Learn everything there Is to know about fItness, performance, fat loss and lifestyle from Adrian McDonnell.
I still remember what it felt like. I would come home from training as late as 9.45pm, put the oats on the hob with some protein powder mixed in and top it off with some dark chocolate and a chopped banana. I would finish this meal (approx. 700 calories) as late as 10.30pm at night.
The following morning by 7.30am, I would have finished another meal – this time a big omelette I used to have to fuel my morning and start my day off before going to school when I worked as a teacher.
Despite eating nutrient dense foods the majority of the time, I always seemed to feel really bloated and get a sense of brain fog in the morning.
I wasn’t sure why but I knew I needed to change something which I eventually did around summer 2018. That’s when I started implementing Time Restricted Eating (TRE) – a form of fasting and ever since, I haven’t looked back.
Most Common Type Of Fasting
Before I start talking specifically about my favourite form of fasting – Time Restricted Eating, I’ll briefly overview the other forms of fasting there are including:
It’s important to clarify that fasting is not a diet. It is a pattern of eating where you schedule your meals within a certain window of time. It doesn’t change what you eat, it changes when you eat.
What Is Time Restricted Eating?
TRE is a more flexible version of intermittent fasting. (which involves eating for 8 hours of the day and fasting for 16 hours). The basic concept is, from the moment you break your fast (the first thing you put into your mouth that’s not water), your goal is to consume all of your meals within an optimal of 9 hours and a maximum of 12 hours.
However, you can still reap the benefits of TRE (see below) even if you ‘cheat the system’ up to two nights a week. In other words, if you were to implement TRE Monday-Friday and then take the weekends off, you can still encounter the benefits it brings.
There is conflicting research over whether or not coffee breaks your fast. One thing is for sure, if you add calories to your coffee in the form of milk, cream etc, you will move from a fasted to a fed state.
If you’re having a hot drink, do not add anything extra to them. I like to have a black coffee about 30-45 minutes pre-workout.
This is a rough outline of how I use TRE in my daily life.
5 Benefits of Time Restricted Eating
At this stage you’re probably wondering – ‘Ok I get the basic concept of TRE, but why would I want to do it?
1). Calorie Control:
I’m not going to lie; portion control is something I find difficult to manage at times. The majority of the time, the quality of my food is good but the problem lies in the quantity. As someone who has a big appetite, I always struggled to stay within my calorie limit when I broke my fast as early as 7.00am in the morning. I would have eaten the majority of my calories come 5pm in the evening and I’m not someone who likes to go to bed hungry. This would often lead to me eating more calories than I needed to and it made my job much harder to get leaner when this was a goal of mine.
However, once I started TRE, the biggest benefit I’ve found is being able to stay within my calorie limit for my specific training goals. Because you’re eating in a condensed window of between 9-12 hours, you’re less likely to eat as many calories as you would in a 14-15 hour window.
My portions are still quite big but they are within the parameters of my calorie target. For the most part, I eat 3-4 square meals and I don’t tend to snack as much in between meals because my portions are slightly bigger than normal. This has allowed me to maintain and even build a better physique without impacting my performance because previously, excessive snacking was a big downfall of mine!
Note: It is important to remember, that calories in vs calories out is still the number one most important factor that is going to determine how toned up you get. If your calorie target is 2,000 a day, you can eat this within a 9 hour window or 14 hour window– provided you don’t go over the limit.
TRE doesn’t give you a free pass to eat whatever you want. It just increases your likelihood of staying within your calorie target due to a reduced eating window.
2). It’s easier than dieting:
Anyone who follows my content knows I’m not a fan of the word dieting – which implies we’re making a sacrifice. The reason most diets fail is because they’re too restrictive or unsustainable over the long term.
Implementing TRE might make it an effective weight loss strategy because condensing you eating window to a shorter period of time makes it more likely you will not consume as many calories. Your overall caloric intake is the number one determining factor of weight loss. This isn’t to say you can’t enjoy your favourite foods, it just makes it less likely you will over eat them.
3). It makes my day simpler:
When I get up in the morning around, I don’t need to worry about cooking breakfast or eating food. I just drink some water and get on with my work.
I enjoy eating and I don’t mind cooking but TRE allows me to eat one less meal, which also means planning one less meal, cooking one less meal, and stressing about one less meal. It makes life a bit simpler for me.
4). Better Digestion:
No wonder I felt bloated in the past! Eating from 7am to 10.30pm is a 15 ½ hour eating window. When did I give my body a chance to actually absorb and digest my food? I didn’t – except when I slept!
Ever since I started TRE, I can honestly say my stomach, my digestion and my mental clarity is WAY better now than what it was before. I feel I have much more energy – especially in the morning time when previously, after eating breakfast following the previous night’s late meal, I would sometimes struggle to keep my eyes open driving to work!
5). Training Fasted & Carbs for Fuel:
Carbohydrates are your bodies primary fuel source. Carbohydrates are used for high intensity exercises such as sprinting, jumping, heavy lifting as well as exercise where your heart rate is at 70% and above. Fats are your bodies secondary (least preferred) fuel source and are most commonly used for lower intensity exercises such as steady state cardio.
A by-product of TRE for me has been training fasted. While training fasted is not necessary in order for you to do TRE, doing TRE has made me more comfortable in a fasted state. Training fasted has allowed me to be more metabolically efficient – meaning I find my body is better at conserving my carbohydrates for higher intensity exercises only and using fat as a fuel source for all other lower-intensity exercises I perform.
In other words, when I do need my carbs to kick in (for max effort lifts, box jumps, conditioning etc.), I feel I can tap into them better. This has been really rewarding for me knowing I can still hit the numbers I want in the gym without having eaten beforehand. I used to wrongly assume that “I’d be weaker today” if I hadn’t eaten prior to the gym session but this hasn’t been the case.
I would recommend you have between 5-10g of BCAA’s pre-workout to prevent any muscle from being broken down during your session.
Drawbacks Of Time Restricted Eating
TRE definitely works well for me and my specific goals, but I’m aware it’s not for everyone either. If you fall into any of the following categories, TRE may not be for you:
What Do You Need To Consider Before Trying It?
If you’re considering trying out TRE, here are some things to take in mind and prepare yourself for before you start.
Frequently Asked Questions
Reflect on your typical day and consider you’re average eating window. While most people believe it is around 12 hours, it’s more commonly between 14-15 hours of eating a day. If this sounds like you, it might be worth considering trying TRE.
Before you make any judgements on it, try it for a month. Give it a chance and see if it benefits you. If not, at least you tried. If it does, you might just have taken the first step towards a different lifestyle change which I’m so glad I discovered over two years ago.
Try it out before you criticise it.
What To Do Next
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Adrian McDonnell -
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