The Lowdown on Time-Restricted Eating
We speak to Workshop’s founder Lee Mullins on the benefits of 12-hour, or time-restricted eating, and discover how it can impact not just your digestive system and gut health, but lead to better sleep and improved energy long-term too.
What’s the basic premise of time-restricted eating?
Essentially it’s eating that's more in sync with your circadian rhythm, your natural body clock. When the sun rises and our eyes get exposed to natural daylight, it sends signals to our bodies to kick start certain processes like digestion. Then when sun sets and we’re exposed to less natural light, the body sends signals to start producing melatonin, the hormone that helps us wind down and prepare for sleep. At this time it also starts slowing other processes down and preparing for night-time recovery and repair. Giving the gut a good 12-hour window to fully digest everything that’s been consumed throughout the day is so important so that it can spend time regenerating and repairing itself ready for the next day’s consumption.
What are the pros?
Improved gut health is a big one because the gut is not having to work overtime and has a chance to rest. Because of that it means you sleep better, so improved sleep quality is also a big pro. And then weight loss is another because giving yourself a shorter window for eating is also a mechanism for controlling your calorie intake. All those things mean optimised training, improved body composition, more lean muscle mass and strength and faster recovery afterwards.
Are there any downsides?
It could impact social occasions, I guess? But that's less of an issue right now anyway...! That said, a lot of the research shows that you get a lot of the benefits when applied five out of seven days so there is flexibility to relax it a little as well. As with any habit change though, once you figure it out it becomes easier to stick to.
How does it complement a training programme?
It definitely can complement your workout schedule, but just be mindful about your programme and the time you’re eating around it. If you train in the evening, then try not to push the timeframe later than 9am-9pm. Really, 7am-7pm or 8am-8pm is ideal. The improved sleep quality and digestive health you’ll get will really make a difference to training as well.
What benefits will you see if you’re not working out?
If it helps you manage your calories intake even if you’re not training, then you could potentially lose weight. You’ll definitely improve your digestive system, which will help with any excessive bloating and the lethargy that can come from over-eating. You’ll probably also find you have more energy and improved energy because of that, as well as better sleep quality.
Is it a long-term sustainable eating plan?
In my humble opinion it’s definitely a long-term lifestyle technique. It’s what everyone should be doing, regardless of age or lifestyle. Twelve hours is more than enough to get all your food in for the day, but really the role it plays in a healthy gut is so important. It takes eight hours for your gut to fully digest and break down everything in the day, then an additional four hours for the gut to repair and restore itself. Shift work, family and lifestyle commitments may make it more challenging but that doesn’t mean you can’t follow it and work around that.