As we gear up to tackle the few extra pounds gained over the holidays, it’s important to consider the best strategies for weight loss. A recent study conducted by Dr Trine Moholdt and her team at the Exercise, Cardiometabolic Health and Reproduction Research Group (EXCAR) at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) provides new insights on the topic.
The findings were published in the journal Cell Metabolism.
“Numerous studies have shown positive health effects of time-limited eating and HIIT [high-intensity interval training] individually. We wanted to see if combining these two lifestyle changes is more effective than just one of them alone. Few previous studies have done that,” said Moholdt.
The study looked at the effects of combining time-restricted eating and HIIT in overweight and obese women. The participants were allowed to eat anything they wanted and as much as they wanted, but all their calorie intake had to take place within a ten-hour window.
Moholdt and her team wanted to see if the combination of these two lifestyle changes would be more effective than just one of them alone. The study included 131 women and lasted for seven weeks, with participants divided into three groups: one group that engaged in high-intensity interval training, one group that combined time-restricted eating and high-intensity interval training, and a control group that ate and exercised as they normally would.
The results showed that the combination group, who followed both time-restricted eating and high-intensity interval training, had the best outcome. They experienced significantly reduced long-term blood sugar levels, almost twice the reduction in weight, fat mass, and visceral fat compared to the other two groups, and improved oxygen uptake.
“We found significantly reduced long-term blood sugar in the combination group participants. Their decrease in weight, fat mass and visceral fat was also almost twice as great as in the other two intervention groups. They also improved their oxygen uptake,” shared Moholdt.
Visceral fat, the fatty tissue that surrounds the internal organs in the abdominal cavity, is considered the most dangerous type of fat as it creates proteins that trigger inflammation in the body, increasing the risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, depression, and dementia. This study supports previous research indicating that abdominal fat can be reduced more through exercise than fat in other parts of the body.
Moholdt emphasises the importance of combining exercise with dieting for the best outcome, as losing weight without exercise often leads to a loss of muscle mass, which is not advisable. She also highlights the benefits of having someone to hold participants accountable, which is why the study’s participants were followed up by the research team, receiving guidance and attending training sessions at NTNU. The team is now starting a study with digital follow-up only.
“The risk of losing weight without exercising is that you’ll lose a lot of muscle mass, which isn’t advisable. Starting with both time-limited eating and high-intensity interval training can be a good idea if you want to quickly improve your health and reduce the risk of disease,” explained Moholdt.
“A lot of the participants said that it really helped to have someone who held them accountable and that they had to report to. Now we’re starting a study where they’ll train on their own with only weekly digital follow-up,”
This study supports the notion that a combination of time-restricted eating and high-intensity interval training is a promising strategy for weight loss and improved health outcomes.