Your morning ritual sets the tone for your day. When you start enough days right, you position yourself for success in all dimensions of life.
Sleep, light, exercise, nutrition, planning, and hydration influence your day’s direction. But before we dive into tactics, let’s discuss the broader strategy of what your morning ritual should accomplish.
Morning Rituals and the Circadian Rhythm
Your overall health is directly correlated with your health habits. If you don’t establish healthy behavior patterns, you leave yourself at the mercy of your genome.
Unless you won the genetic lottery and have multiple centenarians in your lineage, that doesn’t always work out so well. (Exhibit A: the obesity crisis currently plaguing the Western world.) Most people are poorly equipped to thrive in sedentary conditions filled with empty calories.
Your genome is out of your control. (For now, at least!) But you can control the behaviors that influence the expression of your genes.
Many of these behaviors relate to the circadian rhythm, your 24-hour wake-sleep cycle. When you tune your circadian rhythm through proper light, sleep, exercise, and nutrition, your body (and genes) runs smoothly, so you don’t feel like a groundhog in a clothes dryer after waking up.
Having a simple AM ritual helps you set your circadian clock each day. Then it becomes easier to lose weight, feel better, and carpe the diem.
6 AM Rituals to Lose Weight and Feel Better
The most effective morning rituals are easy to understand but often tricky to implement. Work on one area at a time. Once the desired behavior becomes habitual, move to the next.
#1: Sleep in
Good days start with great sleep. No morning ritual will save you if you don’t allow your body sufficient time to rest.
It’s ideal to wake up naturally, without an alarm clock. If you need an alarm, aim for at least 9 hours in bed. (So go to bed by 10 PM if you have a 7 AM start.)
#2: Light exposure
Light is the primary regulator of your circadian rhythm. Bright light hitting your retina activates the suprachiasmatic nucleus, a brain region that sends wake-up signals throughout your body.[*]
Light shuts down the production of melatonin, your sleep hormone. It also encourages the release of cortisol, serotonin, and other alertness hormones.
To set your circadian clock, go outside immediately upon waking. Sunlight is better than clouds, but clouds are better than indoor lighting.
Do some light movement after you stagger outside. Like light, exercise also tunes your circadian rhythm.[*]
The exercise needn’t be intense. Think yoga, walking, jogging, a few jumping jacks, or push-ups.
An effective AM weight loss ritual might include cardio before the first meal. You’re more likely to burn body fat for energy in a fasted state.
But don’t push it. Fasted exercise can be stressful—and too much cortisol can hinder weight loss efforts[*]—so consider saving more strenuous efforts for later in the day.
Your circadian clock is almost calibrated now. After sleep, light, and exercise, we turn to nutrition.
Focus on protein in the morning. Here’s why:
- Protein contains tryptophan, an amino acid required to produce the mood-regulating and circadian-clock-setting hormone serotonin.[*]
- Early protein reduces appetite throughout the day to aid weight loss efforts.[*]
- Starting early helps you get enough protein for muscle growth and maintenance.
Eggs, meat, fish, and whey are all great protein sources. Shoot for around 30 grams at breakfast to get you on your way.
#5: Proper hydration
You become dehydrated overnight. And so when you rise, it’s wise to drink water (perhaps 8–12 ounces) to restore fluid balance and shake the morning fog.
Proper hydration may help you lose weight. For instance, one systematic review found that increasing water consumption was correlated with weight loss, possibly because the water replaced caloric beverages.[*]
But don’t neglect electrolytes, especially sodium. You lose fluids and minerals overnight, which must be replaced to feel and perform your best.
Consider adding a few shakes of salt to your simple AM ritual drink. You prevent many factors that sap your mood, energy, and cognitive powers by preventing sodium and fluid imbalances.
#6: Plan your day
If you want to achieve any goal—financial, emotional, or physical—it pays to have a plan. You won’t reach your destination if you don’t know where you’re going.
You can also use a digital journal like Carb Manager to plan meals, exercise, sleep, and more.
This keeps everything in one place so you can track your progress and stay accountable to your health goals.
Morning Ritual FAQ
You may have lingering questions about morning rituals. Let’s see if we can answer a few rapid-fire.
Can caffeine help with weight loss?
Possibly, because caffeine increases energy expenditure without adding calories. One meta-analysis found that higher caffeine intakes led to greater fat loss.[*]
Does coffee dehydrate you?
There’s no evidence that drinking moderate amounts of coffee has a dehydrating effect.[*]
Breakfast or no breakfast?
Depends on the person. Eating two daily meals helps some folks cut calories and lose weight. Others do better with a high-protein breakfast, which has the added benefits of circadian clock setting and boosting protein intake.
Do cold showers work?
For elevating mood, yes.[*] For weight loss, there’s no solid evidence.
Isn’t too much sleep bad for you?
Both short and long sleep (10 plus hours) are linked to higher mortality risk.[*] Why long sleep? Because sick folks tend to sleep more.
There’s no plausible mechanism by which more sleep itself is harmful. (Though overly long sleep times can indicate an underlying medical condition.) Sleep in if you can.
Make Your Morning Ritual Habitual
You want every aspect of your morning ritual to be like brushing your teeth. Automatic.
You set your circadian clock with light, sleep, exercise, and protein. You restore fluid balance with fluids and electrolytes. And you plan your daily wellness program to take precedence over doom scrolling, YouTube cruising, and other shallow distractions.
Being automatic in the morning helps your life unfold with more productivity, peace, and good health. It’s an advantage that will serve you well.