Where This Myth Stems From
We have two places this idea could have been conjured up from. First up is “logic” the uneducated guy or girl, I guess that the way the media often portrays carbs does lead them to thinking that carbohydrate are bad and the macronutrient most likely to be stored as body fat.
Therefore, Mr or Mrs Newbie dieter thinks…
“Hey, I don’t tend to move around too much in the evenings, and once its 6pm, I only have a few hours until I go to bed, when I’m not moving at all. Therefore, I won’t be burning off many calories or many carbs, so I best cut them right back.”
While that’s completely wrong, we kind of understand why someone might think that.
That leads us on to the second source of the myth. Anecdotally folk who are overweight and obese probably do eat more carbs in the evening. They spend their nights sitting in front of the TV eating bowls of ice cream, fistfuls of biscuits and gorging on chocolate and sweets.
This clearly puts them into a calorie surplus and leads to fat gain … but then this isn’t as a direct result of eating carbs in the evening. Rather it’s an accumulation of calories throughout the day. They could eat these carbs at any time, and they’d still be converted to body fat if a person was in a calorie surplus.
What the Science Says
The science says that calories matter. Whether you gain or lose body fat all comes down to calorie balance. If you’re in a consistent calorie deficit, you’ll burn fat, regardless of whether these calories (and carbs) are eaten at 6pm, 9am, or 2:27 in the morning.
While it is true that you don’t burn as many calories while sleeping as you do during the day when you’re moving around, you do still burn some calories at complete rest – around 40-100 per hour in fact, depending on bodyweight and how much you toss and turn. Plus, it’s important to remember that carbohydrates aren’t inherently fattening. It’s all about that energy balance again.
Eat your carbs whenever you like, just make sure you hit your total daily intake, and stay within your calorie allowance.
Aim to get at least 20-30% of your daily carbs around your workout.
Avoid extreme practices such as eating ALL or NONE of your carbs at night.
Remember – the best diet is the one you can stick to, so make your carb timing suit your preferences, and you’ll guarantee faster fat loss.