How often have you heard the ‘rule’ that eating carbs after a certain time of the day is bad for your diet? That it will cause you to put on weight? This has been around for a long time and believed by many.
There are two theories behind not eating carbohydrates in the evening. Theory 1 is that cutting carbs after a certain time of the day will help you cut down on your overall daily calories. Substituting white rice with cauliflower rice with your curry will eliminate 235 calories. This makes sense. If setting yourself a ‘carb curfew’ will help you limit your food intake then go for it.
The second theory is based around the idea that when you eat carbs after a certain time of the day your body will instantly turn those carbs in to fat. Research has shown that biologically speaking our bodies are primed to use carbs earlier in the day and this declines throughout the day. However, this theory of carbs being turned instantly to fat completely ignores the fundamental concept of calorie balance; “calories in vs. calories out”.
A bowl of pasta eaten at 12pm has the same number of calories as a bowl of pasta eaten at 7pm. It is all about the calorie balance. Yes, if that bowl of pasta takes you over your recommended daily calorie intake then it’ll be, eventually, turned in to fat as you are now in a calorie surplus. Eating too many carbohydrates (or any macronutrient) is bad for your fat loss, not what time of the day you eat them.
Benefits of Carbohydrates in the evening
Adding carbohydrates to your evening meal, or snack, can in fact have its benefits. Eating carbs can help reduce cortisol (stress hormone) levels whilst promoting the release of serotonin (happy chemical), both of which aid better sleep.
Do you train in the evening or first thing in the morning? Ingesting carbohydrates post-workout will help with refuelling your body when it is depleted after an intense session. The same goes for pre-workout. If you train in the morning on an empty stomach then your body can utilise night-time carbs as fuel to get you through your session.
Do what works for you. I have many online clients who have the bulk of their carbohydrate allowance in the evening, whilst others have it earlier in the day. All these clients are still losing weight. It is a personal preference both psychologically and physiologically. Do you sleep better if you have carbs at dinner? Do you get a stomach ache at bedtime? Are you more likely to overeat if you plan for carbohydrates in the evening? Are you more satisfied with carbs with dinner and therefore less likely to reach for desert?
Have a play around, listen to your body and see what works for you.
TLDR; Let’s stop demonising carbohydrates. There is nothing ‘fat burning’ or magical about the decision to not eat carbs after 6pm. You can use it as a tool to reduce your overall calorie intake but it is by no means necessary for fat loss. Do what works for you.