If you’re on a weight loss journey, you’ve likely heard much about the benefits of intermittent fasting (IF). Eating your meals during a strict window of the day has shown to aid weight loss, and it’s even suggested to play a positive role in fighting conditions like obesity and diabetes. However, a new trend called circadian rhythm fasting takes IF to the next, perhaps more beneficial, level.
First, let’s talk about what a circadian rhythm actually is. Sometimes called the “sleep/wake cycle,” your circadian rhythm is the biological system which regulates your energy via your hormones. This “body clock” is mainly governed by light, as more light during the day prompts the release of certain chemicals in the body, while low light levels prompt the release of others.
During the morning and afternoon hours when more light is present, the body responds by naturally producing more hormones like cortisol which regulates metabolism. On the other hand, as the evening and nighttime rolls around, we produce more hormones like melatonin which (ideally) relax us and get us ready to wind down for bed.
Based on the idea of the circadian rhythm, the circadian rhythm diet integrates this knowledge of how metabolism works to facilitate better health. As you may have guessed, this means that when your cortisol and adrenaline levels (and thus, your metabolism) are higher during the day, you’re asked to eat the bulk of your calories. In the late afternoon and night, it’s suggested that you consume less calories.
When your metabolism is activated during the day, your body can easily convert the food you eat into energy, especially when it comes to carbohydrates. This is particularly important for those with insulin-sensitive conditions like prediabetes and diabetes. As your metabolism slows down later in the day, your body is more likely to store any excess calories (especially carbs and sugar) as body fat, even more specifically, in the midsection.
It’s important to note that these are the rules of the body clock under normal circumstances where cortisol levels are regulated throughout the day. However, things like chronic stress can contribute to cortisol levels that are constantly elevated, which will lead to fat-storage no matter what. That being said, be sure that you are incorporating stress-reducing activities into your lifestyle as much as possible.
Circadian Rhythm Fasting vs. Intermittent fasting
The major difference between circadian rhythm fasting and IF is that with IF, people typically choose to fast during the day, skipping breakfast and holding off on eating any meals until the afternoon hours.
With circadian rhythm fasting, you’re encouraged to take your fasting window at night. For example, choosing to eat your meals between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. and fasting between 6 p.m. and 8 the next morning. That’s a 14-hour fast! You can also choose an easier window like 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., with just 12 hours of fasting. The most important thing is to ensure that you’re not eating too late at night, so the earlier you can eat dinner, the better.
The benefits of fasting extend far beyond just weight loss. Fasting has shown to reduce inflammation (which contributes to a wide range of other chronic health conditions), as well as improve immunity and boost brain function. So if you’re ready to transform your health in a major way, give this new method of fasting a try.
As always, get your doctors OK before trying any new eating plan.
This article originally appeared on our sister site, First for Women.