Of these findings, one of the study’s researchers, Jonathan Johnston, reader in chronobiology and integrative physiology with the Faculty of Health and Medical Science at the University of Surrey, says meal times might help ensure our body’s many clocks sync up the way they’re supposed to — though he’s not sure exactly how it all works yet.
“In reality, there may well be multiple biological signals that together synchronize clocks to meal time,” he explains. “Animal studies have shown that clocks outside of the brain (especially in tissues key to metabolism, such as the liver) will synchronize to timed food in preference to other external cues, such as light. How this works is still not clear. There is evidence that glucose (blood sugar) itself can synchronize clocks in cells grown in a dish. I imagine that future studies will explore whether certain types of food are most effective at resetting clocks,” says Johnston.
After all, what you eat and when you eat it can make all the difference in how you metabolize food. “The body processes meals differently at different times of day. For example, it has been shown that blood sugar (glucose) and fat response to a meal varies across the body’s daily cycle,” says Johnston. “In the long term, eating a higher percentage of daily calories in the morning helps weight loss and a higher percentage of calories in the evening leads to weight gain,” he explains. So, in a way, it makes sense that eating a big meal late could potentially keep your body too busy digesting your food to wind down.
Though he says timed light exposure is still the best way of resetting your biological clock, what he refers to as the “master clock” in the brain, Johnston says timed melatonin supplements and timed meals may also help us to speed up acclimation to a new time zone, for example. So, to beat jet lag, absorb as much natural light as you can when you get to where you’re going, dim the hotel lights when you want to settle in and avoid eating dinner too late. And by all means, skip the midnight snack.
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