There's been a nutrition myth making the rounds for years. It's a myth that's not based on science. The myth is that eating carbs at night will make you fat.
Like any lie, if it gets repeated often enough it begins to sound like the truth. This myth sounds so reasonable it's easy to believe. I believed it for a long time, I would stop eating carbs at 5:00 or 6:00 P.M. I thought any carbs I ate after nightfall would go straight to my love handles.
The human metabolism does not work like that. You are not going to turn into a Gremlin if you eat carbs at night.
Eating carbs at night will not make you fat. I do not know where this myth came from, but it needs to die a brutal and public death. I have many conversations in the gym where smart people tell me they eat all their carbs before dinner. They’ve been lied to by fitness magazines and internet gurus.
Fitness myths make everything more difficult for well meaning, hard-working people. We need to debunk as many as possible.
The rationale behind "eating carbs at night will make you fat" is this: Normally you go to bed after eating dinner and your metabolism will slow down because you are inactive in your sleep. If you aren't moving how can your metabolism be working at a fast pace? Because of this supposed metabolic slow down the carbs you eat at dinner will be stored as fat.
Unfortunately it couldn’t be further from the truth.
Studies show that your metabolism does not slow down while you are sleeping. It speeds up. This is especially true if you are working out regularly. Regular exercise increases your basal metabolic rate for as much as 18 hours after you leave the gym. That means you are burning as much as 3 times the normal amount of calories no matter what you are doing.
The majority of your muscular and cellular repair takes place during sleep. In order for your body to repair it needs a fuel source. Carbs and protein are where your body draws important nutrients used to repair itself. By eating carbohydrates at night you are giving your body what it needs to build muscle and burn fat.
Eating carbohydrates at night also has great hormonal benefits according to a study published by the Obesity journal. Researchers had one of group of people eat 80% of their carbohydrates at dinner, and another group eat their carbohydrates during the day. The night time carb eaters showed greater loss in total weight, body fat and waist circumference.
The night time carb eaters also had higher leptin levels, which is a sign of a healthy and fast metabolism.
It’s important to know that when you diet (eat below caloric maintenance level) your leptin levels will fall. This means that eating carbohydrates at night will make you less likely to see stalled fat loss while dieting to get lean.
Eating carbs at night has other benefits. Carbs help you sleep better and deeper. They will also provide a fuel source for a morning workout the following day.
As our nutrition science advances it will continue to debunk these fitness myths. Eating carbs at night will not make you fat, in fact it will actually make you leaner, stronger and better rested.
A diet can only be viewed in context- not by meal timing or a single item eaten in a day. The single most important factor is the calories you eat within a day. As long as you are eating enough, and eating well you will burn fat and build muscle.
Here's how to structure an efficient and easy to follow diet. Eat protein rich meals with vegetables during the day. At night eat a protein rich meal with starchy carbs. Develop a plan and stick to it. The only way to truly change your body is to work hard in the gym and be diligent in the kitchen over a consistent period of time. One limiting factor, like when you eat carbs, will not make a difference.