Two of the most popular questions that arise when I talk with women in our Eating Habit Profile calls are, “When is the best time to eat?”, often followed by “Does intermittent fasting work?” In this post, I briefly answer these two questions.
Research into intermittent fasting has addressed weekly and 24 hourly fasting patterns.
By weekly, I mean you either fast or greatly reduce your calorie or kilojoule intake for one or more days of the week.
An example of this is the 5:2 diet, where you eat normally for five days and reduce your intake to 500 calories, or 2,100 kilojoules, for women, and 600 calories, or 2,500 kilojoules for men.
To put these fasting days into perspective, you are encouraged to eat 1/4 to 1/3 of the amount suggested in healthy eating guidelines for Australian adults.
Normal eating is not eating whatever you like. It is still recommended that you eat mostly whole foods, not highly processed foods, during these days.
And this is what is very challenging for some of the women that I speak with—the temptation to overeat on the 5 “normal” days.
Normal eating is not eating whatever you like.
The other approach to intermittent fasting is reducing the length of time you eat during each 24 hour period.
A popular diet is the 18:6 diet, where you limit the hours of eating to 6 hours a day and fast for 18 hours.
So as examples, your times of eating might be between:
- 6 am and midday
- 10 am and 2 pm
- Midday and 6 pm
As shared by women who have tried the daily fasting pattern, the temptation to overeat is very strong.
…the temptation to overeat is very strong.
Reported health benefits of intermittent fasting include:
- Weight loss, similar to other eating patterns that reduce overall energy intake.
- Insulin action improves. Insulin has an important role in helping the body to manage blood sugar levels.
- Reduction of blood fat levels e.g. triglycerides and LDL cholesterol.
- Improvements in levels of hormones related to appetite regulation.
- Reduction in chronic inflammation.
Note: These health benefits are also achieved with other eating patterns based on whole foods encouraging healthy weight.
Intermittent Fasting Warning
Intermittent fasting is not suitable if:
- You have had or do have an eating disorder.
- Experience sudden drops in blood sugar levels.
- You are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- You have type 1 diabetes.
- You are underweight or malnourished.
Intermittent fasting is not suitable for children or teenagers.
For personalised diet and health advice please consult your healthcare practitioner.
Intermittent fasting only offers part of the answer to “When is the best time to eat?”
So, “When is the best time to eat?”
Based on intermittent fasting research, and other research studies that have looked at ideal meal times,
The consensus is overnight fasting is beneficial.
What do I mean by overnight fasting?
This involves having your larger or main meal in the middle of the day and finishing your last meal or snack for the day by 7 pm.
The reason why this works is that our bodies are wired to digest and metabolise food in the first half of the day.
This is something that Eastern medicine, such as Ayurveda has known for thousands of years. And it is exciting that scientific research shows the same.
The Eating for You Approach
The Eating for You approach combines the scientific evidence with the practice of mindfulness to answer our question, “When is the best time to eat?”
Finish eating at 7 pm each day and let your body guide you to your next mealtime.
Women in our community have found their own patterns of eating using this approach.
Some enjoy two meals a day, some three, and others have a couple of snacks too!
By tuning into hunger, you can learn to interpret physical hunger and non-hunger reasons for eating such as boredom, stress, convenience, and other emotions.
This means that you find a way of eating that nourishes you, rather than trying another diet that doesn’t last.