For fitness lovers and for people who want to lose weight, there are many different diets available to try. Whether you want to give paleo a go, or think that counting macros is where it’s at, there’s something for every taste. However, this can also mean the world of nutrition is complex and confusing.
One of the new schools of thought surrounding nutrition is ‘chrono-nutrition’. This offers a simpler way to maintain superior nutrition by focusing not only on what you eat, but also when you eat. The idea is that by linking food intake with circadian rhythms, it is easier to maintain a healthy weight.
How does chrono-nutrition work?
Studies show that if two people eat the same calorie intake but at different times, their weight is affected differently. The person who eats his calories late in the day is more prone to gaining weight than someone who eats her calories earlier in the day. But why does this timing make a difference?
The human body functions in a circadian rhythm cycle. This cycle is designed to oversee the regulatory processes our bodies go through on a day to day basis. This helps the body to be efficient. If you eat erratically, and if you eat late at night, this can disrupt your circadian rhythms. Going to sleep later and altering your sleep schedule can have the same effect.
Eating like our ancestors
Historically, human beings ate during the light hours (daytime) and slept during the dark hours (night-time). Their bodies produced the necessary hormones to deal with the needs of the time of day. For example, the body produces more cortisol in the day and more melatonin at night, in a balanced circadian rhythm. Today, modern living means people have all sorts of disrupted schedules when it comes to sleeping and eating. And this is affecting our ability to stay fit and lean.
Here are some ways you can try and align your sleeping and eating habits to match the natural needs of your body. Depending on what you normally eat, you may not need to change the food, but just the time you eat. However, if you are not eating a nutritionally sound diet, you should change the food too. Quality always counts. The idea is to adjust when you eat to support your body’s optimal metabolism.
1. Eat a nutritious breakfast
Start with a nutritious breakfast. Don’t be tempted to skip it, as this leads to eating more later on in the day. Research supports eating more calories at breakfast than at lunch and dinner. This helps with weight loss and balances your metabolism. Choose foods such as eggs, avocado, whole-grain bread, berries, oatmeal, nuts and seeds.
2. Always go to bed and get up at regular times
It’s really important to organise a regular sleeping schedule. Sleeping during the day and working at night can negatively affect your metabolism. This generally leads to a propensity to put on weight. Often, people who work night shifts experience weight gain, even though their food intake is the same.
NO matter your schedule, eight hours sleep is the ideal amount. It’s even better for your body if you sleep at the same time every night. Ensure your bedroom is cool, dark and calm, so you find it easy to fall asleep.
3. Eat most of your calories in the morning and at lunch time
Many people eat little or nothing for breakfast, preferring to stick with a cup of coffee and a snack. They will then eat a larger lunch and look forward to a heavy dinner in the evening. And while there is certainly something to be said for enjoying your favourite foods when you’re winding down after work, try swapping this eating schedule around.
Try eating the biggest number of calories at breakfast time, followed by smaller portions for lunch and the lightest meal for dinner. If it’s too difficult to swap meals like this, try having the most calories at lunch time instead. This can help weight loss and level out insulin. Try lighter options for your evening meal, such as a bowl of vegetables, a salad or an omelette. Eat your dinner at lunchtime and enjoy more then.
These are simple changes you can make to your day to help your circadian rhythms remain in balance. It could revolutionise the way you feel and help to maintain a healthy weight and positive outlook.
About Surya Iacono
Surya Iacono is a fitness and wellness expert and blogger based in London, UK. Surya’s fitness blogs are aimed at keen gym-goers and exercise fans already well into their journey and looking for tips, tricks and ideas to take it to the next level.