This ‘rule’ has been around for a long time and almost everyone has heard of it. The idea is that if you eat carbohydrates after a certain time at night it will be instantly turned into fat, more so than if you ate those carbs at an earlier time during the day. So does it hold any truth?
The idea that eating carbs at night is bad for weight loss has its origin in truth. By that I mean there are times during the day when carbohydrates consumed are more likely to be stored as fat rather than used as energy. For example, athletes often have large amounts of carbohydrates before hard training sessions because it ensures glycogen (energy) levels are topped up and optimal performance is achieved. In other words the carbs are used up. So it makes sense that if you eat carbs and then do not exercise, or you are inactive eg sleeping then those carbs will not be used up and rather than be used as energy they will be stored as fat, right? Not quite.
When we consume carbohydrates our body releases a hormone called insulin. In basic terms insulin’s role is to store energy in our bodies - it controls our blood sugar levels by ‘storing’ that sugar and preventing abnormally high blood glucose levels. If we consume large amounts of sugary foods then large amounts of insulin is released by the body and our body goes into a state where it can easily store body fat. This is why sugary foods are bad for weight loss - sugar has just as much calories as protein but unlike protein it is not good for weight loss.
What happens if you consume carbohydrates and then exercise? Blood glucose levels will increase BUT less insulin will need to be released because the muscles will use up the sugar. Now we know where this myth came from - can you see how easy it is to say “Well if you don’t exercise after you eat carbs you will get fat” and when is the time that we do the least exercise? Night time.
But the truth is eating carbs does not make you fat. Your muscles rely on carbohydrates for fuel. Your body does not know when it suddenly becomes 6pm. In fact, for some people, it may be nighttime that more carbohydrates are required! If you work out at night time and don’t do any physical activity during the day, then this is you!
What you do need to do is avoid large amounts of carbohydrates at any time of the day, if weight loss is the goal. But you do not need to completely avoid them at night time. It depends on your activity levels during the day and night. Think of carbs as an energy source - you want to consume them when your body needs the energy. Do you need many carbs when your sitting at a desk all day? No. Do you need carbs at 8pm when you come home from a hard workout? Yes. Forget the time, listen to your body. As long as you keep your total calories in control you will lose weight. Myths and fads are only distractions and temptations for quicker results. Focus on what works and results will come sooner than you think.
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