When Should You Eat Carbohydrates?
You should remember to try and alternate meals with and without carbohydrates. In this way you will avoid eating them on a continuous basis.
The idea that carbohydrates are our enemy has been consistently spread around for a few years now. It’s a food group that you have to watch out for. If your goal is to lose weight and stay in shape, you should not eat carbohydrates in excess.
It’s certainly for good reason that they’re often accused of being the culprit behind weight increase. Still, nutritionists the world over believe this is an exaggeration. That is, as long as you eat carbohydrates at the appropriate time.
This idea isn’t completely wrong, but you shouldn’t totally eradicate carbohydrates from your diet. The reason is because they have an important role to play in the correct functioning of your body.
If you’re going to the gym frequently and following a diet plan, you might have noticed the increase in popularity of low-carbohydrate diets. These diets are based on the idea that eating foods, such as, white bread, rice, or pasta, (which also contain sugar), are bad news for your waistline.
What’s the reasoning behind these diets? They say that if you eat too many carbohydrates and sugars, your blood glucose level increases. This is especially true for products that are low in fiber. This makes them more difficult for your body to absorb.
Unless you burn all of this glucose off during exercise, the pancreas will produce more insulin to lower glucose to normal levels. This will then be stored as fat, due to the excess of sugar from the carbohydrates.
This increase in fat – especially if it’s visceral fat stored in your abdomen – brings with it a higher risk of health problems. An example of such health problems is type 2 diabetes.
So then…what’s the best time to eat carbohydrates?
The objective of having a flat belly and a visible six pack is often believed to only be obtained by following a certain pattern. This is to eat a big breakfast, a light lunch, and, at the end of the day, a dinner filled with vegetables. This pattern will leave carbohydrate consumption to the times when we’re moving around.
According to nutritionist, Lisa Mokovitz, it is better to consume most carbohydrates at the times of the day when we engage in the most activity. Logically, this activity occurs throughout our waking day.
What does this mean? Well, it all points to pasta, bread, and cereals perhaps not being the most appropriate dinner. That is, not if you want to lose weight.
The principal use that your body has for these nutrients is as fuel for peak energy that’s required during the day. If you eat carbohydrates before going to sleep, it’s very likely that over time, they will accumulate in your abdomen. All of this is the theory. But does it really work like this in practice?
A carbohydrate experiment
With the objective of proving all of this, Dr. Adam Collins from the university of Surrey, England conducted a small experiment. This experiment, made in collaboration with the BBC, consisted of the following:
He recruited volunteers with good health, in order to study the different responses of their bodies. The researchers monitored the responses to the consumption of carbohydrates, at different times of the day.
The secondary objective of the study was to prove whether their organs could adapt to these changes as time went on. For instance, all of the volunteers had to eat a fixed quantity of carbohydrates during the day. These could be consumed by means of eating foods such as bread or pasta.
For the first five days of the experiment, they had to consume these foods mainly at breakfast time. They only reserved a small amount for night time consumption.
Afterwards, and during the following five days, they had to return to their normal diets. That is, they would typically eat carbohydrates at midday. Finally, they ate a few carbohydrates during breakfast and consume the majority of them for dinner, for the five day period. Throughout this time, Dr. Collins supervised the volunteers’ levels of blood glucose.
The results: surprising
What did he find in the results? There was a clear winner, but perhaps not the one that everyone was expecting. He analyzed the blood of the volunteers after the period following a breakfast high in carbohydrates and light dinners. There he found an average blood glucose level of 15.9 units. These were the expected standard numbers.
Nevertheless, when they made the same measurement following the five day period, they found that the average blood glucose level had fallen to 10.4 units. This was much less than they had expected.
What could explain all of this?
What is important, it turns out, was not the time of the day that the carbohydrates were consumed. It was actually the length of the time that the volunteers went without them.
If you let a long period of time go by between meals that are rich in carbohydrates, your body processes them more readily.
This happens naturally during in the morning because we’ve had a “fasting” period throughout the previous night. However, this small study concluded that you would experience a similar effect if you were to “fast” all day and only ate carbohydrates at night.
What does this mean for you? It means that after many days of low-carbohydrate breakfasts and high-carbohydrate dinners, your body starts to get used to it. After that, it responds better to a higher amount of carbohydrates consumed at the end of the day.
Taking these results into account, Collins recommends not to worry too much about when you eat carbohydrates. What’s important is that you have consistent habits and don’t fill yourself with them at every meal.
It looks like the secret is to maintain moderation. Thus, if you consume many carbohydrates one night, it would be wise to minimize their consumption during the next morning. Equally, if you have a big breakfast with a lot of bread, it would be best not to have pasta for dinner.