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:

185 Protein
280 carbs
75 fat
30 fiber

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.

Carbs at Night, Make You Fat

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!


IIFYM Coach Do It For You

  • Mark

    Great article to read for anyone that is dieting and working out. I’ve recently started working out again after a long 27 year bulk (LOL) and successfully lost 40 lbs in the past 3-4 months or so but quickly realized that I’ve been doing it wrong even though I’ve been mostly lifting heavy for fat burn and retaining muscle. I’ve had a hard time to come to terms to “eat more to lose more” and have been stuck at the same weight for many weeks now. Today will be the day that I cross that line and start eating more to in fact lose more. With the calculations I recieved from here, I will moniter my results closely. I started at 294 lbs and am now platued at 254 lbs. Here is going out of my comfort zone and hoping for results!!

  • jairo

    so you saying if I eat simple carbs at night I’m going to get fat?

  • mark thompson

    I feel the same way. You are burning calories all the time at least 75 an hour just sleeping. its calories in as opposed to calories out. look at it backwards if you don’t eat it then you don’t have to worry about burning it. count the stuff you don’t eat but used to and see how they add up its not how much you eat its about how much you don’t eat. if you don’t eat it then you don’t have to worry about it.

  • Blake

    Yup. Calories in vs out. My bedtime meal is almost always over 300g of carbs, including the milk I have with it. It’s been for a while. Not getting fat. http://www.myfitnesspal.com/food/diary/BlakeHorton

    • Austin

      How the hell do you fit 300g of carbs into one meal?

      • That’s a great question. 300g of carbs in one meal? I used to eat like that and got WAY overweight. Remember that a calorie is not a calorie. 300 kcals of oatmeal is not the same as 300 kcal Big Mac. I lost my thyroid gland to cancer and I have psoriatic arthritis which prevents me from doing serious lifting, but I compete in triathlons and marathons at 250 pounds.

      • Arthur

        Binge eating disorder.

    • Arthur

      Probably destroying your pancreas, though. Enjoy your insulin resistance.

  • Amy Valdez

    Great article! I am guilty of believing this myth :/ but not anymore, so thank you for the info!

  • Kyle

    So the 2nd to last paragraph confused me a little.

    For people who train in the morning, we can eat our carbs whenever, because our body is repairing muscle even when we sleep. But should that be limited to complex carbs, or was that comment only for more sedentary people? Thanks for indulging my curiosity!

  • Justin

    Referring my comment to Kyle:

    The idea is that when you’re working out/after you work out, your insulin levels are spiked substantially. You don’t need to limit yourself to complex carbs at this point, simple carbs will be absorbed faster in the body, thus replacing the glycogen stores in your body at a high more effective rate. This process also increases protein synthesis.

    • andy

      soit mean that if i canfit icecream in my macros i should eat it after working out and not at night?? what happens if i work out in the morning but eat my empty carbs before bed??

  • Muthuganesh

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  • belizeur louis

    GReat.. I train at 5pm and my train end 6 to 6:30 pm .. do I need to eat carbs?

    I stopped eating carbs at nigth After ny training and I lost weigth I mean 8 pounds in two weeks

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  • Thank for this helpfull article, now, I can have my huge oatmeal bowl at 9 pm without guilt!

  • Rick

    A couple of factual mistakes here and i testify to these from my own experience.

    Fact : When you sleep your metabolism rate drops thus excess calories are converted to fats
    Experience: eating carbs late at night does not make me Gain weight(same amount of calories) but gain fat. This is very apparent at the midsection

    “Carbohydrates at night don’t make you fat; too many total calories make you fat.”

    Total calories determines your weight and not fat level %

    Do update your article and title

    • Leo Quattro

      metabolism doesn’t drop while sleeping

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  • Jose Rito

    Wow! I was a fool to believe this myth, this article is really an eye opener. So if I eat the right amount of carbs at night and meet my daily micronutrients count I will be fine. I am struggling torching fat of my midsection but I will start using the micronutrient count that was recommended on this page and see where I am in a month.

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  • Leon

    Currently cutting – I work out in the afternoon so I take carbs post w/o…So can I eat my pre bed casein with Greek yoghurt and not worry about the carbs in the yoghurt if it fits in my macros?

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  • Great article! There have actually been some studies showing that the insulin spike from simple carbs, about an hour, before bed increase the release of growth hormone as well as increase metabolism during REM sleep.

    I’ll see if I can find the website and post it later.

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  • Robbie

    This is the concept of Carb Back Loading. If you want to learn the science, research and DYI i suggest you pick up the book.

  • Monica

    Ahhh this is so good . Soooo good . And anyone that isn’t sure can just TRY it out . Although I am “carb sensitive “. I realize now and never did how important simple CALORIE DEFICIT is and sticking to your macros . FREE AT LAST !!

  • Maria Ciampa

    This study doesn’t specifically look at carbs, but it does look at when calories are consumed. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/oby.20460/full

  • Torrance Laugle

    THIS IS SO TRUE. I feast late at night and I’m very lean… (which I haven’t always been) I eat protein ice cream and oatmeal before bed. EVERYDAY.

    • Kali M.

      Do you mix all those together too? hehehe
      Good job!

  • Arthur

    Lean =/= healthy. Forcing yourself to eat ice cream you don’t feel like eating is absolutely insane.
    Don’t know how I was subscribed here in the first place but I’m unsubscribing, lol.

  • kbroihier

    Ice cream before bed is a simple carb, no? Confusing.

    • Cynthia B

      He said his dad was training at night, he specifies that if you aren’t you should stick to complex carbs

  • frances alvarez

    thank you thank you thank you, i have always believed that. I just got my macro blue print and truth is it’s actually difficult to eat all the macros. i am stunned but I will keep it up for 3-4 months and see my results. I gotta feeling this is where it’s at !!!
    oh one more thing if you read the article “clearly” you will notice he said “his dad had trouble getting in all “his carbs. and “his dad’s metabolism”. he said trial an error depending on “your” body type.

  • frances alvarez

    I”have, read the comments and please be kind. He’s putting information out for the “general” public. he does NOT have to do this, I believe he’s just trying to help. And for someone like me who knows very little I truly appreciate it. So lets not discourage the man. If you do not like the comment, just please keep it to yourself. He’s the one sitting down, writing and researching. atleast I don’t have to :O))) I just got my blue print and truth is it’s hard to get all those macros in. and he did say “his dad’s metabolism”, his dads case”.

  • Chelsie Charbonneau

    I have used your methods and calculations, but I simply can not keep up. And neither can my budget eek. What do you recommend in these cases?

  • Renée Russell

    Awesome. I have done it all in reverse for so long. It only makes sense to eat this kind of carbs around a workout as opposed to other times of the day when you may be sedentary. My weight is not dropping but I have finally began to build muscle and at 44 yrs and 150lbs, my silloutte is sexier than ever (booty and all). Now I can can have my cake and eat it too …. lol. Love it. Thank you.

  • peppe124

    Hi, I’ve just one simple curiosity about the macros and calories you’ve calculated:
    185 Protein
    280 carbs
    75 fat
    30 fiber
    You said results for a grand total of 2535 calories

    But I’m a little confuses about that: should’t fiber be calculated into the formula? Because most of the time into nutritional tables, fiber are not indicated as part of the carbs itself but as a separated item.

    I was told that fiber should be counted as 2 calories per grams. is this correct?

    In this case the total amount should be: 2.595

    Thank you all!

    • Andy Karl

      I got the exact same macro breakdown. I’d like to compare stats with you. I’m 6’2″ 213 male and trying to get to 190.

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  • Alexandra Robinson

    Do fruit/berries at night count as complex carbs or would they be considered to provide more Simple sugars? What about bananas?