Eating Carbs at Night Makes You Fat

Myths Stripped

Myth Stripped Will eating carbs at night make you fat? Nutrition Stripped

Will eating carbohydrates at night make you gain weight? Find out in this Myths Stripped.

“In this new series, I’m stripping away the fluff around these nutrition and healthy living myths, dogmas, and practices from reading your submissions to [email protected] Join the conversation and share in the comments why/if you went along with this myth!”

 MYTH STRIPPED

Will eating carbohydrates at night, make me gain weight? 

NO. I get this question weekly and have ever since I can remember! Any “guru” who tells you not to eat carbohydrates past a certain hour, let’s say 3 or 4pm for example, has no idea what they’re talking about to put it bluntly. Our bodies are amazing. They’re adaptable and smart! Our bodies also care more about the overall intake in a day, a week, a month versus very specific timing such as eating carbs at night. Meal timing is a whole other topic I could speak about, which is more related to sports nutrition.

There are so many factors that go into weight loss, yes managing carbohydrates may be beneficial for some body types and goals, but it doesn’t mean 1) you have to do it, 2) you can’t eat those carbs at night, 3) that they’ll be stored as fat because you’re just “going to sleep” and can’t use them, etc. Studies have shown that time of day doesn’t influence how much or at what rate insulin is released with evening meals comprised of carbohydrates compared to morning meals.

Another reason why eating carbs at night may actually be better is all about the balance of cortisol, a stress hormone, and insulin. Cortisol is naturally highest in the morning and takes a dip during the day, which is completely natural. But when insulin is elevated (i.e. let’s say you have a high carbohydrate meal and insulin comes out to “grab” the glucose/sugar), then fat loss/weight loss is halted. Cortisol enhances the fat-storing effects of insulin, so if you have carbohydrates with your evening meal, i.e. when your cortisol levels are naturally dropping, you don’t run into the problem with both high cortisol + high insulin and you have an advantage to tap into fat loss/weight loss. This is a very complicated process summed up in a nutshell. There are far more specifics that can go into this and practices I share with clients to help their fat loss goals, but hormones are pretty cool huh?

Also, studies have shown that our resting metabolic rate at night falls and rises contrary to “broscience” that our metabolisms slow and crashes during the night (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). What matters more than anything is your entire intake over the course of a day and week, not just one meal. I have clients from all different backgrounds, ages, lifestyles, goals, and metabolisms on different plans who have successfully had fat loss and leaned out eating carbs at night. Some do really well with very high carbohydrate diets, and some will gain weight just by looking at a bagel! I happily and healthfully eat and enjoy carbs at night to this day. This is the beauty of finding what works for you, balancing your macronutrients, and letting go of the dogmas. Let’s hand over the micromanaging to someone else and give yourself permission to enjoy eating healthy carbohydrates at night. This myth is totally busted. #happyhormones

Try these healthy recipes for enjoying carbs at night:

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YOUR TURN: Have you ever followed this myth? Do you have friends you know tell you this myth? Leave a comment and let’s chat!

OPTIMIZE, YOU DESERVE IT! I work 1-1 with women just like you all over the world to help optimize their health, reach goals, feel and look amazing! Sign up here to chat with me about how we can work together and take the first step to make this your healthiest and happiest year yet. (p.s. I always include carbohydrates and desserts in my meal plans, oh my!)

xx McKel

Share your thoughts

  • Domi

    Thanks for this post McKel!
    I followed this so called “rule” which guaranteed not gaining weight, but since I usually workout on the morning, I had no energy to do, and was always struggling to make myself do it. But since I stopped, and eating some carbs with my dinner as well I enjoy morning workout so much, and I am much more energized in the mornings, and whole day after.
    Love your posts and recipes! 🙂
    xx from Hungary

  • When I first saw the title of this post in my reader I thought OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD because I eat a lot of carbs at night. Happy they’re not going to make me fat. 😉 Love this series so much, lady.

    • Hahaha! You’re hilarious Ashlae, and totally in the clear. Let me know if there are any other myths you’d like to see stripped! xxM

    • Danielle

      McKel, this was a great read! I am a science nerd girl, and love knowing the “why” and the “how” behind things, so I appreciate all of your posts relating to the chemical processes that occur in our bodies. Since we’re on the topic of cortisol, I have a question for you… What are your thoughts on consuming coffee post-exercise (within the hour)? From what I’ve read, caffeine raises cortisol levels, and since cortisol levels are elevated during exercise, would consuming coffee so soon afterward potentially lead to weight gain? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this… Might be another great myth to debunk… or confirm! Ha! Thank you in advance! 🙂

      • McKel Hill

        So glad you enjoyed reading, Danielle and great question. I’ll add that to the list, but in a nutshell yes coffee does increase cortisol but we have to remember that all of our bodies and that reaction is very different so in a nutshell, I don’t think your post-workout coffee will contribute to weight gain 😉

  • carolina

    I feel it helps me sleep better. when i was avoiding complex carbs in the evening i started suffering from insomnia. its a matter of balance!

  • [email protected]

    I used to restrict carbs, especially at night. Of course I lost weight but I was soooooooo tired all the time!! Not worth it.

  • Loved reading this! I follow a pair of fitness girls who have a nutrition plan that I ended up buying out of curiosity and they preach this exact thing – not eating carbs after 3pm. For a while I tried it and my body almost rebelled! The more I deprived myself of the foods I was craving – sweet potatoes, squash, whole grains – the more I wanted them. One question I do have about this though is about the sugar intake. Do you think we should be mindful in the amount of sugar (even natural) that our evening meal has? So if it’s something like a spaghetti squash with a marinara sauce and some beans with just a small side salad. Is that a type of meal that would spike blood sugar or cause any negative impacts on the body?

    Thanks for this awesome series!

    xo Alyssa

  • Lauren

    Above you state: Studies have shown that insulin is elevated for longer periods of time with evening meals comprised of carbohydrates compared to morning meals. Why is this a good thing? Aren’t elevated insulated levels a bad thing?

    • Great question! In a nutshell, when carbohydrates enter our bodies insulin should ‘grab’ the sugar (versus the negative would be insulin resistance, meaning the body requires larger amounts of insulin to work harder to grab the sugar). In this study, it’s showing that the time of day doesn’t influence how much or how fast insulin is released- versus myths saying it isn’t effective during the evening and/or it requires larger amounts- I added a bit more in the blog post about insulin and cortisol in hopes that this clarifies your question a bit more! xx

  • Rebeca

    There was a time when I did follow it. I was obsessed with eating healthy, and that led to quite some unhealthy habits! Nothing stops me from having carbs at night now, though – it my body wants them, I deliver!
    Looking forward to this series!

  • This was so good to read! I love your knowledge and am super grateful for you sharing it here in this space :). Thanks again for the great myth busting McKel <3

  • Virginia

    Hi McKel, about two months ago, one of my work colleagues started a diet because he is getting married next spring. He went to a nutritionist and he has been advised to eat protein with each and every meal and avoid carbohydrates after 4 pm. For dinner, he can have protein that is not plant-based, greens and vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli. This colleague is convinced now that cabs are bad for one in general and make one fat if eaten after 4 pm. Unbelievable!

    • Yep, that’s what I call nutrition fluff haha, there’s really no reason to avoid them past a certain hour and actually for fat loss it’s advantageous to have carbs in the evening and keep them limited during the day with plenty of healthy fats and proteins

  • Ally M.

    Hello,

    Will you be writing an article on meal timing relating to sports nutrition anytime soon?
    Id love to know more about that!

    Ally

    • I’ll add that to the list! I do have one coming up that’s slightly related to that 😉

  • It is refreshing to read about the benefits of carbohydrates, especially when are often viewed so negatively. Thank you for this fantastic information! I am sharing it everywhere!

  • Mercy

    Hi! You just made me realize that I’ve cut out a lot of carbs like pasta, grains and rice. Somehow they have been no no’s for a long time. Thanks for the article! You know what I’m so confused about…… Fruit intake. Some say moderate, some say eat all you want? Would love it if you would attack that one!

    • Thanks for sharing Mercy- I’ll add fruit to the list, I get this question a lot! Until then, enjoy carbs too 🙂

  • Carolyn

    I used to enjoy reading your blog until I recently noticed that every comment I take the time to write, sharing my opinion, or answering your questions to the readers, doesn’t get posted.

  • Annie

    Hi!
    You mention in this post that having carbs for dinner gives you the opportunity to ‘ tap into fat loss/weight loss’. Could you explain how? I understand that eating carbs later in the day doesn’t increase your change of GAINING weight, but I didn’t quite grasp how it gives you an advantage in weight LOSS. Could you help?

    Thanks so much 🙂 x

    • Great question! It’s a technique I use with my clients all the time and I’ll have to address this another time- it’s too much to comment on 😉 xM

  • Danielle

    Thank you so much for this post, McKel! As an almost RD (one more semester left of my Masters, yay!), this is a topic I have discussed with clients/patients in my internship often. I was so happy to read this post, as I know it will help to educate people on this misconception. Also, I just ordered your “Avocado Love” T and am anxiously awaiting its arrival 😀 Can’t wait! Thanks again for all that you do!

    Dani
    xxoo

    • McKel Hill

      Congrats Danielle! Be sure to snap a picture so I can see you rockin’ it! xx M #highfivedietitians

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