While most people are aware about diet and exercise when it comes to weight loss, few really understand the impact of a disrupted circadian rhythm and how it causes poor body composition. Circadian rhythm is not just about trying to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night, it’s also about timing of meals, exposure to light in the am and minimizing exposure to artificial blue light at night coming from tablets, phones, etc. The modern world we live in and the technological advances have disrupted our circadian rhythm a great deal.
The main way a disrupted circadian rhythm makes you fat is that it disrupts the appetite regulation center in the brain causing you to unconsciously eat more and seek out highly processed foods dense in sugars and fats. There is a growing body of research showing this is why many cannot stick to the healthier foods they know they should be eating.
Leptin and Grhelin– leptin and grhelin are hormones that regulate appetite. High leptin levels mean we don’t feel hungry and low levels do make us hungry. Leptin is the main hormone that regulates body fat set point in the brain. Grehlin also plays a role with hunger and appetite control and when you’re circadian rhythm is off, both leptin and grehlin are thrown off. The body doesn’t know how to regulate metabolism, appetite and hunger, as well as energy balance. Studies in rats show their metabolism goes haywire in as little as 1 day of disrupted circadian rhythm. Even if you’re eating a clean diet and working out regularly, a disrupted circadian rhythm will still push your physiology toward fat storage.
Day Length and Body Composition- day length also impacts circadian rhythm and body composition. Researchers studied 3 groups of rats with 3 different daily light conditions to test day length on fat mass. The caloric intake was the same with all 3 groups. Rats were exposed to either 12 hr, 16 hr, or 24 hrs of light each day. Rats exposed to 16 and 24 hrs of light had a dramatic increase in fat mass. Their metabolism slowed down and deposited calories as fat, instead of burning off. This study shows that artificial light exposure from tablets, phones, etc extends our day length and has a very negative impact. Think of a normal day with 11 hours of sunlight. You stay up and use 4 hours of artificial blue light from tv, computers, etc and your day length is now 15 hours. Remember the rats had the same calorie intake, all that changed was light exposure.
If you want to lose weight your Circadian Rhythm is just as important as your food intake and activity level.
It’s a sad fact that there are more overweight/obese people than ever and studies show fewer people are trying to lose weight. If you’re reading this and have not had success with past approaches, don’t give up. Schedule a free 15 minute strategy session and start learning a comprehensive individualized approach to weight loss.