Have you ever wondered when is the best time of the day to eat carbs? You’d be surprised but this is a question that is the focus of a great deal of discussion in the fitness and fat loss industry.
There are all sorts of methods that deal with carbs. You have Tom Venuto’s carb cycling method in the Holy Grail Body Transformation program or the Carb Rotation Diet or low carb diets that paint carbohydrates as the enemy of weight loss.
Most of these plans and methods talk about carb cycling or carb management on a day-by-day basis and not on an intra-day level.
The question is, does it really matter when, during the day itself, you eat carbs?
Insulin Sensitivity and Insulin Resistance
Eating carbs, any kind of them, releases insulin inside your body. Insulin is the hormone which induces growth. The higher your insulin sensitivity is, the better your body is at utilizing insulin and the more it will grow. It so happens that your body is naturally more insulin sensitive in the morning than at any other time of the day. In fact, there is a gradual decline of insulin sensitivity from morning till night. This is why many people recommend eating carbs first thing in the morning: your body will be able to use them better for muscle growth.
The problem is that insulin induces growth of both muscle and fat. Usually, you want to gain muscle and lose fat, not gain both of them at the same time.
This is a problem, as most people would like to grow muscle while reducing fat and not grow them both together. Eating carbs in the morning may be good for muscle growth but will also facilitate an increase in fat. What can you do to stop this?
Carb Back-Loading and Workout Timing
One way to help you achieve the dual goal of increased muscle and fat reduction or maintenance is to time your carb intake according to your workouts. You see, resistance training changes how your body reacts to insulin. What it does is increase the insulin sensitivity of your muscles without also increasing that of your fat cells.
So, eating carbs after a strength workout will help muscle growth without giving the same kind of boost to your fat growth. If you train in the afternoon or evening, you will consume your carbs when your fat cells are insensitive to insulin so the carbs will not accelerate their growth.
This is called carb back-loading and it seems like the perfect solution. However, it can be a challenge, especially if you can only train at 20-21 in the evening. It may not be so easy to avoid carbs until after your workout if it’s so late. You will need to exercise some will power and to make changes to your eating routine.
Note: One of the books which advocate late time carb consumption and strength training is the Warrior Diet.
Eating Your Carbs In the Evening May Be Better For Fat Loss
But is it really important whether you train in the evening or not?
There are those that claim that the best time to eat carbs is in the evening regardless of whether you do a late workout or not. In fact, a new study which was done in Israel shows that eating most of your carbs later in the day may produce a faster fat loss .
In this study, which I first learned about from the blog of my friend Adam Steer author of the Shapeshifer Body Redesign plan, a group of 78 over policeman were divided into two groups and put on a reduced calorie diet. The study group were given most of their carbs late in the day. The study lasted for 6 months and repeated measurements of weight, hunger, body fat, and various health markers were taken at various periods of the study.
The results showed that those policemen who had the majority of their carbs later in the day lost more weight, reduced their body fat and their waist circumference, and even exhibited a greater reduction in hunger compared to the control group. Various health markers also improved, though these may simply be connected to the reduction in weight.
So, it seems that eating carbs late in the day may be better for fat loss whether it is timed around workouts or not.
- Eating carbs in the morning is good for muscle gain but may also induce an increase in body fat.
- Following a strength workout, your muscles’ insulin sensitivity is heightened which is why eating carbs after such a workout can lead to big muscle gain.
- Training late in the evening and practicing carb back-loading may produce the best results.
- The best time to eat carbs may be the evening regardless of your training schedule. It seems that this will help you lose weight faster and reduce hunger.
When do you like to eat your carbs? What kind of carbs do you love? Let me know in the comments below…
1. Greater weight loss and hormonal changes after 6 months diet with carbohydrates eaten mostly at dinner. Sofer S, Eliraz A, Kaplan S, Voet H, Fink G, Kima T, Madar Z. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2011 Oct;19(10):2006-14.