It’s the first of the year. You have resolved to do a little better this year and lose weight. Humpf! Good luck! Nice try! You’ve done this before. Well, here is another piece of science to put in your pipe and think about. Michael Roizen, chief wellness officer for the Cleveland Clinic and Dr Oz show advisor and frequent guest has a book to help you while you are at it. Just published this week.
Here’s the skinny you want to know. First, basic physiology of how you work. At 7 in the morning your cortisol surges by about 7-10 fold from a level of 2 at 4 in the morning to a level of 18-20 at 8. Cortisol helps you mobilize energy and makes your brain feel alert and awake. It’s your natural wake up, git up and git hormone. You can get stuff done when you have cortisol surging. If you don’t have it, you can’t. Under circumstances of high stress, you can stimulate yourself to put out more cortisol. Sweaty exercise stimulates you to put out more cortisol. Hot saunas alternating with freezing showers does the same. Cortisol last 5-6 hours and with a great sauna or a good run, you feel pumped up, alert and alive for the next 4-6 hours.
In the evening, your cortisol falls off, your melatonin starts to rise as it gets dark. Your body temperature falls off. Your immune response weakens and allows your fever to rise. You are slowing down and cooling off. You can’t burn energy as easily. The only thing that feels good is lots of extra carbohydrates as that raises your blood glucose, and also turns on fat production. (Just look at night shift workers. The easiest way to deal with night shift is to eat all night. Doing that gets you through the night, but at the cost of storing half the calories as fat.)
What did nature design us to do? For most of human history, we didn’t have light bulbs and electricity, much less ipads, TVs, computers or even books and magazines. We ate when the sun was up and went to bed when it got dark to stay warm.
Now, all of this biological clock stuff is managed by this tiny little 20,000 cell area of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus that mediates more than just your cortisol. It also impacts your sensitivity to insulin, which rises and falls with the day as well. You are naturally more sensitive to insulin in the morning and some fat cells show 50% difference in insulin sensitivity between noon and 8 pm.
The exact same pattern has been shown with experimental mice. Given carbs during their normal inactive time, they get fat and eat more (just like humans on night shift). What you eat, when really matters. In fact, it might be argued that it’s the whole ball game. We are pretty certain you can lose weight when you compress your calories down to under 10 hours a day. That’s true. And we are pretty sure you need to get away from sugar. That’s true. And we are pretty sure that vegetables are, in fact, a back door ketosis food (just ask the gorillas) because your gut bacteria turns the cell walls of green veges into beta-hydroxybutyrate.
So now, think about timing your eating and what you eat when. Read Roizen’s book and think about training yourself for a hearty breakfast, during sunlight hours and a smaller dinner.
WWW: What will work for me. Well, I’m gradually prying myself off any eating after 6 pm. I know it’s dark at 5 now but I don’t get home till then anyway. I’m pretty good with the sugar and the vegetables. I’m having bigger spinach breakfasts of late. Hope I can stick with that. I want to see if other folks can make Roisin’s ideas work for them. I think there is truth to it.
- Your biology runs on a clock driven by….what? Answer: Light affecting your brain.
- What part of your brain registers that? Answer: Ok, this is an honors answer – the suprachiasmatic nucleus with it’s teeny little 20,000 cells.
- What hormone surges the most at 7 am? Answer: That would be cortisol.
- What hormone has its sensitivity altered throughout the day, with a peak at noon and a 50% drop by 8 pm? Answer: Insulin
- Is chononutrition easy to understand? Answer: Not yet. It’s a new idea that needs to settle in with more research. But what promise it has!