Eat Your Carbs at Night

Eat Carbs at Night
Eat Carbs at Night

For several years, I have been experimenting with calorie and carbohydrate cycling, meaning specifically timing calories and carbs during a 24-hour period. Recently, I heard about a fascinating and very compelling study that may be useful for you to consider.

There is a great deal of discussion these days on the benefits of intermittent fasting and the science is certainly compelling. Personally, I do some degree of fasting, though not every day, and I absolutely believe that it’s beneficial, mainly because of the strength of the scientific evidence.

However, I do understand that some people are scared to try fasting, despite the fact that it is quite painless and easier to do than most realize. For those, perhaps a better approach for losing weight and improving health is to experiment with carb cycling, and in particular, a strategy whereby you only eat your carbs at night.

The Study

This study Greater weight loss and hormonal changes after 6 months diet with carbohydrates eaten mostly at dinner took 78 police officers and had them eat all of their carbohydrates at night, with dinner. They match-controlled a control group in terms of calories, carbs, etc… The results were stunning.

The officers who ate all of their carbs at the end of the day reported lower hunger scores lower, had greater weight loss and waist circumference measurements, experienced lower LDL scores and higher HDL scores, and had lower CRP and other blood inflammation scores. Clearly, this dietary strategy was a winner!

So, what happened and why was it so effective? I think the key with this eating regimen boils down to two key factors: blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity. By eating in this way, the participants ended up in a state of cyclical ketosis, meaning that for 23 / 24 hours, they were running on ketones rather than sugar. Ketones manifest in the body, in the absence of high levels of blood sugar, which comes from dietary carbs. So, by restricting carbs to only 1 hour out of 24 hours, the police officers were going into ketosis and becoming fat burners. This is what happens in ketosis – the body runs on its own stored body fat.

The state of being in ketosis is often said to be euphoric in the sense that it is equated to lower hunger levels, clearer thinking (the brain prefers ketones over glucose) and better energy.  See this article for more information on ketosis 10 Health Benefits of Low-Carb and Ketogenic Diets.

Moreover, from a health perspective, being a fat burner means lower blood sugar levels and higher insulin sensitivity. In fact, the power of ketosis is so strong that it can reverse Type II Diabetes for many people. How Keto Diet Can Help Reverse Type 2 Diabetes.

Additional Benefits

In the preceding section, I discussed the benefits of restricting carbs and how that played a key role in the benefits that accrued to the participants. Another benefit, with this “carb backloading” approach is in the fact that you do refill your glycogen stores once per day. For sedentary people, this is not terribly meaningful, but for active people, it is important to refill glycogen stores. Glycogen  The Role of Glycogen in Diet and Exercise is sugar that gets stored in the liver and muscles and is important to fuel exercise.

I think this is particularly useful for those who do their training in the morning. Refill glycogen at night, then burn through that glycogen in the morning with an intense workout. And, by the way, since intense workouts burn up glycogen, this means that it will also put you in a state of mild ketosis quicker.

Sleep

There is also a potential benefit to sleep.  One of the key neurotransmitters that helps us to calm down and relax is serotonin.  And carbs increase the release of seratonin.  See this study here Brain serotonin, carbohydrate-craving, obesity and depression.  Based on the research, eating healthy carbs at night will increase levels of seratonin, which will help with better sleep.

Compressed Feeding Window

One final thought is that we should all consider a daily compressed feeding window for optimizing health. As it turns out, there is considerable scientific evidence that suggests that a 12 hour window is likely the most optimal strategy for most. However, I do think it is highly individual and that means that every person should do some degree of experimentation, to see what works best for you.

Key Takeaways

Be active, eat your carbs at the end of the day, and remember that quality matters. Choose healthy carbs, such as fruit, veggies and starches. Candy, soda, chips and other processed foods are not healthy and will do more harm than good.

Consider this eating strategy to gain control over your health and feel better. You really do not need to eat cereal and donuts for breakfast. Eggs or a protein shake are better choices.

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