The circadian cycle is our biological clock. It is the day-night rhythm that regulates all the body functions and processes.
It is important for us to eat with the circadian cycle to achieve optimal health and well-being.
What does this mean for our eating pattern and when will our body react the best to food within the circadian cycle?
Our body functions best when we are awake in the daylight hours. This means that the digestion, absorption and utilization of food for energy will be best during the waking hours. During the sleeping/ dark hours, these functions are no longer as effective. For this reason, most of the food that we eat should be eaten earlier on in the day, while less food should be eaten in the evenings. The saying that we should eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper explains this well. Breakfast and lunch should be your main meals of the day.
Most of us are also the most active during the waking hours and start slowing down in the later hours. From this perspective, it also makes sense that we should be eating more when the energy requirement is higher. Essentially, what you eat and drink for breakfast will have an impact on your energy levels, blood sugar levels, productivity, brain functioning and hunger/cravings throughout the rest of the day. Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Therefore, starting your day off with a well-balanced breakfast containing a high fibre carbohydrate, a lean source of protein and a healthy source of fat will ensure proper functioning of the body. When you start the day off well, the rest of the day becomes much easier and you will find yourself having less cravings and energy dips later on in the day.
So should you be ditching the late night snacks?
I would recommend so, especially if you are not truly stomach hungry. To delve a bit deeper into the science behind this, our resting energy expenditure decreases when we get to the darker hours. Resting energy expenditure is the amount of energy that your body burns at rest. It is the amount of energy burned by the body to breath, to keep your heart beating and to digest, absorb and deliver nutrients to the cells in your body. Because our resting energy expenditure is reduced in the evenings, it’s important to consume less calories during this time. Additionally, carbohydrate digestion is less effective and glucose tolerance is decreased during the darker hours. This means that the body struggles to take the glucose/ sugar from the blood into the cells during this time. If you are taking in a large amount of food during the darker hours this means that the body will therefore store more food as fat in the evenings, which could lead to weight gain.
Many studies have shown that a larger breakfast and smaller supper leads to greater weight loss and more weight lost in the abdominal area specifically in comparison to having a smaller breakfast and larger supper. Remember that fat in the abdominal areas surrounds your organs and affects their functioning. Therefore, losing fat mass in the abdominal area is essential to maintain overall health and wellbeing.
So remember that timing your intake of calories throughout the day to ensure that you eat most of your calories during the earlier hours of the day is important for ensuring best body functioning. Your concentration will improve, your exercise ability will be so much better, your productivity will increase and your sleep will improve. However, timing your calorie intake during the day doesn’t substitute a healthy diet. Both go hand in hand together!