For years I’ve paid zero attention to those silly little rules saying you can’t eat after 7 pm or cut out all carbohydrates at night. Now, granted, I think those rules serve a purpose, cutting people off from the chip bag during prime snacking time for instance. But, 7 pm isn’t the witching hour after which time every bite of carbohydrate you consume is automatically deposited to your belly. And, according to a recently published study, eating carbs at night may actually help you lose weight.
In this study 78 police officers with a BMI that puts them in the obese category (> 30 – not good for being able to quickly respond on duty) were put on a low calorie diet with carbs mostly in the evening (20% protein, 30–35% fat, 45–50% carbohydrates, 1,300–1,500 kcal) or a control diet that only varied by providing carbohydrate throughout the day (20% protein, 30–35% fat, 45–50% carbohydrates, 1,300–1,500 kcal) for 6 months. The group consuming carbs at night lost more weight, decreased their abdominal width and body fat more than those on the control diet. They also saw greater improvements in their blood lipids, fasting blood sugar and hunger levels (less hungry).
What made the difference and how could carbohydrate at night help you lose weight? The experimental diet was based off of hormonal changes observed in people who fast during the day through the Muslim holy period of Ramadan (they can eat before the sun comes up and after the sun sets). This type of diet decreases insulin secretion during the day and increases it in the evening leading to higher levels of the “satiety” hormone leptin first thing in the morning. More leptin in the morning may mean you feel pretty satisfied and eat less throughout the day. For more about leptin, click here.
What’s the take home message here? If you aren’t getting the weight loss results you are looking for, consider varying your diet. Try to cut carbs during the day and consume them at night. If what you are doing isn’t working, it’s time to try something new!
PS – for the latest and greatest information on nutrition and sports nutrition, catch my articles in the magazine FitnessRx for Women.