Popularised by Dr Alain Delabos, chrononutrition is all about aligning your food intake with your internal clock. The principle is simple: if you eat at the right time, the food will be optimally absorbed physiologically.
Often described as a slimming diet, chrononutrition is more accurately an overall approach to food rebalancing. It can support you in shedding excess pounds (1) just as it can help you get back to a healthy weight after unplanned weight loss.
In addition, by synchronising your meals with the release of digestive enzymes, it may have a positive effect on regulating your cholesterol and blood sugar levels (2-3). All without imposing any real restrictions on what you eat! No food is off limits as long as you eat it at the right time (and in reasonable quantities).
Though attractive on paper, chrononutrition is not, however, for everyone. With an emphasis on meat products, it is not, for example, designed for vegetarians, at least in its classic form. Indeed, the consumption of meat, charcuterie and saturated fats involved - excessive amounts of which are bad for the arteries and kidneys – exceeds recommended daily amounts by quite a margin (4-5). Neither are fruit and vegetables given much prominence.
To find out if this approach to eating is compatible with your particular state of health, talk to your doctor. He or she will be able to arrange a blood test (showing your blood fat and sugar levels, and uric acid ...) to flag up any potential contraindications.
In order to create your chrononutrition menu, it’s important to be aware of how our metabolism works … and the digestive secretions that control it.
When you get out of bed in the morning, it’s your body’s lipases, responsible for breaking down lipids, which are most active (6). This means breakfast is the best time to consume fat! Butter, cheese, eggs and cooked meats are all allowed, accompanied perhaps by some complex carbohydrates (such as bread).
At lunchtime, it’s the turn of the proteases (which break down proteins) and amylases (which break down starch) (7-8). So lunch should ideally be based around a single dish that includes animal-source products (red meat, poultry, fish…) and starchy foods (pasta, rice, potatoes…), with a small amount of cooked vegetables to complete the meal.
Blood pancreatic hormone levels peak mid-afternoon so that’s the time to indulge your sweet tooth (9) ! Good choices include fresh or dried fruit, compotes, dark chocolate, or honey, with some nuts or oleaginous fruits (almonds, walnuts, avocado ...). And the occasional biscuit is also allowed!
In the evening, the digestive system slows down so it’s best not to overload your body with a heavy dinner (10-11). Eat lightly, choosing, for example, a combination of fish (or seafood) and cooked vegetables.
According to Dr Delabos, the amount of food you should eat depends more specifically on your basic morphology (or morphotype). This comprehensive classification takes into account various measurements such as weight, height, chest size, hip circumference and wrist size.
As a general guide, we’ve suggested here some standard menus which incorporate the method’s main principles, but which can be modified depending on your objectives.
Recipe 1: 1 slice of sourdough + 10g of butter + 50g of comté + 1green tea without sugar
Recipe 2: Omelette (made with 2 eggs + 1 slice of cooked ham + 40g of Emmenthal) + 2 seed crackers + 1 black tea without sugar
Recipe 3: 2 tbsp chia seeds + 125ml unsweetened almond milk (left to soak overnight) + a few slices of avocado + 1 rooibos tea without sugar
Recipe 1: 1 rump steak + 200g sautéd potatoes (garlic parsley, olive oil)
Recipe 2: 1 chicken breast + 80g of semi-wholewheat pasta + a few green olives
Recipe 3: 50g of lentils + 60g of wholegrain rice + 2 tbsp de onion fondue
Recipe 1: 1 tea sweetened with 1 tsp of honey + 3 dried figs + 5 walnut kernels
Recipe 2: 1 unsweetened tea + 2 squares of dark chocolate + 1 apple compote
Recipe 3: 1 tea sweetened with 1 tsp honey + 1 orange + pistachio chips
Recipe 1: 1 cod fillet + lemon juice + 200g of green beans with tomato
Recipe 2: 150g of peeled shrimps + 200g of vegetable stir-fry (mini-corn, soy bean sprouts, green and red peppers)
Recipe 3: 100g of marinaded tofu (turmeric, coriander, soy sauce) + 1 bowl of mesclun salad
We’ve already mentioned dark chocolate: apart from the pleasure it gives, its cacao content provides a substantial amount of magnesium. This important mineral supports normal psychological function and good nervous system and muscle function (12-13). To increase your daily intake, you could consider taking a magnesium supplement (such as Magnesium Orotate, a highly-bioavailable form that’s very well tolerated by the gut).
Fruit and vegetables do not feature prominently in the chrononutrition approach yet they contain vitamins and minerals which the body cannot do without (14). So include them in lunch and dinner, and at the same time, benefit from a cutting-edge mineral-vitamin complex to boost your daily intake (the multivitamin Daily 3 offers a truly comprehensive and formulation with 42 carefully-chosen ingredients including 12 vitamins, 8 minerals and various phytonutrients).
One of the oldest medicinal spices in the world, fenugreek seeds have a soothing effect on the digestive system by supporting, in particular, lipid and glucose metabolism as well as appetite control (15-16). A common ingredient in Indian curries, fenugreek seeds also feature in innovative supplements (such as Digestive Enzymes, a collection of 15 enzymes such as lactase plus plant extracts with digestion-enhancing properties).
Are you looking to chrononutrition to help you slim down? Popular in India for thousands of years, coleus forskohlii is the perfect slimming aid to support your efforts as it plays a role in weight loss and fat metabolism (17). You can obtain its benefits from exceptional synergistic supplements (such as Advanced Fat Burner, a super-powerful formulation that includes coleus, green coffee and garcinia, amongst others).
Prone to cravings? Unable to control your sweet tooth? Discover the best natural appetite-suppressants for effortlessly curbing your hunger pangs.
There are more processed foods in our cupboards and fridges than you might think. Learn how to recognize them and replace them with healthier options.
Milk, dark, white, fruity or spiced chocolate … What are the pros and cons of chocolate in terms of our health? Which type should you choose and which should you avoid?
If you’re overweight or have developed a paunch, you’re probably suffering from chronic inflammation of your adipose tissue. This is a silent pathological process which sooner or later will become a ticking time bomb, so it makes sense to read up on the latest findings and take action fast.
Which is your morphotype and metabolism according to William Sheldon’s characterisation? Discover how to gain, stabilise or lose weight, depending on your particular classification.
Intake of calories, macronutrients, micronutrients and fibre: finally, a comprehensive article on adult nutritional requirements and recommended intakes.