Circadian Rhythm Fasting: Why you've been fasting all wrong!
Intermittent fasting. It's all the rage these days. But are you doing, right?
I know, I know, there is a plethora of information telling you it must be a done a certain way where you end up eating later in the day – sometimes before bed. The trend is to skip eating upon waking and extend that well into the afternoon.
But is that the correct way to fast? More importantly, if you're honest with yourself, does that really for work you?
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting is a tool, like anything else. This Harvard Health study breaks it down. It can be a handy tool when it comes to losing weight. What's important is going about it the right way.
The process shouldn't involve making yourself uncomfortable, irritable, and struggling to make it to the eating window. Side effects of intermittent fasting can include hunger (the obvious one), fatigue (not great if you're looking to be active), insomnia (sleep is important!), nausea (not fun), and headaches (again, not fun).
You can find out more regarding the pros and cons here.
How do I do Intermittent Fasting?
Below are some popular examples of how to get into the fasting state to lose weight and hopefully burn fat.
Alternate day fasting:
This is where you have a "normal" day of eating. On the following day, you would fast completely or only limit yourself to 500 calories or less.
The problem with this is, what constitutes a "normal" day of eating? It can be easy to overindulge and binge on the days you eat, negating any fasting progress. And if you're not physically active or have a healthy meal plan in mind, it won't optimize your health.
Remember, it's not about just starving yourself, but eating the right (healthy) things when you can eat.
This is where you are eating "normal" 5 days of the week and fast on the remaining 2 days.
Again, what is "normal" eating? That can be easy to misinterpret. The fasting state alone isn't going to make you healthy. The other components are just as important. Starving yourself without a plan is detrimental.
This is where you skip breakfast (which is a misnomer of a statement if I've ever heard one!) and extend the time you go without eating.
You usually wake up and continue to fast until lunchtime. Some people take it so far as turning it into a 20:4 split where you only have a 4-hour eating window.
The problem with this is, are you really optimizing yourself to take on your day? Sure, you can lose weight and control blood sugar by doing this, but is this the right way?
Are you energized enough to handle your day? Are you getting the most out of your workouts without having any fuel in your body? Yes, we can get used to it, but just because we can get used to something doesn't mean it is the best approach.
Why would Intermittent Fasting be bad?
There are other pitfalls to intermittent fasting in this fashion. This Center for Discovery article goes more in depth.
Dehydration may occur because when we don't eat, we sometimes forget to drink. If you aren't prepared for it, being in the fasting state can up your body's stress levels. Cortisol goes up, and as a result, food cravings go up. When that happens, we tend to overindulge, defeating the purpose of maintaining a healthy portion of food based on your caloric goals.
And remember that the biochemistry that regulates appetite when it comes to consuming nutrients also regulates mood. Neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin can be impacted by how you go about intermittent fasting. This can up feelings of anxiety and depression.
Those are the last things we want to feel when we're trying to become healthier versions of ourselves. So if you're feeling anxious or depressed while fasting in this method, it probably isn't the best approach for you.
What is the Circadian Rhythm Diet?
This brings us to the circadian rhythm diet, or what I like to call reverse intermittent fasting (RIF). As humans, we have evolved to be in sync with the planet's day-to-night cycle. That, in essence, is what our circadian rhythm is. We sleep at night and are awake during the day. As a result, our metabolisms have adapted to eating during the day and not eating at night (because we're supposed to be sleeping).
Nighttime eating is terrible. It's been documented in various studies. Eating at night puts us at a higher risk of obesity and diabetes. Insulin resistance becomes more prevalent. This is where the body's cells don't respond appropriately to insulin, which means the amount of sugar in the body (glucose) isn't regulated the way it is supposed to be.
Additionally, the body is just more likely to store calories eaten outside of the normal circadian rhythm as fat as opposed to burning it off as energy.
How do you do a Circadian Rhythm Diet?
Welcome to Reverse Intermittent Fasting!
I recommend reversing the fasting/eating window. It makes sense to start your day by giving your body the fuel it needs. Don't you think? Why begin driving a car with little to no gas in it? Instead of doing a 16:8 fasting/eating window, I'd make it an 8:16 eating/fasting window.
Morning: Upon waking, you can get your body some liquid sustenance during part of the eating window. Don't be fooled – when you drink something with nutritious value, you are feeding your body! Coffee with collagen protein, or BCAA's, are all incredibly important. Getting protein first thing in the morning is a beautiful way to start the day and ensure your brain gets what it needs to help you function properly.
Midmorning: If you can swing it, this might be an appropriate time to get some type of physical activity or workout in. You can also get some healthy carbs like oatmeal. It's a terrific way to get some excellent fiber in your diet. I'd recommend consuming that around your workout. An hour before or after.
Afternoon into the early evening: This is the time to get a balanced meal in. I'm a big fan of balance. Make sure you have your greens. Veggies are super important! Have some nice lean protein with your meals. Colorful plates are the best.
As far as caloric intake goes, you should plan your calories for the day to match the desired goal you have for your weight. If your goal is to get to 160 pounds, you should consume the calories that correlate to 160 pounds. There are a lot of great apps available to help you figure that out. MyFitnessPal is one of them, among many others.
The above layout is basic. It's simple. Keep the eating window early when the body is used to being awake and needs nourishment. Start that window an hour after waking. Eating during the day is what we have evolved to handle. It's optimal for our bodies. Avoid eating or snacking late or at night –
especially right before going to bed! It'll mess with your sleep cycle. If you're consistent with this approach, you're likely to see some great results!