By Yuri Elkaim (@YElkaim)
Carbs have gotten a bad rap recently, with many popular diets advising eaters to limit their consumption or sometimes avoid them altogether. Paleo, for example, recommends that followers eat only certain carbs like sweet potatoes, bananas, and plantains, provided that these foods are eaten to fuel a workout, while Keto eaters avoid carbs entirely, for days at a time. Similarly, several low-carb diet trends have achieved marked weight-loss results over the years by encouraging dieters to completely ditch carbs. But regardless of the diet you’re considering (or currently following), the first time of day during which you lose your right to carb consumption always seems to be the evening.
Eating carbs before bed has been demonized for years, but is this societal shunning warranted? The science may surprise you.
Carb Up For Better Sleep
There’s a reason that Thanksgiving dinner always leaves you feeling sleepy and ready for bed, and it’s not just the tryptophan in the turkey. It’s actually the insulin change from carb bombing your system that makes you feel sluggish. A 2011 study confirmed that chowing down on evening carbs encouraged tiredness, but researchers also discovered another surprising side effect. When mice were fed carbs later in the day, their circadian clocks (which assist in regulating daily behaviours and biology in humans) were found to reset.
As an internal metre, the circadian clock also plays a key role in determining your sleeping rhythms. Therefore, eating carbs at dinnertime can actually encourage this system to run properly by slowing it down at night, supporting tiredness and helping you naturally fight insomnia. No more counting sheep for carb-eaters!
Schedule Your Carb Time
Pack your breakfast with protein and try to work out in the morning. Having your sweat session earlier in the day will assist in the regulation of your dopamine levels and prevent them from keeping you awake until the wee hours. When it comes to your evening meal, include a small amount of healthy carbs and make this your final fuel of the day. Research has found that those who are prone to late-night snacking are at a greater risk for weight gain.
Eat Carbs, Lose Weight
If you skip the snacking and eat carbs at the right time, they can actually help you shed pounds. In 2011, 78 obese members of the Israeli Police Force took part in a study that focused on evening carb consumption. One group was put on a low-calorie diet, which included 45 to 50 per cent carbs, with most of them being consumed at dinner. The control group was put on a similar diet, but was asked to spread their carb intake throughout the day. After six months, the experimental group lost an average of six pounds more than the control group, which is great news for carb-lovers.
Though the results may seem surprising, how evening carb-eaters lose more is amazingly straightforward. Because carb intake was limited to a single evening meal, the experimental group had lower levels of hunger throughout the day, meaning no blood sugar rollercoaster and fewer cravings. In fact, restricting carbs to evening hours was actually found to minimize the overall desire to continuously snack throughout the day.
This is a powerful premise, and one that can be easily replicated. By starting your day with protein (instead of the traditional low-quality carb classics like pancakes, waffles, and French toast) you’ll kickstart your morning with nice, even energy that doesn’t dip dramatically throughout the day.
Make The Right Choice
But before you run off and chow down on cupcakes for dinner, keep in mind that science has debunked the “no carbs at night” policy, but only in relation to quality carbs. What you eat matters. Adding carbs in the form of healthy, whole foods will support your weight-loss goals. Whole-grain bread, quinoa, beans, and sweet potatoes are all great ways to get your healthy carbs, so add them to your nightly meals when you can.
It’s time to drop the “don’t eat carbs at night” mantra and let science be your guide. Carbs may be exactly what your body needs to reset circadian rhythms, stop gnawing cravings, and support you in your weight-loss goals — and who doesn’t want that?