Are you a fan of midnight snacking? Come on now, don't lie, we are all guilty of it from time to time. Many people have a good idea of what they should be eating, even if they don't put this knowledge into practice, but did you know that when you eat can be almost just as important as what you eat?
Today, we're going to explore fasting, feeding windows, and how to time your meals.
When you sleep, your hormones go into rest mode. Your stress hormones decrease, your insulin hits rock bottom, and your melatonin and growth hormone levels go up. Basically your body goes into a calm state of repair.
Breaking fast is what you do when you eat breakfast, which is why it's called breakfast. As soon as your blood glucose is spiked through the consumption of carbohydrates, insulin levels begin to increase and growth hormone decreases. Many athletes and physically fit types prolong this hormone swap by doing something called intermittent fasting. We'll get into that in a bit.
My favorite meal of the day!
So when should you break fast? And equally important, when should you stop eating for the day?
The recommended feeding window according to several studies should be 9-12 hours. The study linked above found that restricting the feeding window in mice dramatically decreased the likelihood of obesity, even when their diets were less than healthful. Not only did it decrease the likelihood of obesity, it also stabilized and reversed the progression of mice with with type II diabetes. Fasting has been shown to generally normalize people with abnormal sensitivity to insulin and even helps suppress ghrelin, the hormone responsible for appetite.
This kind of flips the whole calories in/calories out thing on it's head. Not that counting calories is arbitrary, it is still a very important factor in losing weight. But according to this study, and many others, a smaller feeding window will lead to much faster fat loss.
The reason for this is that when human growth hormone is active, protein synthesis (used to repair cells) is increased. This increase in activity will in turn raise your Base Metabolic Rate (BMR). In other words your metabolism will be higher, resulting in faster weight loss.
The longer you fast, the faster you burn fat!
“Time-restricted eating didn’t just prevent but also reversed obesity,” according to Satchidananda Panda, an associate professor at the Salk Institute who helped conduct the studies.
Another study published by Pubmed found that there was a 26% increase in weight in a 9 hour feeding window, a 43% increase in weight in a 15 hour feeding window,
and a 65% increase in weight in an unrestricted, 24 hour feeding window of mice on the same diet. A smaller feeding window leads to increased weight loss.
This prolonged increase of human growth hormone will also help you get stronger more quickly, as your body can recover much more quickly with it elevated.
We covered the benefits of maintaining a 9-12 hour feeding window. So what happens if we shorten our feeding window down even more? Will the benefits received from fasting increase? The answer to this is yes!
A popular style of dieting among athletes, bodybuilders, and people trying to lose weight is known as intermittent fasting.
Intermittent Fasting (IF) involves prolonging your fast for a period of 16-18 hours. Meaning that those on this diet must consume all of their daily calories within a 6-8 hour window. This is a sure way to keep your metabolism sky high through out the day, but it's not for everyone. It takes a lot of discipline to not eat for 18 hours a day. I prefer to stay closer to the 12 hour window mentioned above.
The Hodgetwins break down Intermittent Fasting.
Some of you may have heard of “fasted cardio” or people who train while in their fasting window. While this isn't a terrible idea, it may lead to more fat retention. Honestly the jury is still out on this one, so I'm not going to recommend this one way or another. I will dive into pre-workout and post-workout nutrition in a future article, so I'm going to leave it at that.
I hope you all found this article useful! Now go out there and go get your goals!