Time restricted eating: Does it work, plus beginner’s tips

A person on a time-restricted eating diet will only eat during specific hours of the day. Outside of this period, they will fast.

In this article, we look at what time-restricted eating is, whether or not it works, and what effect it has on muscle gain. We also provide beginner’s tips on how to get started with this diet plan.

What is time-restricted eating?

Time-restricted eating means that a person eats all of their meals and snacks within a particular window of time each day. This timeframe can vary according to the person’s preference and the plan they choose to follow. Typically though, the eating window in time-restricted programs ranges from 6–12 hours a day.

Outside of this period, a person consumes no calories. They should, however, drink water or no-calorie beverages to remain hydrated. In some time-restricted diet plans, people may also consume unsweetened coffee or tea with no cream.

Time-restricted eating is a type of intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting refers to any diet that alternates between periods of restricting calories and eating normally.

Although time-restricted eating will not work for everyone, those who have their doctor’s approval may find it beneficial. Some recent studies have shown that it can aid weight loss and may lower the risk of metabolic diseases, such as diabetes.

Time-restricted eating can help a person to restrict their food intake without having to count calories. It may also be a healthy way to avoid common diet pitfalls, such as late-night snacking. However, people with diabetes or other health issues should speak to their doctor before trying this type of diet.

Research has shown that time-restricted eating can work well alongside efforts to build muscle.

One study investigated time-restricted eating in young men who followed a set resistance training program for 8 weeks. The men restricted their eating window to 4 hours on the 4 non-workout days each week.

The authors concluded that participants who followed the time-restricted eating plan reduced their calorie intake without losing strength. However, time-restricted eating did not result in reductions in body weight or body fat compared to a standard diet.

Another study placed resistance-trained men into either a time-restricted eating group or a normal diet group. Those in the time-restricted eating group ate 100 percent of their calorie needs during an 8-hour window each day for 8 weeks. The time-restricted eating led to a decrease in body fat with no reduction in muscle mass.

It is normal to have days where time-restricted eating does not work out. For example, a night out with friends, a special occasion, or a diet slip-up may lead to people eating outside of their fixed eating window.

However, this does not mean that they should quit.

It is best to see setbacks as an opportunity to get back on track. The next day, people can recommence the time-restricted eating plan and continue toward their goal.


For most people, time-restricted eating is unlikely to be a miracle weight-loss cure. However, studies have shown that it can offer health benefits without a high risk of side effects. It could be a simple way for many people to reduce their calorie intake without complicated or strict diet rules.


Which people, situations, or medical conditions might a time-restricted eating diet suit and why?


Time-restricted feeding seems to be beneficial for most people who are not experiencing acute illness or taking medications to lower blood sugar, for type 2 diabetes for example.

Adolescents, young adults, or middle-aged people may all benefit from time-restricted eating if they are only lightly or moderately physically active and are interested in:

  • losing weight
  • reducing blood sugar
  • reducing gut inflammation or improving their gut microbiome

These people are most likely to experience benefits with minimal downsides.

Time-restricted feeding may also be beneficial for those who are not successful with daily calorie restriction since some study results indicate that both types of diet yield similar results.

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