Publix GreenWise Market Magazine - Summer 2011
Timing is Everything
|Want to slim down? Eat some fat at breakfast. Need to perk up? Grab an afternoon nap. Here's how to make the most of your natural rhythms.|
What you do is important -- and so is when you do it. Chronotherapy -- using your body's natural rhythms to boost your health -- is a hot topic in scientific circles these days. Researchers have long known that many bodily functions such as blood pressure and temperature have a strong daily rhythm. What's new is the focus on using that knowledge to guide everyday choices about when to do what.
Of course, there are other considerations, such as social customs and family and work schedules. Our experts draw on biology and "real-life-ology" for ways to make time your ally when eating, working out, sleeping and engaging in other activities.
Wake up with a smile. First thing in the morning is prime time for lovemaking, says Arlene Goldman, Ph.D., psychologist, sex therapist and coauthor of Secrets of Sexual Ecstasy (Alpha, 2004).
"That's when you feel most rested and often have the most sexual energy," she says. For women, love in the morning may be especially sweet at ovulation, which occurs about midway between the start of one menstrual period and the next. "It's an evolutionary thing," Goldman says. "Women are programmed to feel more sexual when they're most fertile."
Stay trim with fat. Consuming a little fat at breakfast , along with carbs and protein, may help keep your weight in check. A 2007 study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that people who ate a larger proportion of their daily fat in the morning tended to consume fewer calories and less carbs and fat throughout the day. "Fats and oils can help keep you satisfied, so you don't overeat at your next meal," says Angela Ginn, R.D., C.D.E (Certified Diabetes Educator) in Baltimore and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.
To add a tad of fat to your morning menu, try these ideas:
Take your multivitamin -- maybe. Many people feel it's convenient to have their vitamin with breakfast. But, cautions Michael Aziz, M.D., internist at New York City's Lenox Hill Hospital, "Your body needs fat to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K." If your breakfast doesn't consistently include fat, he says it's better to take your multivitamin with lunch or dinner when you do consume some fat like olive oil or cheese.
- Sprinkle pecans on oatmeal with sliced peaches.
- Put salmon on a whole grain bagel.
- Spread nut butter on a warm waffle.
- Stir low-fat cheese into scrambled eggs.
- Drizzle olive oil on a spinach frittata.
- Put avocado in a breakfast burrito.
Sit down to your biggest meal. You use most of your energy during the day, so it makes sense to fill your fuel tank then too. "Breakfast and lunch should both be larger meals than dinner," says Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN nurse practitioner and author of Are You Tired and Wired? (Hay House, 2011). But for most people rushing off to work or school, it's easier to make lunch the main meal rather than breakfast. "Keep your evening meal light," Pick says.
Grab 10 -- not 40 -- winks. To counter a post-lunch alertness dip, make like a cat and squeeze in a brief nap sometime between 1 and 4 p.m., says Kimberly Cote, Ph.D., nap researcher and associate professor of psychology at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. "Research shows that napping improves alertness and mood," Cote says. If you're sleep-deprived, napping also may increase your productivity at work and reduce your risk of getting into an accident. Just keep it short. Cote says a 10-minute snooze is best for waking up refreshed and with minimal grogginess.
Lace up your walking shoes. Late afternoon is the ideal time for aerobic exercise and strength training, says Jim Waterhouse, professor of chronobiology at Liverpool John Moores University in England. Aerobic capacity and muscle strength increase throughout the day as body temperature and norepinephrine (a hormone that increases blood flow to muscles so they can perform better) levels rise, peaking at around 6 p.m.
"But motivation, which also follows a daily rhythm, is falling by then," Waterhouse says. Taking mind and body into account, the best time to work out is generally between 3 and 5 p.m. If you have to wait until later, finish your workout at least three hours before bedtime. Otherwise, the stimulating effects of exercise may make it harder to fall asleep.
Unroll your yoga mat. Flexibility also peaks in late afternoon. "We found that flexibility was greatest 10 to 12 hours after people's natural waking time," says Ann Swank, Ph.D., professor of exercise physiology at the University of Louisville in Kentucky.
For someone who rises at 6 a.m., peak flexibility occurs between 4 and 6 p.m. Your joints move a little more freely as body temperature rises. Plus, Swank says, fluid that accumulates in the spaces between vertebrae while you sleep gets pushed out as you move around during the day, increasing spinal flexibility. As a bonus, a gentle yoga or tai chi session is a great way to relieve stress at the end of a long day.
Shop your neighborhood Publix. After dinner is a great time to hit the supermarket, according to registered dietitian Ginn. By then, the after-work crowd has thinned, so checkout lines tend to be shorter. Plus, you will have eaten, which is important because it's never a good idea to shop on an empty stomach. "You're more likely to give in to cravings and buy things that aren't on your list when you're hungry," she warns. Prefer grocery shopping during the day? Ginn recommends going between 1 and 3, when you're still full from lunch.
Skip the midnight snack. "Don't eat anything within three hours of bedtime," Pick says. "If your body is working overtime on digestion, you're not going to get as restful sleep." Plus, late-night munching is a recipe for packing on pounds. A study on mice, published in the journal Obesity in 2009, showed that those fed when they would normally be sleeping gained more weight than those fed during times they're typically active.
Get ready for sleep. An hour before bedtime, stop working and start winding down, says Atlanta psychiatrist Tracey Marks, M.D., author of Master Your Sleep (Bascom Hill Publishing Group, 2011). Read a book, listen to music, meditate or relax in a warm bath -- but don't surf the web or update your Facebook page. "Electronic media is mentally stimulating, and the idea is to slow down your mind," Marks says. Dim the lights for this last hour as well. "When your eyes see darkness, your brain secretes the hormone melatonin, which helps regulate your sleep cycle," she explains. Use just a table lamp or dimmed overhead lights.
|Hit the sheets. For better sleep, Marks says, go to bed around the same time every night. To find your ideal bedtime, figure out how much sleep you generally need -- usually between seven and nine hours -- by noticing how long you snooze when you don't set the alarm. Then backtrack that number of hours from your normal wake-up time.|
When it's time to hit the sack, Marks says, lower your bedroom temperature and completely darken the room. Turn off all lights, close the blinds and cover LED displays. If light still creeps in, wear a sleep mask.