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Chrononutrition - the influence of our bodies "clocks" on sleep and health

The recent publication "The circadian regulation of food intake" in the prestigious journal NATURE summarized the evidence around diet, sleep and performance: Our bodies "clocks" determine when we are hungry. "Chrononutrition" investigates metabolic performance in relation to the bodies internal clocks. Fabian Foelsch was fascinated by this topic, that he decided to found the start-up Braineffect, a performance food company focusing on products for concentration, energy, mood and sleep. In this interview we speak to him about his journey and his start-up.

Simone K. Frey, Fabian Foelsch, Frederike Baus

Fabian, how did you tap into entrepreneurship? Why did you start Braineffect?

As a competitive athlete, almost 15 years ago, I realized how much nutrition affects mental performance. Since then I have been involved with nutrition. True to the motto "Success Starts in Your Head", I founded Braineffect to give athletes, everyday and office heroes the opportunity to eat the best in order to constantly improve their performance.


Based on the nutrient status of the majority of the population, there is no need to take supplements. In which situations can it be useful to take supplements?

This is true - a balanced and healthy diet is the basic requirement. If you want to reach the extra 10 to 20%, supplements might be of help. Under certain conditions such as stress, sport challenges or during the winter, one can benefit from dietary supplements: For an athlete, it is highly likely that it is necessary to take supplements for optimal performance. But even for an office athlete who wants to stay healthy in winter, vitamin D is indispensable. Dietary supplements are generally helpful for anyone who wants to improve their performance.


One of your most popular products is called “Sleep”. What is the idea behind the product and how did you get interested in this topic?

Regeneration is mainly triggered during sleep. As a (former) athlete I have spent a lot of time to improve my recovery and sleep, and I read loads of the scientific publications on this topic, including the NATURE paper. As diet has a big impact on our sleep, we developed a product that improves sleep for better sleep quality.


There is increasing evidence that food intake is regulated by the circadian rhythm. What does this mean and how is it regulated?

The circadian rhythm is our internal clock, and it runs on and with our hormones. Our inner clock effects when we go to sleep or how productive or focused we are at certain daytimes. Foods can have a huge impact on our daily routine, because, for example, food ingredients such as L-tryptophan or melatonin are needed to produce some hormones that affect our inner clock. Therefore, it is always advisable to adapt the diet to our daily routine in order to live a healthy life and maintain a productive lifestyle.


What you are saying is, that it is not only important what and how we eat, but also when we eat. For many people - shift workers or people who travel a lot in other time zones - the circadian rhythm is disrupted, i.e. chronodisruption. What are the effects on our health?

If the circadian rhythm is disturbed due to shift work, it will lead to lack of sleep, lack of regeneration, and can cause long-term illnesses. It makes sense to adjust food intake when working in shift work, such as for the police, fire department or hospital. Before going to bed you should try to not eat too much, reduce caffeine intake, and at the same time eat products that stimulate the melatonin production, which is your sleeping hormone.


What are your 5 tips for better sleep?

I think I could probably talk two to three hours about sleeping hacks and sleeping tips, but my my top 5 short tips are:

  1. Sleep regularly and for at least 6 hours (research has shown that sleep less than 6 hours is unhealthy)

  2. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, because our body loves routines.

  3. Try to sleep at a temperature between 17 and 19 degrees, do not sleep too warm.

  4. Sleep as dark and calm as possible. Try to reduce noise and light. You may wear a sleep mask or earplugs for maximum regeneration.

  5. Try to eat a healthy diet for at least one hour before going to bed, and you may also be eating something that stimulates melatonin production. This can be L-Tryptophan enriched food, that you can find in cashew nuts, or try to eat products with natural melatonin like pistachios.

Another question: You just became a dad. How can you improve sleep?

It is very important to pay attention to the quality of sleep, as sleep is often interrupted. So make sure you have a high level of sleep quality. Try to take the lunch break for a quick power nap to recover (especially for the mothers), and try to sleep in shifts, which can really help.


What would you like to see in the future - lets say in 10 years?

My wish is that sleep and power naps are regarded as something important an valuable in the workplace by employers.


Find out more about Fabian and his company BRAINEFFECT here. We also recommend his podcast Talking Brains about the art of mental performance.


If you want to get in touch with Fabian, connect with him on Linkedin,

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