The Circadian Rhythm And Your Health

Michael Goulden

Last updated: 

10 Dec 2021

3 min. read

When we think about body composition, the biggest influence on fat loss is often focused around calorie restriction. The calories in & calories out equation is important, but simplistic when we are looking at the bigger picture of health, performance, and longevity.

In The Effects of Sleep on Fat Loss, we discussed how disrupted sleep can halt fat loss. Now let’s look at this a little more in-depth…

The circadian rhythm relates to the internal clock that exists within all living organisms on earth. This biological clock anticipates and adapts our body to the different phases of the day.

First discovered in the 1980s, in fruit flies, the circadian rhythm helps to regulate patterns of sleep, eating, hormone release, blood pressure, body temperature and even your behaviour.

In fact, the circadian rhythm has a significant influence over multiple systems in the body and has been implicated in human disease. Disruption of this cycle can even lead to changes in gene expression and hormone release.

So significant were these original discoveries and subsequent research that the 2017 Nobel prize was jointly awarded to Hall, Rosbash and Young who individually started and contributed to the study of this topic

The circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle and is regulated by light. However despite this, research shows that when cycles of light & darkness are removed, an individual’s Circadian Rhythm will continue to function. This is because the primary clock governing the Circadian Rhythm is in fact not Astronomical, but Biological. Whilst light isn’t the sole factor, the brain can be influenced via external stimuli such as light, darkness & temperature fluctuations.

We tend to overwrite this natural and self-regulating cycle to accommodate our needs such as work schedules, eating, training, and travelling across time-zones. The more we squeeze into our lives, the more disrupted our circadian rhythms become.

This constant disruption of our biological clock may cause weight gain, diabetes, depression and affect our sleep-wake cycles, causing insomnia.

Have you ever noticed that despite tracking your calories you still don’t lose that last big chunk of body fat?

Or that despite being exhausted, you just can’t get to sleep and you’re up until 1 am most nights?

Or perhaps you have noticed that while you logically understand that three jaffa cakes and two glasses of wine don’t really help you towards your weight loss goals, you end up reaching for them anyway.

You may be experiencing the effects of circadian rhythm disruption.

What steps can you take to improve your health, performance, and your results from exercise in general?

In The Effects of Sleep on Fat Loss, we shared 11 tips for improving your ability to sleep. I would certainly suggest implementing those suggestions along with the following.

For these tips, we are going to focus on the influence of light and the patterns we set for ourselves.

Do these activities at the same time every day:

  • Wake up
  • Eat
  • Train
  • Go to bed

On top of this, start to think about how much sun you receive during the day:

  • Take a 10+ min walk at midday
  • If you’re crossing time zones, take an extra 10+ min walk upon waking before breakfast

Some further tips for readjusting your circadian rhythm:

  1. Get plenty of sleep, 20-30 minute power naps are a great, easy tool to add quality rest and speed up your recovery from training
  2. Use blue blockers or blackout curtains or a sleep mask at night
  3. Make going to bed at the same time at night a priority
  4. Workout at the same time every session (precisely what we suggest at Integra)
  5. Eat at the same time every day
  6. Leave your carbs for the end of the day; research tells us that it increases sleep quality
  7. Eating can suppress melatonin secretion; if you struggle to sleep, try eating earlier
  8. Turn all devices – TV, smartphones, laptop – off 90 minutes before bed
  9. Download “f.lux” for your laptop: it lowers the blue light from your screen
  10. Increase your sleep quality
  11. Get at least 30 min of natural light in the morning
  12. Travelling can contribute towards desynchronisation, otherwise known as ‘jet lag’. Bright sunlight can be a great remedy for this. 

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