Carbs After Dark

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Carbs After Dark

The myth:

Many people believe that by eating carbs at night, you don’t have time to burn them up before bed, your metabolism slows down and you’re more likely to store the carbs as fat. What’s more, many fitness experts contend that insulin sensitivity is reduced at night, so your carbs are more likely to be as fat than be stored in the muscle.  At first glance, it seems logical and most likely why so many people are now terrified to consume carbs past 6 or 7 pm. But let’s explore this a little closer.

Does your metabolism slow down at night:

A study was done that showed energy expenditure decreased by 35% during the initial sleep period, but during REM sleep – which occurs later into sleep – energy expenditure actually increased. So, it was concluded that during sleep, a person’s sleeping metabolic rate will fluctuate. But what is the overall effect? It appears that the overall SMR does not differ much from RMR.

Furthermore, by adding in daily exercise, your SMR will actually increase, which results in higher fat burning during sleep.

Studies also show that obese people have lower SMRs than their respective RMRs, but leaner individuals have higher SMR rates.

To sum up, your metabolism actually INCREASES at night (from your RMR) as long as you are not obese.

Insulin Sensitivity and reduction at night:

To debunk the second myth above, yes, it is true that insulin levels will remain higher longer after a carb- heavy evening meal than when compared to a morning meal.

I know what you’re thinking: SO eating carbs at night IS bad? Right?

Let’s back up. When you sleep, your body is a fasted state. When you consume carbs in the morning, that fasting period actually works to elevate gluten sensitivity and break down the morning meal quicker.

So a better comparison would be an evening meal to that of a mid-day meal.

Conclusion here: it would appear that eating carbs at night aren’t necessarily worse than eating in the morning. All this says is that insulin sensitivity could be improved because of the overnight fast.

So what’s the verdict:

Your body doesn’t know what time it is. It doesn’t operate on a24-hour clock. No where does your body say “hey, it’s 6pm, time to stop eating carbs!” What matters is here is whether you burn more calories than you ingest. So again, calories in need to be less than calories out.

What DOES cause weight gain?:

So it’s not carbs that cause us to gain weight, but rather excess calories.

So to illustrate, if you’re consuming EXCESS carbs, that sugar needs to be stored somewhere. PAUSE – ALL carbs convert to glucose which is SUGAR.

Once ingested, the pancreas releases insulin to shuttle sugar off to be used for energy. IF there is excess sugar, the first place the insulin will take the sugar is to the muscles. Problem is, space is limited. Muscles will use the sugar for energy during physical activity. So if you’re not exercising, you’re not using those sugars and your muscle stores are full.

The next place the sugar will go is to the liver. The liver offers a quick energy source as well, but again space is very limited. (about 400g total between the muscles and liver).

So if you’re not exercising and eating carbs regularly, you’re not exhausting your storage space, so excess sugar (carbs) will have to be stored as excess fat (lipogenesis). And unfortunately for us, THAT storage space is unlimited. Once stored, the body uses this as emergency fuel only and doesn’t burn it off with out exhausting recently ingested carbs food (if those are even needed).

Is Late Night Eating for You?

I am sure there are people who say not eating carbs as night HAS worked for them, but this could also be because without those excess carbs at night, they have put themselves at a caloric deficit, which yes, will cause them to lose weight.

As long as you are at a caloric deficit, you will lose weight. The time at which you consume your carbs will not make a difference. Again, every body is different, but my purpose here is to share objective information about how our bodies utilize these nutrients.

What I have not touched on is behavior and this is something that will vary dramatically from one individual to the next.

So when I say that “when” you eat meals doesn’t matter, but mindful of specific factors in your life.

If skipping carbs and breakfast in favor of saving them for night causes you to binge, then that is not the right option for you. On the reverse, if eating carbs at night causes a binge effect, then you are better off consuming earlier in the day.

Night eating could also be the result of boredom or emotions. In these cases, people end of eating more than they are expending, and YES there will be resulting weight gain.

I will reiterate that eating carbs at night does not cause weight gain. As long as you are at a caloric deficit, you can and will lose weight. If those nighttime carbs causes you to overeat, then YES you will gain weight.