We all know what and how much we eat effects our health. But did you know that when you eat is just as important?
I decided to write about this topic after going out for breakfast. Now, if you’ve been following my blog for some time now, you’ll know I’ve been fasting until lunch for about a year. However, I had a quiet morning to myself (which never happens) so I decided to go to my favourite cafe for breakfast. Although the food was delicious, by the time I left, I felt bloated, tired and yuck.
It’s kind of like waiting at a bus stop for a bus at the wrong time. Luckily this bus driver will stop his break early to come and get you. But he probably won’t be too impressed, especially if he’s doing it every day.
I’d heard about chrono-nutrition before and knew a bit about it. Chrono-nutrition is the behaviour of eating at the same time each day. When you eat, your body releases hormones and enzymes to help you break down the food you eat chemically. And when you eat at the same time each and every day, your body starts to predict what is going on and begins to release these hormones and enzymes even before you start eating, in preparation for food.
Think about it. Your grandparents, and maybe even your parents, probably sat down to eat 3 solid meals a day. And they probably ate them at the same time each and every day.
They ate breakfast at the dining table as a family before going to work. They took a one hour lunch break at work and sat down with their workmates to eat. Then they sat down as a family after work and ate dinner together AT A DINING TABLE at the same time (probably around 5-7pm).
Now, we grab an Up and Go on our way out the door, eat standing at our $5,000 stand up desk while we continue to work, and then sit in the lounge room to eat dinner in front of the TV at 8:30. Maybe that’s just me (although my stand up desk certainly isn’t worth five grand). But for so many, our eating routines are completely out the window.
Our grandparents knew something we’ve seemed to have forgotten. Eating should be about enjoying food and socialising.
So even though I was sitting down and taking my time to enjoy a delicious meal, my understanding of chrono-nutrition led me to recognise that my tummy simply wasn’t ready to accept food.
For a year, I’d created a routine my body could count on. It knew it would be fed between 12-1 each day and again at night around 8pm (personally I’d like this to be earlier).
So when I loaded it up with food, albeit extremely nutritious, my body wasn’t ready to accept it. It’s kind of like waiting at a bus stop for a bus at the wrong time. Luckily this bus driver will stop his break early to come and get you. But he probably won’t be too impressed, especially if he’s doing it every day.
In the short term, eating at irregular times can lead to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and other uncomfortable but not overly threatening conditions such as constipation or diarrhoea. However, in the long term, studies have shown this can increase the risk for more concerning conditions such as insulin-resistance and obesity.
The body has a natural circadian rhythm controlled by a master clock, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the brain. This clock receives information from the outside world to synchronise its thousands of peripheral clocks throughout the entire body, including in the liver, lungs and heart.
A growing number of studies are finding that, as a result of messing with this circadian rhythm, altering meal times and not maintaining a routine can increase your risk for metabolic diseases. In addition, this can impact your weight, leading to unwanted weight gain and hindering your efforts to lose weight.
Chrono-nutrition is an amazing field, and one that I believe has the potential to be the next big thing in health care and medicine. As the field grows, so to does the depth of just how elaborate and intricate the biological clocks of the body are.
Is your body ready to accept food when you deliver it?
PS. I found two really cool websites in my search for more information on this topic. If you want to know more, I highly suggest you check these out.
Chrono-nutrition: Why When You Eat is as Important as What You Eat
This one’s good for a detailed overview of how circadian rhythms effect our health, with specific reference to chrono-nutrition.
Thousands of Biological Clocks Keep Time in the Human Body
This one’s good for a more simple view on the importance of routines.
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