[0:01:00] Podcast Sponsors
[0:04:22] Introduction to Dr. Satchin Panda
[0:06:21] About TRE
[0:10:52] Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine Diet
[0:13:39] Number of Meals in TRE
[0:18:00] TRE on Endurance Sports
[0:22:32] TRE Improves Motor Coordination
[0:24:00] Time of the day for TRE
[0:30:03] Coffee Breaks the Fast
[0:33:49] Product Sponsors
[0:37:05] continuation: Coffee Breaks the Fast
[0:38:37] About “Zeitgebers”
[0:42:25] Best Time of Day to Exercise
[0:48:05] Idea of Biphasic Sleep
[0:53:13] Managing Jet Lag
[0:56:23] The Concept of Melatonin
[1:03:26] Gut Clock
[1:08:22] Medications and Supplements’ Timing to the Circadian Rhythm
[1:12:19] Blue Light Blocking Glasses
[1:22:20] TRE in a Nutshell and Dr. Panda’s Book
[1:23:33] Closing the Podcast
[1:23:43] End of Podcast
Ben: I have a master’s degree in physiology, biomechanics, and human nutrition. I’ve spent the past two decades competing in some of the most masochistic events on the planet from SEALFit Kokoro, Spartan Agoge and the world’s toughest mudder, the 13 Ironman triathlons, brutal bow hunts, adventure races, spearfishing, plant foraging, free diving, bodybuilding and beyond. I combine this intense time in the trenches with a blend of ancestral wisdom and modern science, search the globe for the world’s top experts in performance, fat loss, recovery, gut hormones, brain, beauty and brawn to deliver you this podcast. Everything you need to know to live an adventurous, joyful, and fulfilling life. My name is Ben Greenfield. Enjoy the ride.
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As promised, this is the official podcast on Hugh Jackman’s famous Wolverine diet, but I do not actually have the Wolverine himself on the show. I have the next best thing to the Wolverine though, Dr. Satchin Panda. He has written this fantastic new book called, “The Circadian Code.” This is like some of the gems that I come across. One of those books where I folded over lots of pages and developed many questions that I want to delve into with Dr. Panda.
Now, get the book regardless. Read the book but we’re going to unpack and explore some of the details of the things that I found most fascinating in the book, particularly focused around time-restricted eating. Dr. Panda has done some fantastic research around time-restricted eating. And if you’re not familiar with him, he is actually one of the world’s leading experts and researchers in focusing on how circadian clocks to regulate behavior and physiology and metabolism. He was the guy who discovered how a blue light sensor in our eyes affects our sleep, white cycles and our depression and our alertness. And he himself also follows quite a bit of this time-restricted eating protocols so he’s got a lot of practical knowledge as well. So, this stuff extends to everything from acid reflux to heartburn to irritable bowel disease to diabetes to cancer to dementia. To, for those of you who maybe aren’t sick but are trying to go from good to great; weight loss, better sleep, better exercise, even better management of our technology and the way that we use them.
So, I’m really excited to talk to Dr. Panda. Dr. Panda, welcome to the show.
Satchin: Hi, Ben. I’m happy to be on your show.
Ben: Yeah. There’s this term that you throw around in the book over and over again and it’s TRE, TRE. A large part of the book is, of course, about TRE. So, I realize this might be kind of an involved question. I’m fine with you delving into the science but what is TRE and what does it have to do with the circadian code?
Satchin: Well, so TRE it means Time-Restricted Eating. That means that you don’t have to mindfully restrict your calorie, no calorie intake restriction or CIR, but be mindful about when you had your first calorie of the day and when is the last calorie of the day, and then try to have all those calories within somewhere between 8 to 10 or maximum, 12 hours every single day. And that’s why–
Ben: That’s–I just want to interrupt you real quick. You just now said that it wasn’t calorie restriction but it was instead this compressed feeding window. Can you explain why that is?
Satchin: Yeah. For a long period of time in Nutrition Science, we have studied how quality and quantity of calories affect our health. So, that means we always pay attention to how many calories we’re eating or we pay attention to food levels and then try to do the math. How much protein carb and fat we have consumed.
But for a lot of people, it’s not very practical. It’s very difficult to do that. What we found was a very simple laboratory experiment that even without reducing calorie or changing quality of diet, if we give a laboratory mice, lab mice, access to food for only 8 to 12 hours every day, they consume the same number of calories from the same identical food as mice that have ad libitum or 24 access to food. But surprisingly, these mice which are on TRE, they do not gain weight, they don’t become diabetic. They have completely healthy heart. They have much more endurance and they have low inflammation and many, many great health benefits. Not only that. If we take sick mice who are random eating around the clock and not mindful about the timing of eating, if we, again, time restrict them to only 8 to 10 hours every day, they don’t reduce their calories, they eat the same identical food. And within 12 to 14 weeks, they also become healthier.
In humans, there are now new studies, independent studies from labs we are not connected with. They have also shown that in very controlled studies, if these human volunteers, reduced the time window, in this case, very extreme time window, six hours every day, then these people also improve their health without reducing calorie. So, in this way, what we are adding is very profound because nutrition and health science, for the last 100 years, has been telling us to count calories and mind the nutrition content.
Ben: Yeah. Be cold and hungry. Live a long time but be cold and hungry the whole time you’re doing it.
Satchin: Yeah. And now if we do time restriction, then it becomes easier for all of us because if you think about it, our entire days organize around time. We meet people at certain time. We drop our kids at certain time. Everything goes around time. And now, if we think about food and compress it to a certain time window, then in real life for most of us what happens is we also reduce a little bit of calorie, we may also improve our nutrition quality, and I’ll get into the detail why does that happen, but this is a nice segue into getting back your overall health and wellness.
Ben: Alright. I have a lot of questions about how to logistically pull this off and what the compressed feeding window actually looks like but before we get into that I have to tackle the elephant in the room and that is this. What is the deal with Hugh Jackman and time-restricted eating? Is it true that he did some version of this for the Wolverine diet for the, I guess, it would have just been…? It’s not the X-Men movie but the latest Wolverine series.
Satchin: I think it started a few years ago and I saw that in newspaper that he deliberately ate a lot of protein within an eight-hour eating window, eight to nine hour eating window, and then put on a lot of muscle for this particular movie. And, this is also becoming a new trend in Hollywood now. The new trend is to eat everything within 8 to 10 hours and stop eating after 7:00 p.m. And what we’re finding is what he did is also a trend among many bodybuilders who want to build body but don’t want to go through the trouble of eating, waking up in the middle of the night and trying to eat something to build muscle. And we know that that type of eating puts a lot of stress on your system because the gut is always busy. Many people who try to body build that way also complain about their gut health sleeping problem, et cetera. Whereas compressing everything in 8 to 10 hours helps in a way that during the fasting period when the muscle repairs itself then it gets rid of the old and damaged protein from muscle and then every day with the new source of amino acids coming from the food, it can repair and regenerate. So, the bottom line with time-restricted eating is during the fasting time there is enough opportunity for the body whether it’s muscle, gut, liver, all these organs they get enough time to repair, reset and rejuvenate every day. So, just like you cannot repair a house or paint a house when people are still living or it cannot repair a highway when the traffic is still moving, it’s really hard to repair, reset and rejuvenate every night if we have food in our system and if we eat at the wrong time.
Ben: So, this idea of being able to build muscle while you’re on this compressed feeding window or this time-restricted eating strategy, I think a big part of it comes down to when you are actually eating to eat a pretty high number of calories. Now, in terms of how that’s done, have you guys looked at all whether that’s best achieved via one meal or two meals or three meals? Like I know some people who will go all day without eating and then have one enormous meal towards the end of the day, others really two or three meals. I know one popular diet now is people doing some pretty significant calorie restriction for like six days a week and then having one giant feeding day at the end of the week. Is there one strategy that seems to work best when it comes to this?
Satchin: Actually, we haven’t gone a detail into this particularly in human because it’s really hard to bring human subjects, get them in lab, give them specific type of diet, control everything else. So, it’s really hard to say which one will work the best. But, what we have seen is many endurance or even resistance-trained athletes, when they try to do 8 to 10 hours, mind they have been they have been trying everything else. So, they are at the top of their game. What they’re trying to figure out is if they eat for eight hours, are they going to lose any muscle mass because people always think that if you fast overnight then you will break down your muscle to maintain your blood glucose level, which is partly true. But, the muscle protein that you break down also helps to break down the damaged muscle proteins and reuse them for maintaining blood glucose. It also gives opportunity to build up muscle.
So, to come back to your questions, we haven’t tried to see whether one meal, two meals, three meals are a very short window of eating might help. What we have seen is particularly women who want to eat everything within a very short window, three to four hours or five hours, maybe there are some of them, very few of them, may be slightly susceptible to getting adverse reactions. For example, they may increase their chance of gallstone and then some of them may become may see some problem with their menstrual cycle but among we haven’t gone deep into finding testing whether one, two or three meals work.
Ben: So, would the window of eating then be different for men versus women? Would men do better with an eight-hour compressed feeding window whereas women might want to do something closer to a 10 or 12?
Satchin: So that, again, we haven’t tested systematically. What we find is most people who follow this time-restricted eating, they try to do between 8 and 10. And then some people who are trying to lose weight but at the same time have other family obligation, they go between 10 and 12. So, it’s very hard to sustain eating under less than 8 hours and have a family life. So, I won’t say that men and women should have slightly different eating window. What boils down to is how many hours you are sleeping, how many hours you are eating and how it fits with your current lifestyle.
Ben: Yeah. You have a story of Dr. Rhonda Patrick in the book and how she experimented with this a little bit and she’s obviously a pretty rigorous self-experimenter when it comes to a lot of these things and I think what she wound up finding was that for her, as an active female, it was close to like a 12-hour time restricted window. She didn’t see quite as high levels of ketosis but apparently had better endurance performance and felt less tired during performance but the–
Ben: Go ahead.
Satchin: Yeah, Rhonda has tried 10 hours 11, 12. In fact, for most part of the last couple of years, she was also expecting a baby and then she has a baby now. So, it becomes very difficult for pregnant women and also new moms to restrict their eating to less to 8 hours or less because of many obvious reasons. They’re trying to actually eat for two people and it’s a big stress. So, you have to kind of balance between what is stressful and what is good for you.
Ben: Yeah. I think pregnant women just need to stuff their face with really good nutrient-dense food whenever they’re hungry. I think that’s what I would love for if I could go back and be a baby for my mom to be doing, just eating liver and grass-fed butter and bone broth all day long.
This study that you did on resistance trained athletes was an eight-hour time restricted feeding window for 10 weeks where they lost fat and they did not see a decline in muscle mass and a lot of other health markers and metabolic markers improved, but then you also looked at how this affects endurance training. What did you find out when you combined time-restricted eating with endurance sports?
Satchin: So, we haven’t tried endurance sports in human athletes. What we have tried is in mice because we always start with mice and we can control everything else. This was kind of a very surprising effect for us because when we initiated this experiment, these mice were fed a very high-fat, high-fructose or high-sucrose diet. They were getting 45 to 65% of the calories from fat and 20% calories from sucrose. And this diet has been used in more than 11,500 peer-reviewed scientific manuscripts to make mice sick. And then, those mice are given either a drug or some gene manipulation to see the effect of drug or gene on health.
The bottom line was when we did time-restricted eating on these mice, we wanted to see whether the mice lost endurance capacity because anybody would suspect that these mice is eating unhealthy food and fasting for 12 to 16 hours and they must have lost some endurance. So, when we put these mice on treadmill. We trained them for a couple of days and then we put them on treadmill and we run them until time to exhaustion, when they cannot run anymore and then we take them out and feed them.
So, when we did this, a regular mouse will run on a treadmill for say, an hour or 60 minutes. That is unhealthy diet, eating randomly whenever he wants. If a mouse eats this unhealthy high-fat, high-sucrose diet, he usually run somewhere between 45 minutes to 50 minutes, slight reduction in endurance. It means almost 25% reduction in endurance.\
Satchin: But surprisingly, when we had these mice eat the same unhealthy diet for only eight hours, those mice run for 150 minutes. And that was really eye-popping because I could not believe that these mice were running that long. So, we had we have been experimenting and what we find is when mice eat between 8 to 10 hours, they have this endurance benefit. When they eat between 10 to 12 hours even though they have the same body weight, same muscle mass, they don’t have that endurance benefit.
Ben: So that would be something as significant as for endurance athletes, like the difference between eating between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. versus eating between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.
Satchin: Yeah. That was really amazing that we saw that. Certainly, we have been hearing from many participants in myCircadianClock study. We’ll talk about that later. Many people who try to do this between 8 to 10 hours versus 10 to 12 hours, they do see an improvement in the endurance or at least they are not as tired as they used to be after the same endurance exercise. Which brings up a lot of different interesting questions for us as scientists; why this happens? How can we mimic this? Is it due to ketogenesis, mild ketogenesis that may be happening or is it due to the muscles getting repaired every day much better or a combination of all? Is it because the heart function improves because we know that time-restricted eating substantially improves cardiac function?
Although, we see the effect and we are very confident that it’s happening both in mice and humans, of course in humans we don’t see doubling of endurance as we see in mice but this is becoming more and more solid and we are more confident about it.
Ben: Yeah. The other one that you mentioned in the book was an improvement in motor coordination which is also significant, of course, not just for endurance athletes and athletes of all varieties but also important for things like motor-skill acquisition or learning for example musical instruments or anything like that that would involve motor coordination. It seems that it’s having a pretty significant effect on that too.
Satchin: Yeah. So, what we find is a lot of a lot of our daily activities, motor coordination and even when we age, one thing that we slowly lose is motor coordination. So, that’s why elderly people are more at a higher risk for fall when they are taking the stairs. That’s why we got interested in checking what happens to these mice when they’re on time-restricted eating. I really think that is benefit both in the central nervous system or the neurons and also in the muscle so that the way the neurons connect with the muscle and coordinate that muscle movement and feed back to the brain and then again, send that information to the opposite limb here on the leg to coordinate this movement. That improves substantially when mice go through time-restricted eating.
Ben: Now, the feeding window. I just mentioned like 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. as an example of an 8-hour but did you look at all at what time of day would be best to start eating and what time of day would be best to finish eating? Because obviously somebody could wait until lunch and then have their last meal at 8:00 p.m. or eat from 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. or 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. So, what did you find?
Satchin: Yes. So, what we’re finding is most American adults eat for more than 12 hours and 50% eat for more than 15 hours longer. So, then the question is, okay. So, the first steps would be just try to reduce your eating window to maybe, initial targets would be 10 hours because if you try for 10 hours, you may end up at 12. Maybe you find it easy and then may you may start at eight hours. Now, the question is, how do you time that? So, if we take almost consensus agreement that we should give ourselves opportunity to sleep for 8 hours and out of that maybe we’ll we’re sleeping for 7 hours. Then you give yourself 8 hours in bed then after waking up, we still have some melatonin that’s going down, that’s the sleep hormone. And then, alertness hormone or cortisol begins to rise. It reaches its peak maybe 45 minutes to an hour and half after we wake up. So, that one hour after waking up, I call it the changing of the guards when the sleep hormones are going down and wake up hormones are coming up. Try to avoid eating within that hour. So, that brings us to 9 hours, 8 + 1.
Before going to bed again, two to three hours before going to bed melatonin level begins to rise and we’ll get to why one should not eat during that time. And also, not eating for two to three hours before going to bed helps you sleep better. So, now you got 9 hours plus 2 to 3, that’s 11 to 12 hours that you have taken away from food. So, now you have a window of 12 hours to play with.
Now, the question is whether that went to time your meal should it be aligned to the local time or geological time or to your internal time? If someone is waking up at 6:00 a.m., for example, for that person when he or she can start eating from 7:00 onwards. If someone is consistently waking up at 8:00 a.m. then maybe 9:00 onwards is the right time. And then, the question is, well, if someone is doing 8 hours where there early 8 hours late 8 hours which one is better so this is where we are kind of trying to figure out one has gone from getting zero benefit to getting maybe 70, 80% benefit and then we have splitting the hair now whether one should get 80% benefit versus 90% benefit. This is where the common sense and your current lifestyle comes into play. If someone has to attend a lot of evening, social dinners and unavoidable stuff at home. For example, one has to eat with children or your spouse is working late and everyday you can only eat after 8:00 then it’s better to have a late time-restricted eating where the end of your eating happens relatively later in the evening.
If you don’t have those obligations–
Ben: Yeah, yeah. That’s actually, by the way, what we do. I eat a late breakfast because our family has too many things going on in the evening. We have to have a late dinner if we want have dinner together as a family. So, it works best for me to just wait have a late breakfast or a very light mid-morning breakfast and then I’ll have a little bit larger lunch and then dinner with the family. But dinner is often as late as 8:00 p.m. and I don’t really necessarily endorse eating that late if your number one goal is circadian rhythmicity or even weight loss, but I think for our family and we’re pretty lean and healthy as it is. We all sleep well and for me the importance of a family social time at the end of the day kind of trumps this concept of eating dinner slightly earlier.
Satchin: Yeah. So, that’s why I think one should not think that, “Okay. If I cannot eat that until 8:00 o clock, I have no time doing time-restricted eating.” You can still do, you can still see a lot of benefits and we haven’t seen any significant difference between early or late. Although, there are quite a few papers now showing that people who eat late, they don’t lose as much weight or they may gain weight. But in many of the studies, they haven’t specifically looked at when these people are going to bed because if you give yourself two to three hours between your last meal and going to bed, I think that will still be quite beneficial as opposed to just eating your last meal at 10:00 p.m. and then going to bed at 10:30. That’s not going to give too much benefit.
Ben: Yeah. And I guess my little hack for this is is even though I go to bed about 10:00. Like I mentioned, we eat dinner often around 8:00. I do use a lot of digestive enzymes and bitters and digestives as part of that evening dinner just because as you note in the book, the body, in terms of sleep and circadian rhythm and repair and rejuvenation, should not necessarily be digesting food when your head hits the pillow. So, I try and use some amount of supplementation actually helped that out a little bit in the evening, but that’s actually something else I wanted to ask you was this idea of not just supplements but like coffee, tea, all these things that would be considered either negligible in terms of number of calories or something that wouldn’t be considered a meal. You actually say in the book that breaks a fast, that if you wake up in the morning and you have coffee at 8:00 a.m. but maybe you’re waiting until 10:00 a.m. that that coffee breaks a fast. I think a lot of people are confused by that. Can you explain why it is that you write that in the book?
Satchin: For most Americans, people enjoy their coffee with cream and sugar. When I step outside, I have, say, Starbucks or Pete’s Coffee early in the morning, I rarely see maybe less than 10% of people actually drink a black coffee.
Ben: Yeah. Cream or sugar or butter and MCT oil.
Satchin: Yeah. So, there is something going in addition to coffee. And then, if you think about why we drink coffee, the number one cause is, “Well, we may not be well-rested at night. We need that coffee to wake up and get going in the day.” So, this dependence in coffee to start your day is an indication that you are not getting enough sleep. So, you got to work–
Ben: I don’t know. It could just be that you like coffee. I sleep like a rock and even if I’m not tired, I love to have a cup of coffee in the morning.
Satchin: So, I’m getting to the next point.
Satchin: Next point is well, if someone is a night-shift worker and who works like a firefighter all night, has taken 10 calls and is sleep-deprived and has to get home in the morning. Of course, we don’t want this person to be sleep-deprived and driving. So, it’s okay for this person to have coffee and stay awake and hit the road. In that case, we don’t even say whether that should be coffee or cream. This person has to be alert.
The reason why I say coffee breaks your fast or breaks–When I say fasting, it’s actually not the idea of putting calories but it’s the idea of keeping all your organs rest and rejuvenate. So, just imagine when you’re drinking coffee, your coffee is getting digested. Its absorbed by the intestine, so the epithelial cells are working on it to absorb it. They’re sending it to your liver then the liver sends it to rest of your body and brain and you are waking up. In this process, just like I said, when you cannot repair a highway when the traffic is still moving, of course coffee, may not be the 18-wheelers running on the highway. It might be a bicycle or a few people but still it does, in that literal sense, wakes up the system. The second thing that we also find is coffee can reset circadian clock. So, that means if I take skin cells culture [0:32:42] ______ and monitor the circadian rhythm and add some caffeine to that cell culture medium, then that resets the clock. So, in that way, one can use this knowledge in a constructive way. So, just like I said, in the morning if you are sleep-deprived, maybe it’s okay to have some black coffee because a cup of coffee is similar to having your clock exposed to one hour of bright light. So, in that way you can constructively use it in the first half of the day but after noon, having a cup of coffee for most people, not all, will disrupt their sleep so they may not go to deep restful sleep.
So, that’s why I think having coffee in the first half of the day is okay and if someone is starting very early in the morning, maybe black coffee is fine but adding cream and sugar will start this pancreas clock because that has to digest and absorb that extra glucose.
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Okay. So, it’s does jump start the circadian clock which would mean that coffee afternoon would probably not be a good idea in most cases unless you actually are trying to shift your circadian clock forward. But in the same way that you would want, for example, lots of exposure to blue light or preferably natural sunlight in the morning and in the same way that you would want to use other circadian cues like movement, for example, to jumpstart the circadian rhythm, you could use coffee as a way to regulate your circadian rhythm by drinking a non-calorie based source of coffee at some point in the morning.
Satchin: Yeah. It’s a great way for shift workers to reset their clock and also stay a lot because many of shift workers, we don’t want them to be sleep deprived on the job and make bad decisions.
Ben: But any–
Satchin: So, in those cases–yeah.
Ben: Any type of coffee that has calories added to it or you could even argue sweeteners added to it would cause a flux of digestive enzymes and in creating hormones and gastrointestinal affects that would indeed cause something very similar to a breaking of the fast that would disrupt some of the metabolic benefits you’re trying to get out of a time-restricted eating window. That, I guess, that makes sense even if you say put some cream in your coffee and go exercise like you’re burning the calories with exercise but that still doesn’t really negate any of the effects that might have on circadian rhythm.
Now, one question I wanted to ask you about regarding this was there are a lot of folks who recommend for jet lag, and I’ve said this myself before that you use a lot of these–What do they call them? Zeitgebers, zeitgeists, things that can jump-start the circadian rhythm. Do you know what I’m referring to?
Ben: Is it zeitgeist? Is that the word?
Ben: Yeah, zeitgeber. Zeitgebers would be thing like exposure to light, movement and even what one could say things that might cause a slight cortisol release like a cup of coffee. But a commonly discussed zeitgeber is food like having a meal at the normal time where you’d normally be eating when you get to where you’re going. So, even though I skip breakfast a lot or eat a late breakfast when I’m at home, sometimes when I’m traveling like if I go all the way over to Japan and I wake up at the hotel, I’ll go down and have breakfast at like 8:00 or 9:00 a.m. to get my circadian rhythm aligned to that new time zone. Do you think that that is a myth? Do you think it’s a good idea? Do you think it’s a bad idea? What about using food as a way to jumpstart your circadian rhythm after you’ve traveled heavily?
Satchin: Yes, for a very long time we thought that light is the only zeitgeber or time giver for our circadian clock. In fact, I have spent half of my research carrier working on the effect of light on clock. And yes, it is true that light does reset our brain clock, but in addition to brain clock we also have clocks throughout the body. Only in the last few years we’re finding that the rest of the body clocks, they actually track when we eat. They don’t track that much when we see light. So, in that sense, resetting your clock by changing your food time seems to be more powerful.
And recently there are some studies done in rats showing that when rats are jet-lagged and then given food breakfast or the new light dark cycle or new time zone, you can say, then their circadian clock reset much faster than if they’re just given light alarm and with no control over food. So, in that way food works in many different ways. Just like you said, in the morning you go get a breakfast and of course when you are having a big breakfast in morning, you may not feel that hungry for lunch. So, maybe your lunch is a little bit smaller than what you usually eat and that helps in a different way. Because if you think about jet lag most of the daytime sleepiness that we experience in jet lag happens right after lunch which is a postprandial day in your alertness and if you reduce your lunch, not even have your lunch, then that reduces the chance that you’ll be sleepy in the afternoon.
So, in this way when someone’s travelling, giving yourself at least 12 hours a break from food, from the new breakfast time and then having a good breakfast, having a very small lunch or even skipping lunch most of the time I skip lunch because if I skipped lunch then I’d stay alert and listen to people in the afternoon. And then, after dinner, if you have a good dinner then you’ll naturally feel sleepy after dinner.
Ben: Yeah. The only thing I run into when I skip lunch is, of course, as an athlete, and you talked about this in the book actually and perhaps we can talk about this a little bit more. The best time of data exercise is, I think as you note in the book, like your body temperature peaks and your post-workout protein synthesis, your reaction time, even some hormones tend to peak in the later afternoon or early evening making that a good time of day to do more intense exercise. The only thing I’ve noted is that when I skip lunch, sometimes that late afternoon hard exercise session becomes increasingly difficult. So, I guess my current protocol is I actually eat a pretty good lunch and then I take a quick nap and when I get up from that nap, I will sometimes have just a touch of caffeine or some green tea or something that kind of picks me up. I’ll even like chomp on some nicotine gum or something to wake myself up and then get back into the day. And I feel pretty good with that type of scenario. So, I think sometimes for athletes skipping lunch if they are going to exercise late in the day and backfire to a certain extent.
Satchin: Yeah. I completely agree with you. My life is very sedentary. When I travel, I’m attending conferences where I have to sit in the conference after lunch and then listen to a few other talks and I barely get a chance to go for a run. Most of my runs are in the morning and I absolutely agree. If you are active and you’re really not exercising in the afternoon, it’s a bad idea to skip lunch.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. Now getting to that though, the time of day to exercise, you talked about that a little bit more in the book. Is there is there anything else that you wanted to explore when it comes to the best time of data exercise and some of the things that you found in your research?
Satchin: We always say that in both animals and controlled laboratory conditions in humans, there seems to a best time to exercise and as you mentioned, it’s late in the afternoon. And evolutionarily, that also makes sense because our ancestors hunter-gatherers or farmers, they had to get back to home in the evening. And they had to run back because evening or darkness was really unsafe. So, in that way, evolutionarily we have adapted to have better exercise in late afternoon and that means our cardiac function is much better, motor coordination is at its peak, muscle performance and muscle tone is great, and in that way, we have less risk for injury. So, in the book, I mentioned how people have gone back and looked at 25 years of NFL or NBA records when the athletes traveled from West Coast to East Coast and when they played after the jet travel and that has been replicated in many other studies and people are finding that yes, if the West Coast team travels to East Coast and then plays Monday night football, for example, then the West Coast team has a slightly better advantage of winning against the home team. So, that’s an indirect what you can say epidemiological support for this idea that evening exercise is good for you.
Ben: Yeah. That’s interesting. So, Monday Night Football basically the West Coast team traveling to the East Coast is going to have a performance advantage because the East Coast, they’re on the tail end of their performance rhythm based on circadian cicle whereas the West Coast isn’t the perfect performance window.
Satchin: Yeah. Now, of course, very carefully they watch when people are traveling and then they’re scheduling their game accordingly. Even for Olympics, they make sure that the athletes arrive few days before the event so that no one has that circadian advantage.
And where you can see that this is true, we have seen this in many, many different studies.
Satchin: So, coming back to how to use it. Of course, not everybody has that luxury of only exercising in the afternoon so that’s why I say well for an average person, exercising anytime is good in the morning. It has a different advantage because you are exercising with low glycogen and mild to moderate exercise with low glycogen helps to repair mitochondria and build mitochondria, which is always good. So, now the new emerging idea is one should once in a while trend in low glycogen state. And then, of course, in the afternoon, you are in your prime state so you can do both resistance and endurance training in the afternoon.
Ben: Yeah. I should note, by the way, to folks who are really fretting about this that, of course, the best time of day to exercise is the time when you’re going to actually do it.
Ben: So, I often break that rule like when I’m at a conference and I’m busy and I’m traveling, sometimes I get up in the morning and just crush it at the gym because I know that’s the only time I’m going to get to exercise. So, I get up in the morning and do it but I have the option to wait. I’ll go on an easy walk in the sunshine in the morning. This is the ideal day for me. I’ll do the easy walk in the sunshine or some yoga or sauna or go for an easy swim. And then, later on in that day, that’s when I’ll do any performance enhancing workouts or hit the weights or do like high-intensity interval training or something like that. So, sometimes the change is based on the situation you’re in.
I’d like to shift course here a little bit and talk about another, I guess, what you think could be a myth but I’m curious to hear you talk a little bit more about this. This is this idea of biphasic sleep. A lot of people will say our ancestors didn’t actually sleep through the night. They would go to bed and then they’d wake up at a certain point and start a fire and dance and make love and sit around, tell stories and go back to bed. What’s your take on that?
Satchin: Well, people have been looking at it even in the modern days. So, for example, there are three or four different studies that came out showing that people who still live a hunter-gatherer lifestyle in South America or in Africa, they don’t have this kind of biphasic sleep. They do actually sleep continuously and they don’t wake up and spend a couple of hours because imagine these people who are hunter-gatherers, light is not a luxury. They cannot just wake up and flip a switch and will have light and will have all this luxury. All of this came from only one historian who went around and looked at how people had described some of the sleep pattern and most of it came from rich royalties and noble people in different part of the world. And lot of it is actually from older people. We know as we get older, our sleep slowly deteriorates and we tend to wake up for many different reasons and when we wake up, of course, in those days people didn’t have any thing else to do so people…and even we, if we wake up, we are not just tossing and turning. We wake up and maybe check our emails and do something else and then go back to sleep.
So, then the question is, if something is commonly described in history, was it normal? So, for example, if I go back and gather a lot of historical evidence saying that, “Yes, in every culture having acid reflux,” there is description of acid reflux in almost every culture, night-time acid reflux. If it was common, is it normal to have acid reflux? No. So, that same thing happens to this. In many different historical documents, if somebody finds that people were waking up in the middle of the night, staying awake for an hour, was it healthy? No, because in those days people used to live up to 45 years or 40 years max. And so, I don’t think there is any evidence that says that anything that’s common is normal.
Satchin: In fact, in these days it’s much more important because we don’t have the luxury of having 12 to 12 hours of darkness. Because remember in those historical time, people had the luxury of sleeping, of being in bed room for nine, 10 or 11 hours. So, even if they slept for four to six hours, woke up did something else, went back to sleep for two to three hours, it was okay for them. But if we wake up in the middle of the night, we have a very compressed window. A lot of us are lucky enough to get seven hours of sleep and within that seven hours, if we wake up for two hours then we are losing our sleep.
So, what we’re finding with time-restricted eating was really interesting that with time deteriorating people’s core body temperature, pulse slightly more and the arousal threshold goes up. So, they actually get into deeper sleep and they don’t wake up. A lot of them they don’t wake up at 3’o clock at 4 o’clock in the morning. That tells us that maybe there is a biological reason or there is a biological mechanism why we deteriorate our sleep as we get older because our arousal threshold goes down. And then, by reinforcing our circadian rhythm, we can get back that continuous sleep.
Ben: Yeah. You talk in the book about how they would actually put sleep trackers on some of these populations like the Hosda and Tanzania or the Tolba in Argentina and they actually did not find any signs of two-phase sleep. These people just go to bed around 9:00 or 10:00 and then then wake up around dawn. This two-phased sleep in our modern society, of course, is when you wake up and mid sleep for four hours, you dig into your cell phone, you open up Facebook and then you’re on YouTube, and then you’re into the mail. Yeah, I think perhaps some people fabricated that as an excuse to lay in their phones, dink around on their phones at night. But I thought was interesting how you kind of dispelled that myth of two-faced sleep in the book.
Another thing I wanted to talk about a little bit that you explored is jet lag and airplane travel and how we can manage some of these things that go around jet lag. One thing that you talked about particularly that I haven’t heard discussed very much before was this idea of figuring out ways that you can enhance your oxygen availability when you’re flying. Can you explain?
Satchin: Yes. So, when we are flying, the jet lag actually relates to many things. One is we stay awake, watch a lot of TVs and then we think we should get our–what ticket’s worth of food so we eat more. But the one thing that we often forget is we are flying in a plane where the air pressure is set to say 15,000 feet 10,000 feet or even in some cases worse than that. There are many nice studies, very well-controlled studies of a long period of time people have shown that in fact low oxygen in transatlantic flight or a long-haul that is so low that it can reduce your dissolved oxygen level in your blood and it can even sometimes come down to as low as 90%.
So, then the question is, how do you breathe more? What I have been doing is I put a sleep right or breathe right, one of these sleeping aids that goes on the nose or inside the nose that keeps the nostril open, and in that way, I can breathe more air because the airplane air is less in oxygen and if I can breathe more, then I can breathe more oxygen.
Ben: That’s interesting. So, this is just like one of those same type of things you’d see like football players wearing, or a lot of Tour de France cyclists will use these pictures one called a Turbine, it’s a nasal dilator to increase air flow. But you actually wear one of these on an airplane.
Satchin: Yeah. Yeah, my travel companion is always a neck pillow, the ear plugs, eye mask and then a breathing aid.
Ben: If you have a good moisturizer or even like a little bit of sesame oil or almond oil or olive oil, the other thing– I think this was a tip given to me–actually, I read this in the book, “Change Your Schedule, Change Your Life.” A book written by an Ayurvedic physician. You’d probably like that book. It actually explores some of the concepts we’re talking about today but more from an Ayurvedic medicine standpoint. He gets into the concepts of the air on the planes being very dry and how you can actually smear the inside of your nostrils with some sort of like a good toxin-free oil and that that can enhance your ability to be able to get more oxygen and battle jet lag a little bit as well. So, I would imagine that the two in combination could work quite well.
Satchin: Yeah, the airplane–yeah, it is very low humidity so that’s a no-brainer to have some moisturizer.
Ben: Well, I have a flight coming up tomorrow morning so I may have to try this. I have a bunch of these nasal dilators and I definitely have olive oil so may give it a go.
Okay. So, how about the concept of melatonin? Because obviously, a lot of people will travel with melatonin for what we were just talking about for jet lag. Some people just use little bit every night before they go to bed. But can you get into the idea of melatonin and meal timing? I think a lot of people don’t understand the interplay between melatonin and insulin and blood glucose.
Satchin: Yeah, so this story actually started in 2002 or 2003 when these modern human genetic studies started looking at which gene mutations are linked to obesity diabetes. Surprisingly, people are expecting that genes linked to say glucose metabolism will be on the top of the list. But, surprisingly, they found two or three genes that shocked them. One was melatonin receptor gene and then the other one is a clock component called cryptochrome. I’m not going to cryptochrome but the melatonin story took around 10 to 15 years to really pan out because it was obesity diabetes research and people are not familiar with what’s the link between melatonin and obesity. The story is this. For melatonin or any hormone to act, these hormones are like keys and they have to go and bind to their target which is a lock and then they unlock and then cause an effect.
So, similarly, melatonin binds to its receptor or you can say the lock is melatonin receptor 1B and that’s how melatonin puts down your brain to sleep. But, surprisingly, the same receptor is also found in the pancreas. Then people got curious, what is melatonin doing to the pancreas? To make a long story short, it actually makes pancreas to sleep. That means, even if your blood sugar level is increasing pancreas would sense that blood sugar level and produce a little bit more insulin to help your muscle and liver to absorb that blood sugar. When it is sleeping under the influence of melatonin, then it doesn’t do that. So, it produces less insulin and blood sugar can remain high for a little bit longer time.
Nearly half of our population has this mutation in melatonin receptor that makes this effect of melatonin on pancreas much more potent. So, that means nearly half of the people have this mutation there they cannot reduce their blood glucose for up to two hours after having an evening meal if the melatonin is already high, whereas the other half, may bring down bring down blood sugar relatively okay.
This fits with a very old idea that was prevalent in 1970s and ’80s that used to be called evening diabetes. We also see that even in these days when we monitor people’s blood glucose continuously. That is if I check into a hospital and then get my blood glucose tested in the morning in response to a test meal where I drink a glass of juice or something and then the physician tests my blood sugar level for after two hours, I may come out okay. I’m not diabetic. But, in the evening, say at 8 o clock, even if I have fasted for eight hours or nine hours in the daytime I go check into the hospital and then do the same test my blood sugar will remain high for a longer time and that happens with almost everybody. Now, we have an explanation because in the evening our melatonin begins to rise, maybe it’s making our pancreas go to sleep and that’s why a blood sugar remains high. For those people who already are at a high risk for diabetes or those who have pre-diabetes and on top of that if they even had this gene mutation in melatonin receptor 1B, they’re at a very high-risk for this postprandial blood glucose or if they have extra melatonin right after or right before their evening dinner.
Ben: This is interesting to me not only because it means that you should be careful with taking a melatonin supplement right after you’ve had dinner but also if you think about when you wake up, I know that some melatonin, of course, when you wake up, is still going to be in your system. If you wake at let’s say, 6:30 in around 7:30 or 8:00. So, to me that seems like yet another reason to perhaps not have breakfast right when you wake up because if melatonin is shutting down the pancreatic production of insulin you actually would have higher postprandial blood glucose with morning breakfast if you eat breakfast too early.
Satchin: Yeah. So, that’s why I said that in the morning, give yourself at least an hour before you have your first calorie. That’s when the melatonin level is slowly going down. Most of us actually wake up with an alarm clock or it has some deadline. So, that means we’re forcing our brain to wake up and then our melatonin will take another hour or even sometimes two hours if we’re waking up with insufficient sleep.
Ben: Interesting. So, perhaps if you were traveling and you wanted to use food as one of these zeitgebers, to go back to my analogy with Japan and I was going to have breakfast to jumpstart my circadian rhythm, I may want to consider using one of these alarm clocks that gently wakes you like some phone apps now and there’s even a new sleep headband. I think it’s called The Dream that will gradually wake you during the time when you’re in your lightest phase of sleep. It seems to me that would be a pretty good idea as an alarm clock to use especially if you’re going to have an early breakfast.
Satchin: Well, those things help you to wake up in your light sleep but still, as you know, we go through quite a few sleep cycles so we have different time window of those light sleep. But even during those light sleep, we still have high melatonin that’s helping us to go to the next sleep cycle. So, yes, one idea would be to wake up gently and also maybe with an alarm clock or timer to your light that will slowly brighten up your room.
Another simple thing you can do is you can just wake up and take a walk outside or go for a mild run or like you do, go for a swim outside. That 15, 20 minutes of bright light exposure even at twilight time, we have 1,000 to 10,000 locks of light. That’ll be enough to suppress melatonin and then, you can get back to your hotel, get a good healthy breakfast and start your day.
Ben: Now, related to this is the idea of resetting the gut clock when you travel. I know you’ve got some studies that you’ve done on mice who have traveled across different time zones or at least you’ve changed the light-dark schedule in these rodent housings so that it appears that they’ve traveled across a bunch of time zones like a human who has flown from one country to another. Can you go into what you actually did with these rodents to reset their gut clocks and why you’d want to do that?
Satchin: Yeah. So, this was actually done in one of my collaborator’s lab in Mexico. So, what she did was very simple experiment. As we now know, almost every organ in our body has a clock so when we reset or when we do a jet lag experiment then say three days after giving the jet lag we can go back to these animals and then take out a little bit of that tissue from different parts of the body and say it has the clock reset to the new time zone. When these mice are not given any food cue, they are allowed to eat whenever they want. The only thing that has changed is light. Then we see that after three days, the mice might have reset their clock halfway. So, if they went through eight-hour jet lag then they might have reset by four hours to the new time zone, not the eight hours.
In this experiment, if the food is also restricted and they start eating only in the evening because [1:04:57] _______, then after four days if we check their clock then they would have reset by six to eight hours. So, that means giving this timing cue by food was much more effective.
That’s one aspect. The other aspect is, if we think of the new thought about how our gut affects our brain, a lot of the hormones that our body uses in the gut to sense food, how to digest food, et cetera. Those hormones are partly broken down and these hormones also affect our mood. So, for example, one of the gut hormones, when it’s partially broken down you can act on the brain and make us more anxious or give us panic attack. So, by eating within say 8 to 10 hours or restricting when we eat in the new time zone, et cetera, will actually help us to control this gut-brain axis, gut-brain communication so that our mood remains much better during jet lag or even after we come back to our new time zone or home time zone, then that also helps us to reduce this anxiety or depression, those kind of symptoms.
Ben: Okay. So, basically this comes down to what we were talking about earlier, eating at the appropriate time in whatever the new time zone is that you’ve arrived in, which of course logistically can be difficult. I’ve arrived in some cities at like 10:00 p.m. and if I’d been fasting on the flight which I do often. I’ll either fast or eat very minimum calories. I’m hungry when I get to to the time zone and I will sometimes take a bunch of melatonin or some other sleep aid and get into bed and get away from any restaurants or steer clear of the hotel bar and the hotel minibar or anything like that because I’m so hungry and just wait until the morning to eat. And very similarly, if I arrive at like 3:00 p.m., I’ll wait until dinner to eat or arrive at 10:00 a.m. I’ll wait until 1:00 p.m. to eat. But what you’re saying is that that is actually considered to be resetting the gut clock when it comes to restoring normal circadian rhythms when you travel.
Satchin: Yeah. So, what you’re doing is resetting your gut clock and that helps you to reset the rest of your clock. I think in most of your examples, when you say you raise the new time zone in the evening, what I have noticed is most of the flights from U.S. to Japan or China they reached Japan or China in the afternoon or evening whereas most of the flights from U.S. to Europe, they usually reach Europe in the morning. So, my rule of thumb has been well fast like you do. Do sufficient fasting and flight 10 to 12 hours, pre-flight or before reaching your new time zone and maybe in Japan or China, you can have an early dinner or when you’re going to Europe you can have your breakfast after landing and that will help you reset the clock.
Ben: Interesting. Now, in terms of things that go beyond food specifically medications and supplements, can we actually time those to our circadian rhythm as well?
Satchin: Yeah. So, this is a very new area of circadian rhythm research because only recently, we and others have found that nearly every gene in our genome turns on and off at different time of the day. That means if you think of every medication, every drug goes and finds its target gene and then turns it on or off. That’s the fundamental idea about any drug.
Now, imagine if the target is on a certain time and off at certain time, then you can imagine that, well, depending on the type of drug and what it does, that should be an optimal time for every drug. And since the field is very new, we can just predict which drug might have what optimal time but we have to go back and do the right experiment or look at historically, some of the clinical trials to see which drug acts at what time.
In this context, historically people have found a very rich literature on chemotherapy for cancer and particularly breast cancer. Chemotherapies have a very nice literature on what time, which chemotherapeutic of the patient work best. This is not a one-time that works best for all the drugs so individual drug has its own optimal time. Beyond chemotherapy, the other areas are arthritis pain medications, some of the pain medications. Some of the pain, actually, happens much more in the morning. We know that arthritis pain is more severe in the morning but surprisingly the medication actually works much better if it is taken on the night before going to bed because the optimal time for the drug to act is very early in the morning and this drug should be in your system before you wake up to work.
Then, some of the new drugs in diabetes, for example, the newest drugs, SGLT2 inhibitor. This is an enzyme in our kidney where you can pee the extra blood sugar. And, in some of these studies there is indication that the drug is given in small doses in the evening that’s as effective as a medium dose in the morning.
I think this is an area in the next four to five years we’ll see more and more drugs and their optimal timing will be determined and that will help people to reduce their dose or have more effective treatment of their drug. This is also a very urgent area because if you look at the top 20 best-selling drugs in the U.S. then they benefit only 1 out of 3 to 1 out of 21 who take the drug. So, the best drug actually benefits only 30% of the population who take it. So, if we can increase that efficacy by even 10 to 15%, that’s going to benefit millions of new people.
Satchin: That’s why we’re very excited about this aspect of circadian rhythms.
Ben: Yeah. That’s very similar to a compound a lot of people are using now to manage autoimmune and that would be low-dose naltrexone. I know that that’s best taken around 9:00 p.m. or so to match to the natural endorphin’s cycles based on circadian rhythm in the body. So, all these things that control autoimmune issues are gut, some of them are taken at night as well.
So, that was a very interesting section of your book and and by the way I’ve got a couple more questions for Dr. Panda but I’m going to link to the book for those of you listening. Just go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/thecode. That’s BenGreenfieldFitness.com/thecode and I’ll link to Dr. Panda’s book and a few other good books on this topic as well as anything else we discussed on the show.
Next question, I have for you is regarding these blue light blocking glasses. I’ve noticed increased use of those particularly when I go to a lot of these biohacking or health conferences, everybody’s walking around going to lunch in their blue light blocking glasses, walking around the expo and their blue light blocking glasses. What’s your take on this idea of just constantly wearing your blue light blocking glasses and how that could affect the circadian rhythm?
Satchin: Well, that’s the thing about circadian rhythm that anything that you think is good for your health, you got to think twice because just like timing makes a healthy food junk, similarly timing can make a healthy light junk light.
So, during the daytime, we need bright light or blue light to suppress our melatonin and also increase alertness and increase happiness, reduce depression. That’s the whole reason why people in wintertime or in northern latitude feel depressed during half of the year. So, we need that blue light during daytime and only in the evening or nighttime not having a blue light helps us to build up our melatonin and help us going to bed. So, in that way, having those blue blocking glasses in the evening is good for overall health.
Coming back to people who wear them all the time one thing is if they’re actually exercising a lot, being outdoor for an hour or so, even with those blue blockers because those blue blockers are actually not blocking all the blue light. They will block to some extent, somewhere between 10% to 50%, sometimes the extreme ones can go up to 70% with those red light. So, even people who are wearing them and outdoor a lot of time, during daytime, getting a lot of bright sunlight it’s not too hard to pull. But what we are seeing is a lot of people particularly students, college students and high school students, our people who work in IT whole day they’re sitting indoor. They barely have access to bright light and if they are depriving themselves of this blue light that we need during day time, then maybe slowly they might feel they may be little depressed, they may be a little low, they may not connect these dots but that’s something they have to be careful about. Some people use it to reduce glare, reduce screen brightness issues. So, for those kinds of issues, you can always adjust your screen brightness or even change the screen color. You can even put night set during daytime manually override it. But depriving yourself actively a blue light during daytime may not be doing too much good.
Ben: Yeah. That’s the thing is I think we have to strike a balance. I like that a lot of these companies now, for example, Ra Optics or Felix Gray or Amber, they’re developing glasses that can be worn in the daytime to reduce screen glare and some of the flicker damage from overhead fluorescent and LED lighting without necessarily blocking blue light and blocking the extra circadian cue from the blue light. So, I think it’s worth it if you’re on this blue light blocking glasses bandwagon to have a set of clear glare-blocking lenses that you could use by day and then your orange or yellowish lenses for nights. I think that that’s a good way to address that issue.
Now, a couple of times during this show you’ve mentioned myCircadianClock and I know you’ve got a research project going on over there. Can you get into what you’re doing over at myCircadianClock?
Satchin: Yes. A few years ago, when we discovered that this time-restricted eating or timing of eating is so important for health, two issues came up. One was my scientific peers always asked, “Well, how do you know that people actually eat outside said 10- or 12-hours window and what proportion of people actually eat, and who can benefit?”
To test that, we realize that we have to do some what we call epidemiological study where we can ask people from all over the world to share what time they habitually eat. The next question was how are we going to figure out whether it’s a modifiable behavior? Can people change their eating habit? When they change that, what do they prefer? Do they prefer, just like you said, 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. or 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.? What is most desirable and what benefits you will ultimately see?
We realized that most of the clinical studies in this country or anywhere in the world is actually done on a very small number of people who are willing to participate and have time to participate in these clinical studies. They live usually within 20 to 30 miles of a big clinical center. In that way, most of her knowledge about drugs or any procedure is truly limited to a few people living within medical within easy access of medical center. So, then I thought, “Well, when people are so familiar with sharing data over phone then why don’t we develop an app called myCircadianClock and since it’s a research app, we make sure that people will give us their consent that they participate. We also tell them that we are anonymizing their data so and we are not going to sell them sell their data to anybody. All of these have to be in a, what do we call it, informed consent. So, people go to this website, read about this study, give the informed consent. They can download this app, myCircadianClock either–it is working now both in iOS and Android and then they say their habitual eating pattern what they are doing right now for a week because we know people change their eating pattern between weekday and weekend. We usually give them two weeks because hopefully within those two weeks they can give us one week of data. And then, through this app we also give them some tips about how to sleep better or how to eat better or how to eat within say X number of hours, and then they can do a self-directed 10 to 12 weeks of time-restricted eating. Then during this time, we also have a few very short surveys to see what improvements they are seeing.
So, when we do these studies, we are doing two things. One is we are collecting epidemiological data on how people are having their lifestyle second is what they can modify. Those are most important. And then, finally, even if this is self-reported sometimes those self-reported data helped us to come up with better control studies in the lab. For example, a few years ago one of the immediate benefits of time-restricted eating, many people said, was they were sleeping better. We wanted to test whether it’s true or not so we went back to lab and then we put animals on the time-restricted eating and we measured their sleep and we realized that it’s the arousal threshold that goes up. So, when they eat time-restricted eating, then they get into slightly deeper sleep so they are not woken up by mild disturbances and noise and that’s what is happening.
So, similarly, we have gone back and now we hear people saying that as a time-restricted eating reduces their overall inflammation so some of the inflammatory diseases become less severe or their medical symptoms reduces and then we are going back to the animal models to see whether it’s true. Another example was some people said they’ve fallen sick less and less. For example, some people may catch a cold or have a runny nose three, four times a year and after doing time-restricted eating for a few months, they’re noticing that they’re not that sick that often.
So, we went back and—actually, one of our esteemed colleagues, he did an independent study. He took mice and then put them on time-restricted eating and get them a very high dose of bacterial toxin. Usually, this level of toxin can be lethal for experimental animals but the animals who were on time-restricted eating could tolerate that and survived. So, this idea that time-restricted eating can improve your immune system, we had no idea that that was happening. We could not ask our mice whether their immune system is getting better but when people self-reported, that helped us. That is helping the community to go back and do more control studies and find whether it’s true or not and how it can benefit people.
Ben: Wow. So, ultimately, for this immune system function boost, for the sleep boost, the exercise performance, the motor coordination, the re-regulation of circadian rhythm and jet lag ultimately, it appears that the magic comes down to trying as much as possible to eat in an 8-hour compressed feeding window. If you’re female, especially an active female, possibly even pushing that as far as a 12-hour compressed feeding window and attempting to not eat too many of those calories within two or three hours prior to bedtime, not break your fast in the morning with your pumpkin spice latte and and that’s basically the the ins and outs of starting on this this whole TRE thing and looking like Wolverine.
Satchin: Yeah. Exactly.
Ben: Well, it’s that simple. Well, the book is just chock-full of even more science. So, again, I’m going to link to in the show notes for those you’re listening in over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/thecode. If you go there, I’d be curious to your comments about what you found with the eight hours and how you’ve timed those eight hours again. For me, personally, usually my feeding starts or my eating starts at about 10:00 a.m. Frankly, I’m closer to a 10 hour because like I mentioned, I’m usually doing dinner around 8:00 p.m. but ultimately I think that the research the dr. Panda outlines in this book cannot be denied when it comes to the benefits of having long periods of time every single 24-hour cycle where you go without stuffing your face. And the book just has tons of other little tips in there that we didn’t get into but fantastic read.
Dr. Panda, thanks for coming on the show and sharing all this stuff with us, man.
Satchin: Thank you, Ben.
Ben: Alright folks. I’m Ben Greenfield along with Dr. Sitchan Panda, the author of “The Circadian Code.” Signing out from BenGreenfieldFitness.com, have an amazing week.
Dr. Satchin Panda is a professor at the Salk Institute, La Jolla, California, and author of the new book “The Circadian Code: Lose Weight, Supercharge Your Energy, and Transform Your Health from Morning to Midnight”.
Dr. Panda is a frequent speaker in international conferences on metabolism, exercise and chronic diseases. His research focuses on how circadian clocks regulate behavior, physiology and metabolism. His discovery of how a blue light sensor in the eyes affect sleep-wake cycle, depression and alertness is leading a new revolution in managing light to improve health. Recently he discovered that maintaining a daily feeding-fasting cycle – popularly known as Time-Restricted Eating (TRE) – can prevent and reverse many chronic diseases.
Like most people, you probably wake up, get hungry for meals and doze off in bed around the same time every day. If you’ve ever experienced jet lag or pulled an all-nighter, you know that this schedule can easily be thrown off kilter. But for some people, that imbalance—difficulty sleeping at night, hunger at odd times, or sudden fatigue at noon—is a constant. If you’re one of those people, Dr. Panda, one of the leading researchers on circadian rhythms, has a plan to reset your body clock.
Beginning with an in-depth explanation of the circadian clock—why it’s important, how it works, and how to know it isn’t working—he outlines lifestyle changes to make to get back on track. It’s a concrete plan to enhance weight loss, improve sleep, optimize exercise, and manage technology so that it doesn’t interfere with your body’s natural rhythm. Dr. Panda’s life-changing methods show you how to prevent and reverse ailments like diabetes, cancer, and dementia, as well as microbiome conditions like acid reflux, heartburn, and irritable bowel disease.
During our discussion, you’ll learn:
-About TRE, and how it’s related to the circadian code…6:25
- You’re mindful of your first and last calorie of the day; you want to intake calories within a set period of time each day.
- Why it’s a time restriction, as opposed to a caloric restriction.
- TRE is more practical for the modern lifestyle than to restrict the food you eat with no time restrictions.
- Lab tests showed that mice ate the same amount of calories with TRE as without.
- Tests involving humans have shown that TRE has resulted in improved overall health.
- Good news for people who are tired of constantly being “cold and hungry” while trying to live a healthy lifestyle.
-The truth about Hugh Jackman’s “Wolverine” Diet…10:30
- Ate a lot of protein in an 8-9 hour window; resulted in putting on a lot of muscle for Wolverine.
- TRE is becoming a trend among Hollywood actors.
- Many bodybuilders are using TRE; it’s simply more practical and easier on the body.
- It’s difficult to ascertain what is the best mode of TRE for each individual. Best to discover for yourself through trial and error.
-How TRE affects endurance sport athletes…18:00
- Tests have been conducted on mice, not humans thus far.
- Question was: will mice lose endurance when they have a small window of time for eating?
- Mice eating an unhealthy diet on TRE far outperformed mice with the same diet with no time restrictions on eating.
-What is the optimal timeframe when utilizing TRE?…23:45
- Most American adults eat more than 12, even 15 hours per day.
- The easiest (and healthiest) way to start incorporating TRE is to eat a later breakfast and an earlier dinner.
-Why Dr. Panda believes that drinking a cup of coffee “breaks a fast”…29:30
- Most people put cream and sugar in their coffee. Black coffee is preferable.
- A dependence on coffee to “get going” in the morning is an indication you’re not getting enough sleep.
- By “fasting” Dr. Panda is referring more to resting your organs than not consuming calories.
- You can’t repair a highway with traffic on it.
- Coffee can “reset” the circadian clock. A cup is akin to being exposed to an hour of bright light.
- After noon, coffee affects your ability to have deep, restful sleep at night.
-About “Zeitgebers” and how you can use them to reset your circadian clock…38:30
- We have “clocks” throughout the body.
- Light affects the “brain clock.”
- Changing your eating schedule is a more powerful way to reset your circadian clock.
- Jet lag occurs more often after lunch. Eat a big breakfast, a smaller lunch or no lunch, and a good sized dinner.
- This may differ depending on your physical activity.
-The best time of day to exercise…43:50
- Late in the afternoon.
- Our ancestors had to get home (run) before dark. We’ve adapted to exercise better in the afternoon.
- “The circadian advantage”: A West Coast based NFL team playing Monday Night Football on the East Coast has an advantage because of the time difference.
-About “bi-phasic” sleep. Is it true that our ancestors would sleep, then wake up in the middle of the night, then go back to sleep?…48:00
- “Common” does not equate to “normal.”
- Our ancestors weren’t as busy as modern people. We have a tighter window in which to sleep.
-Ways to enhance your oxygen availability while flying, and reduce jet lag…53:10
- Use a nasal device to expand your nostrils.
- Ayurvedic medicine: counter the dryness of the air with oils.
-Why it’s a bad idea to take melatonin right after eating…56:20
- “Evening diabetes.” The pancreas doesn’t produce as much insulin.
- Give yourself at least an hour after waking up before eating.
- How to reset your gut clock.
-Dr. Panda’s take on blue light blocking glasses…1:12:15
- You don’t want to reduce blue light during the day.
- There are options to block screen glare for the daytime hours.
-Dr. Panda’s project called My Circadian Clock (mycircadianclock.org)…1:16:00
-And much more!
Resources from this episode:
–Ra Optics code: BEN10
–Living Essentials Super Essentials Omega 3 Fish Oil from Kion. Healthy for the Heart, Brain and So Much More!
–GAINSWave for enhanced sexual performance. Use my link to learn how you can receive a free treatment!
–Organifi Green Juice. Use discount code mentioned there at checkout and receive 20% off your order.
–Joovv Photobiomodulation therapy. Use the referral code BEN at checkout and they’ll send you some cool, Joovv-branded swag for free!