I used to believe in avoiding carbohydrates after a certain time (like 6:00 p.m.) or for the last meal of the day. But my mind is changing as I learn about (and practice) intermittent fasting.
A recent study suggests eating carbs at night may not be a bad idea if it is done properly. 78 police officers with unhealthy body mass indexes (BMI) were put on low-calorie diets. One group ate most of their carbohydrates at dinner (the experimental group), the other group (the control group) presumably spread their carb intake over all meals.
Those who ate most of their carbohydrates at dinner ended up with greater fat loss (as evidenced by weight loss, abdominal circumference, and BMI reduction.) and reported lower hunger scores. This group also showed greater hormonal improvements.1
Here are a few of my thoughts about eating carbohydrates at night in light of this study:
A negative calorie balance is still the key to weight loss, regardless of when you eat certain foods. I think the reason late-night eating hurts so many of us is we’ve already had plenty of calories throughout the day, then we add even more while sitting on the couch watching TV. But in this study the subjects were eating less calories than they used, resulting in weight loss.
The experimental group had lower hunger scores. I’m thinking the difference in results comes down to compliance. Maybe those who ate carbs at night simply had an easier time following the diet and thus had more positive overall results.
For argument’s sake, lets assume compliance was the key. It would still make this approach to dieting a valid one–all things being equal, a diet that’s easier to comply with is a better diet. I’m personally having a much easier time eating this way compared to other strategies (low carbohydrate, etc).
Finally, let’s consider the strategy for clarification:
1. A negative calorie balance
2. Most of the daily carbohydrates eaten at dinner
It’s fine if you want to try this strategy–but be sure both components are in place. Don’t kid yourself by eating too many calories and too many carbs all day, followed up with a night of shoveling down the pasta. That’s not what these subject did.
Note: I’d highly recommend Jason Ferruggia’s Renegade Diet if you are thinking about trying this kind of strategy. I really like eating this way because I can have a big dinner and go to bed on a full stomach.
1.Obesity (Silver Spring). 2011 Oct;19(10):2006-14. doi: 10.1038/oby.2011.48. Epub 2011 Apr 7. Greater Weight Loss and Hormonal Changes After 6 Months Diet With Carbohydrates Eaten Mostly at Dinner.