Circadian Rhythm Diet 101

“Your natural body clock is synchronized with your external environment through cues like exposure to light and the timing of your meals,” says Tong. The circadian rhythm diet, also known as the body clock diet, is basically a form of time-restricted eating plan where you eat in sync with this internal clock.

“This means that you eat during the daylight hours, within a window of 12 hours or less and fast for the remaining 12 or more hours each day,” Tong explains. “Ideally, aim to make breakfast and lunch your larger meals and dinner your smaller meal of the day,” she suggests.

While anyone can benefit from this diet, it’s particularly suitable for people who have metabolic diseases, like obesity and type 2 diabetes, says Tong. “It may also help those who are trying to cut down evening or late-night snacking and require some boundaries to help break the habit,” she adds. But before you kickstart your new diet, don’t forget to speak with your doctor or dietitian first, Tong advises.

How to do time-restricted eating right

For beginners, Pasternak suggests dividing your calorie intake into three main meals and two snacks, with the four pillars of food included in every meal—a high-quality protein (like fish or dairy), plenty of vegetables, a handful of quality fiber and healthy fats. “I also recommend incorporating fermented foods in your daily meals. Yogurt and cheese are some great options,” adds the nutritionist.

Additionally, have your morning meal within two hours of waking up. A typical healthy breakfast consists of key nutrients like protein, fiber, vitamins and healthy fats. “One of my favorite go-to meals in the morning is a smoothie. I like to hide some of my nutrients in there,” says Pasternak. “I like to throw in nuts, avocado, berries, whey protein, even fermented dairy in it,” tells the fitness expert.

At night, go for a lighter meal like baked salmon, black bean soup, avocado toast or a salad bowl.

Pasternak also suggests having a glass of warm milk as you wind down for bed as it may help you sleep better. “Some studies indicate that tryptophan, an essential amino acid found in milk and other protein-packed foods, may have a calming effect,” he says.

More importantly, “note that just because you are eating within a time-restricted window doesn’t mean that it’s okay to make poor food choices during this time,” says Tong. “Choosing nutrient-dense foods and practicing portion control is still important,” she adds.

Other than that, aim for at least seven hours of sleep each night, says Pasternak. “Cut out caffeine after noon, shut down electronics 30 minutes before bed and—if you need to—listen to a sound machine at night to drown out noises that may disrupt your sleep,” he suggests.

And lastly, try to be consistent with your routine— because the more regular your sleeping and eating habits are, the better your circadian rhythm works.