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The Larger Picture of Weight Gain.

Posted Sep 15 2009 10:11pm

Chris points us to an interesting study involving circadian rhythm and weight gain (to be fair, Melissa sent it to me first, but she doesn’t have a blog).  In the study, nocturnal rats fed during what would have been their sleeping hours gained more weight than rats fed during their waking hours, despite the same overall intake and energy expenditure.

(BTW, if any of you have the full text of the study, might I request a copy?  Pretty please?)

What’s interesting to me is not just the physiological implications of the study (that there might be some unique mechanism that causes animals to store fat more effectively during their snoozing hours), but the statements the obesity experts were quoted as saying:

“How or why a person gains weight is very complicated, but it is clearly not just calories in and calories out,” said Fred Turek, from the Northwestern’s Center for Sleep and Circadian Biology, where the research took place.  “Better timing of meals could be a critical element in slowing the ever-increasing incidence of obesity.”


Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, agreed. He said: “It is groundbreaking. It really gets you thinking why this has not been done before.  It could be very dramatic if it affects whether you are going to get fat or not.”

Are you kidding me?

“Better timing of meals?”


“Affects whether you are going to get fat or not?”

The study looked at rats that were eating during their sleeping hours.  While I don’t doubt there are some overfat folks eating during the hours they should be sleeping, I highly doubt that 64% of Americans are waking up in the middle of the night and chowing down.  Or perhaps they’re suggesting we’re all operating on schedules that run counter to our normal Circadian rhythms? And these guys are supposed to be experts?

What these folks do is what clients and trainees often do - they lose the forest for the trees.  It’s all too easy to get bogged down in the myriad details of the (admittedly) complex picture of fat loss and lose sight of the one or two most important things which, if done consistently, would yield you 80% or more of the results you’re looking for.  Believe me, if you’re having trouble losing weight, it isn’t because you should be on vampire hours.

There’s nothing wrong with seeking new information or looking to add to your understanding.  But figure out how it falls into the larger picture.

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