Intermittent Fasting and Meal Timing for Weight Management

By Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

January 23, 2023

Intermittent Fasting and Meal Timing for Weight Management
Intermittent fasting and caloric restriction are currently hot topics. The focus is on when to eat and avoidance of excess calories and even using low calorie diets for a time. These strategies for health and longevity date back to 1000 AD. Time between meals, calorie restriction, as well as nutrients that mimic caloric restriction have many health benefits for aging well, weight management, heart, gut, immune health, and much more.

Meal Timing and Calorie Restriction

Calorie restriction refers to a reduced intake of calories as in a low-calorie diet. It also refers to setting limits or scheduling the time of day when you eat. Many variations exist in popular literature on calorie restriction and intermittent fasting on when, how much, and what to eat. It can easily become confusing.

Research recommendations for a healthy adult includes a regular meal pattern of 2 to 3 meals per day. Breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day followed by several hours of fasting to allow for the benefits of caloric burning, blood sugar and hormone regulation, and entrainment of the circadian rhythms. Excess caloric intake is avoided, but nutrient dense foods are encouraged. Athletes, individuals engaged in heavy physical labor throughout the day, or those with special medical needs may not fit these recommendations.

Does this sound familiar? These basic principles of time-restricted eating and calorie restriction actually follow The 5 Rules of The Leptin Diet. These are:

Rule 1: Never eat after dinner. Allow 3-4 hours between dinner and bedtime.
Allow 11-12 hours between dinner and breakfast.

Rule 2: Eat three meals a day. Allow 5-6 hours between meals. Do not snack.

Rule 3: Do not eat large meals.

Rule 4: Eat a breakfast containing protein.

Rule 5: Reduce the amount of carbohydrates eaten.

A high-quality breakfast after waking in the morning is fundamental to your metabolic processes. This simple principle synchronizes natural circadian rhythms, body clocks, and metabolism. Not snacking between meals or eating after dinner provides fasting time to allow for clean-up.

Here are some examples of meal timing that follow the Leptin Diet and intermittent fasting.

Example 1:
Breakfast – 8:00 am
Lunch – 1:00 pm
Dinner – 6:30 pm

Example 2:
Breakfast – 6:30 am
Lunch – 12:00 pm
Dinner – 6:00 pm

Both examples allow 5-6 hours between meals and 11-12 hours between dinner and breakfast. Eating a high protein breakfast is essential to help you be able to go 5-6 hours between breakfast and lunch. Find a schedule that works for you!

Learn more about the Leptin Diet and meal timing in these articles:

The Leptin Diet Weight Loss Challenge #1 – Overview and Basic Needs

Body Clocks and Weight Management – It’s All About Timing

Skipping Breakfast Impacts Weight, Blood Sugar, Cardiovascular Health

Time between Meals Allows for Housecleaning

When you allow “fasting time” between meals during the day and have an overnight fast of 10-12 hours until breakfast, it allows your cells and mitochondria to engage in essential “housecleaning” processes of autophagy and mitophagy.

It correlates with entrainment of your circadian rhythms, body clocks, gene signals, and numerous hormone and cells signals. It provides coveted time for your digestive tract, liver, kidneys, heart, immune system and other tissues and even your genes. It allows them to receive nourishment, utilize it, and perform their cellular clean-up duties. It’s like being able to clean house when all the residents are away with ample time.

Autophagy is the cellular process used to clean up damaged compounds and proteins. Mitophagy refers to the autophagy house cleaning process that occurs in mitochondria.

Frequent Meals Disrupt Housecleaning Mechanisms

Research shows that individuals who consume more than 3 meals per day experience increased risk of disease. When you eat 3 meals plus snacks or graze throughout the day, it contributes to impaired autophagy, stressed digestion and metabolism, and caloric excess relative to the physical need.

Dysregulated autophagy and mitophagy adversely affects blood sugar, cholesterol metabolism, muscle strength, brain, myelin sheath and nerve health, immune resilience, kidney function, and your body ages more rapidly. Higher levels of inflammation, fatigue, slower recovery, faster degeneration, increased free radicals, and oxidative stress occur. Insulin resistance increases and healthy weight management is challenged.

An example of how meal timing and autophagy affects your body can be seen in common lab tests. If you have a blood draw after a meal for a lipid/cholesterol panel and blood glucose, your numbers will be higher. When labs are completed in the morning after a 10-12 hour overnight fast, you get a better representation of your health. These numbers will generally be lower and more accurate and are related to autophagy functions.

Nutrients That Mimic Calorie Restriction

Another facet to calorie restriction and time-restricted eating pertains to nutrients that mimic calorie restriction. This too is a hot topic in research. Several plant-based nutrients act as “Calorie Restriction Mimetics” (CRMs), which aid your body’s overall metabolism and aging mechanisms with autophagy and mitophagy. These nutrients assist the natural housecleaning mechanisms, activation of anti-aging gene expressions, and are master regulators for overall healthy aging.

Polyphenols Are Calorie Restriction Mimetics

CRMs are found in polyphenol-rich foods, such as apples, berries, beans, citrus fruits, cocoa, curcumin, leaf vegetables, green tea, mustard, radish, horseradish, onion, garlic, and others. Specific nutrients sought after for their calorie restriction anti-aging effects include resveratrol, curcumin, nicotinamide (niacin/vitamin B3), EGCG from green tea extract, tocopherols/tocotrienols (vitamin E), carotenoids such as lycopene, quercetin, d-glucosamine, and others.

More about polyphenols may be found in the article Obesity Affects Brain Health. What Can You Do?

Calorie Restriction Mimetic Nutrient Benefits

The use of CRM nutrients in diet and supplements provides several positive effects for overall health. Potential benefits identified include activation of autophagy, upregulation of sirtuins/SIRT1, cardiovascular support, immune surveillance, gut microbiome diversity, upregulation of Nrf2 pathway, modulation of pro-inflammatory compounds, and antioxidant effects.

CRM benefits also include the birth of new mitochondria or mitochondrial biogenesis, detoxification of toxins and endocrine disrupting compounds, apoptosis of dysregulated and damaged cells, and more.

Sirtuins are a family of signaling proteins that regulate apoptosis (cell-death), cellular aging, and stress resistance.

Nrf2 is a type of protein involved with activating and deactivating the expression of hundreds of genes and is known as the “master regulator” of the antioxidant response throughout your body. Nrf2 is involved with inflammatory responses, immune health, tissue remodeling, brain health, insulin, and lipid and weight management.

A Time for Reflection and Implementation

Think about your elderly friends and family members who have taken good care of themselves and still have great energy and health. It is likely you will find similar behavioral characteristics and habits that they follow such as a regular sleep-wake schedule, good breakfast from home-cooked meals, perhaps from their own garden. They likely habitually avoid sweets, snacks, and packaged foods, excess alcohol, and are engaged in regular physical activity.

These steadfast behaviors embody the core principles of time-restricted meals/intermittent fasting and provide natural calorie restriction mimetic nutrients in a whole foods diet.

Since the 1970’s, individuals have been told to eat several small meals per day and follow the Food Pyramid. Dietary saturated fat and salt were deemed evil and replaced with sugar and sugar substitutes.

Schedules and households have become so busy that packaged food has replaced home-cooked meals and backyard gardens. Much of society is engaged in a 24/7 schedule rather than the natural day-night circadian cycle. Commercials entice customers to enjoy their favorite fast foods in the middle of the night. Commercially prepared foods and beverages are loaded with sugars and additives that act as obesogens. Portion sizes have increased.

Dietary lifestyles and health have adversely changed for many in response to these modern trends. Your body bears this burden with a breakdown in health. Get back to the simple principles of clean, wholesome food, three meals per day with the Leptin Diet and watch your vitality return.

If your body’s natural housecleaning mechanisms leave something to be desired, add in a foundation of CRM nutrients. Helpful nutritional supplements include Leptinal, Daily Super E, Green Tea Extract, Resveratrol Ultra, Cardio Helper, Turmeric Gold, Repair Plus, Quercetin, GI & Muscle Helper, Daily Protector Eye & Immune, and others. Are you following the footsteps of a healthy centenarian?

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