Updated: Jun 26
So, I’m sure you’ve probably heard that eating carbs after 6pm is bad because the energy won’t be used and instead will be stored as body fat? I don’t know where this came from, because anybody who thinks that the body doesn’t require energy when we’re sleeping is deluded.
Well, my carb loving friends – I’m happy to say that, that is wrong, so very wrong.
Carbs are not your enemy. They’ve never been anybody’s enemy & quite frankly – it’s time to defend them. The only way you’ll every gain fat is if you eat too many calories. That’s it.
There are several reasons I recommend most of my clients eat carbs at night (and most of my client’s goals are to lose weight). I’m going to put the following reasons in the order that I think are the most important reasons for my clients, not necessarily the most scientifically beneficial order.
1. Helps them keep on track with their diet
This is the money maker right here. Allowing my clients to have some (or in most cases, the majority) of carbs in the evening – they stick to the plan so much better. Why? Because most people have pretty generic meals for breakfast/lunch that they often eat alone and want to have a bigger, nicer meal at home in the evening after work with their family/friends AND it leaves a little room for error just in case a sneaky pudding magically appears. It’s also much easier to eat healthier during the day, knowing you’ve got a nice meal waiting for you when you get home.
If you think about when you’ve ever craved carbs – I’m going to bet it’s not early in the day & more than likely after a long day at work..
Unfortunately, in this day and age, most people sleep.. Terribly. We’re busier than ever, we drink more coffee than ever, we look at screens all day and honestly - there are just more ways to waste time (think scrolling through Facebook or ‘1 more Netflix’) that replaces sleep.
So, how do carbs help?
Surely, at some point in life you’ve eaten a big bowl of pasta & thought, I’d love a nap (sometimes known as a “food-coma”). Or maybe this is just every day after lunch time when you get back to the office.. Well this is because carbs boost tryptophan & serotonin which are extremely important to produce the hormone melatonin which controls your sleep-wake cycles.
3. Exercise performance
Morning workouts –The carbs that you eat in the evening will either be used or stored in your muscles & liver as glycogen - if you’re an early bird this stored glycogen is going to support your morning workout by giving your muscles the energy that they need.
Evening workouts – If you train in the evening, you will have used up your glycogen stores whilst training, therefore a carb heavy meal afterwards is beneficial not only to refill your stores, but to aid recovery too.
4. Leptin control
A study published by the obesity journal showed that people who consumed the majority of their carbs in the evening showed greater results of weight loss. The participants also showed greater levels of the hormone Leptin* – which I believe is part of the reason for the greater weight loss results.
*Note - There are 2 hormones responsible for controlling your appetite – Leptin & Ghrelin. Ghrelin is responsible for telling your body it requires food, whilst Leptin tells your body you’ve had enough.
Now - this isn’t to say that I recommend you just any carbs before bed. I unfortunately do not recommend that you munch a bag of sweets before bed (I’m sorry) every day. But I do recommend that you get a healthy serving of complex carbs such as..
Rice, Oats, Whole-wheat Pasta, Whole-wheat bread (yes bread is fine), Potatoes, Sweet potatoes, Beans & Grains
If there's one thing you take away from this, it should be that your body will not store carbs as fat simply due to the time they were consumed. Calories are all that will determine whether body fat is stored from your food, you should however still aim to get the majority of your carbs from complex sources (listed above). Evening carbs can in fact be beneficial to your weight loss goal through helping with diet adherence & satiety. Not only can they help with your diet, but they can also help a lot of people sleep better, which can result in an improved likelihood of diet adherence too. Performance in the gym can also be effected positively, which again can only aid with your weight loss goals.
TAKE HOME NOTES
Evening carbs will not be stored as body fat
Too many calories (calorie surplus) is the only thing that will increase body fat
Having the majority of your carbs later in the day actually has many positive benefits
Evening carbs can help you adhere to your diet plan
Evening carbs can help you sleep better
Evening carbs can improve your workout performance
If you want more help losing weight, check out my latest free eBook series 5 steps to successful fat loss