Eat, Train, Sleep-Retreat? Hormonal Interactions of Intermittent Fasting, Exercise and Circadian Rhythm

Biomolecules. 2021 Mar 30;11(4):516. doi: 10.3390/biom11040516.


The circadian rhythmicity of endogenous metabolic and hormonal processes is controlled by a complex system of central and peripheral pacemakers, influenced by exogenous factors like light/dark-cycles, nutrition and exercise timing. There is evidence that alterations in this system may be involved in the pathogenesis of metabolic diseases. It has been shown that disruptions to normal diurnal rhythms lead to drastic changes in circadian processes, as often seen in modern society due to excessive exposure to unnatural light sources. Out of that, research has focused on time-restricted feeding and exercise, as both seem to be able to reset disruptions in circadian pacemakers. Based on these results and personal physical goals, optimal time periods for food intake and exercise have been identified. This review shows that appropriate nutrition and exercise timing are powerful tools to support, rather than not disturb, the circadian rhythm and potentially contribute to the prevention of metabolic diseases. Nevertheless, both lifestyle interventions are unable to address the real issue: the misalignment of our biological with our social time.

Keywords: circadian rhythm; exercise; intermittent fasting; metabolism; stress hormones.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Circadian Clocks / genetics
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Fasting / physiology*
  • Hormones / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Time Factors


  • Hormones