Unfortunately, there are only 24 hours in a day. This means that when you factor in time for classes, extracurriculars, studying and the other random events that happen in college, you may see your meals dipping into the later evening or night.
And yet, despite understanding that what we eat is important for maintaining a healthy body, not many of us are aware that when we eat can also affect other ares of our life. Thus, we should care about our nutrition in conjunction to our circadian rhythm, which is our 24 hour internal clock that controls our sleep and alert cycles.
We’re most familiar with our circadian rhythm when it comes to our cycles. When we regularly go to sleep and get up at the same time every day, our body adjusts to this schedule and makes it easier for us to fall asleep and wake up.
However, not many people know that the circadian rhythm affects our digestive system. According to a study by Asher and Sassone-Corsi, our body’s endocrine system prepare meals in the same way it prepares for sleep, and having a regular schedule benefits both tremendously. By having regular eating patterns, our body more easily absorbs and digest the food we eat, regulating weight distribution and blood sugar levels.
This is due to the biochemistry of the gut. According to the same study by Asher and Sassone-Corsi, our bodies have a major “clock” that controls all other clocks in the body, including the one in the gut. Say you’ve regularly eaten breakfast at 8am for the past three days. On the fourth day, the gut will sense the timing of the next meal and prepare the body. During the preparation, the body better absorbs insulin and other nutrients. This, in turn, keeps fat levels and weight down, and lowers the risk of obesity and metabolic disorders. Without this normal pattern, nutrients are not absorbed in the same way.
Our appetites, digestion and metabolism all follow circadian patterns. Eating outside of this pattern can contribute to weight gain. We should respect our eating patterns just as much as we respect our sleeping patterns to maintain a healthy body.
It’s understandable that some days will be out of your control and you simply won’t have time to eat until late at night or some other time outside of your normal eating schedule. But if you can help it, eat at regular times to promote a strong circadian food rhythm. Your body will thank you for it.