A collaboration between Norwegian and Australian authors, the study, published in Cell Metabolism last October, saw improvements in several key biomarkers in all but the control groups, including a broad improvement in blood sugar responses and a reduction in belly’ which indicates an increased risk of cardiometabolic disorders such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Balsvik was part of the TREHIIT group, which, unsurprisingly, fared better. Balsvik lost half a kilo (three kilos) in seven weeks, her BMI dropped from 29.5 to 28.5, and she lost almost 20 cm of visceral ‘belly’ fat, which was pretty average in her group.
She says the toughest part of the study was the 30-minute commute to the exercise sessions and the impact running had on her hips and knees. Other than that, she says it was “easy”.
And this is where this little study is interesting. Easy? The word is rarely seen in the same sentence as ‘diet’. While HIIT was a successful intervention, Balsvik has not maintained it since the study ended two years ago, but she still has enthusiasm for TRE, which she found easy.
“I was very anxious before starting. Thinking ‘How am I going to do my job if I haven’t eaten anything?’ For two or more days I had this feeling of hunger but not extreme and then my body liked the routine, I had more energy and I was in a great mood. It was the complete opposite of what I expected.”
After the study, she continued following the ERT, losing an additional four pounds and four inches of visceral fat (belly fat around the organs in the abdominal cavity). “I stick to it. Sometimes we eat a little later on the weekend and my body reacts and I feel bad, like something is wrong with me. My boyfriend joined me now. He hasn’t seen any significant improvements: “I think his feeding window is too long, at 1 pm, and too late.”
One of the study’s authors, Kamilla Haganes, from the Department of Circulation and Medical Imaging at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, says that ERT should not be confused with Intermittent Fasting because it is a “chronological nutritional strategy”.
Popular fasting regimes such as 16:8, 5:2 or OMAD (one meal a day) “are primarily linked to the energy restriction achieved with intermittent fasting periods. In contrast, ERT primarily emphasizes shifting energy intake to parts of the day when the human body is physiologically primed to digest and utilize energy.”
How does TR work?
TRE works in harmony with our circadian rhythms, the body, the brain and even individual cells and genes with their own clocks that run approximately in sync with the 24 hours of the day. Food and light activate some functions. Sleep, body temperature, hormone levels and digestion are all affected by these rather inflexible natural circadian rhythms in all humans.
One very famous study reverted a number of students self-identified as “night owls” to natural “larks” in a matter of a few days, simply by removing all sources of artificial light at night.
Another study found that even if there is no weight loss, ERT still improves metabolic markers in prediabetic men. Balsvik is now effortlessly more than a stone lighter two years later, with a BMI of 27 and has greatly reduced visceral fat, having cut out ultra-processed foods and increased protein and out-of-choice vegetables.
She plans to resurrect the HIIT regimen with more knee-friendly exercises. Exercise will help, she says, but “unless you’re a naturally driven person, you need encouragement…” A sentiment many of us will understand.
A study last summer found that ERT is most effective implemented between seven in the morning and three in the afternoon. Another found that those who follow ERT but eat dinner later see less benefit.
So eat your evening meal early. Your body will thank you.