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Khanya Wellness

HEALTH & WELLNESS

Eat According to Your Circadian Rhythm to Balance Your Hormones and Lose Weight

If you want to lose weight, you know what to do, right? Eat less, move more. It’s simple, you’re just lazy and you eat too much. Really? How rude and cruel! Well, turns out this is old, debunked “science” which has little understanding of how the body works. When it comes to weight loss, it is far more about hormones than it is about how little you eat while punishing yourself with workouts. For true, sustainable weight loss, a calorie is NOT a calorie.

This is great news, though it is hard for many people to wrap their minds around it because for so long we’ve been told to deprive ourselves of food if we want to lose weight. We cannot imagine any other scientific truth that contradicts the messages of calorie restriction and eating several small meals to rev up our metabolism. However, a better understanding of human physiology shows that it’s more about the quality of food than the quantity.

What we eat affects certain hormones, positively or negatively, which in turn affects our sleep cycles as per the circadian rhythm. Here are  a few examples of how our hormones work in relation to weight regulation and sleep:

  1. Leptin: Those who do not get enough sleep may find that they have inadequate levels of leptin. This means that the body is not generating enough of this vital hormone that sends the signal to the brain that the stomach is full. Many of us would know that a poor night of sleep is often followed by an increased appetite, often for sugary foods.
  1. Ghrelin: Whereas leptin tells the brain when to stop eating, ghrelin is responsible for stimulating hunger. Those who are sleep-deprived may experience increases in ghrelin, which may lead to overeating. 
  1. Insulin: When we eat (especially carb-rich foods), we stimulate the production of insulin. So, eating too close to bedtime may cause insulin to rise. Instead of focusing on the sleep function, our bodies then have to dedicate time to digestion, which results in delayed and disrupted sleep. For many people, a high-carb diet combined with poor sleep often leads to weight gain and diabetes.
  1. Melatonin: The body produces melatonin as the sun goes down to help induce sleep. During the day, the melatonin levels in the body are lower. As night falls, those levels rise to prepare the body for sleep. As this happens, melatonin helps to regulate the body’s temperature and blood pressure. It also helps to give the metabolism a boost while even leading to a reduction in visceral belly fat. However, eating close to bedtime may inhibit the rise of melatonin, while encouraging insulin spikes as we’ve noted above.

Though cleaning up your diet to include nourishing foods is always going to be excellent advice, it is important to get plenty of restful sleep so that you don’t have your hormones working against you at the wrong times. Your weight struggles may be more about your poor sleep and imbalanced hormones than about lack of willpower and eating too much. So, start prioritising getting an optimal amount of sleep to set yourself up for fat loss success.

Have you found yourself struggling with weight gain? It may be time to assess your sleep and see if it may be tripping up your weight loss goals.

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