Every day, I am assaulted with nutrition advice, whether it be at the supermarket, on my television, or on the web. I get an ulcer just thinking about all the new “nutrition rules” that are constantly being flung around. That’s why I consider it my mission to help cut through the BS and give you all the real deal (as in, information that is supported by real scientific evidence).
MYTH: Carbs are bad. And you definitely shouldn’t eat carbs at night.
First off, I’m sick of demonizing carbohydrates. Carbs are good! They are a great source of energy, fiber, and essential vitamins and nutrients. Carbohydrates aren’t just in bread — they are in fruits, some starchy vegetables, grains, beans and even dairy foods. So, cutting out carbohydrates means that you are missing out on a lot of healthful foods.
Second, eating carbohydrates at night will not make you fat. I cannot stress this enough. There isn’t a magical “fat burning switch” that turns off after 4 pm. What’s more important to maintaining a healthy weight is the amount of calories you are consuming OVERALL. It’s easy to subscribe to a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet for weight loss, however, while this type of diet may help you lose weight in the short-term, much of the evidence shows that this effect is often short-lived.
I like to look at eating carbohydrates in a common sense kind of way. Sprinkling carbs throughout your day, rather than eating a huge amount in one meal, is a much more effective strategy to maximize your energy and stay healthy. When you have a small amount of carbohydrates in each meal, you keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day, rather than that post-lunch afternoon slump that has you reaching for caffeine or sugar to get an energy boost.
Depending on your schedule and when you will be MOST active, you may want to consider tapering your carbohydrate intake throughout the day. If you are most active earlier in the day, eating your largest portion of carbohydrate in the morning is a good strategy. However, if you have an evening workout planned or you are more active in the afternoon, an afternoon snack with some form of carb (an apple and almond butter for example) will help keep you fueled for the rest of the day.
It goes without saying that some carbohydrates are healthier than others.
Here’s your cheat sheet….
Healthy Carbohydrates = NATURAL AND UNPROCESSED
Complex carbs break down in the body less quickly, which leads to more stable blood sugar levels throughout the day.
- Whole grains – brown rice, quinoa, barley, wild rice, farro, amaranth, buckwheat, and whole grain cereals such as oatmeal and oat bran
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole wheat pasta and bread
- Low fat dairy products
- Beans and legumes
Unhealthy carbohydrates = REFINED AND PROCESSED
Simple carbohydrates break down quickly in the body leading to a sugar “spike” and eventual crash.
- Anything white: white breads, pizza crust, pretzels, hamburger buns, and giant muffins and bagels
- Anything with added sugars (this includes so-called "healthier" sugars like agave, coconut sugar, etc): baked goods, cakes, candy