Keeping up with the endless stream of diet trends out there can be exhausting. There are so many options out there, and everyone has an opinion on which one works best. (Spoiler alert: there is no one right diet, only what’s right for you.) These days, there’s a lot of buzz around the circadian diet, also known as the “body clock” diet. Like intermittent fasting, it’s a form of time-restricted eating — but the idea is that you eat in sync with your internal body clock.
This concept feels particularly appealing right now, especially as so many of us continue to work from home and keep our distance from others. Because the structure of our day has been turned completely upside down, eating and sleeping patterns have gotten odd, to say the least. (Anyone else eating chips at 3 a.m.?) Making it even more intriguing, recent research has found that a healthy circadian rhythm can help increase resilience and make people less susceptible to COVID-19.
We chatted with experts to find out more about exactly what the circadian diet is, and how it can benefit us. Here’s everything you need to know.
What is the circadian diet?
The circadian diet is all about eating in sync with your natural internal body clock. In other words, it’s definitely not eating chips at 3 a.m.
“The circadian diet focuses on eating during daylight hours and fasting during dark hours,” explains Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD, LDN and board advisor at Fitter Living. “You eat after the sun comes up and then stop eating before the sun goes down.”
Like with intermittent fasting, there are no hard and fast rules around what you eat, but it is recommended that you focus on protein in the morning and carbs later in the day. Unlike intermittent fasting, which can become very extreme and restricted, Miller says, the circadian diet can be a little gentler on your body. And, if only eating when the sun is up feels like too much during the winter, Miller says you still reap the benefits by trying not to eat too close to bedtime.
What are the benefits of the circadian diet?
The main idea behind this diet is that if you eat when it’s more natural for your body to do so, you’ll reset your internal clock, sleep more soundly, and have more energy.
Our “always on” lifestyle which, unfortunately, has followed many people into quarantine, can mess with our sleep patterns, meal timing, and overall health, and changing when we eat “may help people reset their internal clocks and daily routines,” says Miller.
Trista Best, a registered dietitian at Balance One Supplements, adds that the diet can be beneficial for insulin levels. “The circadian rhythm is the body’s natural 24-hour internal clock,” she explains. ‘Any disruption in this rhythm can cause the body to produce more insulin.”
Why are high levels of insulin problematic? “Chronic elevations in insulin can make it hard to lose weight, increasing risk of chronic disease,” Best says.
So, should you try the circadian diet?
If you’re in need of an internal body clock reset — or simply a feeling of control over your routine right now — the circadian diet can be a great place to start. “People are very interested in taking charge of their health at this moment, especially in the midst of the pandemic,” says Elliott Reimers, Certified Nutrition Coach at Rave Reviews. “A decrease in stress and adhering to the circadian rhythm diet may be just what we all need.”