Optimal health through circadian rhythms

Optimal health is something we all strive for. Some of us may not want to work hard for it, but who doesn’t want to look, feel, and perform at the top of their game?

There is so much information out there on what constitutes a healthy lifestyle. Recently I posted an infographic to Facebook. From a study in the journal Nature, this infographic shows how time-restricted eating promotes optimal health.

If you’re not familiar with the practice, time-restricted eating means restricting your food to a 12 hour period or less. In other words, if you eat your first meal at 7am, you eat your last meal by 7pm.

There is a ton of evidence in mice and other mammals showing many benefits to this practice. Early time-restricted eating(eTRE) refers to an even smaller window. In eTRE, people consume their calories in a smaller window earlier in the day. So, for example, eating between the hours of 8am and 4pm.

People were a bit confused on the graphic and asked for an explanation of its meaning. So without further ado, here’s the infographic and a breakdown of what it means.

Optimal health through circadian rhythms.

How circadian synchronization promotes optimal health

The middle of this image represents alignment of the feeding/fasting cycle with the day/night cycle. This is species specific, and since we’re humans, means eating during the day and fasting during the night. And when these 2 environmental factors are aligned, it changes the molecules in the adjacent ring.

  • During fasting: NAD+:NADH, AMP:ATP, and ketones all increase while insulin/IGF-1, amino acids, fatty acids, AcCoA:CoA, and glucose decrease
  • During feeding: Insulin/IGF-1, amino acids, fatty acids AcCoA:CoA and glucose increase while NAD+:NADH, AMP:ATP, and ketones decrease

As these signaling molecules change in response to feeding/fasting, they impact the next level of the chart. It’s important to point out that all pathways in this darker orange ring are longevity pathways that are conserved among species. So they are crucial to health.

As these pathways change throughout the day, they alter the biological functions in the outer ring. Things like growth, autophagy, inflammation, and mitochondrial function. When these functions are aligned properly, they promote resilience, tissue repair, metabolic homeostasis, and organismal function.

Following the pathways to better health

It’s important to point out that all of the biological functions in the outer ring are necessary for optimal health. You need all of them, just at the proper level and time. At improper levels or times, they can be detrimental. To make things even more difficult, many conflict with one another or are regulated in opposing ways.

For example, insulin and IGF-1 function are the primary hormones that signify the feeding phase. This increases IIS(Insulin and insulin-like growth factor signaling) which promotes growth.

But it also inhibits autophagy, the recycling of defective proteins in the cell. Overactivation of this pathway increases inflammation, mitochondrial dysfunction, and decreases stress resistance.

Another good example involves ketones. When in a fasted state, ketone production increases. As a result, this increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor and promotes neurogenesis.

It also activates NRF2, decreasing inflammation. But ketones also inhibit histone deacetylases(HDACs), a form of chromatin modification.

Finally, the AMP:ATP ratio signifies the energy state of the cells. A higher AMP:ATP ratio indicates an energy deficit in the the cells and activates AMPK.

AMPK inhibits protein synthesis, induces autophagy, increases PGC-1a which increases mitochondrial biogenesis, and increases NRF2 which lowers inflammation

Ultimately, aligning the feeding/fasting cycle to the day/night cycle helps align these molecules and pathways to promote optimal health. It powers the proper pathways at the proper time. This promotes:

It’s important to point out that simply aligning your feeding/fasting cycle to the day/night cycle won’t optimize these processes. While light and feeding are the primary signals for entrainment of the master and peripheral clocks, respectively, it still requires more. Other factors such as physical activity, nutrient composition, stress, temperature, social engagement, and others are important as well.

Conclusion

Circadian rhythms play a huge role in optimizing health. They promote resilience, metabolic homeostasis, tissue repair, and organismal function. This in turn makes us healthy and strong.

But these environmental cues need to be translated in to a language the cell understands. The above infographic is a superb way of illustrating how this happens. Aligning the feeding/fasting cycle to the day/night cycle changes signaling molecules and aligns longevity pathways to promote health.

Time-restricted eating helps align these pathways and is the first step in this process. However, there are other important factors to address as well. Things like meal patterning, physical activity and exercise, nutrient composition, and energy intake.

Need help translating the data on circadian rhythms in to actionable steps to improve your health? Check out my Circadian Retraining Program. It’s massive, over 17 hours and growing of video and covers the ins and outs of using circadian rhythms to optimize your health.

There’s also a private Facebook group where I help you individualize the program to your needs and schedule. We also use tests to determine how well you’re doing. Check out the program and testimonials here.

Not sold that circadian rhythms matter? Why not give time-restricted eating a whirl? Try it for 12 weeks and see how it works for you. The program will still be here once you’ve witnessed it for yourself. 🙂

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