Timing is everything in fitness

by 16 Sep 2009

You’ve heard all the clichés before: “You are what you eat,” “Calories in, calories out.” We all know full well that what we put in our bodies has almost everything to do with how we lose, or gain, weight.

Well, just when you thought you had it all figured out and started replacing your cake with a fruit salad, we find there’s more to it than that. A study recently conducted at Northwestern University and reported in med icalnewstoday.com gives strong evidence that it’s not always about what you eat, but when.

According to the study, how and when our body uses its energy appears to be linked to our sleep patterns. Our circadian rhythms want us to sleep when it’s dark and be ac tive during the day. We’re just wired that way, despite our chosen lifestyle.

Evidence from the study indicates that eat ing during times of the day when we should be resting – as well as not eating when we need the most energy (such as breakfast) – greatly increases our chances of putting on weight. This is especially problematic for night owls and shift workers.

A common thread among overweight peo ple is that they tend to skip breakfast, eat large midday and/or evening meals and fill the gaps with unhealthy snacks. Drinking alcohol late into the night (followed by the munchies) does n’t help, either. By comparison, a fit person may take in the same amount of calories dur ing the day, but because they ate a good (and early) breakfast and tapered off their intake prior to going to bed, their calories will be put to good use and are less likely to be stored as fat. They’ll also sleep better and have more energy during the day.

A change in diet is often the hardest thing about losing weight. Although eating health ier food is always good practice, the good news is that you may be able to get off to a good start just by reworking your eating schedule. This will help your body get the most from the food you already take in. You can work on improving the food you eat later.

Shifting away from bad habits to a healthy lifestyle can be an overwhelming task for some, but, just like our goal setting, we need to think of the small things we can master bit by bit. If you’re struggling with nutrition, this may be the step that breaks the case for you

Brian Merrill is a certified fitness trainer. b.merrill@gmail.com