IS EATING CARBS BEFORE BED BAD FOR FAT LOSS?
Avoiding carbs late at night has been a standard fat loss dieting method for many years.
The logic here is that since activity level and overall metabolic rate will be at their lowest, eating carbs before bed will increase the chances of excess fat storage.
But is a “carb cutoff” really necessary? Does eating carbs before bed actually slow down your overall rate of fat loss?
Well, just like the notion that you must eat a meal every 2-3 hours in order to maximize metabolic rate… or that you have to “eat clean” 24 hours a day to burn fat… or that fasting prior to exercise will help you lean down at a quicker rate… “carb cutoffs” are yet another widely followed fat loss dieting method that simply comes up short.
Here’s the simple reason why…
Every day, your body expends a certain number of calories (calories are just a measurement of energy) to fuel natural bodily processes (such as breathing, digestion and circulation) plus all of your additional activities.
This is known as your “calorie maintenance level”.
In order to lose body fat, you have to create a “calorie deficit” by taking in fewer calories than you burn. This stimulates the body to tap into its excess fat stores to obtain a source of fuel.
I typically recommend going 15-20% below your maintenance level.
For example, if your calorie maintenance level is 2500 calories per day, and you’re consistently taking in 2000 calories through your diet, you will have created a deficit of 500 calories per day at 20% below your maintenance level.
As long as that calorie deficit is consistently in place, the specific timing of your carbohydrate consumption will NOT make any difference in the overall picture.
The major mistake that most people make is in assuming that fat loss is merely an “on-off” switch – that you’re either in “fat burning mode” or “fat storing mode”.
In reality, both processes are happening simultaneously throughout the day. Some fat is being stored, and some fat is being broken down. Your net loss or gain in body fat is determined by the sum of all the fat storing processes occurring minus all of the fat burning processes.
At the end of the day, your body’s total energy needs are going to remain constant.
Whether you burn more fat earlier in the day and store more later on, or store more fat earlier in the day and burn more later on, the net result is still going to be the same.
Your body requires X amount of energy and is consuming Y amount of energy, and that energy is going to be used up one way or another over the course of 24 hours.
So, even if eating carbs before bed does cause a greater amount of immediate fat storage during that time, it makes absolutely no difference in the overall picture, as that fat will inevitably be broken down throughout the night and the following day when the body needs it.
If Bob consumes all of his carbohydrates before bed, while Brenda consumes all of hers first thing in the morning, the two are actually in the same boat as far as total fat loss is concerned.
A greater amount of Bob’s carbohydrates will be immediately stored as fat (since there is less of an energy demand at that time), but will be broken down and utilized later on when the energy demand is higher. A smaller amount of Brenda’s carbohydrates will be immediately stored as fat (since there is a greater energy demand at that time), but more will be stored later on once the energy demand runs out.
The Bottom Line On Eating Carbs Before Bed
Find out what your daily fat loss needs are for total calories, protein, carbohydrates and fats. You can use the “Harris Benedict Formula” to figure out your calorie maintenance level, and then follow a macronutrient breakdown of 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight daily, 25% of total calories from fat (fats contain 9 calories per gram), and the rest from carbohydrates.
Then, simply focus on hitting those totals in blocks of 24 hours.
As long as you’re doing this consistently, you can eat your carbs whenever you most prefer.
If you want to eat a giant plate of pasta 20 minutes before dozing off… hell, if you want to wake up in the middle of the night for some fruit, yogurt and granola… go right ahead.
As long as your overall net calorie intake is being properly tracked, eating carbs before bed is NOT going to magically cause you to gain more total body fat.
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