Many cultures have arranged their work days around digestion and its link to time and the position of the sun. The Latin term for our midsection is solar plexus, which means gathering place for the sun. According to Marc David, former nutrition expert at Canyon Ranch, we digest and assimilate better — and burn more calories — the more efficiently we harness the warmth of the sun.
We are meant to be outside in sunshine and to time our eating to the position of the sun in the sky. The fact that most of us now avoid the sun and stay inside (or block its absorption with sunscreen) means that we are not harnessing our peak metabolic power because we are not in rhythm with our world anymore.
While we sleep, our body temperature drops. As soon as we awaken, body temperature begins to increase. Your metabolism is waking up as you do and now it’s time to take on our tasks for the day. Interestingly enough, your body temperature would still increase as the day goes on even if you stayed in bed all day because we are naturally programmed to align with the sun’s rhythm. As your body “heats up,” this is a good time to eat because you are stoking your body’s fuel burning furnace.
Called breakfast because it means we are breaking the fast of the night’s slumber, eating in the morning, especially eating some protein, is critical to setting the pace and regulation of our metabolism for the rest of the day. Eating carbohydrates such as bagels and donuts will result in a sugar rush and crash that will cause us to eat more later on.
As will calling a cup of coffee breakfast!
While coffee is not bad in and of itself, it does chemically mimic your body’s stress response and can lead to abdominal weight gain. If you skip breakfast, your body enters into a survival response due to lack of food and raises cortisol levels, add in anxiety or stress which also increases cortisol, and then throw in caffeine, which mimics the stress response and raises cortisol as well, and your cortisol levels have now skyrocketed. This will suppress your digestion and metabolism and ultimately lead to weight gain, as well as numerous other health and metabolic impacts.
So if you do enjoy a cup or two of coffee, be sure to eat some protein along with it and take the time to sit down and eat in order to relax and reduce the stress response in your body. Grabbing a coffee on the run and drinking it in your car will feed the body’s stress response and increase your tendency to gain weight.
Now back to the sun. As the morning progresses, body temperatures will continue to rise and then will peak around noon. In fact, our body temperature is so closely aligned with the sun that it will peak at the exact moment that the sun reaches its highest point in the sky! As we reach our metabolic peak for the day, that is when our digestive force is strongest and our ability to burn calories and absorb nutrients is highest. Eating the largest meal between 12-1:30 is the ideal time to maximize digestion, enhance nutrient absorption and minimize excess calorie storage as fat.
From 2-5 pm, our body temperature dips. This is when many cultures take a siesta and slow down because our natural body rhythm slows, so why fight it? Instead of embracing this natural body rhythm, we tend to resist it and turn to caffeine or sugar instead. Some slow down between 2 and 5 is normal, natural and to be expected but extreme crashes are not. So if you are crashing mid-afternoon, you’ll want to re-examine what you are eating at lunch.
In our society, we can’t always take a nap, but there are things we can do to align with our natural body rhythms. First, make sure that your midday meal has high-quality protein and fiber to slow down the digestive process. This ensures you won’t spike your blood sugar levels, burn through your lunch and then crash between 2 and 5. Next, studies show that one or two 15-20 minute rest periods during the afternoon will improve your energy, mood, performance and even cognitive function.
You don’t need to go to sleep: simply take some quiet time to rest meditate or just be still. Close your office door, go sit on a bench outside or sit in your car and just take 15-20 minutes to recharge. If you take these mini breaks (which you are entitled to in most every workplace but most of us never do), you will be in alignment with your body’s natural rhythm and you will also find you don’t need that caffeine or sugar pick me up after all.
From 4-6 your body temperature will rise and energy will pick up again until around 9pm when it will begin to drop. We have probably all heard that it is best not to eat anything 4 hours before bed. We also know that when we eat a big heavy meal in the evening, we feel sluggish and tired but despite our fatigue, we don’t sleep as well as we should.
Not a surprise since the body must direct all its energy to digestion instead of detoxification, healing and repair and regular body maintenance. A main reason for this is because we cannot fall asleep soundly unless our body temperature is dropping. Eating a meal raises your body temperature so eating within a few hours of sleeping will not only interfere with sleep, it can also result in weight gain.
One study looked at the timing of calorie intake and its effect on weight in support of this. The study allowed people to eat 2000 calories a day but they had to eat them all in one meal. First, the participants ate 2000 calories all at breakfast. Every person in the study either lost weight or maintained their weight.
Then the same group ate 2000 calories all at once at dinnertime. Every single person in the study gained weight. So even though they consumed the same 2000 calories, when they ate them made a significant difference in how their bodies responded.
Another study limited more calories severely, spreading out 1400 calories throughout the day among two groups of women. The first group ate 700 calories at breakfast, 500 calories at lunch and 200 calories at dinner. The second group ate 200 calories at breakfast, 500 at lunch and 700 at dinner. Both groups had 500 calories at lunch, but one at their biggest meal at breakfast, the other at dinner.
The women who ate most of their calories at breakfast lost 2 1/2 times as much weight and more than 4 1/2 more inches from their waists than than the women who ate more at dinner. The bigger breakfast eaters also had higher HDL or good cholesterol, lower LDL cholesterol, better insulin sensitivity (lower blood sugar) and said they felt less hungry and more satisfied than the group that ate less in the morning and more at dinner.
I’m probably not the first person to tell you that breakfast is important and that it’s better to eat your heartiest meal mid-day. But now you know that your metabolism is tied to the sun and that our bodies are designed to follow its natural rhythms.
Breaking these rhythms interferes with many biological functions. While our workdays and stressful lives may not naturally align with the sun, the more you can alter and adjust your rhythms to realign with it, the healthier and leaner you will become — and remain — over time.
To your wellness and health: your true wealth!
Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal at www.nehealthadvisory.com
Photo Source: Microsoft Clip Art