5 reasons why I advise clients to eat carbs at night

by Khushboo on July 27, 2015

A common concern that I hear from my K Weigh weight loss clients is eating carbs at night i.e. Will he/she actually lose weight by eating the suggested amount of carbs for dinner?  Unfortunately the upsurge of low-carb diets & the association of leaning out with protein have together created an irrational fear around eating carbs, especially after a certain hour. Rather than vilify carbs as a whole, it’s important to realize that the eating this food group at night don’t automatically make us gain weight…too many carbs, especially refined, make us!  The key is to replace refined sources of carbs (e.g. white bread, donuts, sugary cereals) with moderate portions of the unprocessed, wholegrain varieties like oats, quinoa & sweet potato. 

Grilled salmon with grilled veggies, sweet potato wedges & hummus

Grilled salmon with grilled veggies, sweet potato wedges & hummus

Both in terms of personal experience & speaking with others, I can almost guarantee that eating too few carbs actually have hinder weight loss.  I recently had a client who followed a low-carb diet prior to signing up with me.  At the end of her 8-week program, she told me that K Weigh helped her overcome the fear of eating carbs at night and she’s never felt better.  As I know many people can probably relate to such fears, I wanted to highlight 5 reasons why I advise clients to eat carbs at night:

5 reasons why I advise clients to eat carbs at night:

1) Improved sleep: Carbs are associated with tryptophan, a neurotransmitter that promotes sleepiness and drowsiness. As a precursor of the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin & hormone melatonin, eating carbs at night can help produce a good night’s sleep.  As restful sleep is associated with the reduction of the stress hormone cortisol, it essentially promotes fat loss especially around the abdominal region.  

Skinny Benedict - Good Life Eatery, Marylebone

Skinny Benedict – Good Life Eatery, Marylebone Lane

2) Less cravings for high-fat sugary foods: In essence, cravings are signs from the body that it is missing a certain nutrient.  When you don’t supply your body with enough carbs, it starts to crave sugary foods as an instant source of instant energy.  Ever wonder why you tend to crave something sweet post-dinner when you have just eaten grilled chicken (or another form of lean protein) with a side of veggies?

3) Better glycogen storage: Glycogen is the form of carbohydrates stored in the liver and muscles. It is readily converted into glucose to be used as an immediate energy source.  For those who work out in the evening, eating carbs at night replenishes depleted glycogen stores.  On the flipside, eating carbs at dinner can help boost performance for those who exercise first thing in the morning, especially if the idea of eating so early doesn’t appeal.

Pad Thai - Wig & Pen, Strand

Pad Thai – Wig & Pen, Strand

4) Hormone manipulation: Ultimately increasing insulin sensitivity is the key to fat loss.  Although it’s natural to assume that eating carbs earlier on in the day is better for fat loss as you can “burn it off” the rest of the day, hormone activity isn’t that simplistic.  If anything, eating carbs at night tends to produce a better hormonal response than the morning when we are most sensitive to the hormone insulin in the morning. Because we’ve fasted overnight, even a slight rise in blood sugar will produce a large insulin response in the morning.  As the presence of insulin turns off the body’s fat-burning capacity, eating a bulk of your carbs early in the day can actually have an effect opposite to what is intended.

5) Reduced hunger levels: This is a no-brainer.  If you aren’t replacing the lack of carbs in your dinner with extra protein and/or fat, chances are it’s going to leave you hungry for more shortly after.   When you aren’t feeling satiated mentally or physically, the urge to snack increases and is almost impossible to resist.  While your dinner might be low-carb, the unnecessary post-dinner snacking is enough to throw you off track & cancel out your efforts from earlier on in the day.

Leggera Pollo ad Astra Pizza - Pizza Express, St. Christopher's Place

Leggera Pollo ad Astra Pizza – Pizza Express, St. Christopher’s Place

Now somebody pass me the damn (gluten-free) bread basket!  On a final note, if you are gaining weight by eating moderate amounts of complex carbs at night, chances are it’s something to do with the energy balance i.e. you’re eating more calories than you are expending without realising.  Rather than strip carbs away from your dinner completely, first recheck your portions & your overall intake during the day. 

Do you eat carbs at dinner? Yessir!

What’s your current favourite complex carb? I can’t get enough of grilled sweet potatoes!

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Jess July 27, 2015 at 4:25 pm

Great post! Love carbs 🙂 sweet potato is definitely a favourite of mine too!

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Khushboo July 30, 2015 at 3:10 pm

Thanks, Jess :)!

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Parita @ myinnershakti July 27, 2015 at 7:02 pm

Reason #5 applies all day long to me! If I don’t eat a small amount of carbs with every meal, I don’t feel truly satisfied. Love your thinking and the message you give your clients. 🙂

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Khushboo July 30, 2015 at 3:10 pm

Thanks P! If you’re not mentally satisfied after a meal, it’s all too easy to keep snacking all day long, hungry or not!

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Tara @ Sweat like a Pig July 27, 2015 at 7:29 pm

I’ve been eating carbs at dinner every night for a good three years now, and I looooove it! I’m so much happier going to bed with a full belly. My favourite carb of choice is definitely pasta – in fact, I’m eating a bowl right now as I catch up on blogs!

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Khushboo July 30, 2015 at 3:11 pm

Has pasta always been a fave- or more so after moving to Italia?

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Tara @ Sweat like a Pig July 31, 2015 at 3:25 pm

Nope, always! It’s huge in Australia so I basically had it every night growing up.

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Ashley @ A Lady Goes West July 27, 2015 at 9:14 pm

I can’t imagine life without carbs heheh! Sweet potatoes and brown rice are my big night-time carb favorites. This post is spot on … we don’t need to fear the carb! 🙂

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Khushboo July 30, 2015 at 3:11 pm

I need to eat brown rice more- always feel so satisfied when I do :)!

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Kate July 28, 2015 at 3:13 am

Interesting stuff. I remember reading that whole grain cereal in milk is an excellent night time snack if you have trouble sleeping, so this makes sense. Yukon potatoes with the skin are my all time favorite (dinner) carb!

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Khushboo July 30, 2015 at 3:14 pm

Absolutely as the carb/protein combo contain the amino acid called tryptophan that causes sleepiness!

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Shashi at RunninSrilankan July 28, 2015 at 7:32 pm

I so do love my oats – in every form! But, I have a confession, sometimes I skimp on carbs at dinner so I can eat a couple of my homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies!

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Khushboo July 30, 2015 at 3:14 pm

Skipping carbs at dinner to make room for dessert…you’re my kinda girl, Shashi 🙂

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Jess July 29, 2015 at 8:05 pm

I remember being so afraid to eat carbs at night, eat after 7pm, and all those other ‘rules’ that make no sense. Now, I pretty much always eat before bed. Not only does it satisfy cravings, but it also improves my sleep. As for my “go-to” carb, I’m with you on the sweet potatoes! Love them, prepared any way and all ways. I’m also a sucker for fruit, especially mangos.

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Khushboo July 30, 2015 at 3:15 pm

So glad you were able to change your mindset towards carbs, Jess- I bet it’s impacted you positively in more ways than you can imagine 🙂

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Sam @ PancakeWarriors July 29, 2015 at 9:32 pm

Yes Yes Yes!!! I have found that eating carbs at night and doing more fat/protein in the am has changed my cravings through the day!! Genius, yes this is soooo the answer!

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Khushboo July 30, 2015 at 3:16 pm

Totally- I used to crave sugar all the time when I ate a low-fat diet….makes so much sense now!

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GiGi Eats July 30, 2015 at 9:58 am

I actually cannot really eat too many carbs because my stomach cannot process them 🙁 However, I LOVE roasted butternut squash! 😉

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Khushboo July 30, 2015 at 3:16 pm

Ah that’s fair enough- you gotta do what’s right for YOUR body! Love roasted BNS too!

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Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table August 1, 2015 at 3:59 am

Amen to this! All of it. I get hangry if I don’t get some nighttime carbs.

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Khushboo August 2, 2015 at 7:54 pm

You and me both 🙂

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