Ever heard the ‘rule’ that you shouldn’t eat carbs after a certain time because it will make you gain weight?
This diet ‘rule’ has been around for what seems like forever! I remember hearing this and following it back when I was in college. And I’m here to tell you today that it couldn’t be further from the truth.
There is a HUGE misconception that carbs consumed at certain times of day are more likely to be stored as fat, rather than being used as energy.
But research shows it’s totally a-okay to eat carbs at night and here is why: Your total carb and calorie intake during the day is more important when it comes to weight gain than the timing of your carbs.
So it actually doesn’t matter WHEN you eat carbohydrates, they will only be stored in your body if they are eaten in EXCESS to your energy requirements.
This means that eating carbohydrates at night doesn’t necessarily make you gain weight unless it pushes you over your total daily energy expenditure, or your TDEE. This is important to remember when you start freaking out after mindlessly snacking on a huge big bowl of popcorn while watching TV at night…if it doesn’t push you over your daily calorie allotment, you’re fine!
Plus, eating carbs at night provides your body with much-needed fuel to help you get better sleep. Let me explain.
Eating carbs in the evening may help you to get a better night’s rest by reducing cortisol, your main stress hormone, and boosting serotonin, which helps you relax.
Yes, your body uses carbohydrates when you’re awake and active, but it also uses them when you are at rest. Whether you’re doing a HIIT workout, watching TV or taking a nap, your brain, heart, lungs and other organs need energy in order to function.
There are many essential processes happening inside of our bodies while we rest that keep us alive and ensure we recover from exercise. These processes require energy. And this energy can come from the carbohydrates in your diet.
When is the best time to eat carbs?
Well-timed carbohydrate intake can ensure that you have the energy to train and recover well.
In fact, eating carbs right after a workout can help repair the micro-damage you do to your muscles during your workout. This means that your training schedule plays a role in the optimal time to eat carbs. It’s ideal to time your carb intake around your exercise. However, if you workout in the morning, but your main carb meal is for dinner, this won’t have any effect on your weight as long as you are still eating the recommended amount of carbohydrate for you and your goals.
After a morning workout, put 25% of your daily carbs in your breakfast. After an evening workout, again aim for 25% of your daily carbs in your dinner. You NEED carbs to help your muscles recover properly and replenish glycogen stores. Glycogen is stored in the liver and muscle and can be quickly converted to energy when needed.
It’s important to remember that staying healthy is all about following a holistic approach to nutrition and exercise. If you don’t time things right one day, don’t give up. This is not an all or nothing deal. Try again tomorrow. Even those of us who have been training for years still aren’t perfect every single day. But that doesn’t mean we don’t stop trying.
The best time to eat carbs is when it suits you!
If you workout in the morning, you might choose to have carbohydrates like cereal or toast for breakfast. That doesn’t mean you can’t have any more carbs that day! Remember, how you distribute your carb intake should suit you and your lifestyle. Living a healthy lifestyle should be enjoyable and sustainable — not a short term plan.
What types of carbs are best to eat at night?
Complex carbohydrates are the best type of carbohydrates, and these are the ones that are best eaten at night. Complex carbs include sweet potatoes, brown rice, wholemeal pasta and bread, oatmeal and bran.
Complex carbohydrates are digested slower than refined carbohydrates, so they provide sustained energy and keep you feeling full for longer. If you choose to eat a small portion of carbs at night they will keep you sustained until breakfast. Complex carbs also contain magnesium which can help to reduce anxiety, so eating them at night can help you to sleep better.
Refined or simple carbohydrates are found in processed foods. These carbs are low in fibreand easily digested for short term energy. Some examples of refined carbs include white rice and pasta, sweets, cakes, candy, and white bread. Simple carbs provide a rush of energy in the short term but can leave you feeling hungry soon after.
Planning when to eat carbs
If you tend to be more sedentary during the day, keep in mind that what you are eating during the day should be enough to fuel you and keep your energy levels up. It also should be enough that you don’t feel ravenous at the end of the day and go on a crazy binge at night, eating anything and everything you see. Eating balanced meals and snacks throughout the day can help to minimize evening food cravings.
Speaking of night time snacks, the food you eat at night should be nutrient-rich so that your body can build and maintain muscle, replenish energy reserves, recover from the demands of the previous day and prepare for the next day.