Rule #2. Eating window

Rule 2. Eating window

The eating window is the time between the first and the last meal in twenty-four hours. The eating pause is the time from the last meal of a day to the first meal the next day. In general, the smaller the eating window and the bigger the eating pause (within the reasonable limits), the better it is for health even without restriction of caloric content. Without getting of calories, the cellular self-cleaning (autophagy) and fat burning accelerate; the body's sensitivity to various hormones increases, the level of inflammation decreases, and the percentage of muscle bulk increases over time. Studies have shown that such diet prevents metabolic disorders, including type 2 diabetes, hepatic steatosis (fatty liver disease) and high cholesterol level.

Rule #2. Eating window

BREAK. The eating window is the time between the first and the last meal in twenty-four hours. The smaller the eating window and the bigger the eating pause, the better it is for health.

Just think – the time when we eat and the time when we do not have different effects on our health. What will prevail? Surprisingly, all miracles (fat burning, autophagy, increased sensitivity to hormones) occur in the period when we do not eat. Therefore, to accelerate the positive processes we need to refrain from eating a longer period in a day! If we have 12 by 12, these are just equal conditions, but even two hours shift (10 by 14) already gives the certain advantages such as fat-burning. Narrowing the food window to 8 hours gives a twofold advantage, and the desirable effects will prevail!

In times past, food was available for a short time during a day. Modern people have inherited from their ancestors special greedy or thrifty genes. The point is that in past human did not have enough food, though in some season food was in excess (a season of hunting or harvest). People did not have devices for storing food, so the greedy genes helped store food it in the form of fat, in order to survive hunger or lack of food later. Now our genes are pushing us to eat up at any time.

Now food is available round-the-clock and is ready for use. Very often our eating window is stretched for 14 hours or more. People eat from morning to late evening. And when food, especially high-calorie foods, is always available, we tend to eat to preserve. At the same time, we don’t have the long periods when we could burn the fat stored and increase sensitivity to hormones. The wider the eating window, the greater the probabilities of weight gain. Moreover, the process of eating blocks the cellular self-purification so the body has less time for self-healing.

Leads to overeating. The pattern is simple: the wider the eating window, the greater the risk of overeating. Reducing the gap between the first and last meals automatically leads to the situation when you eat less but do not consciously limit yourself to the number of calories.

Fat burning. When we eat, the level of insulin hormone is rising. Its higher levels block fat burning, so with frequent meals we reduce the chances of fat burning. Over time, this can make the body less sensitive to insulin, which is harmful to health.

Enhances the risks of other diseases. Each meal activates specific mTOR1 molecular complexes in cells. Its chronic hyperactivity increases the risks of allergic and autoimmune diseases as well as high blood pressure.
1 Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), an enzyme essential for the cell growth. – Note of author

Slows down self-healing. The constant activity of mTOR in our cells caused by a wide eating window leads to a decrease in autophagy activity.

Circadian rhythms. The wider the eating window, the worse it impairs the circadian patterns work. So eating late at night can disrupt the normal functioning of circadian rhythms. And the disruption of our internal clock (desynchronization) is the basis of many diseases.

Disrupts the work of hormones. Eating non-stop increases insulin level and lowers the levels of the growth hormone and ghrelin. The first increases the symptoms of depression reducing neuroplasticity. The second slows down autophagy, fat burning and muscle growth, reduces sensitivity to insulin.

The risk of tooth decay. The greater the load on the teeth, the worse the work of self-cleaning system in the mouth. But bad dental health is not only tooth decay but also the risk of cardiovascular diseases!

Efficiency in diseases. A narrow food window increases insulin sensitivity in diabetics, reduces oxidative stress, inflammation, slows down aging, reduces the risk of hypertension, and improves the lipid profile. Animal studies showed that the limitation of eating time stimulates the growth of new nerve cells, alleviates the symptoms of depression and even improves the condition in neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.

Basic principles

Narrow the eating window. Divide the day conditionally into two periods. In one of them you can eat (eating window), in another period you must keep yourself without calories (eating pause). Regardless of the amount of calories consumed the narrowing of eating window and the increase in time without food leads to a positive effect on health.

BREAK: For a start, try to leave three or four hours free from food before bedtime. For example, you have breakfast at 7.00, supper at 19.00 and go to sleep at 23.00

Several variants of eating restriction exist but all of them have the same common principle: the period of hunger and the period of feeding (eating window). Often the narrowing of the eating window is called TRF (time restricted feeding), sometimes this rule sounds like do not eat after 5 p.m. or 6 p.m., etc. Many people skip breakfast to reduce the food window, but this is not entirely correct, and we will discuss this in the next chapter.

12/12 If you do not have any restrictions on food intake, for a start, try to leave three or four hours free from food before bedtime. For example, you have breakfast at 7.00, supper at 19.00 and go to sleep at 23. Of course, this is not yet a narrowing of the eating window but the first step to this. Keep a completely clean gap from supper to sleep.

10/14 This is a lightweight version of the narrowing of the eating window, often known as the do not eat after 18.00 rule. You have breakfast at 7.00, dinner at 17.00 and do not eat anything after 18.00.

8/16 All meals fit eight hours and the gaps between them are sixteen hours. This is the most common practice; the eating pause is exactly two times longer than the eating window. In such way, we give a twofold advantage to fat burning and autophagy. It’s easy to follow the rule: fit all your meals in an eight-hour interval. Do not limit yourself in type of food and portion size, eat as usual and get a bellyful. When closing the eating window keep a clean gap of sixteen hours. For example, you have breakfast at 8:00, lunch at 12:00 and dinner at 16:00. It works great, and for athletes too. It is convenient for workers as it can include either two or three meals.
BREAK: Without calories, the cellular self-cleaning and fat burning processes accelerate, the body's sensitivity to various hormones increases

6/18 You eat well when you have breakfast and dinner, and then skip supper. It is important to have the substantial meals, and then the appetite is well controlled until night. This is a convenient scheme for people working in the office. You have breakfast at 8.00 and dinner at 14.00. It is interesting that such scheme is effective not only for healthy people but also for people suffering from type 2 diabetes. Having two-time meals, people with diabetes lose weight faster and restore insulin sensitivity.

4/20 Sometimes known as the warrior’s diet, this variant has the eating window in the evening in the original version, but it can be in the afternoon as well. Eating window of four hours is more suitable for men and in more rare situations. It is not recommended for routine use.

Count hours, not calories. The advantage of the eating window is that you cut the number of calories without calculating them. When restricting eating to a ten-hour window, people automatically eat 20% less without counting calories and self-enforcement. This does not affect the ability to gain muscle; athletes can gain muscle bulk by eating even in a four-hour window. The bigger the window, the more likely we are to overeat.

How to follow the rule? Ideas and tips

Act smoothly. First you can narrow the eating window to twelve hours (twelve hours for eating and twelve hours of abstinence from food). The positive effects become visible with the eating window of ten hours but you can achieve the best results with good tolerance with the eating window of eight hours. In the latter case, the time from the first to last meal is eight hours, and the period of abstinence from food is exactly two times more, sixteen hours. The 8/16 method is simple and efficient. There are also 6/18 and 4/20 methods but it’s better to go to them at a more advanced stage and they are not suitable for everyone.

The frequency of eating windows is 7/7, 6/7, 5/7. This type of diet implies daily following this schedule. However, studies have shown that the 5/2 schedule of eating time restriction also works. So, for a start, you can follow the variant of a narrow eating window on weekdays, and at the weekend dine according to a different schedule, to support the social ties. The second variant is to make one late dinner during the week, and the second one on the weekend. The schedule 2/1 also shows efficacy (two days of restriction, one day of usual meals) and may be suitable for beginners.

Stress and eating window. The more stress, the wider the eating window. Stress increases the level of the hormone cortisol and on an empty stomach can be harmful. The less stress, the smaller eating window you may have.

Eat fully and do not count calories (within the reasonable limits, of course). It is very important not to cut the amount of calories consumed too sharp. To act so, you need to eat more at one meal than you are used to, because now less time for eating. Compared to other diets, the advantage of the narrow eating window is that during it you have no restrictions on the size of the portion, you can get a bellyful. You do not need to count calories and be afraid to overeat all the time. Eat fully, in the fixed time, and enjoy your food.

Train without fear. You can combine the narrow eating window with your workouts, including power workouts, and this will not impair the gaining of muscle bulk.

Holidays. You can lower the side effects of fatty and sugary food if you follow the eating window rule the same day. Food restriction mitigates the negative effects of high levels of fat and sugar intake.

BREAK: High-quality protein, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates with a low glycemic index will help to keep up the steady saturation for a long time, and you are more likely to suffer from hunger after eating convenience foods and fast food.

Do not be afraid. Despite all the fears, you will not stretch your stomach and overeat. Stretched stomach is a myth. At first, my patients were afraid that they would experience severe hunger by evening. But it turned out that if they ate plenty in the first half of the day, hunger did not occur. Athletes are often scared of losing muscle bulk if they do not eat after a workout, but this is not confirmed fact. You may not eat after a workout at all and it will not affect your muscles.

It will be difficult with convenience foods. Consume more protein and fat for satiety, add vegetables and beans. You will have problems with hunger if you eat a lot of convenience food that stimulates overeating. High-quality protein, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates with a low glycemic index will help to keep up the steady saturation for a long time, and you are more likely to suffer from hunger after eating convenience foods and fast food.

Enjoy your food and don’t make prohibitions. The more often and longer you eat during the day, the less you enjoy eating. Reducing the eating time increases your pleasure from food, and you have no strict prohibitions. All this improves the eating behavior.

Eating disorders. If you are prone to disruption of eating behavior, you should avoid strong restrictions.