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  • Writer's pictureKathy Ozakovic

Chrononutrition - When You Eat Matters

Whether it’s you morning walk, your 10am coffee or your 7pm dog walk, humans are creatures of habit. The attraction to routine isn’t surprising, and a key element of a daily routine is when we eat! However, many people sacrifice this aspect of self care to prioritise work and family responsibilities, unknowingly impacting their metabolism.


Chrono-nutrition is an emerging field building on the relationship between temporal eating patterns, circadian rhythms, and metabolic health. It is the science of how food, metabolism, meal timing, and your body clock interact. Chrono-nutrition is gaining increasing attention because it has been shown to affect the body’s circadian rhythm which in turn affects the metabolism (metabolism is the body’s ability to transform food into fuel and do a whole heap of other beneficial chemical reactions and is governed by sleep!).


Chrono-nutrition considers 3 key aspects of your eating patterns:

  • Meal consistency - do you skip meals?

  • Meal frequency - do you eat little and often or have bigger meals?

  • Clock time - when is your first and last meal (i.e how many hours are you fasting throughout the night?)

Research has shown that having irregular eating patterns and distributing most of the day’s calories close to the body’s biological night-time is associated with increased body fat and a higher risk of metabolic syndrome (a combination of high blood pressure, insulin resistance, high cholesterol which makes is hard to lose weight).


Erratic eating patterns are problematic and more common than you might think. It is one of the first things I drill into my clients: When are you eating, how many meals and at what time? I don’t mind if you want 3 meals and 2 snacks or 4 meals. Aim to eat at (or close to) the same time everyday and have meals that are the same or similar size. Aim for a fasting window of 12-16 hours throughout the night (no extra benefits for 16hours, 12hours is enough). Do the same on weekends and holidays and you will reap the metabolic benefits of consistency. The types of foods you eat might vary but the pattern will stay the same to optimise your health and wellbeing. Research has shown that a shift to a longer, later eating window on weekends is the equivalent to changing time zones and disrupts the metabolism! Consistency is key.


Research has also shown that a regular eating window and regular meal pattern resulted in a better insulin sensitivity and less hunger when compared to irregular meal patterns. The regular meals pattern was 3 meals and 3 snacks, and the irregular meal pattern for comparison was anything between 3 to 9 meals. The important thing to note is that the calories stayed consistent in both groups, only the eating pattern changed. This impact of meal timing on metabolic health may also explain why shift workers develop metabolic syndrome so often even when they don’t eat more calories.


Basically, there is a 'right time' to eat and you are in charge of deciding when that is based on best practice for positive health outcomes.


Below are my top tips to help you reap beneficial health outcomes using the principles of chrono-nutrition. They require some thought and planning. Commit to making and maintaining 1 change each week. This way you are more likely to stay consistent whilst building on good habits as opposed to the 'all or nothing' approach which has gotten us nowhere so many times.



CHRONO-NUTRITION TIPS FOR BETTER METABOLIC HEALTH:

  1. On weekends make an effort to stay consistent with your meal timing

  2. Limit your eating window (fasting 12-16 hours overnight)

  3. If you are working a night shift opt for high protein, high fat meals/snacks to improve insulin sensitivity (apply this for long study nights/work projects)

  4. Eat within 30min of your decided regular meal time

  5. Block out meal times and consider this your ‘protected meal time’ where you do not answer the phone, do not look at emails and do not deal with the pets (or kids) explain the concept to the kids in a fun and engaging way so they can take part

  6. Stick to a regular pattern rather than chopping and changing between 3 meals and 6 meals. Decide what works best for you and stick to it.

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Did you find this blog helpful and informative? Tag & Share with your friends who would love it too! Sign up for my Free NuFit Wellness Newsletter to stay in the loop. Attend my Wellness Workshops. Promoting consciousness in food choices helping people heal. Dietitian & Wellness Coach, Health Presenter, Gut Health Specialist - Kathy Ozakovic.

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KEYWORDS: Chrononutrition, nutrition, meal times, timing, fasting, metabolism, sleep, circadian rhythm, consistency, frequency, chrono-nutrition, body clock.


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