Early time-restricted feeding,research suggest that can lose weight from eating early. PICTURE: Supplied
From juice cleanses to eating nothing but grapes people try everything to slim down after the holiday season. But according to a new study, there is a much simpler way: eat anything you want just as long as it's between 8am and 2pm.

The regime sounds like a more extreme version of the classic 'don't eat after 6pm'. This, however, is the first research to properly study how time-restricted eating can contain our cravings and aid our metabolism beyond suppressing the urge to midnight snack.

Lead author Dr Courtney Peterson said the key to the method is that you only consume calories while you are actively burning them. When you're eating between 8pm and 2am, you're eating as much as you're burning but you keep more muscle and lose more fat.

'Dr Peterson, from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said notably the researchers found that people who ate between 8am and 2pm were not hit by hunger pains late at night, and kept their appetite levels even.

"Those who followed the schedule of most – eating between 8am and 8pm – suffered cravings all the way up to when they went to bed. 'We were surprised because we thought people would get hungrier at night if they finished eating by 2pm,' Peterson admitted.

'But we think this is because as you're getting closer to bedtime, the body is thinking, 'I haven't had enough calories yet' and on the 8am to 2pm schedule the body has registered most of its calories. The restricted regime also altered fat and carbohydrate burning patterns.

Because the human body has an internal clock, many aspects of the metabolism are at their optimal functioning in the morning, including maintaining blood sugar levels and the ability to burn more fat. This means eating in alignment with the body's circadian clock, by eating earlier in the day, may positively influence health. The study marks the first human test of early time-restricted feeding, or eTRF. They followed 11 men and women with excess weight for eight days.

For four of those days, they would eat only between 8am and 2pm, with their last meal by the mid-afternoon and nothing again until breakfast the next morning. They also tried four days of eating between 8am and 8pm – what many consider to be 'normal'. Researchers then tested the impact of eTRF on calories burnt, fat burnt and appetite. Participants completed both eating schedules, ate the same number of calories both times and completed all testing under supervision.

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Researchers found that, although eTRF did not affect how many total calories participants burnt, it reduced daily hunger swings and increased fat burning during several hours at night. Whether eTRF helps with long-term weight loss or improves other aspects of health is still unknown.

Peterson says that because the human study involved only a small number of participants, a more comprehensive study will need to take place.