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 the day to the first meal of the next day. The smaller the eating window and the bigger the eating pause (within reasonable limits), the better it is for your health, even without limitingcaloric content.

Without reducing calories, cellular self-cleaning (autophagy) and fat burning accelerate. Furthermore, the body’s sensitivity to various hormones increases, the level of inflammation decreases, and the percentage of muscle bulk increases. Studies have shown that such a diet prevents metabolic disorders, including type 2 diabetes, hepatic steatosis (fatty liver disease), and high cholesterol level.

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 you’re your health.

Just think — the time when we eat and when we do not, have different effects on our health. What will prevail? Surprisingly, all miracles — like fat burning, autophagy, and increased sensitivity to hormones — occur in the period when we do not eat. Therefore, to accelerate the positive processes, we must refrain from eating for a more extended period of the day! If we have 12 by 12, these are similar conditions, but even a shift of 2 hours, like 10 by 14, already creates certain advantages such as fat-burning. Narrowing the food window to 8 hours gives a twofold benefit, and the desired effects will prevail!

How did the problem arise?

In the past, food was available for a short time during the day, so we inherited greedy or thrifty genes from our ancestors. The point is that in the past, man often went hungry for lack of food, though in some seasons, food was abundant like during the hunting or harvest seasons. People did not have facilities for storing food, so their greedy genes helped store food in the form of fat, to survive hunger or a lack of food later. This is why our genes push us to eat at any time.

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

How does it affect health?

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 meal automatically leads you to eat less, and at the same time, you are not consciously limiting your intake 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 burning fat. 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 and high blood pressure.

1 Mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), an enzyme essential for cell growth. — Author’s note

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 circadian patterns. So eating late at night can disrupt the normal functioning of circadian rhythms. The disruption of our internal clock (desynchronization) is the basis of many diseases.

Disruption of the work of hormones. Eating non-stop increases insulin levels and lowers the growth hormone and ghrelin levels. The former increases the symptoms of depression, reducing neuroplasticity. The latter slows down autophagy, fat burning, and muscle growth, reducing sensitivity to insulin.

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

Efficiency in diseases. A narrow food window increases insulin sensitivity in diabetics, reduces oxidative stress, and inflammation, slows down aging, reduces the risk of hypertension, and improves the lipid profile. Animal studies show 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.

Basic principles

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

Try to leave three or four hours free from food before bedtime. For example, you have breakfast at 07.00, supper at 19.00, and sleep at 23.00.

Several variants of eating restrictions exist, but all of them have the same common principle: the period of hunger and the period of feeding (the eating window). Often the narrowing of the eating window is called time-restricted feeding (TRF). Sometimes this rule sounds like you cannot eat after 1700 or 1800 hrs etc. Many people skip breakfast to reduce the eating window, but this is not healthy, and we will discuss this in the next chapter.

12/12. If you do not have any restrictions on food intake, start by trying to leave three or four hours free from food before bedtime. For example, you have breakfast at 0700, supper at 1900 and go to sleep at 2300. Of course, this is not yet a narrowing of the eating window but the first step to this. Keep a 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 1800 rule.’ You have breakfast at 0700, dinner at 1700 and you do not eat anything after 1800.

8/16. All meals fit over eight hours and the gap between finishing your last meal and the next meal on the following day is sixteen hours. This is the most common practice: the eating pause is two times longer than the eating window. This way, we give a twofold advantage to fat burning and autophagy. It’s easy to follow the rule. Fit all your meals in the eight-hour interval. Do not limit yourself to the type of food and portion size; eat normally until satisfied. When closing the eating window, keep a clean gap of sixteen hours. For example, you have breakfast at 0800, lunch at 1200 and dinner at 1600. This works great, even for athletes. It is convenient for workers as it can include either two or three meals.

Without calories, the cellular self-cleaning and fat-burning processes accelerate, and 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 these substantial meals and then the appetite is well controlled until night-time. This is a convenient scheme for office workers. You have breakfast at 0800 and dinner at 1400. Interestingly, such a scheme is effective not only for healthy people but also for people suffering from type 2 diabetes. Eating two meals a day helps 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 also be in the afternoon. An eating window of four hours is more suitable for men in rare situations. It is not recommended for the long term.

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 twenty percent less without counting calories unknowingly. 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 cautiously. 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 an eating window of ten hours, but you can achieve the best results with an eating window of eight hours. In the latter case, the time from the first to the 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 consider 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 following this schedule daily. However, studies have shown that the 5/2 schedule of eating time restriction also works. So, at first, you can follow the variant of a narrow eating window on weekdays, and at the weekend, eat according to a different schedule to support the social ties. The second variant is to have one late dinner during the week, and the second one on the weekend. Schedule 2/1 also shows efficacy, two days of restriction, and one day of usual meals. This may be suitable for beginners.

Stress and the 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 the eating window you may have.

Eat well and do not count calories, within reasonable limits, of course. It is essential to cut the number of calories consumed sparingly. To act this way, you need to eat more during one meal than you are used to because now there is less time for eating. Compared to other diets, the advantage of the narrow eating window is that you have no restrictions on the portion size and can until you are full. You do not need to count calories and be afraid of overeating. Eat entirely at a fixed time and enjoy your food.

Train without fear. You can combine the narrow eating window with your power workouts. This will not impair gaining muscle bulk.

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

High-quality protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates with a low glycemic index will help keep 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. The stretched stomach is a myth. At first, my patients feared that they would experience severe hunger by evening. But it turned out that if they ate plentifully 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 a confirmed fact. Not eating after a workout will not affect your muscles.

It won’t be easy with convenience foods. Consume more protein and fat for satiety, and add vegetables and beans. You will have hunger problems if you eat many convenience foods that stimulate overeating. High-quality protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates with a low glycemic index will help keep steady saturation for a long time. You are more likely to suffer from hunger after eating convenience foods and fast food.

Enjoy your food and don’t deprive yourself. The more often and longer you eat during the day, the less you enjoy eating. Reducing the eating time increases your pleasure in food, and you don’t have to deprive yourself. All this improves your eating behavior.

Eating disorders. If you are prone to disrupting your eating behavior, avoid severe restrictions.

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