One of the most powerful things you can do to improve body composition is to optimize your circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is your body’s natural biorhythm and recent research shows that one of the key factors driving the obesity epidemic is the dysregulation of “clock” genes that play a role in your body’s circadian function.
Certain habits can alter these genes, causing changes in hormone levels and triggering behaviors that lead to further problems with your body’s clock. This article will give you ten simple things you can do to optimize your circadian rhythm. Not only will you have an easier time achieving a lean body composition, but sleep and productivity will also improve!
#1: Have A Set Meal Frequency & Eat At The Same Time Daily
One of the biggest regulators of circadian function is meal timing. Skipping meals or eating at random times can raise cortisol and alter the cascade of appetite-suppressing hormones that follow. It can also lead to elevations in hormones that “turn feeding on,” such as ghrelin and neuropeptide Y. The result is hunger and cravings, which can often feel uncontrollable.
#2: Have Protein For Breakfast
Research shows that starting the day with protein improves hormonal balance so that you have a productive day. It also sets the body up for a restful nights sleep: One study found that people who ate more protein during the beginning portion of the day slept better overnight than those who favored a high-carb diet.
#3: Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
Good sleep hygiene may be more effective for reducing insomnia than sleeping pills and it will certainly improve circadian function by promoting hormone balance and properly functioning “clock” genes. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Always sleep in darkness and avoid caffeine and stimulants after 1 pm. Most important: Avoid blue light exposure from screens in the hours before bed.
#4: Avoid Eating Late At Night
Night eating raises insulin, which affects the normal cascading effect of hormones that allow for a restful night’s sleep. Get your eating done a few hours before bed to allow for a cascade of hormones to be released that culminate in melatonin secretion to put you to sleep and thyroid release to raise body temperature and burn stored fat during the night.
#5: Be Social During The Day
Research shows that circadian rhythms are affected by when we interact with humans. Being a loner during the day is linked to an altered circadian clock in a similar way that being overly social at night does. Solve it by getting social activity in the morning and during daylight hours—have lunch with friends or get a workout partner—and minimize social interactions after dark. Even viewing human faces on TV has been shown to increase alertness, so avoid TV viewing completely, or at the least, favor animal shows or sports.
#6: Work Out
Try strength training and interval exercise to improve hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal function for better hormone balance and your circadian rhythm is sure to benefit. Just be sure to avoid training too hard, too often…
#7: Avoid Excessive Exercise
Too much exercise, such as daily HIT or regular two-a-days, is linked with circadian disruption and hormone imbalance. For example, cortisol and the inflammatory factor IL-6 can become chronically elevated in response to excessive exercise. Both will inhibit sleep and are linked with poor recovery. Excessive muscle soreness or insomnia are key indicators you’re messing with your circadian function. Keep workouts to one hour and allow for full recovery between workouts.
#8: Avoid Restrictive Diets
All sorts of overly restrictive diets are linked to circadian disruption. Too few carbs decrease thyroid function because glucose is necessary to activate thyroid hormone. Too little dietary fat means the body is not getting enough cholesterol to produce steroid hormones. And too little protein means energizing neurotransmitters will be reduced. Be sure to include plenty of healthy fat, high-quality protein, and consider cycling starchy carbs if you’re on a low carb diet.
#9: Use Cool Temperatures To Help You Sleep
Warm temperatures at night and cold temperatures during the day inhibit circadian rhythms. Whenever possible opt for cool at night and warm during the day by turning off air conditioning when it’s unnecessary.
#10: Get Bright Light In The Early Morning
Light serves as the major regulator of your “master clock,” which controls your circadian rhythm. To “anchor” your master clock, you want to get bright outdoor light exposure for at least 30 to 60 minutes a day, preferably in the morning right after waking up.