Is it okay to eat carbs at night? Or ever?! (help!)
If all the food groups had to have a popularity contest, do you know who would win? Carbs.
Hands down, it would be carbs. Not only do they help provide a sense of comfort, but they offer a wide variety of foods and flavors that cater to every tastebud in every country. Everyone loves carbs. Including me!
During the early 2000’s, the ‘no carbs after 6pm’ trend started. This trend lead people to believe that when you eat carbs at night your body will instantly turn them into fat. However, this is a myth and I actually believe that it is a GREAT idea to eat carbs at night, and here’s why…
The Biggest Mistakes People Make
Growing up I had so many friends (and their mothers) who lived by the ‘don’t eat carbs after 6pm!’ rule. They would stuff their faces with all-things-carbs during the day, but come 6pm and you’d find them munching on a salad or a pathetic looking lump of boiled cabbage.
What a depressing note to end your day on.
Do you think this helped them keep the weight off? NOPE!
They were usually so unsatisfied with their meals that they would end up having a midnight snack or binging on chocolate later in the evening.
You see, the whole point of the ‘no carbs after 6pm’ rule was to help people consumes less calories at night. Studies have found that people consume the most amount of calories at DINNER time (compared to breakfast and lunch) – and it’s usually because we are comfort eating at the end of a stressful and exhausting day. We all know what it’s like to work a long day and the only thing getting you through it is the thought of that amazing dinner you’ll have when you’re done. It becomes a kind of reward at the end of each day. You think: “When I’m done, I’m going to make the most amazing pasta and have a glass of wine. Today was really tough and I’m exhausted. I deserve it!”
The problem is that when you fall into that mentality, it’s easy to lose count of how much you are consuming in a day. When you are consuming too much energy for your body to process you will struggle to lose weight – no matter what time of the day you eat that sandwich. Eliminating carbs at night won’t help you to reach your weight goals, but monitoring how much you eat throughout the day will.
The Myth, and Why You SHOULD Eat Carbs
The idea that your body will change the way it metabolizes carbs after a certain time of day is false. No matter what time of the day you decide to eat that potato, your body will process it the same way. Yes, it’s true that if you eat too many calories in a day then the excess energy that is not used by you during your day will be stored as fat – but that is true for all foods, not just carbs.
Whether you eat oats for breakfast or for dinner, your body will still process it the same way, and you’ll have consumed the same amount of calories. Your body does not stop burning calories and metabolizing carbs while you are asleep. In fact, you burn between 45-100 calories per hour on average while you are sleeping!
Furthermore, your body NEEDS carbs in order to stay functioning and healthy. Carbs release a hormone called insulin which does helps maintain your blood sugar levels by promoting the use and storage of glucose. Glucose is extremely important and necessary as it helps to replenish your muscle’s glycogen during and after a work-out. This is why eating carbs is so important! It plays an essential role in keeping your muscles, and internal organs such as your liver, healthy.
The Carbs You Should Be Eating
Before you get too excited and order that pizza and pop that champaign, there is something important you should know: Not all carbs are equal.
With food you get the good stuff and (unfortunately) the not-that-good-stuff, and carbs are no different. It is very important that you eat the right kinds of carbs if you want to lose weight.
Simple carbs are not really good, but most people prefer them. These are foods such as regular pasta, white rice, white bread, cakes, candies and sweets. They are what we call ‘empty calories’ because they provide little-to-no nutritional value and can actually cause your body harm instead of good. Stay away from simple carbs!
Complex carbs are the good ones, as they have nutritional value and will feed and replenish your body. They will also help you to feel fuller for a longer period of time. These are foods like wholemeal bread and pasta, oatmeal, brown rice and sweet potatoes.
It’s absolutely fine to eat complex carbs with each of your main meals during the day. I always combine my carbs with some protein (nut butter, legumes, eggs, fish or meat) to help keep my insulin and glucose levels stable so that I can avoid blood sugar spikes and drops. This also helps me to stay focused, full and energized throughout my day.
It is important to consume enough nutrition-filled energy and carbs during your day, as this helps you keep your energy levels up, helps your muscles and organs to stay healthy, keeps you focused and helps you to recover from the stress of your day while preparing you for the next day.
If you are someone who works out in the evenings, then it is vitally important that you replenish your body post work-out by eating some form of complex carbohydrate.
How you distribute your carb portions throughout the day doesn’t really matter too much. You could choose to save most of your carbs for dinner, and it will make no difference to your weight – if you have monitored the calories you have consumed in your day. How you distribute your calories and carbs between meals is up to you.
A lot of people struggle to eat smaller meals at dinner time – because, well… life can be stressful! It’s okay to eat comfort foods such as pastas, but choose wholegrain or brown rice pasta instead of regular, and be mindful of your portions.
If you KNOW that you will be eating a large dinner, then perhaps eat a slightly smaller lunch. The most important thing is that you know yourself and your lifestyle, and that will help you to work around it.
So eat those carbs for dinner tonight, but try to choose whole carb options (and enjoy them)!
Liezl Jayne XO
For liezljayne.com – Some photos may be selected from Unsplash