Time-Restricted Eating and Menopause
Time-restricted eating (TRE) is a form of intermittent fasting that is gaining popularity, but is this just another fad? Research on the benefits of intermittent fasting has been inconclusive, but a recently published randomized controlled trial in JAMA Internal Medicine (August 2022) offers new information to consider when it comes to eating habits during menopause.
Intermittent fasting focuses on when to eat, unlike diets that focus on what to eat. Most TRE programs focus on eating within a 10-hour window or less followed by fasting for 14 or more hours but don’t indicate an optimal time for this window. This recent study showed when adults with obesity started their eating window earlier in the day, for example, 7 AM to 3 PM, they were able to lose more weight than if they started eating later in the day. The earlier time frame correlates with the body’s natural circadian rhythm for optimal food metabolism. The body’s best glycemic (blood sugar) control occurs during mid to late morning, so we may be better able to burn calories during this time.
“Eat like a queen at breakfast, a princess at lunch, and a pauper at dinner” might be an easy way to think about this. Front-loading the day’s food intake at breakfast and lunch reduces caloric intake by around 200 calories daily and improves blood sugar control and levels of sex steroids which influence mood.
Most people in the U.S. consume food in a window of time greater than 12 hours. This new JAMA study demonstrated that shortening the eating window to less than 12 hours resulted in greater weight loss without negative effects on muscle mass.
Mealtime is often an enjoyable, social time, and still can be with TRE! It just requires planning ahead. In addition to considering when to eat your meals, focus on eating fresh over processed foods as much as possible to cut unhealthy calories and further boost the benefits of TRE. Manage portion sizes and slow down when chewing your food. Chew 20-25 times per mouthful to allow more time for digestion and you’ll feel full sooner. If you want to lose weight, set realistic goals. TRE is a safe, low-risk option for most women who don’t have medical conditions that require special diets or timing of food to correspond with their medications. If you are wondering if TRE is right for you, check with your healthcare provider.
Narrowing your eating window to less than 10-12 hours daily for six days followed by one day off and consuming most of your calories earlier in the day, maximizes the benefits of TRE for weight loss. Combined with eating less processed foods and choosing more healthy options, TRE can be a simple method to jumpstart changes toward a healthier lifestyle during and after menopause to lose and/or maintain your weight.