You are what you eat. We know the score. What we eat literally becomes part of us through the construction of new cells, thanks to macronutrients. Micronutrients are like the macronutrients minions. They are the workers which enable these macronutrients to materialise. Then boom you have new, healthy cells.
An oversimplification maybe, but you get the idea.
Its pretty obvious by now that junk food isn’t good for us. We aren’t made from what they are. For the most part they were cooked up in a lab, whereas we are from the earth. So is the whole food bounty which supports and nourishes us.
What we eat is a leading determinant of the state of health we experience, no doubt. If trying to decide what to eat wasn’t enough, accumulating research is cropping up in relation to when we eat.
The relationship between us and our food extends far beyond what is staring back at you from your plate.
In actual fact, the state of our physiology is emerging to be a factor which heavily influences how our food gets used. And how it can also affect our health.
Our internal environments change throughout the day, everyday. They do this in accordance with the light/dark cycles of our 24 hour rhythm. The time of day is like a conductor of your physiology and biochemistry. It will signal for the switching on/off of genes involved in regulating bodily processes far and wide.
The Suprachiasmatic Nucleus (SCN) is housed within the hypothalamus of the brain. It responds in accordance to the cycles of day/night. It is in fact linked to our organs and co-ordinates their functioning via neurochemical signalling.
Our organs actually sense what time of day it is, whether the SCN senses light or not. When we eat, our organs know where they stand in the 24hr cycle.
When we eat, we instruct our genes to turn on the digestive process. We can either be digesting, or fasting. The average meal takes around 6 hours to digest, when we have finished using that meal as fuel. Fasting, or ‘time restricted eating’ actually instructs very different gene expression.
Time restricted is the practice of eating within a window, commonly 8-12 hours.
After digestion, we start to burn our bodily reserves for fuel. We start to oxidise fats more efficiently and promote the growth of new neurones in the brain, known as neurogenesis, which provides a greater cognitive edge (brain boost).
Benefits Of Time Restricted Eating
A study found that when mice had restricted access to a high fat diet and ate within an 8 hour window, they were actually protected against the development of obesity, inflammation and metabolic complications, such as type II diabetes. This tested against mice who had unrestricted access throughout the day and night to the same diet and calories. If this is the case in mice, there is good reason to suggest that when we choose to eat can have a significant impact on our state of health.
According to exciting research, time restricted eating on a high fat diet within a 12 hour and 8 hour window promoted increased fat oxidation. Subsequently, this reduced the body fat in these mice.
The same study also found increased motor co-ordination and endurance performance in all mice on a time restricted eating plan (9, 12 & 15 hrs). This was tested against mice with unrestricted access to the same high fat diet, who did not see such benefits.
The Take Home Message
Our ability to light our environments past dusk has enabled us to eat at a time where we are not well equipped to do so. Our ability to stockpile food doesn’t help this situation.
This combination has afforded us a luxury that allows us to undermine our health, if we so choose.
However, there is good reason to believe that if we eat with time in mind, we can actually improve many aspects of our health. These include, but are not limited to metabolic health, body mass and endurance performance.
Time restricted eating is a way of living which has become lost in the archives of human traditions. The exciting new evidence suggests that we must live in harmony with the natural rhythms in order to preserve our metabolic health. No matter how appealing that midnight munch may seem, your genes cant be fooled.