“If you want to lose weight, skip your dinner”
“To lose weight, don’t eat after 6 pm”
“Carbs should be kept at a minimum during dinner”
… these are just a few well meaning suggestions you get from your friends and relatives and sometimes also from professional dieticians. Its not their fault, they are not keeping up with the latest developments on fat loss!
Contrary to popular belief, the best time to eat your carbs is at night! This not only helps in fat loss but also improves your quality of sleep and the satiety levels of your meals. The other good time to consume carbs is just after your workouts. But this one you could have guessed, right?
Lets look at some of the reasons why eating carbs at night is good for fat loss:
Cortisol Effect on Fat Burning:
Eating carbs at night utilises the most important nutrition partitioning principles which our body’s naturally rely on. Your body has maximum cortisol (popularly known as the stress hormone) in the mornings. This is a catabolic hormone and if treated right, can maximise fat burn in the AM hours. If you have a high carb meal, the effect of insulin spike from the carb meal causes the fat burning effect of cortisol to shut down and in the presence of insulin, cortisol becomes a fat STORAGE hormone.
Burning your Stored Fats for Energy:
On the other hand, when you feed your body a meal of fat and proteins, you essentially prime it to run on fats, i.e. your fat metabolism improves through the day. It is of course more complicated than this. The body can convert both the protein and fat from your meals for its energy needs but this is not a straightforward process and it is simpler for the body to use the STORED fat for energy.
Further, during the night, a meal heavy in carbs or even starches, produces melatonin which helps in giving you sound sleep. Heavy carb meal in the night coincides with body’s natural melatonin production.
Set for Fat Burning Through the Night:
Carbs during the night also stimulate further secretion of Lipoprotein-lipase (LPL) which is a primary enzyme that initiates breakdown of stored fat. In effect, you are setting yourself up for a night of fat burning even on a stomach full of satiating and delicious carbs. You probably want to keep your fats low in your evening meal to net off your calories for the day, as required.
This new dieting approach was made famous independently by two people – one John Keifer called it ‘carb backloading’ while Borge Fagerli included it as part of the ‘Bio-Rhythm Diet’ that he developed.
By just timing your macro-nutrients correctly, you will lose fat even if you are consuming the same calories. Borge Fagerli, based his recommendation on extensive research done to understand the nutrition partitioning systems of the human body in line with Circadian Rhythms. One of the study involved 2 groups of people who were monitored for their weight and fat losses. One group ate 70% of their carbs in the morning, while the other group consumed 70% of their carbs at night. Even though the morning group lost more weight, 30% of it was muscle loss!! (we know this means slower metabolism and all in all a disaster if your aim is fat loss or a toned physique). The evening carbs group lost less weight but only 7% of it was muscle, i.e. 93% of the weight lost came from fat.
How to set your carbs or meals to maximise fat burn?
- For breakfast, eat proteins and fat with no carbs.
- Limit the carbs to only fibrous vegetables at lunch time and again keep protein and fats high to ensure satiety.
- Dinner can have starchy carbs like rice, pasta or sweet potatoes, etc. Eat enough carbs to meet your carb requirement for the day (this can vary from 100 – 400g or more depending on your goals and carb tolerance).
If you workout in the morning, you can split your carbs between your breakfast and dinner. If you workout in the evening, you can do 2 meals after your workout to ingest all your carbs late in the evening.
IMP: Make sure you have had your last meal of the day atleast 2 hours before you go to bed. This is to ensure that you have completed digestion of your food before your body powers down. Also before you hit the bed, your insulin levels should have time to level off so that they do not interrupt the Growth Hormones and other good things that are released to help rejuvenate your body’s systems during sleep!
Ref2: John Keifer’s podcast on Carb Backloading: https://www.bulletproofexec.com/podcast-19-carb-back-loading-with-john-keifer/
Ref3: Borge Fagerli’s BioRhythm Diet: http://forum.reactivetrainingsystems.com/content.php?108-The-Biorhythm-Diet