Why Eating Less and Moving More Isn't Enough

One of my researchers has a bad habit...

She's a new mom, and at night – after putting her baby to bed – she and her husband stay up and enjoy a little late-night, baby-free time. And it's during this time that she's habitually snacking before bed. In fact, this late-night snacking has become such a habit that it's almost automatic. Her brain is primed to make her feel hungry at night, just a few hours after she has eaten dinner.

So while a cup of fruit here and some cheese and crackers there isn't a major issue... when it becomes part of her nightly routine, it really throws off her metabolism.

See, most folks think the key to weight loss is as simple as reducing calories eaten and increasing calories burned through exercise...

But that's not the whole story.

Turns out, timing your eating can make a huge difference when it comes to eating for long-term weight loss.

In 2016, one of our subscribers – Dr. Jason Fung – wrote a book about this process, called The Complete Guide to Fasting. According to Dr. Fung, eating less and moving more fails to properly utilize our body's natural energy stores.

Instead, we need to also eat in synchronization with our circadian rhythm – your body's 24-hour sleep/wake cycle. Eating according to your circadian rhythm lets your hormones naturally take a role in your behavior. During the day, and night, our bodies make and deploy different levels of hormones to match our activity needs...

Ghrelin tells us when we're hungry and leptin tell us we're full and satisfied (sated). Ghrelin levels are typically lowest at 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Leptin levels rise as ghrelin falls, and the release of leptin is generally followed by an increase in melatonin, the hormone that makes you drowsy.

Another rhythmic and cyclic hormone, insulin, is produced in your pancreas. It facilitates the movement of blood sugar into your cells. You may have heard of diabetes or prediabetes... this is where your insulin becomes less effective as your cells become resistant to its effects. When this happens, blood sugar stays high, your liver converts it and stores it as fat, and sugar is itself inflammatory. Healthy patterns would mean little insulin and insulin that works well when needed.

According to Dr. Fung, the best time to eat your biggest meal of the day is between noon and 3 p.m., when your insulin is less likely to spike from food. In the evening, when your hormones are shifting into preparing for sleep, your melatonin increases and your insulin response becomes more sensitive. So eating after 7:50 p.m. means a greater increase in insulin.

And because your body is winding down for bed, it's not going to burn off the extra glucose. Instead, it will turn into stored fat.

Here's how this all works...

After you eat, glucose enters your bloodstream. In order to use that glucose at the cellular membrane level, your pancreas produces insulin. Insulin transports the glucose by unlocking the cell, like a key into a door. Once inside the cell, that glucose is broken down and used as energy. Then, the used insulin is destroyed. Your pancreas will keep producing insulin until your blood glucose is all metabolized.

When the glucose is low (after eight to 12 hours of fasting), your body begins using energy from stored fat. Unlike glucose, you don't need insulin to burn fat. Instead, your liver breaks fats down into ketones and releases them into your bloodstream.

And this is essentially what happens during a fast. It's called metabolic switching, and it can have a huge impact on:

  • Improving insulin resistance
  • Heart health
  • Neuroplasticity
  • Weight loss
  • Cell and organ repair

Keep an eye on your inbox as we'll go into more detail on the benefits of fasting next Tuesday.

But starting today, my researcher with the night-snacking habit (Misha) is going to launch a little experiment...

For her experiment, Misha will implement three fasting principles to her eating habits for eight weeks. She will:

  • Stop all food intake after 8 p.m. – water and caffeine-free tea are OK.
  • Breakfast only once hungry – except for morning coffee (with half-and-half) or water.
  • Eat the biggest meal of the day between noon and 3 p.m., followed by a lighter snack-sized dinner.

The purpose of this experiment is twofold... She wants to, first, break her night-eating habit. And second, she wants to see what other fasting (and eating in sync with her hormones) benefits she might experience in just two months.

By journaling her process and measuring her mood, energy levels, and (potential) weight changes, Misha will let us know what happens. In two months, she'll give us an update on her progress and share what she has discovered.

Also, Misha appreciates good advice, so if you have any fasting tips for her, send them to [email protected].

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
March 15, 2022