One of the most common questions I get asked by shift workers in our student clinic at Endeavour College of Natural Health in Brisbane is – “What should I eat and when?”
This is a great question given shift workers rarely eat breakfast at “breakfast time”, nor do we necessarily eat dinner at “dinner time”.
I mean “breakfast” for anyone who happens to work 24/7 could be at 4am, or it may not be until midday – depending on your shift.
Given our body is carefully orchestrated by our natural circadian rhythms (the fancy word for our sleep/wake cycles), any variation from these rhythms can play havoc on our body temperature, blood pressure, mental alertness, hormone and neurotransmitter production along with countless other body functions including our gastrointestinal system.
This influence on our gastrointestinal system includes our metabolism, digestion, and absorption of nutrients from the food that we eat.
So in addition to what we eat, along with how much we eat, when we eat is also critical to our overall health and wellbeing.
This was illustrated in an 8-week clinical trial showing how eating mostly carbohydrates at lunch, and mostly protein at dinner, had damaging effects on glucose homeostasis (Alves et al. 2014). This disruption to our blood glucose regulation can lead to an increased risk in the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes and obesity.
Which brings us to the “Circadian Diet”, or as it’s also referred to as “Chrononutrition”.