There are plenty of do’s and don’ts in the fitness community. A lot of these are, in fact, not entirely correct! If you hear someone tell you something along the lines of “only do fasted steady state cardio or you’ll lose your gains” or “don’t eat carbs before bed” then you’d do well to ignore them! Similar to the lifting myths post, I’m going to drop a bit of knowledge and let you know why you can enjoy some late night carbs without derailing your progress.
You might have heard that you shouldn’t eat carbs in the evening or just before bed because there’s a higher chance of your body converting them to fat. If this were true, I’d be a lot larger than I am just now. This may be true for some individuals, but for those who perform regular exercise and hold more lean muscle mass than the average human being it’s a slightly different story. During the first 35% of sleep the body’s metabolism is lower than that of your BMR, but after this is when it picks up. Throughout the rest of your sleep, metabolism can rise and fall depending on the stage of sleep that you’re in. On average, sleeping metabolic rate (SMR) is no different to your resting metabolic rate (RMR) during the day. In addition to this, exercise has been shown to increase SMR significantly, leading to greater fat oxidation whilst you snooze.
Obese people tend to have lower energy expenditure levels during sleep than their RMR, whereas lean individuals tend to have a higher SMR than their RMR. What this boils down to is that you shouldn’t worry about eating carbs before bed because there will be little to no difference in body composition, given that it’s within your calorie allowances!
A recent study by Sofer et al. (2011) involved two groups of people eating a calorie restricted diet. One group spaced out their carb intake throughout the day, eating roughly every 3 hours. The other group ate approximately 80% of their carbs in the evening. It might surprise you, but the group that consumed the majority of their carbs in the evening ended up losing more weight! This is only one study, so we can’t make an immediate assumption that all carbs should be eaten in the evening, but it just goes to show that food timing can make a difference! The take home message from this is: don’t go stuffing your face with as many carbs as you can find at night, but if you stay active throughout the day and stick to sensible food choices then you shouldn’t stress about eating in the evening.