Part 3: Fix Your Circadian Rhythm With Time Restricted Eating
In the last two weeks I have covered two benefits of time restricted eating that will help you reduce your hunger. The two benefits are reduced decision fatigue and calorie consumption. In part one of this three part series (click here), I wrote about the importance of limiting the amount of decisions you make and how it affects your will power. Time restricted eating reduces the amount of decisions you have to make by having one golden rule: eat for either 8,9,10,11 or 12 hours and fast for the remainder hours. This golden rule of time restriction allows you to have more freedom in your meal choices. You don’t have to weigh your food or count calories, all you have to do is adhere to the eating and fasting window five day a week. Which means you can get crazy on the weekend and have a social life! Well, we can’t get too crazy and stuff our faces until we can’t walk, but we can enjoy a treat here and there. In fact, having a social life and community is imperative if you wish to live a long, healthy life. Let’s face it, we are social creatures and we need human interactions. If we don’t have a sense of community or relationships, we tend to fill that void with food but we'll save that topic for another week.
In part two (click here), I wrote about how time restricted eating reduces calorie consumption through reduced hunger cravings via improved insulin sensitivity. By improving insulin sensitivity you feel fuller longer and are less likely to overeat. In this week’s post I will go over the most important benefit, an improved circadian rhythm. Every organism and cell on this planet runs off of a 24 hour clock known as our circadian rhythm. This rhythm is responsible for our sleep/wake cycle and everything in between. If our circadian rhythm i.e our biological clock isn’t functioning well then we are at a much greater risk for obesity, diabetes and disease (1, 2 ,3. 4 ). Thus an improved circadian rhythm will improve your sleep and make you more resilient to stress. This improved sleep and stress resilience will allow you to build more muscle while you decrease body fat and inflammation. By decreasing body fat and inflammation you will reduce your risk of injury (i.e back, elbow, shoulder, or knee.)
Does this sound too good to be true?
This is no gimmick and to earn your buy in and convince you that time restricted eating is effective, take a look at the graphic below. The graphic sums up the study that was done on mice in Cell Metabolism , Volume 20 , Issue 6 , 991 - 1005. Take your attention to the middle column of the graphic. Two groups of obese mice were fed a high fat-sucrose (sugar) diet containing the same amount of calories. The only difference was that one group had to consume their meals in a 9 hour eating window while the other group had no restrictions.
The group with no time restraints became obese while the other group stayed lean and fit. As you can see in the graphic above, the study was done on mice and not humans, so we must be careful in interpreting the results. Nevertheless, the study found the following (5) :
*TRF= Time Restricted Feeding
“TRF prevented and reversed adiposity associated with obesogenic diets. Correspondingly, a reduction in adipose tissue inflammation and altered adipokine levels were observed.”
“TRF improved glucose homeostasis and reduced insulin resistance under multiple nutrition challenges that are representative of modern human diets.”
“TRF improved and restored metabolic rhythms irrespective of the diet and enhanced metabolic capacity. This ultimately resulted in better fitness of mice subjected to TRF.”
“TRF protects against metabolic diseases even when briefly interrupted on weekends”
Just in case you skipped that part, the study found that TRF reduced insulin resistance, inflammation, and resulted in better fitness levels.
So what gives?
How on earth can the subjects consume the same amount of calories, but gain different amounts of weight? The scientists who conducted the study aren’t sure but they hypothesized that time restricted feeding helps regulate the circadian rhythm leading to a more efficient metabolism (5). Still don’t believe me that night time eating puts us at a higher risk for disease? Take a look at the three studies below:
We have an obesity crisis on our hands and I don’t think it is due to the overconsumption of calories, rather it is due a messed up circadian rhythm. People are metabolically and hormonally broken because they eat too late at night, sleep too little and stress themselves too much. It is important to realize that our current environment is not what we evolved for. Our bodies didn’t evolve to eat all day and night because it was physically impossible. Remember, we have only had electricity for the last 130 years (invented in 1879), but we have been evolving for over 2 million years! Our biological clock is extremely complex, but a time restricted eating protocol is the most effective way to fix it. I am no scientist nor do I want to go outside my scope of practice. However, based off my client’s experiences I have found that if you follow a time restricted protocol you tend to sleep better and have more energy the following day. Therefore, it is imperative that you eat based off of your circadian rhythm. A time restricted diet will allow you to do just that. By following this eating strategy you will normalize your circadian rhythm and give the cells in your body the rest and recovery they deserve. This recovery will lead to a more efficient metabolism, less inflammation and a stronger immune system.