In today’s world, it seems like there’s a new weight loss strategy every 5 minutes. You’ve probably heard about time-restricted eating and intermittent fasting, and how they might help you lose weight. But what does the research say and what is the difference between the two? Time-restricted eating, also known as time-restricted feeding, is a type of intermittent fasting that focuses on how many hours a day you eat.1 In contrast, intermittent fasting encompasses all types of diets that switch between periods of “fasting” (or times when you don’t eat - this includes sleep!) and eating. Read on to find out more about these two eating strategies, how they could support your weight loss efforts and the difference between them.
Have you been watching what you eat and exercising consistently only to feel frustrated when you’re still not seeing the results you want? The reason could be related to when you’re eating. If you’re trying to lose weight, you likely spend a lot of time thinking about what you eat. But new research is showing that when you eat may be just as important.2 This is the idea behind time-restricted eating and intermittent fasting.
As more research is being conducted on the timing of meals, both time-restricted eating and intermittent fasting are two emerging, scientifically researched methods of eating. The research has also demonstrated that utilizing these methods could lead to weight management and health benefits including disease risk reduction. Although both work around when you eat, they are not entirely the same. In fact, if you complete a quick internet search on time-restricted eating and intermittent fasting, you’ll quickly discover how much information there is on both eating methods.
With so much information about these strategies, it can be overwhelming to decipher between the two. We’re sharing the nuances of time-restricted eating vs. intermittent fasting to help you determine if incorporating one of them into your daily routine could support your weight loss goals.
What is time-restricted eating?
Time-restricted eating focuses less on what you eat and more on when you eat. Essentially, it's a timed fast. For example, you might decide to eat during a 12-hour period, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. For the remaining time, which includes sleep, you would not consume any additional food or caloric beverages besides water or herbal tea.
While time-restricted eating doesn’t restrict or eliminate certain foods from your diet, that doesn’t mean you should reach for unhealthy foods if your goal is weight loss and health management. Unlike the other types of intermittent fasting programs, you can keep the same eating schedule each day, and you do not have to skip breakfast. As a result, people may find that this eating strategy is simple to follow and potentially easier to stick with.
A guide to time-restricted eating
How do you incorporate time-restricted eating into your routine? It may not be as hard as you think. The primary focus is to make sure to eat your calories for the day within a 12-hour window (for example, 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.). When you focus on eating during the main hours of the day, you’ll be working with your metabolism as it burns calories most efficiently during this time.3
If you are using this eating strategy to lose weight, you should aim to shorten the time frame when you normally consume food. For example, if you usually eat over a period of 16 hours a day (from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m.), you would want to work to reduce that time frame to 12 hours (7 a.m. until 7 p.m.).
Time-restricted eating for weight loss
It’s pretty common to eat from the time you wake up in the morning until almost when you go to bed at night. In fact, grabbing a late-night snack before you head to bed may be impacting your weight loss goals. By adopting a time-restricted eating strategy, it may lead you to naturally eat less food, which, in turn, will decrease the number of calories you consume.
However, merely adhering to this type of eating pattern doesn’t guarantee weight loss. It’s still important to focus on a balanced diet and healthy food choices, regardless of the timing of your meals. When followed properly, multiple studies have shown that time-restricted eating may help prevent obesity and improve metabolism.4-5
Jenny Craig’s newest program, My Rapid Results, leverages the science of your body’s circadian rhythm and combines it with the principles of time-restricted eating to help optimize weight loss.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting might sound like a complicated weight loss term, but the concept is relatively simple. Basically, it is an eating pattern that alternates between periods of consuming food and refraining from ingesting any calories.6 Because intermittent fasting focuses on the time frame when food is consumed, many people prefer to call intermittent fasting an eating pattern and not a diet.
While there are different types of intermittent fasting strategies, many of them focus on fasting for longer periods of time than time-restricted eating. Usually, each method splits the day or the week into eating and fasting periods. For example, the 16/8 method requires you to condense your daily eating schedule to eight hours. You will then fast for the remaining 16 hours of the day. For example, you would eat between noon and 8 p.m. and then refrain from consuming calories until noon the next day.
The history of fasting
The concept of fasting itself dates back to ancient history.7 Humans have fasted since the beginning of time, however usually out of necessity. After all, our hunter-gatherer ancestors couldn’t drop by the supermarket or sit down at a restaurant whenever their stomach was growling. Because they couldn’t always find food, our bodies evolved to be able to function without it for extended periods of time.
Intermittent fasting & weight loss
The goal of intermittent fasting is to reduce calorie consumption by minimizing your eating time frame. If you don’t overeat during the allotted period, intermittent fasting may be an effective approach to weight loss.8
Intermittent fasting may do more than reduce calories. It could also result in positive changes in your body that may promote weight loss. One study found that men who followed an eating pattern that included fasting saw their levels of human growth hormone (HGH) increase.9 This increase may be beneficial for weight loss and muscle gain.10 Fasting may also improve insulin sensitivity as well as drop insulin levels, which are other factors associated with weight loss.11-12
Time-restricted eating vs. intermittent fasting: what's the difference?
While time-restricted eating and intermittent fasting are often treated the same, there are some differences between the two. With time-restricted eating, you’re consuming your meals within a certain number of hours each day, as opposed to intermittent fasting, which can take many different forms. For instance, one type of intermittent fasting focuses on reducing your calorie intake twice a week, while eating normally the remaining five days.
Other health benefits of intermittent fasting & time-restricted eating
While research on all of the health benefits linked to intermittent fasting and time-restricted eating is still being conducted, studies on both humans and animals show that intermittent fasting and time-restricted eating could beneficially impact your health in other ways besides weight loss.13-14
- Research suggests following an intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating routine may reduce LDL cholesterol and triglycerides — improving heart health and potentially reducing one’s risk for cardiovascular disease.15-16
- Additionally, If you’ve ever experienced or dealt with inflammation, you may be surprised that a study suggested intermittent fasting could reduce markers of inflammation.17
Although more research is needed to conclusively evaluate all of the benefits of time-restricted eating and intermittent fasting, integrating one of them into your routine may help with your weight loss and overall wellness goals.
To learn more about a weight loss program that integrates time-restricted eating and the latest scientific research, contact Jenny Craig for your free appointment.
 Longo, Valter D., and Satchidananda Panda. “Fasting, Circadian Rhythms, and Time-Restricted Feeding in Healthy Lifespan.” Cell Metabolism, vol. 23, no. 6, 14 June 2016, pp. 1048–1059., doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2016.06.001.
Elisa is a content marketing manager for Jenny Craig with over ten years of experience working in the health and fitness industry. She loves sharing her passion for living a balanced and healthy lifestyle. An endurance sports enthusiast, she is usually swimming in the pool, biking along the coast highway or running by the beach in her free time. Elisa holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University, Chico.
Favorite healthy snack: mozzarella string cheese with a Pink Lady apple
Reviewed by: Monica Ropar, Nutritionist
Monica has over 15 years of experience with Jenny Craig, as an expert nutrition and program resource. She develops content, training, tools and strategies for the program to support clients throughout their weight loss journey, and offers inspiration, weight loss tips, lifestyle strategies and motivation. Monica holds a Bachelor of Science degree with a double major in Dietetics and Exercise, Fitness & Health from Purdue University and continues to stay current on weight management research, consumer trends and healthcare developments.
Favorite healthy snack: raw veggie sticks with homemade hummus.
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and is written by experienced health and lifestyle contributors and fact-checked by Monica Ropar, Nutritionist at Jenny Craig.
Our goal at Jenny Craig is to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics, so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content. All articles undergo an extensive review process, and depending on the topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Nutritionist, to ensure accuracy.
This article contains trusted sources including scientific, peer-reviewed papers. All references are hyperlinked at the end of the article to take readers directly to the source.
Edited by Elisa - Jenny Craig