Research has shown that whilst the quality of the produce you consume is important, it is also equally significant to look at the times at which you eat during the day. Getting this wrong leads to weight gain, or accumulated weight around the mid section, poor insulin/blood sugar regulation and elevated stress. Our biological systems are based on our circadian rhythm which is dictated by the rising and falling of the sun. Humans are basically solar powered and the time in which we eat and the proportions of our food should be dictated by the circadian rhythm of the sun and not by the latest fad diet or what our friends are doing. After all the rest of the animal kingdom eats this way and as long as they stick to real food they don't get fat! In this article we'll explain how bio-circadian nutrition works and why it’s the most beneficial eating approach for everyone across the planet in the long run.
Bio circadian rhythm
Say you wake up in the morning and choose not to eat breakfast. You don’t feel hungry. You think to yourself, “I’ll just have a cup of coffee and eat later.” This approach is not great at all. Why? Your body temperature and metabolism is rising intermittently in the AM in order to get you ready for a metabolic revival. In addition, since you haven’t eaten for a long time (perhaps 10-12 hours) your body begins to get concerned, it goes into survival mode. If your body could speak it would probably say something like “I was going to raise my metabolism in response to the power and energy of the rising sun and enjoy a lovely wholesome meal but there is no food entering my system. I’m worried. Are we going through a period of famine? I am going to slow your metabolism down first just in case anything happens. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
This inbuilt programme, also known as the survival response, is a great system that has helped secure the continuation of life in situations of emergency. So when we significantly lower our food intake or do not eat at all, our bodies begin to suspect that we are going through a period of food shortage and it consequently responds by reducing the rate at which we metabolise our food. When our metabolic power weakens and our body is focused on conserving energy, it begins to store fat. This is the exact opposite of what you would hope to achieve particularly if you are looking to lose weight.
The clock strikes 12 or 1. You realise it is lunchtime. At this point you might have had a small bite to eat or nothing at all except for coffee. You still have the energy (thank you coffee!) to power you through the rest of the day. Seeing as you are still not hungry you might either:
- decide to delay eating your first meal of the day by another couple of hours
- grab a quick snack like something unhealthy from the office pantry - eating displacement or non-foods is worse than skipping meals (for example cows fed on a diet of only straw die sooner than those fed nothing at all!
- eat a small meal, e.g. a salad which may look large but is calorifically sparse - your average salad without the dressing has just 200 to 300 calories - probably around 15% of your daily needs.
Whilst this approach might seem logical, it is not. Here’s why:
- When you miss eating your lunch, anytime between 12 to 1.30pm, you are essentially missing your optimal metabolic window which ties in to when sun is also at its peak as explained by Guy Murchie in his book "The Seven Mysteries of Life".
- It is also very likely that you will be very hungry by 3 or 4pm. You might even get headaches, experience unpleasant changes in your mood or even be very irritable. This could lead you to reach out for an unhealthy snack to prop up your blood sugar levels or binge-eat. Again, this is not the best idea if you are trying to lose weight or experience optimum wellness.
- Finally, I can guarantee you that you will be ravenous by dinner and overeat. This will cause a series of health issues. If you are are rushing through your day and typically come home in a state of hypoglycemia, this encourages overeating in the evening. It also tends to encourage over consumption of carbohydrates because by the time you get home, your brain chemistry is collapsing. This puts a huge load on your digestive system during the night when it should be resting, not digesting.
Meal timing, proportions and sleep
One disadvantage of consuming a lot of calories before going to bed is that it slows down your body’s ability to perform other essential tasks that take place when we sleep such as cell renewal and regeneration, and detoxification as energy is being directed at helping you digest a big meal. Short term survival > long term objectives. That’s how the human body has been designed to act. As a result of this, you will wake up the next day feeling congested because your body hasn't had the chance to detox and replenish itself.
Wrapping up + some practical tips...
So what can I do about all of this? The answer is pretty straightforward really. You are going to need to retrain your body and reorient your lifestyle. Make breakfast and lunch your biggest meals of the day, and dinner the smallest with a 4 hour window between dinner and bedtime. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper!
To your health, happiness and longevity,
The Levitise Team
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3. Meal Frequency and Timing Are Associated with Changes in Body Mass Index in Adventist Health Study 2
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