We’ve all heard the phrase – “you are what you eat”. But what if i told you “you are what you eat and when you eat it”, what would you think?
A phrase I picked up from Dr. Satchin Panda, a lead expert in this field, is that “lifestyle is defined as what, when and how much we eat, sleep and move on a daily basis”. Not just how much, but when.
To start this blog off, we need to talk about circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythm, simply put, is our bodies internal timing system or clock. It runs on a clock of approximately 24 hours in length and regulates the sleep-wake cycle.
Circadian rhythms can also influence hormone release, eating habits and digestion, body temperature, and other important bodily functions. Irregular rhythms have been linked to various chronic health conditions, such as sleep disorders, obesity, diabetes, depression, anxiety, cancers, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder.
So, I think it is fair to say, a health circadian rhythm is a non negotiable when it comes to maintaining optimal health. With that said, now that we know what circadian rhythm is, lets jump into eating times.
Eating Times On Circadian Rhythm
Dr. Panda has made some groundbreaking discoveries in the field of circadian biology. Over the last few years, he has found that eating at the wrong times can disrupt our circadian rhythm, thus leading to some of the chronic health conditions above.
When we talk about body composition and the accumulation of unwanted body fat, there are a few very interesting studies that he often talks about:
The first being as follows – 2 identical sets of mice, same age and same parents. Both mice ate the exact same food types. The exact same daily calories, every single day, for 18 weeks.
The only difference was when the mice can actually eat. One mouse (A) could eat whenever they wanted throughout the 24 hour day. The other mouse (B) had an 8-12 hour window to eat their food.
The results were astounding. Mouse A became obese within the 18 weeks and mouse B ended up losing 28% of their body weight, 70% of that being body fat.
So, Dr Panda went back to test this thought on humans.
An large scale online study, which you can take too right here, asked people to take pictures of everything they ate and drank across the day and what time they ate them at for 2-3 weeks.
What they found was 50% of the study were eating for 15 hours or longer through the day and most of these had a 9-5 job and thought they ate “healthy”.
Then, Dr. Panda asked only overweight people to enter a 16 week study where they could choose only 10 hours each day, that suited their lifestyle, where they could eat and or drink what they wanted.
After 16 weeks, they all weighed significantly less. They were all then invited back 12 months later and surprisingly, almost everyone had maintained their new body weight after adopting this lifestyle change.
And the most interesting data of all, in my opinion, was that when asked ‘why did you sustain this 10 hour feeding window change?’, the response was not what you expected.
Because of the body fat loss? Nope. They said they could sleep better, they felt more energetic throughout the day and their joint pain is reduced. All from a strict eating window!
What we can take from this is that our bodies biological clock is like a simple scheduling programme for eating and sleeping. If we stay within our appointment times in our biological clock, we stay healthy. If not, there is a long list of chronic health conditions that we might end up with.
So, yes being in a caloric deficit will absolutely help with fat loss. But looking to give ourself an 8-12 eating and drinking time window will do us a lot of good from a health perspective, and improve body composition.
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