One thing I hear too many women say is that they never eat carbs after a certain point in the evening hours. I’ve heard this so many times throughout my training years and it just seems to take on a life of it’s own. I know the mentality surrounding this idea is that if you eat carbs in the evening and you are less active than the rest of your day, the carbs will be immediately stored to fat since you didn’t burn them off with some crazy cardio or HIIT training. There is also the fact that insulin sensitivity is reduced at night, and this is also believed to be pushing those carbs to the fat storages.
The question I hear no is, “should I not eat carbs after a certain point each day?” Let’s review some of the popular ideas many of us have heard and what is the true story behind it all…
Question: Do you burn calories when you’re sleeping?
Answer: Umnmmm…YES! Our bodies never stop burning calories, even when we are doing absolutely nothing – or sleeping. Sleep is actually the time that our bodies are busy repairing themselves and working harder than we realize. It’s important to get enough sleep to help us reach our goals and although we may be sleeping; our bodies are hard at work and def burn calories. 🙂
Question: Is our insulin sensitivity lower at night?
Answer: While it is true that our insulin sensitivity is lower at night than in the morning; it’s most likely because we have not been eating for an extended time. During the night, we are in a fast and this has been shown to enhance our insulin sensitivity but it doesn’t mean that we cannot eat carbs after the sun sets.
Question: If I eat carbs at night, will they be stored as fat?
Answer: You basically store fat if you eat too much of anything, it doesn’t matter WHEN or WHERE you eat the food. There are plenty of lean and fit people who enjoy rice and other carbs in the evening hours and succeed with their goals of maintaining or even leaning out along the way. The secret is to not overeat in the evening hours; of anything for that matter. There is also some proof that supports people who eat carbs at night lose more body fat than others. I love enjoying some oats or whole grain cereal/granola with my evening Greek yogurt and it is not changing my results in any negative way. In fact, I have noticed that I’ve been steadily leaning out…and it’s the winter months too! 😉 That’s another important point I should share; it’s not about just eating ANY type of carbs. I choose only the complex carb choices and limit white flour and white sugar products altogether. (again, this is meant for any time of the day or night) I choose brown rice, quinoa, gluten free oats, sweet potatoes and legumes to look and feel my best.
Would you like to hear why you should keep eating your carbs? Let me share with you anyway 😉
1. They help provide fiber into your diet
Choosing a variety of healthy carbs will help to make sure that you get both soluble and insoluble fiber. The two types of fiber have a different effect on your health and best results.
2. They help provide energy
Did you know that our body’s favorite source of fuel is glucose? You can see why runners “carb load” before a race to help best fuel the race. This is found mainly in carbs, but also can be made from some of the amino acids that make up protein. Carbs, however, are more easily broken down than fat and proteins. The body does use fat as a source of energy but protein is only used for energy when carb levels are really low.
3. They help to save your muscle
By eating enough carbs, you actually ensure that you don’t waste your lean muscle. Pretty cool, right? When you don’t get enough carbs, your body does not only rely on fat stores, but also your muscle protein to get enough glucose for your energy needs. Not cool!
4. They help to boost your mood
Ever hear of a “low carb” and “high carb” energy day? These can create a major shift in our mood swings and how we relate with others. Carbs might help boost the levels of serotonin in our brain. Serotonin is a feel-good chemical, and a low level of carbohydrates is associated with lower levels of serotonin and has been shown to increase levels of depression, anxiety and anger.
5. They help you sleep….zzzzz
This is one thing that I find super interesting. A sleep study actually showed that having carbs 4 hours before bed made people fall asleep faster. Wait, really?
So the moral of the story is that carbs are not bad or evil. You don’t have to cut them out at any time of the day; as long as you are getting in the right choices and amounts for your body and your goals. The important thing is to listen to your body. If you feel that by having carbs throughout the day, you are feeling good…then do it. Just don’t obsess over time and cutting it out completely or you might find yourself with less friends in your life. Avoiding carbs at night is not the secret to staying lean. It’s not true.
Will you share when you eat your carbs? I’d love to know what works for you!