Eating carbs at night: To do or not to do?

So… What’s all the Fuss about Carb Eating at Night?

Let’s look at the statement, “no eating carbs after 4-6 pm”. We have all heard that eating Carbohydrates at night, at some point in our dieting lives, is bad and have even lived by this statement at some stage of our lives.

This “rule” of eating no carbs at night comes from the fact that unused carbs are stored as fat. It is also said that after a certain time at night, carbs will instantly be turned into fat, rather than if we ate them earlier in the day.

We can find some truth in this statement, but only partly, before I scare all those who do enjoy their carbs at night.

There are times during the day when carbohydrates consumed are more easily used as energy and times when they are more likely to be stored as fat. Your body can only store a certain amount of carbohydrate as glycogen. After that point, it will be stored as fat.

When we consume carbs our body releases insulin, which controls our blood sugar levels by storing those carbs and prevents an abnormal high blood glucose level. If these carbs or sugars are consumed in high quantities, then a large amount of insulin is released by the body and goes into a state whereby fat is easily stored.

When we eat carbs but then exercise, our blood glucose levels will again increase but we will release less insulin due to our muscles instantly using up the sugar. This does not depend on an exact time of day or even refer specifically to the night. The idea is that at night, most of us wind down from the busy day we have had by enjoying our last meal and slowly get ready to go to sleep. Yes, ideally this meal should not be a big one. It should not contain a huge amount of calories. And yes, it should not contain a large amount of carbohydrates. This is assuming that they will not be burned off before we go to sleep, and so, stored as fat. This is only an assumption.

For the person who eats dinner at 8 pm and only goes to sleep at 11-12 pm, this time-based rule does not hold true. Between the time of dinner and sleep time, an average portion of carbs will be able to be used up and most probably not stored as fat. Carb eating at night also depends on ones activity levels and the amount of calories and carbohydrates eaten in total throughout the day and whether or not it has been used up by the body to feed the muscles and replenish them.

So does eating carbs at night make you fat? No, but eating too many carbohydrates, more than your body can burn, while being inactive, can. In order to maintain our weight, or even lose weight, we need to be able to balance the amount of calories we eat and the amount we use up within our bodies. The same goes for carbohydrates.

If weight loss or maintenance is your goal, you do need to avoid huge amounts of carbohydrates at any time of the day. But you do not need to completely avoid them at night. People, eat your carbs! Even eat them at night if you must, especially after a hard workout! Forget the time, forget the myths, and just listen to your body!

xx Anna Cortesi