The abstract concept of time controls how we spend every waking, and sleeping, moment. Measured in years, days, hours, and minutes, time provides us, as it relates to bodybuilding, with a means to coordinate training sessions, meals, relaxation, and sleeping. Thus it provides structure and opportunities for ritualistic practice throughout our lives.
Indeed, periodically checking the clock has become standard practice within most societies. Devices we cannot check, but which have implications in terms of how our lives are governed, are our internal biological clocks. These clocks signal various physiological changes that take place in our body. These changes are called biorhythms which are essentially physiological alterations that occur repetitively at regular intervals throughout our lives.
The theory underpinning biorhythms posits that every living creature has this set of clocks which regulate their lives by ticking off a rhythm.
History Of Biorhythm Study
The history of biorhythms can be traced back 3000 years to the ancient Greeks. At this time, scientists in Greece were recording basic bodily processes and ascertaining their regular rhythms.
Hypocrites noted the same cyclical fluctuations in biological processes among both sick and healthy people, thus helping to lay the foundation for modern day biorhythm researchers such as Dr. Wilhem Fliess and Hermanna Swoboda. Both Fliess and Swoboda independently studied the phenomenon of biorhythms around the turn of the century and came to startlingly similar conclusions.
They determined that ones life was subject to constant biological change - the notion that one would go through life experiencing physiological changes at specific times regardless of external mitigating factors. Fliess corresponded with Sigmund Freud with respect to biorhythms, fascinating Freud with his theory.
Although biorhythms have been studied extensively, and much anecdotal evidence supports these studies findings, biorhythms have been largely shunned by the scientific community as they are viewed as pseudoscientific and esoteric. However, research has shown that understanding biorhythms may positively affect muscle growth. By monitoring how we feel over an extended period, and ascertaining our biorhythm flow, planning our training and eating can be optimized.
How Understanding Biorhythms Can Improve Bodybuilding Success.
According to biorhythm theory, biorhythms are classed into three types and by understanding each of these one can strongly influence their lives and actions.
The Three Types Of Biorhythms:
- Ultra Radian Rhythms - Periods shorter than 20-hours, the most common example being the regular, short, beating of the heart.
- Circadian Rhythms - The most studied class of rhythms, they have a duration of between 20-28 hours and include hormone release, body temperature and sleep. Most circadian rhythms are controlled by a biological clock called a suprachiasmatic nucleus or SCN, which comprises a pair of pinhead-sized brain structures.
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The production of the hormone melatonin is switched off under the governance of the SCN. Lowered melatonin causes feelings of awakeness and is brought about through the pineal glands [Define] (upon receiving messages from the SCN) response to light.
The release of meletonin is cyclical and how we feel and function is largely dependant upon its increase and decrease. Jet lag is largely a result of disrupted circadian rhythms and their dependence upon a specifically timed release of melatonin.
- Infradian Rhythms - Goes beyond 28 hours and includes the menstrual cycle.
Determining a pattern of how we feel and function can help immensely when planning ones training program and diet. To determine their biorhythms, one would monitor, via regular diarizing, their thoughts, feelings and attitudes over a two week period.
Obviously all three biorhythm classes will feature during a two-week observational period. However, the circadian rhythms would be monitored primarily, as they will provide information on sleeping patterns and hormone release (both of which significantly govern our feelings of well-being).
For women, it would be advisable to monitor the menstrual cycle (part of the infradian cycle), and plan training and dieting strategies accordingly.
Personally I have found that by monitoring my circadian rhythms, my training sessions and sleep can be planned to optimize bodybuilding performance.
For example, I found that my energy tends to peak on Monday, Friday and Saturday evenings, and have planned training sessions for these times. Wednesday and Thursdays tend to be days where I feel most lethargic and often use these days for rest. I have also found that my sleeping patterns change on a regular basis - the quality and quantity of sleep changes markedly on certain days of the week.
Planning naps for the day following an unrestful night's sleep is one strategy I use in this instance. The above changes have been observed over both a two-week period (where they were noted) and over a number of years where a definitive pattern has emerged, despite constant lifestyle changes.
Metabolism & Biorhythms
The relationship between eating and growth is pretty obvious in bodybuilding circles. Could it be, however, that biorhythms influence the results, the types of foods, and when we eat them, have. Some theorize that the changes to certain enzymes following a meal might be a result of the food acting to synchronize our biorhythms as well as a direct result of the metabolic effect of this food.
This presents us with the question: does growth occur in cycles which can be determined by meal timing and specific nutrient intake? Eating in the evening (carbohydrates and fat primarily) will generally contribute to a larger fat deposition than will eating in the morning and it seems that biorhythms do play a role in this process.
It could be argued that in the evening, our metabolism being biochemically programmed, slows down to prepare for sleep and the fat burning effect therefore is less pronounced.
I have found that training and eating at certain times of the day will have an effect on fat burning, and energy levels, regardless of activity level. Valid observation or wild speculation?
Due to a paucity of research no one knows for sure. What is known is the role biorhythms have in controlling the processes we depend on for survival.
The Circadian Rhythms And How They Regulate Hormone Release
To illustrate exactly how a particular bodily function will alter depending on the sleep/wake cycle, we will now turn to the timing of hormone release.
The body relies on the precision timing of the release of various hormones to control a wide range of functions. The cycle of hormone release, a circadian rhythm, helps to illustrate how biorhythms assist to control our lives. It also shows how our training endeavours can be enhanced as hormones determine how macromolecules are synthesised, degraded, stored and distributed.
In fact, hormones regulate our entire physiology and depend upon the regulation of our biological clocks. For example, testosterone, which is essential for muscle-building, is released during the morning hours in males. This could have training implications: morning aerobics session are thought to enhance the fat-burning effect and bodybuilders often report feeling stronger in the earlier in the day.
Growth hormone is also released in cyclical fashion under the governance of our sleep/wake cycle. Small amounts of growth hormone are released periodically throughout the day. Major increases occur during the night - whilst one is sleeping. A lack of sleep during the night can disrupt the natural growth hormone cycle and diminish gains in muscle size.
The pineal gland of the brain, as mentioned, is particularly sensitive to the sleep/wake cycle. Daylight activates the pineal gland, thus causing it to release large amounts of melatonin, which, in turn, increases feelings of alertness. Corticosteroid [Define] secretion is also affected by the functioning of the pineal gland. For humans, corticosteroid secretion is at its highest in the morning and lowest in the evening.
Biorhythms, our internal regulatory clocks, have been shown to be an important variable in controlling the day to day functioning of our bodies.
The three types of biorhythms (ultra radian, circadian and infradian) work in concert to govern how we think, feel and function. Hormone release (of particular significance to bodybuilders) occurs at specific times to control muscle growth. It is also speculated that food timing can be planned to enhance the biorhythms effect on nutrients.
Through monitoring ones biorhythms over a two-week period (and noting them) and observing biorhythms at all other times, one will see a definite pattern begin to emerge.
Training, diet and rest can be optimally planned to coincide with these biorhythms and hasten one's bodybuilding progress.
- Sparkman, D.(1994). The Anatomy of Biorhythms. Muscle and Fitness. April 1994 Edition.
- Health-link: Medical College of Wisconsin.(1999). Sleep and circadian rhythms. [Online]