The Effect of Early Time-Restricted Feeding on the Diet Quality, Self-Efficacy, and Sleep of College Students
Circadian misalignments in terms of eat and sleep cycles, common occurrences among college students, are linked to adverse health outcomes. Time-restricted feeding, a form of intermittent fasting, may offer an exciting, non-pharmacologic approach to improve the health of this population by restricting eating to feeding windows that align with circadian biology. This study aims to fill a gap in the literature regarding the effect of early time-restricted feeding (eTRF) on college students, particularly in regard to diet quality, diet self-efficacy, and sleep quality. To test the hypothesis that eTRF would lead to an increase in all three variables, a 4-wk randomized-controlled, parallel arm trial was conducted. Thirty-five healthy college students were randomly assigned to one of two groups: the intervention group (TRF) was instructed to adhere to an 8-h feeding window aligned with the light cycle (9 am to 5 pm), and the control group (CON) was instructed to adhere to a 12-h feeding window typical of college students (10 am to 10pm). The eTRF diet was consumed ad libitum, and the participants were not instructed to avoid compensatory hyperphagia. The results showed a strong, reverse effect of eTRF on diet quality: fasting had a highly significant association with decreased diet quality. The results suggest that, under free-living conditions, college students practicing eTRF are more likely to compensate for prolonged fasting with unhealthy eating and snacking.