The recent revolutionary Hibernation Diet created by a British pharmacist and a nutrition expert caught my attention by making a powerful connection between poor sleep and obesity. It advocates incorporating mild resistance exercise and a healthy, balanced, and wholesome diet void of highly refined, processed foods such as white bread, pizza, burgers, chocolates, beer and sugar, and suggests taking a generous spoonful or two of honey at night, either as a warm drink, a smoothie or straight from the jar.
This fascinating honey hibernation diet promises to help us sleep and lose weight at the same time by using our biology and working with our bodies, rather than against them - "recovery biology". A new approach to fat metabolism, it requires no straining from aerobics exercise, no wearing out on a treadmill and no pounding it out in the gym.
Sounds too easy, too miraculous or too far-fetched to be believable?
Natural honey when taken prior to bed is believed to be able to fuel the liver, speed up fat-burning metabolism, ease stress hormones and help us get a better night's sleep. This oldest natural sweetener also contains a wide variety of vitamins, including vitamins B6, B1, B2 and B5, and minerals such as calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, sodium and zinc, anti-oxidants and amino acids, the building blocks of proteins.
This is what I learnt about the Hibernation Diet: due to its 1:1 ratio of fructose to glucose, honey is the most ideal food that can provide a fuelling mechanism for the body at night, keeping blood sugar levels balanced and letting your recovery hormones get on with burning fat stores. This proposition that honey reduces blood glucose level was published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in April 2004. However, to most people, eating before bedtime, in this case eating sugars seems to defy common sense. Moreover, eating late at night is often discouraged by many people who believe that during bedtime, metabolic rate is low and the body cannot burn calories and would easily put on weight. Being a honey enthusiast, I naturally wanted to know more about how the hibernation diet works scientifically for the good of the body.
I read that when sugars are absorbed from the gut into the blood they are first absorbed by the liver, which is the only organ in the human body with the fructose enzyme to process this sugar. In the liver the fructose is converted into glucose, stored as liver glycogen or human starch, and released only if and when blood glucose falls.
Fructose also triggers the glucose enzyme in the liver allowing the liver to take in as much glucose as it requires. This has been referred to as the Fructose Paradox. In other words, fructose lowers the Glycemic Index of glucose; fructose enters the liver and opens the gate for glucose entry preventing a rapid rise in blood glucose. This natural blood glucose regulator found in fruits, vegetables and honey, regulate blood glucose levels and stabilize blood glucose to maintain a regular supply of glucose to the brain.
Some simple questions that the hibernation diet expert asks to check if the liver has fuelled up well for the night:
- Do you wake up regularly during the night?
- Do you have night sweats?
- Do you experience acid reflux during the night?
- Do you get up to go to the bathroom during the night?
- Do you feel nauseous in the early morning?
- Do you wake up exhausted?
- Do you have a dry throat in the morning?
- Do you get night cramps?
- Do you feel weak in the early morning?
If "yes" is the answer for any of these questions, it could mean that instead of burning fat and repairing muscles, your body has produced a stream of stress hormones while you've slept. The hibernation diet also goes on to explain how fructose in honey fuels the brain which is the most energy demanding organ, burning up to 20 times the fuel of any other cell in the body. We become exhausted after having to concentrate for a lengthy period. That's why we often hear that mental exhaustion is worse than physical exhaustion. The brain needs glucose to survive, however glucose occupies a large amount of storage space and there is no room in the brain. And the liver is the only organ that can both store and release glucose into the circulation. This is why looking after your liver glycogen amount by ensuring that the liver and the brain are well provided for both in the day and at night is so critical. Any fall in blood glucose is detrimental for the brain. The adrenal glands will be activated and the adrenal hormones if overproduced can lead to conditions such as heart disease, osteoporosis, obesity, diabetes, poor immune function, depression and other distressing health problems.
What I find inspiring to read is that we burn an amazing 70% fat during rest, 35% during low level exercise, 20% during moderate exercise, and a low 10% during intense exercise. During sleep we should burn fats. However, if the liver is not fuelled prior to bed, we release stress hormones from the adrenal glands which raise our heart rate and blood pressure. These hormones instead of burning fat, degrade muscle and bone. The liver must deliver 10 grams of glucose every hour -- 6.5 to the brain, 3.5 to the kidneys and red blood cells. As the liver capacity is only 75 grams, most people go to bed with a depleted liver, activating the adrenal glands and do not recover. And if you do not recover you do not burn fats. The hibernation diet essentially aims to encourage people to reap the benefit of your body's own natural recovery system and optimize their recovery biology or fat burning biology, as explicitly termed by the author who believed that this diet is not only to a healthy weight but unlocking energy resources you never know you had. So, if you interested to have a more in-depth account of this honey diet, check out the book "The Hibernation Diet" in which you will find details of the suggested diet plans for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the different types of resistance exercises described in clear steps.
A regular visitor of Benefit of Honey wrote to me and shared about his positive experience in using the hibernation diet and I am excited to post it here for all(with his permission of course!):
"I have been practising the hibernation diet for twenty months, and I'm still getting a wonderful effect on weight loss (My Weight Chart). All I exactly have to do is to consume honey one hour before bed as well as to have healthy meals everyday. I usually take two tablespoonful of honey or three and literally "it works while I sleep". I weighed 85.6kg at the beginning of November in 2006 when I began this diet. After twenty months, my weight hovers around 70kg these days. I lost about 16kg without doing any exercises in only twenty months! It's amazing! In addition it helps me get up immediately in next morning by taking honey before bed. Fueling the liver with honey before bed is really beneficial. Also, I happened to take a blood test half a year before I started the diet, the amount of triglyceride or neutral fat in the blood was 585mg/dL. It was a shocking value. And recently I took a blood test again. The result showed that the amount of neutral fat has drastically dropped to 157mg/dL in only two years! I believe it is an effect of the hibernation diet.
When it comes to the meals, I usually have a slice of toast, a vegetable salad, and of course honey as a toast spread almost every morning. And for dinner I often have the Japanese style meal, which may somewhat be traditional, mainly rice, vegetables, fish, tofu and so on.
Among other benefits, I was able to integrate this diet very easily and comfortably as part of my lifestlye and the best thing is I could actually continue with the diet for so long. What I do to lose weight and stay healthy is to just consume honey before bed!"
The honey hibernation diet is neither a mystical cure nor hype. Read the book to get a more in-depth understanding on the science behind the hibernation diet. The rationale for eating honey before bedtime has much to do with liver care and our fat metabolism during sleep. This write-up is not suggesting honey as a weight loss panacea (which does not exist). The last thing I want to do is to get on the nerves of those who for some reasons have gained no benefits and concluded it as a bunch of hoopla. If you think you have tried it hard enough but to no effect, move on folks. I too don't have an answer. What I do know is many have experienced weight loss as one of the positive "side effects" over time (next to sleeping better, better general health and immunity). The honey diet is not intended as a magic diet or one-time programme, but a way of life based on good science, followed in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle to derive far reaching health benefits.
1) How the Hibernation Diet works for reducing weight: How to Sleep and Lose Weight at the Same Time?
2) The Science behind the Honey Diet: Honey is the Best Brain Fuel.
3) The Honey Revolution by Dr Ron Fessenden crushes well-known myths and theories about dieting: Health and Nutrition: 5 Jolting Findings.
4) How to use honey to fuel your liver for the night, burn body fats when you sleep and, speed up fat metabolism: Honey Diet for Hibernation.
5) Let your child sleep optimally and enjoy great physiological recovery at night for better health, immunity and memory: Hibernation Honey for Kids.
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While fruit juices also contain the key 1:1 ratio of glucose to fructose for optimal fructose uptake into the liver and for fructose driven regulation of glucose uptake into liver also, they do not match honey. Honey stimulates the release of amylin, a hormone that partitions glucose into liver as opposed to muscle. And no other forms of sugar compared to honey contain the myriad of glucose metabolising principles found in honey. Fruit juices are the nearest to honey for this purpose, but can never match honey. You can find the details of these metabolising principles in The Honey Diet book by Mike McInnes (The Honey Diet Book). As for refined sugars in any form (e.g. table sugar or sucrose, also has a 1:1 ratio of fructose and glucose), they are simply toxic, devoid of any such principles, and do not even deserve to be in the same discussion as fruit juice or honey.
For diabetics, the idea is to replace any sugars (e.g. corn syrup, white sugar, artificial sweeteners, etc.) in the current diet with a more superior form of sugar, honey, and not to introduce more sugar. More on the application of honey for diabetics in:
3 Reasons Why Honey Should Not Be Banned in Diabetic Diet
Best Sugar for Diabetes
Having recently been diagnosed as a diabetic, should I, or should I not have honey. What does it do to the sugar levels as compared to other fruits.
I can't thank you enough for this article. I had adrenal fatigue last year leading to excessive high blood pressure and now sleep apnoea also my heart is not receiving enough blood and oxygen. I'm 35. I m usually tired. I was allergic to honey all my life now I finally found organic pure honey and I love it. My waist was 38 now after 3 days of regular honey intake it is reduced puffiness little. I sleep well at night and I'm energetic. My skin is glowing with health. Thanks to honey and its benefits.
Awesome read! I cant believe that now I could substitute milk with honey! as I have read in the Consumer Health Digest, milk does contain a bit of pus, even though it is pasteurized, I don't want to take my chances.
I have read the article to much stress hormones and nearly all applied to me. I am seriously starting the Hibernation diet as from to night. Thank you for the information.
Hi started using honey before bedtime today [2 Tablespoons] 09/01/2017 and currently weigh 13 stone 11 pounds. Will monitor results as and when they occur.
Rafi, get the science on how liver glycogen is used as the main fuel source for our brain in: Honey is the Best Brain Fuel.
I don't get it. Spoon of honey will provide me only few grams of glucose. Please explain me how this should satisfy my liver for whole night if we need around 10 grams of glucose per hour. This doesn't make sense...
Hi my name is Dom, at first I was quite a bit doubtful about the magnificent effect of honey. Im currently living here in Yemen where honey is what they called "liquid gold". Someone askéd me to buy honey and I was convinced to try some. After a week I noticed that my weight decreased, I become more active at work, I feel I'm younger 5 years back. I bought the type of honey which is the most expensive one. It's name is "sidir honey" with lots of medical benefits it gives once you take it. Try to order this type of honey. I assure you it's the best type of honey.
AL, raw honey is most ideal, any floral varietal, single varietal or multi/blended varietals. We are not aware of any concerns related to taking specific types of honey during a particular season.
Hi, is there any preferred or specific name of honey that can be used for the hibernation diet, which you can easily find in Asian country, because I was told that there are some honey that are produced in summer or winter and are not suitable to take in a different season. Are there any honey that I can take during the whole year and what are there names so I can buy them on the supermarket. Right now I just bought an Eucalyptus honey. Is this good to take for the both the hibernation diet and the morning cinnamon honey drink? Thanks.
I found a tablespoon honey before bed helps me sleep more soundly. It got rid of a cold sore in half the time this past winter. We used to eat peanut butter and honey sandwiches as a child.
I start using honey for 2 week before going to bed, now I lost 2 lbs. and still continuing. I love it.
I have been a fan of honey for a very long time. Had a bad hip, did the vinegar & honey with water two time a day for 5 or 6 wks and I was walking from the parking lot into the plant where I work and I told my son who was walking with me,"hemy hip isn't hurting anymore. I believe it was the honey and vinegar and no one will convince me other wise.So, tonight I will do the spoon full of honey at bedtime regularly and maybe in a few months I'll lose the 10 # I have been trying without success.
I want to learn more so that I can be able to cure myself naturally.