By Jerry Teixeira
During our last post, we talked about the exciting new research on intermittent fasting/time restricted eating (IF/TRE) that's emerging from the prestigious Salk Institute for the Biological Sciences in La Jolla, CA. This research is showing that regardless of what style of eating we follow, there are profound health and physique-enhancing benefits to adhering to a restricted eating window.
Simply put, whatever you eat, eat it within a set time period each day.
What I want to cover with you now is specific strategies for applying intermittent fasting and time restricted eating to your current daily routine.
What if you train in the morning?
What about if you train late?
Maybe you love breakfast?
Perhaps you hate breakfast and prefer a large dinner?
We're going to cover exactly how to set up your eating window to reap the health and physique benefits of IF/TRE, regardless of how you answered the above questions.
That's one of the best features of IF/TRE. It’s very flexible and forgiving!
First, I'd like to discuss the distinction between IF and TRE.
Fundamentally, they are the same. Both refer to the act of restricting food consumption to a specified eating window and consuming only water outside of that window. Both IF and TRE are generally used to describe short-term fasting.
Where the distinction largely comes in is that time restricted eating is the term being used by the researchers at the Salk Institute to describe their application of intermittent fasting, which is based upon the sleep-wake cycle of humans, also knows as your circadian rhythm or circadian clock.
Often called the circadian clock, due to the fact that it develops in response to sleep and wake cycles based on day and night, the circadian rhythm is a powerful regulator of biological processes that is present in nearly all life on earth.
Humans are diurnal, not nocturnal. This means that we have evolved to be active during the day, and to rest and recover at night. Because of this, the researchers at the Salk Institute find that planning the eating window to coincide with the diurnal nature of humans to be optimal.
That means that for Salk style of time restricted eating, you would plan your eating window to coincide roughly with daylight hours.
This is opposite of what has become a popular variation if intermittent fasting in the fitness community.
Intermittent fasting in the fitness community is often designed with an extended morning fasting period, with an eating window that starts later in the day and ends later in the evening.
One of the main reasons that the Salk researchers favor the earlier eating window is to take advantage of the fact that we are more insulin sensitive in the mornings and less so in the evenings.
This may mean that the potential exists for less efficient carbohydrate metabolism and greater fat storage with an evening feeding window.
I feel it's important to note that in the morning time when our insulin sensitivity is greater, we're also coming off of an overnight fast.
It is possible then, that when we extend the fast, our heightened insulin sensitivity remains the same until the time we decide to end our fast and begin our eating window.
With that in mind, the biggest determining factor with regard to what style of intermittent fasting you decide to participate in will be your daily schedule and fitness related goals.
An earlier eating window is best if you:
Enjoy eating breakfast
Train early in the morning
Go to bed early
Enjoy an early dinner time
A later eating window is best if you:
Enjoy eating dinner late
Train late in the evening
Go to bed late
Don’t care to eat breakfast
Once you've identified when you prefer to eat, you must look at what your primary fitness related goals are.
If your primary goal is optimal athletic performance or building maximum muscle, then you'll want to ensure that you choose a fasting style that allows for proper pre and post-workout nutrition (a topic we will be covering in a future blog post soon).
If you want optimal athletic performance and lean mass gains, you'll want to include a protein and carbohydrate meal within a few hours pre and post-workout.
A meal will obviously break your fast, and therefore, you would need to account for that in your eating window.
Early eating window
If you're an early morning workout person, you likely won’t want to wake up two hours before your workout to eat, so you would wake up and perform your workout in a truly fasted state and begin your eating window with your first post workout meal.
Example would be workout at 6:00 AM
Eat breakfast at 8:00 AM
The 8:00 am meal begins your eating window. You could then choose to do a 10-hour eating window, which would take you to 6:00pm.
You'd want to have your last meal eaten by 6:00 pm, and then you'd fast for the remaining 14 hours of the day.
Late eating window
If you train in the evenings, you'll want to begin your eating window later in the day. This is when a post-workout meal which is essential. An example would be to start your eating window at 10:00 am.
If you choose a 10-hour window from there, you'd stop eating and conclude your window at 8:00 pm.
I used a 10 hour window for both of the above scenarios. This seems to be easy for most people to adhere to.
Keep in mind, however, that research indicates the shorter the eating window, the greater the benefits of fasting. With that said, the Salk Institute research still demonstrates a benefit to fasting even at a 15 hour a day window.
As mentioned previously, the beauty of intermittent fasting is that you can use it as a template to lay over any style of eating: vegan, paleo, keto, etc.
One thing to keep in mind from an optimal performance and physique enhancement standpoint is that you will still want to make sure you consume the appropriate macronutrients to suit your specific goal.
Macronutrients simply refers to protein, carbohydrates and fats. If you aren’t sure how to calculate your macronutrient needs, let me know in a comment below and I'll cover that in a future post.
The challenge that this can create is that you need to consume an entire day's worth of macros (food) in an abbreviated window.
This can leave you feeling very full, and to be honest, uncomfortable at times.
Especially when you consider that many athletes will target around 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight, this can place an average-sized person eating well over a pound and a half or more of chicken or steak in a 10, 8 or even 6-hour window.
One hack that can be used is supplementing with a high-quality protein powder.
This will allow you to hit your protein target without feeling stuffed to the point of being uncomfortable and sluggish.
If you're going to add a protein supplement to your daily regimen, you should demand the best quality. Since it's 2018, you should also refuse to compromise on taste.
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