The 6 Hour Calorie Window

According to a new study, the time of day you eat may be a lot more important than you’d think.

“Eating right” is about so much more than just avoiding processed foods and cutting back on sugar. A healthy diet means many things: eating the right balance of macronutrients, getting plenty of micronutrients, eating the right number of calories, even eating at the right time of day. According to a new study, the time of day you eat may be a lot more important than you’d think.

Previous studies have examined the effects of early time-restricted feeding, or eTRF, on metabolic function of rodents. Mice were fed for nine hours per day or less, and had no access to food for the other 15 hours per day. This led to reduced weight gain, an increase in energy expenditure, a decrease in fat mass, and lower risk of chronic disease.

What’s interesting about this study is the fact that there was no calorie restriction placed on the mice. They were fed a diet high in fats, fructose, and sucrose, but still saw the metabolic benefits of the eTRF diet. In fact, the diet actually slowed and even reversed the progression of metabolic diseases among the mice with both type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Pretty staggering results, aren’t they? Clearly limiting access to food (intermittent fasting) is a good option to consider.

Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that 11 overweight adults who had their last meal of the day around 2pm were less hungry, had more energy, and burned more protein and fats. This eating habit also helped the participants body to switch between carb-burning and fat-burning more efficiently.

This study found that the best eating window was between 8am and 2pm, with an 18-hour fast for the rest of the day. Those who followed this eating schedule had less hunger swings, higher metabolic flexibility, and were more efficient at utilizing nutrients. While this study didn’t examine the effects on weight loss, the results speak for themselves. After all, if you’re less hungry, you’re less prone to overeating, so it will be easier to stick with healthy food choices. Add to that better metabolic flexibility and great energy output, and you’ve got a recipe for success.

Many people will struggle with making this change to their eating habits, but the research proves that it’s worth it. You can still eat all the calories you want during that six-hour window (though you should definitely opt for nutrient-rich foods and not empty calories), and the results remain the same. It’s an interesting eating plan for those who find themselves struggling with other diets.