Skipping breakfast or snacking just before bed can increase your risk of a heart attack, according to a new US study. But it’s not just when we eat that’s important to our health. The timing of everything from exercise to sleep can also be crucial.
We all have a 24–hour internal body clock which is responsible for revving up hunger or energy levels, and calming us before we sleep. Understanding your body clock means you can synchronise your daily activities with it, helping control your weight, improve sleep and boost energy levels.
Thanks to research on the body’s natural rhythms, scientists have managed to pinpoint the best times for working up a sweat, enjoying a drink, using your brainpower or even making love. Follow our 24–hour activity plan, to help your body clock work for you...
Research suggests that 7.30 am is the optimum get–out–of bed time to set you up for the day ahead and it could also protect your heart. One study at the University of Westminster, London, found that, regardless of what time they go to bed, people who rise between 5.22 am and 7.21 am have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their bloodstream, which could make them more prone to stressinduced heart attacks.
Eat within an hour of rising
New research by Harvard School of Public Health found that people who skipped breakfast increased their heart attack risk by a third. The reason to eat soon after waking is that a full night’s sleep also means eight hours without food for your body, so in a bid to conserve energy, your levels of leptin and insulin drop dramatically. These two blood sugar hormones affect how fast your body turns food into fuel and low levels make you feel sluggish. Eating triggers a rise in leptin and insulin, which tells your body that the overnight fast isn’t a famine and boosts your energy levels.
Go for a brisk 10–minute walk
But not a major workout. Researchers at Brunel University, London, found that athletes who trained early in the morning were more vulnerable to colds and flu, because the immune system is at its weakest at this time.
However, a short walk can be just enough to kick–start your metabolism, which isn’t working at full fat–burning capacity first thing, because your thyroid gland is still asleep. This gland pumps out hormones that control how quickly your body burns calories and stores fat, but it needs a push to get going in the morning.
Tackle tricky work
Researchers at the Sleep–Wake Disorders Center in New York found that people are at their most alert a couple of hours after waking. This is because levels of cortisol – the stress hormone that in healthy doses can help your mind focus better – rise naturally at this time.
Stop for a good–sized lunch
As 1 pm draws closer, your body’s production of the hunger hormone ghrelin rises, which slows your metabolism and makes it hard to
focus. So, it’s vital to stop and refuel properly. Choosing a protein–rich meal such as paneer/ chicken salad to keep energy high and food cravings low all afternoon. As food enters your stomach it stimulates production of two hormones – peptide YY and oxyntomodulin – that create a feeling of satiety. By adding slow–digesting protein, you ensure a steady release of these ‘I’m full’ messengers.
Try and take a nap
Our body clock is designed to have a dip in wakefulness six hours after wake–up time – suggesting we’re biologically programmed for a post–lunch nap. A University of Athens study found that people who took a nap for 30 minutes at least three times a week were 37 per cent less likely to die from heart disease. For most of us, being at work makes a nap impossible, so sit quietly for 15 minutes around this time to help you recharge.
Hit the gym
Straight after work is the best time to head for a strenuous workout, according to research. One US study found lung function is at its best around 5pm – making this the perfect time to exercise. Core body temperature is at its optimal level at this time. This means the heart functions well, muscles are warm, tendons flexible and reaction time is sharp.
Eat a light dinner
It can take seven hours for food to reach the small intestine and be fully digested, so eating a heavy meal in the evening can result in bloating and disrupt sleep. Opt for a meal high in vegetables, with smaller portions of carbs and protein – such as grilled fish with salad or a chicken and vegetable stir–fry. Take heart pills Taking blood–pressure tablets at
night may better control your hypertension and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke by a third. It’s recommended that cholesterol medicines be taken at bedtime instead of first thing in the morning, as a study at the University of Sunderland found that when patients taking a common statin switched from evening to morning, there was a significant increase in ‘bad’ cholesterol levels.
Libido tends to peak between 10 pm and 1 am. Other research has found that ovulation typically occurs at midnight, which means this is also the best time to conceive.
Go to sleep
Hitting the hay now will allow you up to eight hours sleep if you are getting up at 7.30am. Going to bed at this time will help synchronise your body clock. Sleep well and feel refreshed the following morning when the 24–hour cycle starts all over again.
Times of India
13 Aug 2013