The importance of connecting with our circadian rhythm to optimise well-being is often overlooked. When coaching clients one of my first objectives is to teach them the importance of synchronising their diet and lifestyle choices with Earth’s natural cycle.
Your body operates in tandem with the Earth’s 24-hour light and dark cycle, this is your circadian rhythm. The hormones released throughout this cycle enable us to respond, adapt and repair from stress.
In very simple terms the first half of the day is when we’re exposed to most stress through physical activity and mental stimulation. The types of hormones released during this period are classified as catabolic (cortisol and adrenaline). To catabolise something means to break it down or divide.
The second part of the day is aligned with the dark cycle of the Earth – winding down, resting and adapting. The hormones released during this period are categorised as anabolic, which means ‘to build’ or repair (Growth Hormone, DHEA).
Even the Earth goes through a catabolic and anabolic phase. The Spring and Summer months are about growth and the Autumn and Winter are about hibernation and recovery.
To get the most benefit from your fitness training or if you are recovering from injury and fatigue or wish to heal from disease you should ensure the choices you make are congruent with the natural cycles of the day.
To help you understand this more clearly here are some examples of diet and lifestyle choices and the best time to do them; these are simple points but are commonly overlooked.
Catabolic phase best for ‘doing’ between 6 am – 6 pm
Remember the light cycle or catabolic phase; when our hormones are geared towards dealing with stress. Here are some helpful tips to make sure you’re making the right choice:
- The best time to workout, generally in the morning when cortisol is naturally at its highest
- Being mentally busy, working, problem-solving.
- Hydrating – drinking after 8pm may disrupt sleep
- Natural light exposure particularly in the morning. This helps regulate neurotransmitters that aid a good nights sleep
- Drink caffeine – caffeine has a half-life of six hours so avoid drinking too much after 2-3pm
Anabolic phase best for ‘being’ between 6 pm – 6 am
Whereas the catabolic phase it about dealing with stress, the anabolic phase is about our ability to adapt, repair and recover, so we can begin the cycle again feeling energised and ready to go! Too much ‘doing’ after 6 pm means we’re condensing our window of repair, which over time leads to fatigue and the inability to adapt to the day’s tasks. Some tips for this part of the day:
- Try and avoid eating large meals, especially after 8 pm
- Avoid working out after 7 pm; you want to be winding down not winding up. Move away from your mind and connect with your body.
- Now is a good time to dim the lights. Too much light, especially blue light from gadgets tells the body it’s daytime and diminishes your quality of sleep
- Stretch to improve energy flow and aid relaxation
- Avoid sugar. Suger like caffeine is catabolic
- Aim to get to bed by 10.30 pm. We physically repair between 10 pm and 2 am and psychologically repair between 2 am and 6 am
Respect the night
Modern living can mean a disproportionate amount of activity versus rest, if you want to get the best out of your day, start by respecting the night.
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