Timing Is Everything; How Timing Your Meals Around Your Circadian Rhythm Can Boost Your HealthBy Sheryl Kraft
It’s the clock that keeps on ticking: your circadian rhythm. This innate 24-hour cycle runs in every cell and every organ of your body1, gently dictating when to fall asleep, when to wake, and when to eat—and regulates many critical functions like hormone levels, activity, body temperature, sleep and metabolism.2
And evidence-based science says that following its powerful and natural rhythm might have positive implications for your health.3
Think about it: So many things go well when the timing is just right. You make your flight connection; run into an old acquaintance you’d have missed if you had taken a different route; find a $20 bill in the pocket of your jeans on the same day you have no time to get to the bank.
Sleep and circadian rhythms
One example you may be well familiar with is your light-related circadian rhythm, (otherwise known as your sleep-wake cycle), which rotates between drowsiness and alertness at regular intervals throughout the night and day.
Your body responds naturally to that inner clock by feeling awake around the same times each day and feeling drowsy or all-out exhausted at various intervals (usually after lunch—hello, 3 p.m. slump—and in the middle of the night). By following that natural rhythm, and timing your meals around it, you can reap the benefits of working with your metabolism when it’s most active, and allowing your cells to rest and regenerate overnight, once your metabolism tapers. The next day, instead of waking up feeling bloated from a late-night meal, you can wake feeling well-rested, energized and at the top of your game.
It pays to pay attention
Ignore this natural rhythm and you may pay a price: sleep deprivation and the ensuing health complications that can accompany it. Blood pressure can spike, symptoms of depression may hit; your hunger hormones can be thrown out of whack and your blood sugar control could plummet4, setting the stage for type-2 diabetes, according to the National Sleep Foundation.5 Indeed, missing just one night of sleep can set an otherwise healthy person into a prediabetic state, according to experts at Johns Hopkins.6
It’s no wonder scientists say that if these rhythms are disrupted, your health and well-being may suffer, impacting cell repair and possibly even your longevity.7,8
How time-restricted feeding fits into your circadian rhythm
Time-restricted feeding, also referred to as TRF, is a type of intermittent fasting that focuses on an eating timeframe. Many experts feel—just like sleeping—aligning your eating patterns with your body clocks paves the way for your body to function at its best.9
Many studies10 demonstrate a strong link between metabolism and circadian rhythm. Respecting this relationship and working together with your body clock can contribute to weight loss, and may even lower the risk of metabolic diseases like diabetes, too. This is especially important, given the CDC’s latest report estimates that more than 100 million Americans are now living with diabetes or prediabetes.
One study11 found by limiting the eating timeframe of mice to an 8-12-hour window, they were able to lose weight faster than the control group that grazed as they pleased. And another, published in the International Journal of Obesity, found that the timing of meals (specifically eating earlier in the day vs. later) had a positive effect on the weight loss.12 Still another13 found that people who followed time-restricted feeding had lower insulin, lower blood pressure and reduced levels of oxidative stress. (Oxidative stress is implicated in diseases like diabetes and hypertension14.)
The complex relationship between your biology and the clock that is silently running in the background of your brain has wide and alarming implications for your health. As evidence mounts that timing is everything when it comes to eating and good health—and that it’s not just about what you eat, but when you eat15 - listening to the tick-tock of your inner clock and incorporating time-restricted feeding into your life may be more than just food for thought.
Are you ready to start improving your health by eating nutritious meals and focusing on weight loss? Jenny Craig’s newest program, Rapid Results, is based off innovative research on circadian rhythm, which was awarded the Nobel prize in 2017. Contact us today to start your journey towards better health!
Sheryl Kraft has penned hundreds of print and online articles for publications and websites, including Parade, AARP, Chicago Tribune, Family Circle, Woman's Day, Everyday Health, WebMD, HealthyWomen, CNBC and many others. Her writing reflects her deep passion and curiosity about nutrition, health, beauty, fitness, and wellness.
Favorite healthy snack: watermelon (a big bang for the buck!)