Food throughout Your Day
Good morning! Are you ready for breakfast? Eating a large breakfast may be good for your health.
The Circadian Rhythm diet encourages you to shift your eating patterns to better align with your biology . Essentially, the dietary recommendations of the Circadian Rhythm diet are that you should eat with the sun and eat more food early and less food later. What this means is (a) that you eat a big breakfast and lunch and a light dinner and (b) that you don’t eat when it’s dark out. Some advocates recommend you eat 75% of your calories by 3 pm.
Research suggests that eating early is good for your health. Consider the National Weight Control Registry, an initiative that tracks Americans who have successfully lost weight and kept it off. Members of this weight-loss success group share several characteristics in common: They have high levels of physical activity, they keep consistent routines and schedules for their diet and activity, and they consistently eat breakfast .
In another study, healthy adults went through two different conditions. In daytime eating, they had three meals and two snacks between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. In delayed eating, they ate the same three meals and two snacks between noon and 11 p.m. In both conditions, they ate the same types and amounts of food and slept the same amount. Yet the late eaters gained weight and had respiratory markers that indicated that they were less effective in metabolizing the food they ate . Think about that: Eating the same food, later in the day, led to weight gain and less effective metabolism.
Eating early has another benefit: It automatically builds intermittent fasting into your daily schedule. Intermittent fasting means that you purposefully fast—abstain from consuming food and calories—at certain times. In research studies, fasting (i.e., restricting food and calorie intake) yields benefits like improved insulin levels and reduced asthma symptoms. Comprehensive research reviews suggest that fasting may be a way to reduce your risk for “not just for one disease’s risk factor but for an array of factors that constitutes the foundation for metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and possibly neurodegenerative diseases” . But long-term restriction of food intake is difficult because being perpetually hungry is hard to sustain, and being underweight can also lead to health complications such as low bone density. A time-restricted diet through intermittent fasting offers the potential to yield to the health benefits of fasting without actually having to eat less .
This is because intermittent fasting isn’t about starving yourself for two weeks while you live on juice. Instead, it’s about giving up the snacking-all-day-long habit and giving your digestive system a break at night—ideally, at least twelve hours (for instance, finishing dinner by 7 p.m. and waiting on breakfast until after 7 a.m.). Every time we eat, glucose is stored in the liver as glycogen. If we snack and eat all day long, our bodies have a constant streaming source of glycogen for energy because it takes ten to twelve hours after eating to deplete glycogen levels in the liver. Research indicates that you need at least a twelve-hour fasting period to achieve glycogen depletion and begin burning fats, although some experts recommend 16 hours . If your glycogen levels get depleted, then your body burns fats, which are converted to acidic chemicals called ketones, which are used by the neurons in the brain for energy. Ketones improve brain health. Your body only creates them when you deplete your glycogen levels .
For the next week, try this simple two-step approach to eating.
One: Eat breakfast every morning, within one hour of waking up.
Two: Close your kitchen every evening at 7 p.m. Wipe the counters, leave the fridge closed, brush your teeth, and don’t eat again until breakfast. Pay attention to how you feel: See if you sleep better and wake up with more energy; notice if the waistband on your pants feels a little looser. By just aligning your food consumption with the cycles of the sun, you may find that you transform your relationship with food.
Tomorrow, we’ll talk about how to use exercise to best support your health and energy throughout your day.
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