Timing matters. That’s the premise of the Chronodiet. You’ve probably heard of the circadian rhythm, a term used in the science of chronobiology to describe the roughly 24-hour cycle followed by a wide variety of metabolic and physiological processes. When you sleep and when you wake up, the levels of hormones in your blood, brain wave activity and many other processes are part of this cycle. What you might not know is that your body’s circadian rhythm can also affect your ability to lose weight.
Insulin and the Chronodiet
Your body breaks down the foods you eat into less complex substances like amino acids, fatty acids and simple sugars (glucose). Glucose is what fuels the body and insulin is the hormone that allows glucose to move into the body’s cells. When you have more fuel than necessary for cellular functions—especially carbohydrates—the body moves into storage mode and converts nutrients to fat stores.
Like almost every hormone in your body, insulin sensitivity has a distinct rhythm. Insulin is better able to move glucose into your cells to use as fuel during peak times of day and less so during the night hours. This is one reason why those who eat at night are more likely to gain weight. Eating less when insulin sensitivity is lower promotes burning of fat stores and encourages weight loss.
Carbohydrates, Protein, Fats and Chronobiology
Protein, fat and carbohydrates are all important for good nutrition and health. However, what and when you eat carbs makes a difference for weight loss. Remember, when you eat lots of carbs, the body stores fat. Timing your carb intake makes a difference. When you eat carbs at breakfast, eat them in the form of whole grains and with small amounts of fat. At lunchtime, you can eat baked goods, pasta, potatoes and similar foods.
About 40 percent of your diet should come from carbohydrates eaten at the correct times of the day. About 30 percent of your diet should be foods rich in protein. However, you should avoid animal protein in the morning and eat them at lunch and dinner. The remaining 30 percent of the diet should come in the form of fats such as butter, oil and the fats in meats, cheese and milk.
Principles of the Chronodiet
When and what you eat are critical to the success of the Chronodiet. First, you must leave five hours between breakfast and lunch, and lunch and dinner. During this “fasting” period, you may drink plain water only. When you eat bread, it must be made from mixed whole grain flours such as rye, barley, buckwheat and oat. Consume most of your daily food at breakfast. Between lunch and dinner, you can have small amounts of sweets, although it’s better to avoid sweets entirely. Very dark chocolate (80 percent or higher) is the best choice for a sweet. Drink a glass of fresh lemon juice every morning and preferably before each meal to speed up fat burning. You may drink sugarless coffee or tea with meals. You should not eat between meals.
The Basics of the Chronodiet
Here are some examples of menu suggestions based on the Chronodiet:
~ Your breakfast should consist of one or two slices of mixed grain bread with butter and protein.
~ You could also eat your breakfast carbohydrates in the form of a hot cereal.
~ If you can’t get away from morning protein, staple breakfast foods like fried eggs, sausage or bacon are good choices because of their higher fat content.
~ Combine protein with vegetables and fats.
~ You might have a mixed green salad with tomatoes and oil dressing, and/or steamed, grilled or sautéed vegetables.
~ For protein, eat chicken, fish, cheese, a pork chop, roast beef or lamb.
~ This meal should be primarily protein, such as meat, fish, poultry, dairy products and eggs, with small amounts of vegetables.
~ You should not eat anything after dinner, especially carbohydrates.
Biology makes a difference in weight loss. By changing your eating habits and eating the right foods at the right time, you can help your body to be much more efficient. Understanding the principles of chronobiology and following the Chronodiet can help you lose weight and become healthier.