Nov. 12. 2015
McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Dietitian, Founder and CEO

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!”


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!


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