What is Time Restricted Eating and how is it my non-diet?

I love to make food for my family. It’s one of my absolute favourite things in life, and I cherish the moments that we spend together around the table. It’s a close second to spending time together hiking the North Shore mountains.

So when I learned about, and started to practice, Time Restricted Eating (TRE), I instantly became worried that I’d miss meals, and time with them. I had my habits, which I really enjoyed, and wasn’t that excited to change.

What I was excited about, however, was the possibility that eating less could make me more healthy.  Time Restricted Eating can and does help with weight control/loss but strangely, it’s much more than that. The major benefit to TRE is optimal health. To be honest with myself, I often eat when not all that hungry, especially ‘treats’, so I was intrigued in the idea of TRE to put a time around when I would eat, and not eat.

Eat Less, Feel Better

I appreciate and try and understand the importance of what I eat. I’m diligent to get enough fiber, fats, and essential nutrients. I eat pretty healthy, and because I exercise a lot, I (can) eat quite a bit of food. I thought this was right, but I was wrong.

TRE can be a very effective way to manage weight but it’s more about giving your digestive system time to rest and repair. Another advantage can be better, deeper, sleep. It’s stunning to learn what goes on when our digestive systems are not busy digesting – repair and regeneration. 

An important note is that the digestive system does its best work in repair mode, when you are awake, not sleeping. So what I’ve come to understand is that our digestive systems don’t get a break if we’re eating and digesting most of our waking hours.

This is important stuff, as cellular repair happens when the body is not digesting, It’s a very cool process where the body actually recycles damaged much of the cell material, and repairs the Mitochondria. Our Mitochondria are instrumental in turning the food we eat into energy. If these little guys are always working, and especially if you’re aging, you are not helping yourself  The logic here is to take a big break from eating so that your body can get the most from the food you eat, and then repair and get ready for your next meal. 

There’s loads of information online to help understand this, but here is a site that is more plain speak than most: https://neurohacker.com/mitochondria-functions-for-healthy-aging-what-does-the-mitochondria-do

It’s said that for this cleaning and repairing to happen that your body should have a minimum of 12 hours of no food, only water and tea/coffee, per day. The best research of the moment has been produced by Dr. Satchin Panda. His research proves that a 16 hour, fast with an 8 hour, eating window gives the body the maximum benefit, while helping reduce/manage weight. This is what I practice.

Now I should state something here. Mitochondrial Dysfunction is really serious shit, especially for us over 40. When the Mitochondria is stressed, and not able to repair, we age more quickly, and become susceptible to degenerative disease and/or cancer – which is caused by oxidation, and the formation of free radicals.  I’m not sure if you’ve known anyone with a degenerative disease, or has died from cancer, but I’m going to do whatever I can to not go out like that.

More on what I’m talking about here: 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4566449/

Due to the reality of Mitochondrial Dysfunction, not only is restricted eating beneficial, but this is where Organic Plant Based Whole Food becomes so critically important. This is the main message of Dr. Michael Greger, one of my heros. He promotes a WFPB lifestyle for almost endless reasons but his most important message of Plants vs Animals, is cell repair. Animal flesh will not protect and regenerate your Mitochondria. It takes the vitamins and minerals in plant based food – this is a plain as day fact. Eat your greens, as your grandma said. She knew.

My Schedule

So 16 hours of fasting. I chose 3 pm to 7 am, as I like to eat breakfast and there’s proven benefit of better sleep on an empty stomach, and that I burn more calories by eating earlier in the day. I eat 100% Plant Based Whole Food (organic when possible) at every meal and snack. I don’t eat junk (99% of the time), and have stopped putting food in my mouth for no reason – like when I’m not hungry. If I eat at 3pm, I can get a bit hungry by 8 but I go to bed and wake up feeling great, and not hungry as my body starts to use fat for fuel during the night.

Training without food?

I can run up to 100k a week when training on road (marathon training) or climbing as much as 3,500 meters when in the trails (ultra training). This is a load of output and it takes some input to keep me going. I was quite concerned when I started a 16:8 protocol as I knew that I’d eventually go on a very long run without eating for 14 or 15 hours before. 

This came about last Sunday. I knew I could easily run for 2 hours without fueling before but this last weekend was a 3 hour trail run with some decent elevation gain. I started at 4:15am, with my last meal at 3 pm the day before. I could have eaten before I left but I wasn’t starving. I’d had a big workout the morning before so I felt a little tired but k after k, hour after hour, my energy was exactly the same. I felt as good in the in the last half hour as I did first with no decline in energy. 

I understand that our bodies use up our available energy (glycogen, stored in the liver) within about 12 hours of our last meal. So on this workout I was using energy being converted from fat, in a process called Ketosis. Previously I was not that familiar with Ketosis, other than what I’d read about the Keto Diet, and I’m not a fan of the Keto Diet, so I was cautious of what I was doing.

What’s the best for me?

Through my research I’ve found that our bodies naturally use Ketones, and it’s a very normal and healthy thing. That is to deplete the quick liver energy and start burning fat from fat cells – after all, that’s why we store it. This 16:8 protocol, and even with exhaustive exercise, is a natural state of the body. What is not natural is to eat near 100% fat all the time so our bodies are in constant Ketosis. A Whole Food Plant Based lifestyle with complex carbohydrates and starch, eaten within a manageable window, uses all of digestive systems efficiently. 

Interestingly I have spoken to more people in the last 6 weeks about TRE than I have in total, ever. Every single one their statements is the same, ‘It’s easy and I feel GREAT!’. I had one Victoria based customer reach out to say that she’d used TRE and WFPB to eliminate her reliance on Thyroid Medication! That is some serious stuff! (Way to go Gwen!)

If you’re interested to learn more then Dr. Greger has some great information on his site, including this video.

Also, here’s a book that opened my mind to another level of health for me and my family.

PS – Kids and TRE. 

This is not a thing. Kids are growing humans and naturally burn energy faster than adults, especially us over the hill 40+ ers. This said, this entire learning process has helped me better understand our Circadian Rhythm. I’ve changed the way that I feed my kids and do my best to give them a 3 to 4 hour digestion window before they sleep. This has been tough, as sometimes we get home at 6:30 and bed is 8:30, so dinner can be 7:30. This will continue to improve. 

Time to Shine

One of the most important take-a-way’s from Dr. Panda’s book is the effect of quality sleep. Not only the duration, but the start and end times. Allowing our bodies to completely regenerate takes 7 hours for adults and 10 to 11 hours for kids. 

As always, I hope that anything I write can help you along your journey. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments!

If a you are interested in a Plant Based lifestyle, we have a great collection of classes in every location. More on those here.

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