Lions, Bears, & Breast Cancer


We’re going to jump around a little bit here just so I can jettison some of this stuff out into the aether.

Three things:

  1. Eating schedule and weight loss
  2. Exercise and its effect on breast cancer outcomes.
  3. Exercise and its effect on cognition in breast cancer survivors.

Here we go.

Meal Timing & Weight Loss

Researchers found that a group of 110 individuals, ages 18-22,  who ate closer to melatonin onset, a.k.a. sleepy-time, were more likely to be overweight than individuals that ate 1.1 hours earlier (1).

Unfortunately for you and I, there was no association with any specific clock-hour, only personal circadian rhythm.

So you want to figure out what “eating rhythm” might be right for you without directly measuring melatonin via a saliva test.

You could take a few seconds to visit The Power of When and take the Chronotype test. If you have time, most-definitely read the book.

From that assessment, Dr. Breus slaps you into 1 of 4 Chronotypes:

  1. Lion pexels-photo-145983
    1. 15-20% of the population.
    2. Peak alertness at noon.
    3. Tends to be conscientious, practical, and optimistics.
    4. Hardly ever naps.
    5. Dr B: “These are my people that like to go from A to B to C. They like to kind of have things in a very particular order, don’t like to deviate…and are very early risers.”
  2. Beareuropean-brown-bear-wild-animal-bear-dangerous-158403
    1. 50% of the population.
    2. Peak alertness mid-morning to early afternoon.
    3. Tends to be cautious, friendly, open-minded, and takes comfort in familiar things.
    4. This is probably you.
  3. Wolfpexels-photo-326097
    1. 15-20% of the population.
    2. Impulsive, creative, moody, emotional, and intense.
    3. Peak alertness at 7pm.
    4. Dr. B: “Wolves are night owls. I’m actually a wolf and so I like to stay up late and I used to like to sleep in, but I don’t need a tremendous amount of sleep…”
  4. Dolphindolphin-marine-mammals-water-sea-64219
    1. 10% of the population.
    2. Cautious, neurotic, intelligent, perfectionist.
    3. Peak alertness very late at night.
    4. Dr. B: “[Dolphins] are my highly intelligent but problem sleepers. These people have a little bit of obsessive-compulsive to them, so much to the point that sometimes they don’t get stuff done…”

Where am I going with this…

I’m a Bear.

Following a Power of When circadian schedule for my own body, my ideal meal timing would go something like this:

  • Big Breakfast @ 730amcook-food-kitchen-eat-54455
  • Coffee @ 11am (I talked about timing your coffee intake previously)
  • Moderate sized lunch @ 1230pm
  • Snack if needed around 4pm
  • Small Dinner @ 730pm

Too much work for you?

Try timing your meals around the sun, eating most of your food when the sun is up, and very little when the sun is down.

Moral of the story?

Experiment with eating bigger meals in the morning and lighter meals in the evening, as well as eating more in the first half of the day than in the back-half.

I discussed this in more detail in my Alpha Nutrition post. Just incase you want more.

No time to check it out? Here’s an excerpt:

“This kind of eating pattern has been shown to lead to better appetite control and satiation, but not much after that. You should also know that your body is most responsive to insulin in the morning and least responsive to insulin in the evening.

Insulin is the guy who tells your body to stop and store instead of breaking down and burning tissue. We call this anabolism, and yes, you effectively stop burning fat during this period. If we’re building, we’re not tearing down. Conversely, if we’re burning, we’re not building.

As another side-note, one study showed that women who ate in this manner lost 2.5x more weight than those who did the opposite. Despite that, this style of eating seems to have limited impact on body composition and weight loss.”

Exercise & Breast Cancer

Exercise Improves Survival Rate

Researchers found that exercise can lower breast cancer (BC) occurrence and improve survival rates of those undergoing treatment. Unfortunately, the underlying mechanism of action (the reason why this happens) is still unknown (2, 3).

Researchers discovered a lower survival rate of cancerous cells in BC survivors who participated in 2 hours of moderate to intense exercise per week.


Epinephrine, known as adrenaline, activates the Hippo signaling pathway, which suppresses cancer cell growth. The acute increase of epinephrine from exercise is thought to account for the decreased survival of BC cells, and therefor the increased survival rate of individuals with BC.

The hippo signaling pathway controls organ growth through regulation cell growth and death. Your cells know what their structure is supposed to be. Unfortunately, modern lifestyles cause damage at a cellular level that can lead to uncontrolled growth of tissue (4).

Exercise Among Breast Cancer Survivors Improves Cognitive Abilities

75% of BC survivors experience cognitive difficulties following treatments that may last years (5, 6).


Researchers studied women ages 21-85 who were no more than 5-years out from BC treatment.

Women who increased physical activity doubled their post-treatment mental processing speed.

In the 12-week trial, half of the 87 participants followed a training protocol of 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week, while the other half of the group read emails about health, healthy eating, stress reduction, and brain health.

Researchers used both self reports on cognition and the National Institutes of Health Toolbox Cognition Domain assessment to capture a true cognitive function score.

“Survivors often report that their thinking is slower or feels more foggy. The brain just doesn’t work at the same level as before cancer treatment,” said Hartman. “By providing a program with support, women are more likely to make difficult behavioral changes that lead to an increase in physical activity.”

The NIH assessment showed an improvement of processing speed, but nothing more. Women who were 2-years or or less from BC diagnosis benefited the most, with up to a 3-fold improvement in cognitive processing speed.

The Take-Away

Exercise can be a powerful way to reduce proliferation of breast cancer cells, decreasing the chances of developing BC, improving survival rates for those undergoing treatment, and decreasing the chances of BC recurrence.

Exercise can also be a powerful way to reclaim cognitive function which is lost as an effect of BC treatment.

Putting it All Together

  1. Research consistently demonstrates that those who eat closer to periods of high insulin sensitivity — earlier in the day — tend to weight less and be healthier than those who eat closer to periods of low insulin sensitivity in the evening.
  2. Exercise decreases chances of BC occurrence, improves survival rate, and decreases chances of BC recurrence.
  3. Exercise increases thinking speed in BC survivors who are 0-5 years out from BC diagnosis.

Lastly, I’m not a doctor. This is not medical advice. I’m just a nerd who likes to read research, and I figured I’d be productive by sharing it with you.

I’m a nerd, I know.

I read it so you don’t have to.


ps. If there’s anything you’re curious about, and don’t have the time, patience, or know-how to learn about it, let me know. I’ll be sure to post on it if it’s worth-while, or I’ll answer you directly!

Images courtesy of Flickr, Pixabay, Isabela Mendes


  1. Andrew W McHill, Andrew JK Phillips, Charles A Czeisler, Leigh Keating, Karen Yee, Laura K Barger, Marta Garaulet, Frank AJL Scheer, Elizabeth B Klerman. Later circadian timing of food intake is associated with increased body fatThe American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2017; ajcn161588 DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.117.161588
  2. Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Later circadian timing of food intake is associated with increased body mass index.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 September 2017. <>.
  3. Christine Dethlefsen, Louise S. Hansen, Christian Lillelund, Christina Andersen, Julie Gehl, Jesper F. Christensen, Bente K. Pedersen, Pernille Hojman. Exercise-Induced Catecholamines Activate the Hippo Tumor Suppressor Pathway to Reduce Risks of Breast Cancer DevelopmentCancer Research, 2017; DOI: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-16-3125
  4. Pan, D. (2010). The Hippo Signaling Pathway in Development and Cancer. Developmental Cell, 19(4), 491-505. doi:10.1016/j.devcel.2010.09.011
  5. American Association for Cancer Research. “What mediates the beneficial effects of exercise on breast cancer outcomes? New research shows that epinephrine-Hippo signaling may mediate some of the beneficial effects of exercise on breast cancer outcomes.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 September 2017. <>.
  6. Sheri J. Hartman, Sandahl H. Nelson, Emily Myers, Loki Natarajan, Dorothy D. Sears, Barton W. Palmer, Lauren S. Weiner, Barbara A. Parker, Ruth E. Patterson. Randomized controlled trial of increasing physical activity on objectively measured and self-reported cognitive functioning among breast cancer survivors: The memory & motion studyCancer, 2017; DOI: 10.1002/cncr.30987
  7. University of California – San Diego. “Brain powered: Increased physical activity among breast cancer survivors boosts cognition.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 September 2017. <>.
  8. Breus, Michael. The power of when: learn the best time to do everything. Vermilion, 2016.

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