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The Difference Between Intermittent Fasting and Time-Restricted Eating

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Intermittent fasting is the new talk of the town, and it makes sense that there’s all this content being published online about it.

Recent research surrounding fasting shows clear benefits to the human biology, including loss of visceral fat, healthy blood sugar levels(1), and even neurological benefits(2). More studies are being conducted as we speak.

But there’s one thing that seems to always be inaccurately reported: the actual definition of intermittent fasting.

There are many ways to fast, and one of the most talked about ways isn’t actually called intermittent fasting: it’s called time-restricted eating.

Here’s the difference: Intermittent fasting refers to fasting on different days, intermittently. For instance, you’d be on an intermittent fasting schedule if you ate normally Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, but then fasted on Sunday and Wednesday. This particular example is also called the 5:2 fast, referring to 2 days of fasting, and 5 days of normal feasting.

However, there’s a popular eating schedule that’s being referred to as a type of intermittent fasting, but is actually time-restricted eating. TRE is defined as eating within a short window of time every day, normally 8-12 hours in a day.

One trend you may have read about is called 16:8 fasting, where you’d eat all of your day’s calories within an 8 hour window, and fast for the remainder of the day. For instance, you may take your first bite at 9 a.m., but will stop eating after 5 p.m.

So, to recap:

  • Intermittent fasting means to fast on some days, and eat normally on others.
  • Time-restricted eating means to eat only within a short window of time every day.

There are other methods of fasting, too, each with their own specifications and reported benefits. You can more about them here.



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