Some participants would have preferred a later eating window — more like noon to 8 p.m. — to fit in dinner with their family after work, but experts advised against it. It appears the more you can eat your food earlier in the day, the better, said Courtney Peterson, assistant professor of nutrition sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She’s the author of a small study published last year that found people who finished eating all their meals by early afternoon had smaller fluctuations in hunger and burned slightly more fat than people who ate throughout the day.
People become more insulin-resistant as the day goes on, so the body can’t put away sugar as well in the evening, Varady noted: “We wanted people to eat as early as possible when their bodies can process the food better.”
If you want to try the 16:8 diet:
Check with a doctor before starting any diet.
Be aware it may be easier to stick to than other types of fasting diets, but the weight loss will be smaller. Other options include alternate day fasting, which calls for eating 500 calories or so one day, then eating whatever you’d like the next; and the 5:2 Plan, which involves eating normally five days a week, then consuming fewer than 600 calories two non-consecutive days a week.
To combat hunger during the fasting period, try drinking hot beverages, like herbal tea, because that can sometimes trick your body into feeling full, Varady noted. Sugar-free gum can also help. But again, most people in the study didn’t feel hungry.
Be mindful during your eating window: Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Choose carbohydrates that are higher in protein and fiber, like bean-based pasta instead of whole-wheat pasta, Kirkpatrick advised.
You can be flexible about your eating window, but it’s better to finish eating earlier in the day. A 10 a.m.-6 p.m. window is probably healthier than noon-8 p.m., Varady noted. When TODAY’s Hoda Kotb tried the approach, she chose a 6 a.m.-2 p.m. eating window.
Remember, there’s not one diet that’s superior to other diets — you just need to find something you can stick with, Varady said.