Best Time of Day to Consume Carbs
Nutrient Timing: When is the Best Time of Day to Consume Carbohydrates?
Diet trends that reduce carbohydrate consumption—such as keto and paleo—have made us extra cautious of carbohydrate intake altogether. However, carbs are our primary energy source and a vital part of any training program. The majority of our carbohydrates should come from whole foods that haven’t undergone any processing, including grains, starchy vegetables, legumes, and whole fruit. We should be avoiding processed forms of carbs, which have been stripped of all fiber and nutrients, including white bread, pasta, rice, and sugary cereals. It’s important to note, though, that we don’t need to eliminate carbs altogether. Instead, we should focus more on when we consume these carbs.
What is nutrient timing?
Nutrient timing is the planned alteration of macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fat) to achieve a specific goal, from athletic performance to fat loss. Nutrient timing is based on the efficiency at which the body can metabolize and utilize various macronutrients throughout the day. By learning to optimize nutrient timing, we can avoid having to eliminate macronutrients—as would occur with strict dieting—and instead focus on quality, balanced macronutrient intake. When we optimize our nutrient timing throughout the day, we are allowing our body to more efficiently utilize the calories we consume.
How does nutrient timing affect fat loss?
Nutrient timing plays a key role in sustaining training adaptations. In fact, research has shown that optimizing nutrient timing and macronutrient intake throughout the day can boost metabolism, shift hormonal profile, and promote lasting changes in body composition.
Nutrient timing and carbohydrates
The rate at which carbohydrates are utilized within the body depends on whether they are high in fiber or high in sugar. For example, beans, lentils, and vegetables are rich in fiber and contain little sugar. This means they are slow-digesting carbohydrates and provide a steady state of energy. On the other hand, heavily refined carbohydrates like cookies and pastries create a quick blood sugar response, elevating insulin and blood glucose levels. The problem with these refined carbs is that they not only enter the body very quickly and contain very little nutritional value, but they are essentially empty calories. Refined carbs can throw our mood and energy off balance throughout the day and leave us feeling hungry shortly after eating.
Carbohydrate consumption in the morning versus evening
For weight loss, it’s best to optimize carb consumption around your training routine. If you tend to exercise in the morning, we recommend consuming the majority of your carbs earlier in the day. Having a heavy, carb-based meal in the evening can cause a peak in blood sugar that your body has no real use for in the evening (and is instead stored in the body). This is supported by new research indicating that the body is likely more efficient at burning carbohydrates in the morning and fat in the evening . Complex, fiber-rich carbohydrates are best to have post-workout to replenish energy and keep you feeling full throughout the day, while simple carbs are best for a quick boost of energy pre-workout.
Post-workout meal: complex carbohydrates rich in fiber are best in the morning or early afternoon after finishing your workout. Recipe Suggestion: Turmeric, Quinoa And Mint Falafels
Pre-workout snack: simple carbohydrates are best before a workout for instant energy and quality fuel to ensure your body can sustain a high intensity. Recipe Suggestion: Mixed Fruit Chia Smoothie
1 Zitting, K. M., Vujovic, N., Yuan, R. K., Isherwood, C. M., Medina, J. E., Wang, W., … & Duffy, J. F. (2018). Human resting energy expenditure varies with circadian phase. Current Biology, 28(22), 3685-3690.