to give time restricted eating a try? Here are some helpful tips as you begin to plan your fasting:
- Start small: Set yourself up for success by picking an achievable fasting window: Think about your typical meals in a day. If you currently have breakfast at 8 a.m. and have your last bite of dinner at 8 p.m., you are already fasting for 11 hours! Decide upon a 12-hour, 14-hour or 16-hour fast based on your current schedule. Start with a small shift close to your typical eating pattern.
- On meds for type 2? Stick with 12: If you are taking medications that put you at risk for hypoglycemia, the drug classes that can cause this are insulins, sulfonylureas and meglitinides. Do not fast for more than 12 hours without receiving approval from your doctor.
- Make it work for you: Adjust your starting time to make time restricted eating work for you and your schedule. For example, if you enjoy waking up early and eating, you can begin your fast early the night before so you can still enjoy waking up and eating breakfast.
- Tip: If you begin your fasting in the evening, most of your fasting time is spent sleeping! For example, you might choose 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. as a fasting window and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. as an eating window.
- Build on your success: Once you get used to 12 hours fasting/12 hours eating, you can work toward 14 hours fasting/10 hours eating, and eventually to the 16/8 fasting to eating ratio. (And when you get to 14:10 and 16:8, Level2 has a fasting timer that can help you track your eating hours. Just check our app.)
- Create a new habit: The goal of time restricted eating is to make sustainable lifestyle changes: Try to choose a window that you can stick to over time.
- One day at a time: It’s not all or nothing – if you have a setback, do not get discouraged. Try it out again the next day.
- Grab a team: Ask a spouse, partner, family member or friend to try it with you.
During Your Fast:
- Stay hydrated! During your fasting window, you can drink water, black coffee, unsweetened tea and bone broth, which can help fend off feelings of hunger. Remember, while fasting you do not want to consume any food or beverages that consume calories – these are the only four items you can drink or eat during your fasting window to achieve the benefits.
- Watch your progress! Monitor your glucose levels via your Continuous Glucose Monitor. Watch to see how periods of eating and non-eating affect your glucose levels. If you do receive a low glucose warning during your fasting period or notice your glucose feels like it’s lowering, check how you feel and confirm with a finger stick. If you are experiencing low glucose, try eating 15 g of carbs. (Check out our video on hypoglycemia for more information.)
- 3-4 glucose tabs (follow instructions)
- 3-5 hard candies
- 1 tube of glucose gel or liquid
- 4 oz (1/2 cup) of juice (small juicebox) or regular soda
- 1 tbsp jam/jelly, sugar, or honey
- 2 tbsp of raisins
- Keep it up! Expect the first week or two to be challenging, but hang in there and stay consistent during this period while your body adjusts.
During Your Eating Window:
- Fuel up! During your eating window, try to eat primarily whole, minimally processed, healthy foods that will properly fuel your body and keep you full. Think protein, vegetables, beans and legumes, whole grain carbohydrates, berries and melons.
An Example of a TRE Schedule of Eating/Non-Eating
Here is an example of one Level2 member’s schedule using time restricted eating.
7 p.m.: I stop eating and drinking for the night. (Water is fine.)
7 a.m.: No food, but a big cup of black coffee.
9 a.m.: If I’m getting hungry, a cup of bone broth.
11 a.m.: I eat breakfast – eggs, turkey sausage, blueberries.
2 p.m.: Lunch – grilled chicken sandwich, vegetables, etc.
4 p.m.: Snack on a string cheese stick
6 p.m.: Dinner – steak, green beans, spinach, carrots.
Time restricted eating may not be for everyone. If you have any of the conditions or contraindications in this list, you should consult with your doctor before you try time restricted eating:
- Absolute contraindications
- Type 1 diabetes
- Breast feeding
- Active cancer treatment
- Taking insulin
- Taking sulfonylureas
- Taking meglitinides
- Advanced liver disease
- Kidney insufficiency
Again, if you know that you have one of these conditions – or if you are uncertain – please discuss the safety of time restricted eating with your health care provider before starting time restricted eating.
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