Eating healthy shouldn’t be so complicated. The one thing that’s absolutely clear, however, is that how you fuel your body impacts your weight, fitness, longevity, memory, focus, mood, and more.
In other words, it’s an important enough topic to figure out what works best. Turns out that in addition to what you eat, when matters as well.
This shouldn’t really be a surprise. We have plenty of guidance in the form of age-old folk wisdom:
Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.
Didn’t our mothers also warn us against snacking too close to bedtime? And make no mistake — “snacking” includes that night cap or glass of wine before bed.
Unfortunately, research shows that the average person eats over a 15-hour or longer period each day. Yep, we’re habitually ingesting calories pretty much every waking hour, with those calories often devoid of any nutritional value as we get closer to bedtime.
That’s not good. And science now backs up the age-old wisdom (and your mother), according to a recent article in the New York Times:
A growing body of research suggests that our bodies function optimally when we align our eating patterns with our circadian rhythms, the innate 24-hour cycles that tell our bodies when to wake up, when to eat and when to fall asleep. Studies show that chronically disrupting this rhythm — by eating late meals or nibbling on midnight snacks, for example — could be a recipe for weight gain and metabolic trouble.
What does this mean in practice?
[P]eople improve their metabolic health when they eat their meals in a daily 8- to 10-hour window, taking their first bite of food in the morning and their last bite early in the evening.
The article calls this approach early time-restricted feeding. As sexy as that sounds (not), my first reaction to these new findings is that the suggested approach already has a name. It’s the 16/8 Method of intermittent fasting that we’ve talked about several times in past issues.
Intermittent fasting (“IF”) means eating only within a specific window of time during the day, and ingesting nothing else containing calories for the remainder. The 16/8 method of IF simply means that you eat during an eight hour time frame (such as 11am to 7pm), followed by 16 hours of fasting (which isn’t as hard as it sounds given the time you’re asleep).
Cutting off your intake in the early evening naturally means that you don’t snack (or imbibe) at night. IF best practices already suggest eating more during the earlier half of the 8-hour window instead of having a heavy dinner, so that aspect is covered as well.
Some people who practice IF choose 12 noon to 8 pm for their window. This new research seems to suggest that 8pm might be too late of a cut-off time (I have trouble making it to noon without eating anyway). Other than that minor adjustment, the two approaches are very similar.
It’s a bit puzzling that the New York Times article doesn’t make the connection — news of intermittent fasting has been all over the health scene for years now. Health journalism (and journalism in general) is supposed to add clarity, not present an existing practice wrapped up as something new and shiny because the researcher has a book to promote.
Regardless, the piece is an otherwise interesting read, especially about the relationship between eating, metabolism, and our circadian rhythms. I’ve also included a great article on 16/8 intermittent fasting, and how it can get you into the coveted metabolic state of ketosis.
- When We Eat, or Don’t Eat, May Be Critical for Health
- 16/8 Intermittent Fasting: What You Need to Know
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further: top ten
A Time to Curl
Exercise scientists have studied and written articles repeatedly on what time of day is the best time to work out and yet we all know people who buck the trend and work out at times that would make those researchers choke. So, are they wasting their time or are we
Get Up If You Want to Live
What’s the best predictor of when you’ll die? There’s a clear relationship between how easy it is for people to get off the floor and how long they live. The Burpee exercise (and atleticism in general) will get you really good at that, and more.
Stress + Rest = Growth
A year ago when I reviewed the book Peak Performance, I keyed in on the formula the book advocated for excellence (see above, and take note of rest). In this new article, one of the book’s authors elaborates on how this prescription for peak performance applies to all areas of life.
People will make snap judgments as soon as they meet you, but you can turn this to your advantage. There are ways to head off other people’s shaky initial impressions by being mindful of how they might see you.
Career Path to Nowhere
Next time you find yourself exhibiting one of these behaviors, take a step back and assess how it might impact your career in the long run, even if it might not seem that way.
Life provides turning points of many kinds, but the most powerful of all may be character-revealing moments. They go right to the heart of who we are.
The decisions we make in our lives involve uncertainty, risk, and occasional deception — prominent elements in poker. Trouble follows when we treat life decisions as if they were chess decisions, where we can see all the necessary details in plain sight.
For many people, one of the unspoken rules for being cool is maintaining an emotionally inexpressive attitude. Researchers at the University of Arizona recently questioned whether this connection between concealing emotions and coolness was in fact true. Turns out, no.
“After my first vipassana, I quit smoking. After my second, I quit booze. After my third, I made peace with my dad. I didn’t have to work at these things, the desire to smoke and drink just went away, along with the desire to stay pissed at pops.”
It’s About Time
This is a fascinating piece on the nature of time, and how it’s wrong to think about it as something that flows uniformly. For starters, let’s begin with a simple fact: Time passes faster in the mountains than it does at sea level. It gets weirder from there.
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