circadian rhythm woman turning off alarm clock

Circadian Fasting: Boost your Energy, Mood, and Life

 

By Amy Shah, MD, a double board-certified medical doctor specializing in allergies and immunology with medical training from Cornell, Harvard, and Columbia. Her book, I’m So Effing Tired: A Proven Plan to Beat Burnout, Boost Your Energy, and Reclaim Your Life, shows you how to bounce back by improving the complex relationship between your gut, your immune system, and your hormones.

 

Have you ever felt so tired, exhausted, or drained that you couldn’t even focus on your work, family, or relationships? Where you dreaded your mornings and the moment your alarm turned on because you woke up already so tired even though your day hadn’t even started?

That was me ten years ago: I was so overtired, overworked, and just exhausted. I was raising my two kids while studying for my medical boards while trying to build a thriving practice as an immunologist. And my body was trying to tell me that something was wrong and that it was time to take control of my life. I thought that feeling so tired was the new normal and that I just had to accept it, but now I know that I was wrong and that you shouldn’t feel like this.

In my new book I’m So Effing Tired, I share how you can beat burnout, weight gain, anxiety, and fatigue. Here are three of the most powerful tools to begin regaining your energy and your life.

1. Live in Sync With Your Circadian Rhythm

Throughout the history of humankind, we have witnessed how our lifestyle has changed completely; in the modern world, we now have access to many external stimuli, disrupting our biological clocks in different ways. Our human body is intelligent and works on this concept of rhythm, which is driven by nature. An important aspect of how nature and human bodies have been designed to work is our circadian rhythm, sleep-wake, or the day-night cycle.

It is an intelligence that generates feelings of wakefulness and sleepiness, hunger, and satiety during an entire 24-hour cycle. Pretty much everything is controlled through circadian rhythms–how much we sleep, eat and digest, when we secrete hormones, our stress levels, and much more. It basically controls different processes in our body that occur at different times during our days and nights.

Pretty much everything is controlled through circadian rhythms–how much we sleep, eat and digest, when we secrete hormones, our stress levels, and much more. —@Amyshahmd Click To Tweet

To live in sync with your circadian rhythm:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time.
  • Have a restful sleep, sleeping 7–9 hours most nights.
  • Take 10-20 minutes of sunlight every day before 10 AM. Centenarians in blue zones regions spend time outside on a daily basis which allows them to have optimal levels of vitamin D.
  • Limit exposure to blue light in the evening as much as you can (such as watching TV, staring at your phone, or walking around in a brightly lit grocery store).
  • Turn off any type of artificial/blue lights one hour before bedtime. 

2. Practice Circadian Fasting

In the blue zones region of Ikaria, long-living people observe about 150 days of religious fasting a year. There have been numerous studies on the health benefits of fasting. But I make it easy for you, modifying it into a circadian fast, which means you stop eating 2–3  hours before bed and fast until late in the morning.

In the blue zones region of Ikaria, long-living people observe about 150 days of religious fasting a year. There have been numerous studies on the health benefits of fasting. But I make it easy for you... —@Amyshahmd Click To Tweet

I recommend fasting on nonconsecutive  days and having “eating  windows” to help you achieve the benefits of Intermittent Fasting without the hormonal down-swing:

  • Start with a 12- to 16-hour fast three days a week (but not three days in a row).
  • On these three fast days, you should focus on healthy eating during a restricted window — say, from 10:00 a.m. to  7:00 p.m.  Typically,  you can achieve this by just delaying breakfast.
  • After you get comfortable, feel free to challenge yourself more on weekdays and then don’t fast on weekends to give yourself a rest.

[Related: Fasting Makes Our Cells Resilient to Stress]

3. Cut out inflammatory foods and increase your fiber foods

While everyone reacts differently to specific foods and it’s hard to know which foods may be causing you inflammation (you may need to test), for many people, foods like sugar,  processed dairy, gluten, alcohol, processed snacks, omega-6 oils, and processed soy can cause inflammation. And as you may know, inflammation is an energy leech. Try to limit and avoid inflammatory foods and increase your fiber intake.

And as you may know, inflammation is an energy leech. Try to limit and avoid inflammatory foods and increase your fiber intake. —@Amyshahmd Click To Tweet

Centenarians in blue zones ate a whole foods diet with tons of vegetables for their whole lives. So if you want to live long, fiber is really key. And vegetables in particular will give you more antioxidants and polyphenols, which can fight free radicals and can calm inflammation, plus give you the prebiotics you need to feed your good bacteria. Try to increase your vegetable intake to 6-11 servings per day and drink a lot of water.

[Related: 6 Ways to Improve Gut Health]

So if you want to live long, fiber is really key. —@Amyshahmd Click To Tweet

I believe that if you apply this teaching to your life, you’ll start feeling your energy surge. In time, you’ll feel like a whole new person. It’s time to regain the energy you’ve lost, so you can get back to the life you want to live.


I'm so effing tired book cover

 

Amy Shah, MD, is a double board-certified medical doctor specializing in allergies and immunology with medical training from Cornell, Harvard, and Columbia. Her book, I’m So Effing Tired: A Proven Plan to Beat Burnout, Boost Your Energy, and Reclaim Your Life, shows you how to bounce back by improving the complex relationship between your gut, your immune system, and your hormones.

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