Does the time of day you eat matter?

What is Chrononutrition?

What is Chrononutrition? 

Chrononutrition is the timing of your food intake in relation to your circadian clock. The circadian clock system is a function of the body that controls all your biological activities. This includes when your awake and sleeping times, your metabolism and energy level, your body temperature, and when you feel hungry. This is all driven by something called your circadian rhythm.

What controls your circadian rhythm?

Your circadian rhythm is normally controlled from inside your body by your genes and hormones, however there is something called zeitgebers. These are cues from outside your body that influence your circadian rhythm. Zeitgebers are cues given by the environment that reset the circadian rhythm. Zeitgeber sounds a little like a light saber! And just as a light saber carries power for the Jedi, so are zeitgebers when it comes to your circadian rhythm. Examples of the key zeitgebers in humans are environmental cues like sunlight, exercise, and eating.

What happens when your circadian rhythm is disrupted?

Some research tells us that disrupting when you're feeding versus fasting or sleeping and waking will change your circadian rhythm. This alters how the body processes nutrients from the diet such as calories from sugars and fat. When the circadian clock gets off schedule, a person may use fewer calories. Eating meals at the wrong time can lead to weight gain, even if energy intake is not increased. Historically, people would eat during daylight hours and sleep during night time hours, however in our present day, this may not always be true. Our lifestyle and dietary patterns have also changed with more meals eaten outside the home or family setting and more irregular eating patterns, including breakfast skipping and late-night eating. Irregularity in meals (such as eating at inconsistent times, skipping meals), the frequency of meals (the number of meals), and timing (when you eat) all influence your circadian clock and metabolism. 

Take Home Messages:

  •  Eat a healthy breakfast in the morning.
  • An earlier dinner is best and make this the last food intake of the day. 
  • Stay away from late-night eating. 
  • Remember that your body operates on a 24-hour clock but food is best consumed starting in the morning to the early evening hours which are 5:00-7:00 PM for optimal health! 

Healthy Weight Initiative at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital

Healthy Weight Initiative
The Healthy Weight Initiative at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida, offers a multi-level approach to pediatric obesity including the only pediatric weight management clinic on Florida’s west coast, our Healthy Steps clinic. Learn about our innovative approach and services within the Healthy Weight Initiative.

Request an Appointment

Find a Doctor
Find a Doctor