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Carbs at Night, Make You Fat?!?!
This is something that I’ve been meaning to write about for a long time because this is just about the most ignorant dietary myth that is still around and I hear it over and over again. Don’t eat carbs after ‘X’ o’clock because it will turn into adipose tissue. I mean how many of you have heard this before or think this is true? That it is bad to eat carbs after 6, 7, 8, 10 o’clock at night or even midnight? Well, big shocker coming your way because I’m here to shed some light on this myth.
To start, I am going to offer a bit of anecdote:
On January 5th, 2012 my father had a stroke (age 58). After a week in the hospital, the staff sent him home with a new diet to help drop about 50 lbs. Low sodium, low(er) fat, moderate protein and carbs. All good stuff, and nothing weird as doctors can sometimes prescribe, though they did put him at 1800 calories, which is way too low for someone of his size.
About a month after his stroke he was struggling with his diet. Being the competitive bodybuilder that I am, I told him that the best shape I had every been in, was when I trained for a bodybuilding show, and I encouraged him to do the same. After a few days he decided to do a show that was in November. This gave him about 10 months to get in shape.
My dad, at age 58, weighing 220 lbs started out at the following macros:
For a grand total of 2535 calories
About 4 weeks in he was having a hard time eating all the carbs that we gave him. He simply could not eat enough rice and sweet potatoes to hit 280 grams. That is when I sat him down and had him eat almost half a gallon of low fat vanilla ice cream. Having struggled with his weight for 30+ years, he said the same thing that so many of my new Custom Macro Blueprint clients say.. “You mean, I can eat ice cream, and still lose weight?”.
Yes you can I said.. Yes you can.
For the next 8 months, my dad ate low fat vanilla ice cream as his last meal of the night, right before he went to bed, and week after week, month after month he continued to burn fat at an alarming rate.
Like everyone that has to diet for 10-12 months his fat loss did stall, and we did have to drop his macros, but even during the last 6 weeks of his contest prep, when he got down to 100 carbs for the day, he was still eating ice cream before bed.
From mid March to November 10th my dad lost 58 lbs of fat, and gained 18 lbs of muscle to stop on stage at 180 lbs, all while eating ice cream at night!
For years not, people believe that since they are closer to sleeping they should curtail carbohydrate intake, this is simply ludicrous. Carbohydrates at night don’t make you fat; too many total calories make you fat.
A study done by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem took 78 obese subjects and had them consume carbohydrates mostly at dinner for 6 months and results showed greater weight loss, abdominal circumference, and body fat mass reduction. Additionally, if you train at night you NEED those carbohydrates to properly recover and start glycogen re-synthesis (stored carbs in the body that convert to glucose in the blood stream). Insulin sensitivity is high after a workout, so it’s okay to eat a high amount of carbs at this time and not worry about storing excess carbs into fat.
Your metabolism doesn’t say hey it’s night time, so that means I have to store these carbs into fat cells. There’s nothing about night time that changes your metabolism.
If you are not training at night and you eat the right amount of carbs that you’re supposed to be eating to hit your daily macronutrient count, then you will be fine. On the contrary, if you’re living a sedentary lifestyle, you should eat a moderate serving of complex carbs (oatmeal, sweet potatoes, bran cereal, low-fat pop corn, brown rice, etc.) about the size of your fist with a lean protein source before bed. These carbs will be assimilated in a slower manner and keep you fuller for that 6-8 hour sleeping fast that you are about to enter. Complex carbs before bed will also help spare muscle protein while you sleep and your body will synthesize these carbs into glucose (blood sugar levels) and store it into your muscle cells, instead of your fat cells.
On the contrary, if you eat a huge serving of simple carbs (white carbs, sweets, candy, etc) without a lean protein source at night, then your insulin levels will most likely rise, as well as your glucose levels and there will be nothing else to balance it with, so that sugar from the simple carbs will be stored into your fat cells. There’s a lot more that goes on during this process with insulin, so rather than just looking at it as a black and white answer, keep an open mind that other variables are involved, but I won’t get into that in this article. Also, keep in mind everyone’s body and metabolism is different. Some can handle more carbs, some simply can’t.
This is something our coaches at IIFYM.com will calculate for you when you sign up for a Custom Macro Blueprint
I really don’t know where people got this notion of not being able to eat carbs after ‘X” o’clock because it will turn into adipose tissue. I’ve never came across a study or research that has proven facts to this myth. So, stop being Carbophobic and cutting carbs out after ‘X’ times because you’re missing out on crucial calories and nutrients that your body could be assimilating. Carbs at night don’t make you fat; too many total calories make you fat and if your metabolism is telling you not to eat carbs at night, shut it up by eating some more carbs!