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Nutritional Science Series 1: Circadian Nutrition


Jul 7, 2019 - 0 comments

This may come as a surprise to you, but deep inside your brain is an ancestral biological clock which operates with incredible precision. This clock is what is called your circadian rhythm and is your weight control, anti- aging and performance superpower. The circadian center is the powerhouse of managing your metabolic affairs… in essence it’s the core nucleus which directs the hormones that control everything- from your health, to performance, repair and fat burning.

This centre works effectively whilst you sleep.

We can all relate to the frustrations of diligent eating regimes which take a lot more time to yield effect than the equivalent time it takes for weight to be gained! Deep disappointment!

There are however ways however to align your body clock to lose or manage weight successfully.

Circadian Rhythm

It sounds redundant, but sleep! And then:

  1. Finish eating at least 3 hours before bed time

Your body switches to burning fat at night and so if you have a stomach full of food waiting to be processed, this is abated. Avoid late night nibbling too.

  1. Go to bed before 10pm

Late nights prevent secretion of Growth Hormone (GH) which is very important for weight loss.

GH is a hormone that stimulates the release of fat from your fat stores and this is the fat you want to burn- the same fat that gives energy to the body to do critical maintenance work and metabolic repair. GH is critical (though counter intuitively the name may confuse you as I hear the little voice in your head saying ‘but I don’t want to grow any more horizontally!)

For shift workers who cannot sleep at night, your best remediation is to still aim for 7-8 hours of sleep in a completely darkened room or wear a sleep mask. Manta Sleep Masks block  100% of light to maximise deep sleep in any environment. They are customised to a seamless fit, are comfy and durable.

Manta mask
  1. Equip yourself with the ability to quantify the uniqueness of your body’s own sleep rhythm

But how do you know if you’re getting enough deeply restorative sleep to ensure you are in a fat burning zone? The Oura Ring is the most accurate sleep and activity tracker which gives you accurate stats of your different sleep stages (and more!).

The International Journal of Obesity released a fascinating study proving that sleep quality is related to weight loss, not sleep quantity. Why is this? The answer lies in 2 important hormones called Leptin and Ghrelin.

Grelin leptin see saw

Leptin is an appetite-suppressing hormone that peaks when you sleep and is the hormone our fat cells secrete. This secretion does not take place however when we are sleep-deprived. This explains why sometimes we are more hungry when we are sleep deprived. Our goal should be to increase leptin to maximum levels.

Ghrelin is opposite to leptin and is a hormone that must be kept under control as it is secreted in the stomach, stimulates appetite and sends a signal to your brain to eat.

A useful way to remember the role of these hormones is:

LOVE leptin to largest volumes to lower appetite.

Ghrelin is the GHREMLIN to avoid (which makes our tummies ghrrrrrrr).

If you do not get enough sleep, the body produces more ghrelin (ghremlins) than leptin (love). This is supported by a Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study which has been running since 1993 and has shown that for those who only get 5 hours of sleep a night (normal for most of us- especially those with young children!), there is direct association with low leptin, high ghrelin and greater body weight. This is cause for us to seriously reconsider our sleep hygiene.

Leptin = Love

The US National Library of Medicine also quotes:

Reduced sleep duration (both acute and chronic) and poor-quality sleep are linked with impaired glucose tolerance, reduced insulin responsiveness following glucose challenge, increased body mass index, decreased levels of leptin and increased levels of ghrelin. Association studies have further revealed that shift workers have increased risk of obesity, metabolic dysfunction, cardiovascular disease, cancer and ischemic stroke.

So…  whilst we always chase food as a resolution to weight management, perhaps we should be more focused on Environment (Sleep) and Light? Remember my adage… you are what you don’t eat!

Sleep is healthy!

Sleep is rejuvenating!

Sleep is needed to give you energy to be more active and productive!

Ensure you sleep!

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