Circadian Rhythm Diet & Intermittent Fasting: 4 Steps To Train Your Master Clock
In this article you will learn the basics of circadian rhythms and how that relates to fasting. Also, you get 4 proven tactics to naturally train your circadian rhythms to make fat loss easier, while feeling more rested and energized than you have in years.
Tired of reading? Watch my YouTube-video on circadian rhythms fasting here:
Reading time: 8 min
Written by: Torbjørn "Torbs" Husevåg
Symptoms of a circadian rhythm disorder
Ask yourself, do you struggle with:
- a constant hunger mode, craving foods that you probably shouldn’t be eating
- can’t seem to lose weight despite mostly eating the right foods
- having trouble with focusing for long periods of time
- lack energy to workout or even be social with friends and family
If you said, “yes” to any one of these questions, it may be time to start taking your circadian rhythm seriously.
NB: If you want to learn more about intermittent fasting for fat loss, read this article afterwards. Here I share everything I learned from doing intermittent fasting for 1.5 years.
So what is a circadian rhythm?
A circadian rhythm is a biological cycle that runs for 24 hours every day. It is also referred to as your body's internal master clock that influences when you wake up, fall asleep, get hungry and when you feel most energized during the day.
This rhythm is so important to our overall health that a 2017 Nobel Prize was awarded to research on this topic. It explained that all living creatures adapt their biological rhythms, to be synchronized with the Earth’s revolutions.
Simply put, you, me, your dog, your cat, your mom and every other living thing on this planet has an inner clock that coordinates our daily rhythms. Your circadian rhythms are controlled by a group of nerves in your brain known as the SCN. To make life easier, we simply call it the "master clock".
Your master clock is like a signaling center that responds to environmental cues like:
- physical activity
- eating habits
When certain cues are experienced your body triggers the release of hormones, affects metabolism, sleep and even your mood. To get practical, this chart shows a typical 24 hour time schedule of your rhythm.
This chart can tell us the best time to:
- exercise for optimal performance (between 3 - 5 pm)
- do analytical work (before lunch)
- when to take a break (every 90 min)
- when to drink coffee (after 9 am)
- when to wake up and sleep etc.
And you might already know some signs of your daily rhythm. For example; when the sun starts going down, your body starts preparing for sleep by producing the hormone melatonin. When things are in balance with your inner clock, your body runs like clockwork.
Your body loves to be on a schedule. It loves following routines and habits - and especially it loves following its natural rhythm baked into our DNA through evolution. Our bodies haven’t evolved much since the prehistoric days 20,000 years ago. Through evolution our bodies have gotten used to a certain rhythm of living life.
Your body probably still prefer to:
- wake up when the sun rise
- go to sleep before sunset
- fast daily
- be active during the day.
The modern challenge for your circadian rhythm
The problem is that following your rhythms in today's age is next to impossible. For example: we go to bed later than what our inner clock is tuned into, we overeat processed foods from sunset to sunrise, we avoid physical activity like the plague and we’re looking at screens for 80% of our waking days until we go to sleep. This is especially true if you are traveling different time zones causing jet lag or working night shifts.
When your master clock is thrown out of balance, it leads to a domino effect of physical and mental problems.
If you want to see a disrupted circadian rhythm all you gotta do is observe new moms and new dads. When they get a new baby, sleep gets disrupted and this has a direct affect on their eating patterns. Even the most dedicated people can stop exercising, eat more junk food and get the "dad bod" once you get out of your rhythm.
In sum, all of this leads to lower energy, constant weight gain and a vast range of diseases. Luckily, there is a solution.
The benefits of following your circadian rhythm
As bad as all this may sound, your life doesn’t have to be perfect to be in tune with your rhythms. In fact, when you train one part of your life to a specific rhythm you may find that everything eventually falls into place. We can train our circadian rhythms to work for us. We can manage our day to day rhythms and make them start working for us, instead of against us.
And that is exactly what Torbs Training is about. To help you train yourself to good health habits, instead of being a victim of the less optimal habits that our modern life often can bring. The feedback I get when I train people back into their natural rhythm, is that they get a lot more energy and weight loss feels much less effortful.
It’s just a matter of a few tweaks over the course of a few weeks. And eventually, your new habits and rhythms will go on autopilot.
Note: We all have our own slightly different rhythms, so you need to find yours and match it to your lifestyle. But here are 4 general steps to train your rhythm back to normal.
- Take out a paper or note app to write out certain key times during the day to create a consistent daily rhythm also known as habits. Protect these times. Add them to your calendar if needed. After a 1-2 weeks you will start getting into a new rhythm. After 8-12 weeks, you will develop strong habits.
The 4 steps Train Your Rhythm (Master Clock)
#1 — Find your sleeping patterns
The most important aspect of training your rhythms starts and ends with your sleep patterns. Sleep is the lead domino affecting all other areas of your life. Help your body sync up with your master clock, you need regular wake and sleeping times. Keep your bed times within half an hour of each other (even on weekends) to allow your body to naturally prepare for sleep.
Personally, my routine is to start reading a book at 22:00 until I fall asleep, and wake up at 07:00 or 07:30 - depending on when I fell asleep.
- Action step: write down your sleep and waking times. Stay consistent.
#2 — Have a habitual schedule of eating and fasting
When it comes to eating - your body loves to be on a routine as well. Get your body onto a natural schedule of eating that works for your lifestyle. From my experience with clients I’ve found that every person has a natural way to how they like to eat. Once they find their natural eating rhythms they say it makes getting lean much easier.
Note: the underlying mechanism of fat loss is always eating fewer calories than you burn. But when you try intermittent fasting (only eating within a certain time window), controlling your hunger hormones and staying in a calorie deficit is much less effortful and more sustainable. Personally, I now eat 3 meals per day at certain times, within an 8 hour window. As a result, I only get hungry at these times.
- Write down when you would like to eat and fast. Stay consistent.
- Also, the better the quality of food you eat the more efficient your body will work. Therefore, I recommend eating 80-90 % of your foods from whole foods i.e. single ingredients foods. Read more what foods I recommend here.
#3 — Get at least 3 workouts a week.
Intense physical activity, whether through cardio or weight lifting, has been known to help entrain your circadian rhythms because of their positive effect on sleep. Studies are starting to find that your muscles have their own circadian rhythm to when they like to be worked.
- Write down when you like to train. Just make sure to avoid nighttime workouts at least 3 hours prior to bed when possible as they might disrupt sleep patterns.
#4 — Get more sun exposure
Sunlight can, and should, be the trigger that resets the circadian clock daily; it is the timing cue which entrains the physiologies of humans and thereby helps to prevent critical illness. That is one of the reasons I add walking to my morning routine. As a positive side effect, you get a nicer tan.
- Our Circadian Rhythm is a 24 hour cycle that influences when you wake up, fall asleep, get hungry and when you feel most energized during the day - among other processes.
- Your rhythm responds primarily to light, darkness, eating habits, and physical activity.
- Not following your circadian rhythms can lead to seriously bad health stuff over time.
- You can entrain your rhythms to start working for you instead of against you. Make the necessary changes to your lifestyle and start getting back in tune with your natural rhythms.
Join my free 4 step course to make these 4 steps into regular habits - despite working demanding work hours. I will show you exactly how to train, eat, fast and improve your sleep so you can get lean, feel strong and supercharge your energy.
Join my Tuesday newsletter
Then I will send you chapter 1 of my book: "Lean Body, Strong Mind". Each Tuesday I send a short e-mail with practical tips on training, nutrition, recovery and mindset.