Sunday, January 7, 2018

To lose weight, should you count time or calories?

Can you lose weight without dieting?  Can you eat what you want and lose weight?  New year, new goals.  If one of your goals is to take off a few pounds, do you need to count calories, go on a diet, or just watch the clock?  There is a new weight-loss strategy called, “time-restricted feeding” or TRF.  Apparently, this TRF strategy is not only for weight loss but also to help prevent diabetes, lower your blood pressure and increase your longevity. Recent articles in the Wall Street Journal, “A Diet Strategy That Counts Time, Not Calories” and other publications outlines what this strategy is and how it works.  

What is TRF?  (Time Restricted Feeding)?
With TRF, you eat what you want but not when you want.  Your eating is limited to a 12-hour period of time each day.  So, if you eat your breakfast at 7 AM, you need to finish your dinner and evening snacks by 7 PM and then not eat again until your breakfast at 7 AM.  Thus, you have a 12-hour period of “fasting”.  You choose the 12-hour time period.  

Can I eat what I want?
Yes, during the 12 hours you are eating, you can eat what you want.  You don’t have to count calories, restrict any foods.  This is not a low-carb, gluten-free diet and there are no foods to restrict, eliminate or add to your diet.  On the other hand, it doesn’t mean you can now load up on all the cake and cookies you want.  Just eat what you usually eat but during a 12-hour period each day.  

What can I drink during the 12-hour fasting period?
Water, black coffee, plain tea – no added milk, sugar, cream, etc.  

Will I lose weight on the TRF?
Probably.  Researchers have found that people who do limit their food intake to a 12-hour window and then “fast” for 12 hours each day, do consume less calories and lose weight.  Researchers, Panda and Gill, tracked the eating patterns of 8 overweight people for 21 days.  Most of these individuals consumed food over a 15-hour period or more each day.  These individuals then went on TRF and restricted their eating to a 10-hour window each day.  They lost about 4% of the body weight.  Of interest is that a year later, they were still sticking to TRF and had succeeded in keeping off the weight they lost. The WSJ quotes Dr. Panda as saying, “All of them said they slept better, and they felt more energetic throughout the day. They were actually feeling less hungry.”
Krista Varady, an Associate Professor of Nutrition at the University of Illinois, Chicago has studied an 8-hour TRF diet among 50 obese individuals over a 12-week period.  These individuals were allowed to eat between 10 AM and 6 PM each day.  They did consume less calories, about 300 less calories a day, lost an average of 7-8 pounds.  And this weight loss was not muscle loss but loss of fat.  

Are there other health benefits of TRF?
Yes.   Research indicates you can not only lose a few pounds but lower your blood pressure, have better glucose levels, and it may even slow the aging process.  Why?  They don’t know exactly but believe your body becomes more efficient at digesting foods and breaking down fat.   Dr. Shatzel, a doctor in Folsom, California recommends the TRF method not only to her overweight patients, but also to patients that need to lower blood pressure or their blood glucose levels.   Why would TRF help longevity?  Apparently, by not eating for 12 or so hours a day, you give your body, your organs time to repair and rest.  Why does TRF lower blood glucose levels?  Dr. Mirkin, a sports medicine physician, “points out that eating late at night and then going to bed causes the highest rise in blood sugar.  It’s important to move and contract your muscles after eating so that you draw excess sugar from the bloodstream.”  

How does it work each day?
The WSJ interviewed Vivian Rootness who is 66 and lives in California.  She has told her friends that she has to be done eating by 7 PM each day.  She has been restricting her food intake to 10-12 hours each day and has been doing this for five months.  She reports that she has lost 6 pounds.  Not a lot to some people, but 6 pounds she probably will be able to keep off.  She does not count calories, eats a healthy diet, enjoy some desserts and notes it really doesn’t feel like a diet to her.
Newsmax provides a suggested schedule for those interested in trying TRF:
8 AM – Breakfast
10 AM – snack if you want
1 PM – Lunch
3 PM – snack if you want
6 PM – Dinner

During fasting hours, allow yourself only water, black coffee or plain tea. 

You may want to try TRF – whether to lose weight or for other health benefits noted above.  If you want a beginner’s guide to TMF, read Time-Restricted Eating:  A Beginner’s Guide by Grant Tinsley, PhD.


  1. Is this some sort of IF in the sense that you allow fasting windows with TRF? What is your stance on breath mint and Diet soda during fasting? Anyways, great blog don't be shy and drop us a line! Fitenix Online Personal Training

    1. Thanks for your comment. Your comment on "fasting windows" is a good one. As TRF is really a short window of fasting every day. Breath mints and diet soda should be fine when fasting. Diet soda would produce no "sugar" to digest so would not affect the fast. Breath mints have so few calories that there would be very little "sugar" to digest so breath mints would also be OK.

  2. I did not count calories when I lost 50 pounds this last time. I just adjusted my diet to greens and fruit and meat and cut out everything else. I ate normal and the weight came off over time. What I found out was that there are many ways to help you loss weight. I wish I would have known more about how to lose weight before.I stumbled upon this and I think it is something good. What do you think?