It’s Called Breakfast for a Reason

Growing up, I was more of a math & science person than a language person. So I tended not to notice things like the word breakfast being the combination of break and fast – literally meaning to break the evening’s fast.

Breaking Your Fast

When you have breakfast in the morning, do you feel like you are breaking your fast? For most of human history, we did not have ready-made snacks available whenever we felt a craving. As hunters and gatherers, we ate when we found food. Our bodies evolved to tolerate 12 to 16 hours of fasting regularly.

If you are starting the new year off looking to improve your health, consider lengthening the time between your last meal in the evening and your first meal in the morning.

Research suggests that fasting for 12 to 16 hours improves heart health, reduces inflammation, aids in cancer prevention, improves sleep, and delays aging.

Oura ring feedback

My Experience

Through my experimentation and based on feedback from my doctor, I target a 13-hour fast overnight. I’m not draconian about it – I probably hit that mark five days per week. While it’s too early to say whether it helps delay aging and prevent cancer for me, I know from my Oura ring* what a difference it can make in my sleep.

I try to stop eating three hours before bedtime. Again, I’m not perfect here, but most nights, I’m close. My ring gives me a sleep score and shows my resting heart rate throughout the night. When I eat right before bed, my resting heart rate is typically 20% higher than when I stop eating three hours before bed. My ring knows, too. When that happens, it asks if I had a late meal. Typically, the answer is yes.

It should be no surprise that putting this into practice also helps me control my weight. At the end of the day, I have less willpower. I can go all day eating nutritiously and managing my calories appropriately, then have the wheels fall off the wagon at the end of the day as I dive into the sugar and snacks I crave. When I commit to not eating after dinner, this doesn’t happen.

Putting It Into Practice

Here’s a strategy that works incredibly well for me. After dinner, I immediately brush my teeth. My brain is wired from decades of programming to associate brushing my teeth with no more eating. When I feel the urge to eat, the minty taste in my mouth reminds me I’m done. 

So please consider how close to bedtime you are eating and the length of your overnight fast. Consider gradually extending the window of time between your last meal and sleep, which should gradually extend the length of your fast. You’ll be happy you did.

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