Everyone wants to know that ‘one weird tip’ that will miraculously (and easily) change their body shape.
All you need to do is put lemon juice in your warm water every morning, avoid potatoes, eat all the superfoods, not eat before lunchtime, never skip your breakfast, eat more protein, cut your carbs, juice everything, blend everything, eat less protein, eat raw, never eat raw…. The one that interests me today is the ‘one weird tip’ about when in the day you should eat your carbs. NEVER eat carbs after 2pm. NEVER eat carbs before dinner time. Awkwardly, these tips about carb intake seem to be completely opposite to each other. How can this be? And where did these weird tips come from in the first place?
Carbs. Everyone loves them. And rightly so. Not only do they taste delicious but they help to fuel our bodies for performance. Our muscles and liver store glycogen (made from carbs) for use during exercise after the readily available glucose in the bloodstream has been used. When the glycogen stores have been used up, and we refeed after training, the carbs that we eat are broken down and used to replenish our glycogen stores. And it isn’t just our muscles that use it. Our brains use glycogen for fuel too.
So we come to our first point. Carbs are not the enemy.
But our relationship with them can be problematic, and so in come the rules…
The thing is, carbs are easy to over eat. Someone actually went to the trouble of doing a study to show that the more delicious food is, the more likely people are to eat bigger portions of it.
I know, who would have guessed, right? 😉
Here is an example of an average day of eating that I hear when consulting with a new client:
- Breakfast – cereal and low-fat milk (carbs with carbs)
- Mid Morning – latte with low-fat milk, muffin (carbs and caffeine with carbs)
- Lunch – Sandwich or wrap (carbs, and a tiny scrap of protein)
- Mid Afternoon – fruit or muesli bar (carbs or carbs)
- Dinner – pasta or rice with some form of protein and a token amount of vege (carbs)
- After Dinner – half a bottle of wine and a packet of tim tams (…..)
These people will often start their consult by telling me “I actually eat pretty healthy.” They acknowledge that the wine and tim tams are not best case… But don’t see that there is another problem going on. They are frustrated. Despite following this healthy eating regime, their body shape remains unchanged. So they are quick to hunt out this ‘one weird tip’, this magic food secret that will somehow change things for them forever.
Only there is no secret. If you are this person you have been eating carbs all day – likely in portion sizes that have taken you into a surplus of your daily caloric requirements – and eating them TO THE EXCLUSION OF YOUR OTHER MACRONUTRIENT REQUIREMENTS. These tips or tricks about eating carbs are not magical. If you follow them they merely force you to eat food other than carbs at some point in your day.
Wait… WHAT? You mean the carbohydrates that I’m eating at 4pm or 6pm or 10pm aren’t somehow different to the carbs that I ate at 9am or 11am? You mean that at certain times of the day my body doesn’t look at a carb and say “sorry buddy, although you are my preferred, easy-to-use source of fuel, and I really could do with a top up of my glycogen stores, it is past carb-o’clock, so imma have to turn you into fat” ??
That’s exactly what I mean.
Oh… And you mean if I’m not crushing down on carbs all day like a carb-crushing fiend, it will leave room for me to eat more protein and vegetables? And I’ll be less likely to eat more than my daily caloric requirements??
Someone somewhere has told you that you shouldn’t eat carbs after a certain time in the day. I myself am fond of suggesting to certain fat loss clients that they should eat most of their daily carb requirement with their evening meal. Yes, the timing is beneficial for some people, particularly when it comes to eating your carb requirements in the evening, but for most people the timing is not the relevant part. What is relevant is that minimising carb intake through the day means that they have to eat more of the nutrient dense food that their body requires for not only fat loss, but long term health.
For example, swapping out breakfast cereal for a protein and vege breakfast has been shown to increase feelings of fullness and contentment in people, and to help to minimise food cravings as the day progresses. You know, those cravings, where you get in from work, and you just reach for whatever you can get your hands on…
The big take out here – I’m not saying that carbs are the enemy, and I’m definitely not saying you should restrict your carb intake lower than your own individual daily requirement. Far from it. Lack of awareness about what you are eating and how it affects your body has driven these ‘rules’. Telling people that they shouldn’t eat carbs after 2pm is only a bad thing because 2pm is such an arbitrary time. People don’t understand that their body doesn’t know how to tell time, it only knows whether or not it’s glycogen stores are full.
The one weird tip that will ensure a healthy body composition and good health in general? Put down the low-fat muffin and eat your veggies 🙂