One of the things I often hear women say is that they never eat carbs after a certain time at night. This is a recommendation I have come across many times during my years in the fitness industry. I believe that this came about as it is believed that if you eat carbs at night, when you are normally less active, the carbs will be stored as fat as you are not using the carbs to fuel any activity. Also, there is also the fact that insulin sensitivity is reduced at night, again believed to be contributing to the carbs being stored as fat.
So, should you avoid carbs after dark? I have outlined some of the claims below, together with what reality actually is.
Claim: You don’t burn calories whilst you are sleeping.
Reality: Your body doesn’t stop burning calories, even when you are asleep. When you are sleeping your body is actually repairing it self amongst other things.
Claim: Your insulin sensitivity is lower at night.
Reality: It is true that your insulin sensitivity is lower at night in comparison to the morning. This is probably as you have not been eating for a prolonged period of time. Although, an overnight fast has shown to enhance insulin sensitivity, it doesn’t mean that you can’t eat carbs after dark.
Claim: Carbs consumed at night will be stored as fat.
Reality: You store fat if you eat too much, it doesn’t matter when you eat your food. If you like to eat rice for dinner you can, you just need to ensure you don’t overeat.
In addition, there is actually some proof to support that people who eat their carbs at night lose more body fat than others.
Although the most important aspect is the amount of food that you eat, I am not saying that you can eat any type of carbs. It is important that you choose good quality ones. Some of my favourites include brown rice, legumes, quinoa, gluten free oats or other gluten free grains, potato and sweet potato.
Why you should include carbs in your diet…
1. They provide you with fibre
Eating a variety of healthy carbs will ensure you get both soluble and insoluble fibre. These two types have got a different effect on your health and wellbeing. Soluble fibre helps reduce cholesterol levels, helps protect against diabetes, keeps your bowel healthy, and keeps you fuller for longer. Insoluble fibre also helps with hunger pangs, and healthy bowel movements.
2. They provide you with energy
Your body’s favourite source of fuel is glucose, and this is predominantly found in carbohydrates, but can also be made from some of the amino acids making up protein. However, carbohydrates are far more easily broken down than fat and protein. You body does use fat as a source of energy as well, but protein is only used when carb levels are really low.
3. They save your muscles
Eating enough carbohydrates actually seems to ensure you don’t waste lean muscle. When you are not eating enough carbohydrates, your body does not only rely on your fat stores, but also your muscle protein to get enough glucose for energy.
4. They boost your mood
Carbohydrates might help boost the levels of serotonin in your 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
This is one thing that I fine very interesting. A sleep study actually showed that having carbs 4 hours before bed made people fall asleep faster.
What’s important is that you listen to your body. If you feel better by having carbs throughout the day, it is perfectly fine. Whatever you feel comfortable with. Just don’t avoid carbs at night, believing that it will make you fat. This is simply not the case.
When do you eat your carbs? Please let me know in the comments below.