Remember the old advice “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen and dinner like a pauper” and you will lose weight? A first of its kind large-scale study finds when you eat does indeed matter when it comes to dropping some pounds and getting a handle on health issues in general. Researchers from Harvard University say people who eat their big meal of the day early lose more than those who eat late.
The study looked at Europeans whose big meal of the day is lunch. Those who dined before 3 pm not only dropped significantly more weight, they were less likely to develop diabetes. The timing of other meals and the amount eaten did not matter.
Why is Breakfast so Important
How you begin your day works because weight control, for the most part, is a calorie game. Eat too much and move too little, you will gain weight no matter what. The late eaters in the study, who skipped breakfast, packed on the pounds. Skipping the first meal of the day sets you up to be hungrier when you get to that lunch meal. But most of the time lunch is a quicker meal for most people due to work day schedules so in the end, dinner becomes the heaviest meal and is oftentimes eaten after 6 pm. Between 6 pm and bedtime, the likelihood of burning off even half of those calories consumed is slim to none. So, it is easy to see why counting calories to lose weight can be a waste of energy if we don’t consider when we eat those calories.
Timing is everything for the whole body to function properly. The health consequences of a poor diet might result in part from a mismatch between your body clock and your eating schedules.
Every organ has an internal clock and that means the liver, intestines, kidneys, eyes, and brain also have specific times of day when they will work at peak efficiency and other times when they are – sleeping.
The Food Clock
Most of us break the day into work time, our time, and sleep time, with work time generally allotted the most number of hours. Ayurveda, the ancient system of health and wellness with its roots in India, sees the day differently, breaking it into six four-hour zones—one day zone and one night zone for each of the three doshas or mind/body types. To live a balanced life—and enjoy the good health it brings—we need to keep our daily rhythms set to the age-old ayurvedic clock.
Like the Harvard research suggests, Ayurveda also encourages us to eat our primary meal in the middle of the day, when the dosha pitta – the fire element in the body dominates. Pitta supports our ability to digest all things—food, thoughts, and feelings. The metabolic aspect of digestion, our Agni, does its best work midday. Eating later in the day makes it harder for your body to fully process meals, especially the more common “big dinner” most of us tend to lean towards.
Ayurveda recommends a light supper instead, so your body can finish digesting your food long before bedtime, and you’ll be able to transition from being awake to a more restful state of sleep.
This is a great way to look at your day in general to balance body, mind, and soul.
Connect with your Circadian Rhythm
Basically, when we are healthier, we are happier because when we feel better, we live more. Research shows that taking into consideration your body’s circadian rhythm to know when to eat has profound health benefits.
The term “circadian rhythm” comes from the Latin word, meaning “nearly 24 hours.”
The reason is that these internal rhythms are controlled by circadian clocks that are present in every cell in your body, every organ, and even your brain. These circadian rhythms are your daily cycles of eating, fasting, sleeping and waking, physical movement and all the rhythms of your body daily.
The circadian clock inside your body produces rhythms that are preprogrammed within your body to perform daily activities such as when you wake up, when you fall asleep, when you digest your food, and when your body detoxifies and repairs itself. These preprogrammed rhythms within your body should be your guide on when you should perform certain daily living activities such as WHEN TO EAT.
Here is an example of how your daily internal rhythm works:
Morning – Your gut hormones and digestive juices start-up and get ready to break down nutrients, metabolize and absorb the food you just ate. Your ability to produce saliva and digestive juices needed to digest your food occurs in the morning and slows down at night.
Midday – Your body and brain are clued in to do more complex and intense tasks such as increased physical exertion and exercise.
Evening – Your liver is geared up to break down toxins and detoxify vs. breaking down a huge meal. Your digestive tract slows down at night making this the wrong time to eat. Your stomach lining repairs and rejuvenates at night and this can’t happen when your gut is full of food. This is one reason why late-night eaters experience digestive and gut inflammatory issues.
Your daily sleep and wake cycle is only one of the circadian rhythms that automatically occurs within your body. Other circadian rhythms which are preprogrammed within your body include your gut, liver, kidneys, eyes, brain and even your genes.
Knowing what time to eat really matters
My patients always ask me what the best diet is to eat and how many calories to eat, but many people don’t factor in when to eat.
Studies show that when you restrict the eating window, you can make positive changes to your health. Knowing what time of the day to eat matters because the different organs in your body involved in the breakdown, absorption and supplying of the nutrients also go through a daily circadian rhythm.
Here are some points to consider:
- Having access to food 24-hours a day, seven days a week can lead to chronic disease.
- Restricting your eating window to 8 to 10 hours out of every 24 hours helps to reduce chronic diseases such as type II diabetes, sugar resistance, fatty liver disease, high cholesterol, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
- Your digestive tract works differently and at different rates throughout the day and night thus earlier eating times work best for better metabolism.
- Eating the same number of calories but within a restricted 8 to 10-hour window which follows your circadian rhythm can allow you to lose more weight and body fat, than if you ate a healthy diet all day long.
- When you sleep your gut and liver are not geared for digestion so avoiding late night eating helps your gut to repair and promotes better detoxification.
- An overworked and sleep deprived brain makes you eat more and causes poor diet choices.
Best way to lose weight
Watching our metabolic cycles are critical for processes from cholesterol breakdown to glucose production, and they should be primed to turn on when we eat and back off when we don’t, or vice versa. When we eat frequently throughout the day and night, we can throw off those normal metabolic cycles. Just like when we don’t sleep well at night, we aren’t completely awake during the day and we work less efficiently consequently which can lead to weight gain.
If you do nothing else but change when you eat, you can positively affect your weight, improve your blood sugar, fitness and physical performance, and even mental health.
Eating at the wrong time disrupts your internal circadian rhythm and gives rise to chronic disease. If you are trying to recover from disease, restricting your diet intake to an 8 to 10-hour eating window can help you lose 20 percent of body fat weight reducing many chronic diseases at the same time.
This is one simple solution to managing both your weight and reversing chronic disease.
5 Things that Throw Off your Circadian Clock
Your circadian clock predicts and responds to light. Making a conscious choice on when to turn off the lights at night in preparation for bedtime and when to wake up can bring this rhythm back into balance. Maintaining a consistent schedule is important to this process. Studies show that the more light in your environment, the less your melatonin levels, which is a hormone that signals your body it’s time to sleep. That brings to light on how damaging synthetic light at night can be on your body’s circadian rhythm.
2. Changing Seasons
The change in sunrise causes your circadian clock to adjust to sunlight. This may explain why some people find it easier to awake in the morning during certain seasonal changes.
3. Brain Clock Disruptors
Your brain is programmed to anticipate the light time when you awake and then go into darkness at bedtime. However, electricity and electronic devices disrupt the natural circadian rhythm of the brain.
A sleep-deprived brain does not function properly in deciding how much and when to eat. Some people refer to this dysfunction with terms such as ghrelin and leptin resistance.
4. Eating Late at Night
When your brain is sleep deprived, it gets signals that there is a danger. To cope with this danger, it tells your brain to eat more. You tend to eat more when you have less sleep because your brain is looking for energy from the food you eat to fight the danger.
When you disturb the circadian clocks in your gut and liver which is trying to digest the food you just ate, your gut cannot repair and rejuvenate. Timing is such a factor. When you do things, not only affects your diet and weight but causes your stress hormones to go up. Not living in harmony with your circadian rhythm in a lot of ways is a huge stress.
Why is nutrition important
The current obesity epidemic may in part be due to our 9-5 lifestyles in which there is greater access to processed foods and also reasons to stay up into the night to complete daily duties or even just to watch TV. It’s no secret that when people are awake, they tend to snack. So, while the focus at when you eat should be given more careful consideration, nutrition is also important. If you must snack, your choices do matter. Choosing nutrient-rich but lighter foods later in the day can make a world of difference in helping you achieve better sleep patterns, optimal weight, and general health. Of course, as a rule, avoid anything fatty, spicy, super sugary, or caffeinated.
Guidelines to An Eating Restricted Window
- Try to eat everything within an 8 to 10-hour window.
- For instance, if you eat breakfast at 8:00 am, then you would finish your last meal at 4:00 or 6:00 pm.
- This includes that first cup of coffee with milk to that last cup of tea with honey.
- Remember what time you had your first meal and then count it out 8 to 10 hours when you eat everything within this time frame. Some people extend this time frame to 12 hours, but the less time within this eating window, the better the results for weight loss.
- Try to maintain this same 8 to 10-hour eating window every day.
- The earlier in the day you begin a 10-hour eating window, the better the outcome you will have at rebalancing your circadian rhythm.
- Over several months of this eating method, you will experience greater weight loss and fewer food cravings.
- If you maintain this eating method, you may also experience improved energy, better sleep, and improved digestion.
- Any eating interval from 8-12-hours over a prolonged period on a regular basis can have profound effects on reducing metabolic issues, inflammation, and chronic diseases.
Generally, I have seen excellent compliance with my patients when introducing a time restricted eating plan. This eating plan is also well tolerated because my patients report feeling better and see many improvements in their health symptoms.
If you think about when you sleep for eight hours, you are not eating. It is very simple then to aim for a restricted eating window of 8 to 12-hours every day.
Many cultures including Ayurveda practices also follow eating time restriction because of its many health benefits and ability to promote longevity.
Bottom line, when you eat might be even more important than what you eat.
Time Restriction on Drinking Caffeine
If you are finding you can’t get out of bed without your cup of java, it could mean that you are not getting enough sleep.
Generally, caffeine takes about six hours to get out of your system which is one reason why some people can’t fall asleep at night.
To get your rhythm in line, you might want to consider your last cup of coffee at noon.
Eliminating caffeine from your diet past noon can help to get very deep and restorative sleep and increase your focus level.
The Circadian Rule
Timing is important when you are taking care of your circadian rhythm. The big three to consider are:
- when you should sleep
- when you should eat
- when you should exercise
A lot of the suggestions in this article are achievable, very accessible and free of charge. Knowing the importance of the impact of your circadian rhythm on your health should encourage you to make these positive lifestyle habits.
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So, when you eat, might be as important as what you eat. CONTACT me and let’s work together on finding the right diet and supplement plan that supports your circadian rhythm to keep your internal system running smoothly while you are losing weight and beyond.
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