Circadian Optimisation

Circadian Optimisation

Our bodies love routine and functions at optimal levels when it knows what to expect.

Akash Vaghela Akash Vaghela · Feb 6th, 2020

Mindset Intermediate
7 Mins


    When going through a fat loss journey the most important variable that needs to be managed is energy balance, which simply means you need to be expending more energy than the amount you’re taking in over time. Simple in theory, not so simple in practice..

    One aspect that is often overlooked is not paying attention to the regularity or timing of activities such as food intake, exercise, sleep onset, light exposure and socialisation. Your circadian rhythms, or internal “clocks” are the chief regulators of all of these activities and can really make a difference to your health and wellbeing.

    Our bodies are adaptive machines, and loves making life easier for us when it knows what is coming on a day to day basis.  When you follow the same eating schedule on a day to day basis, the mechanisms that govern digestion and blood glucose control all start to upregulate to anticipate your next meal coming in. This is why you start to get hungry at times you normally eat. This is fantastic as your body has a much better time handling this meal; meaning you will feel fuller for longer, your blood glucose will be under better control and your digestion will improve.

    Same deal for exercise. When your body gets used to a certain time to exert energy, it will start to prepare you in advance for the event by raising stress hormones, minimising digestive processes and get you “in the zone”. This is another reason why it's horrific when you first start training in the morning, but as you do it more, it becomes much easier and you actually end up performing much better.

    Not only does scheduling your eating and training time make life easier from a structure standpoint, your actual physiology also thrives which means when the diet does get tougher, you are much better equipped to handle it if you keep your schedule the same.

    Sleep/Wake Schedule:

    The most important and most obvious is always going to be mastering your sleep schedule. Research shows that consistency is key here meaning keeping to a regular sleep/wake cycle each day will be the best. One of the reasons why most people feel horrible come Monday morning is due to the change in sleep habits over the weekends meaning it is not uncommon to wake at 5:30am each weekday and then have a lie in until 8,9 or even 10am come Saturday and Sunday which means going to bed later than usual on these nights also.

    You may think that you’re giving your body the rest it needs, but sleeping from 1:00am-9:00am on the weekend is not the same as you sleeping from 9:30am-5:30am during the weekday which is part of the reason you still feel quite poor despite sleeping the same amount of time. This feeling has been coined “social jetlag” as it slightly mimics the feeling you get when you cross time zones when flying.

    Does this mean you can never go out and socialise on the weekends and stay out late? Of course not, but if you plan on doing this you need to accept the fact that you won’t be getting the recovery your body needs and adding alcohol or late night eating into the mix just throws things off even more. Our bodies were meant to be resting during dark times which is why digestion shuts down while other metabolic processes ramp up to help repair your system.

    These days, I still enjoy a night out with friends and can do this without drinking but I know I’ll try to be in bed before 11:00pm while making exceptions for very special events such as weddings, close friend’s birthdays, etc.

    If you want to take your body composition and health to the next level, making your sleep/wake cycle as regular as possible is going to do you a world of good and is one of the simplest ways to optimise your dieting and/or muscle building goals.

    Light Exposure:

    Light exposure at the right time can be one of the most powerful tools you have available to you when trying to align your biological clock to the environment. More and more research is coming out on the benefits of light when it comes to mood enhancement, mitochondrial health and in this context, telling our bodies when it’s time to be awake and active vs calm and ready for bed.

    For thousands of years we have evolved to wake at dawn as the sun is rising and start to wind down as the sun sets. We would stay very active throughout the day, eat most of our food during this time and then usually go to sleep a couple of hours after the sun went down. This active period would also be the time where we socialised the most, solved problems and do things that required most of our brain power and resources.

    In our modern world though, we are surrounded by an artificial daytime 24/7 through the use of screens, lights, phones, laptops and televisions which all emit a certain blue light that all tell our eyes and brain to “be awake”. Even worse, not getting actual sunlight into your eyes or on your body at all during the day can be a huge energy leak which I am sure more of you reading this can agree to. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real thing and not getting adequate light onto your skin is a large contributor to this.

    What can you do optimise your light exposure?

    a) Eliminate as much blue light from your evenings as possible. Install F.Lux on your laptop/kindle or even purchase blue blocking glasses to wear 1 hour before bed as you watch TV.

    b) If possible, get light onto your eyes/face/body as soon as you can during the day. Morning sun seems to be the most powerful in setting up your circadian clocks.

    c) Purchase a “Dawn Simulator” if you need to wake before the sun comes up.

    d) Try to get at least 30-40 minutes of sunlight on you during the day. Even if it is cloudy, the power of the light is still strong enough to get a positive impact.

    Hope that helps!
    Akash VaghelaAkash Vaghela

    Akash Vaghela has spent 10+ years transforming bodies and lives around the world, and in May 2017, founded RNT Fitness to serve this purpose. His vision is to see a world transformed, where ambitious high performers experience the power of the physical as the vehicle to unlock their real potential. He’s the author of the Amazon best-selling book Transform Your Body Transform Your Life, which explains his unique and proven five-phase methodology, is host of the RNT Fitness Radio podcast, has been featured in the likes of Men’s Health and BBC, whilst regularly speaking across the world on all things transformation.

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