We all have different goals and targets in mind for our health and fitness, with many of these things being reflected with our training methods and our diets. The great thing about health and fitness, is that the entire concept is so diverse and can therefore be applied to people from all walks of life. For example, one person trying to bulk up and increase their muscle mass, is going to be following a very different training and nutritional program when compared with somebody looking to try to burn fat and tone their muscles. For anybody training with a specific goal and target in mind however, the main thing to consider is not the training and exercise at all, but rather the diet and nutritional side of things instead. As you may or may not know, our calories come to us in the form of three macronutrients, which are: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. In order for us to get the most from our diets and training, we need to ensure that we’re getting the right combinations of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates into our systems on a daily basis. When talking about exercise and health and fitness, protein is often made the primary concern, followed closely by fat. Carbohydrates are often a mere afterthought, and truthfully, are even ostracised and treated unfairly. Here we’ll be looking at carbohydrates in more detail, as well as taking a look at whether or not the time of day that you consume them, can affect your physique and your health in general.
What are carbohydrates?
Basically, carbohydrates can be made up of sugars, fibres, and starches, commonly found in vegetables, sugars, grains, cereals, and milk-based products. They are one of three macronutrients and are therefore one of only three ways in which the human body is able to obtain natural energy from various foods that we consume. Not only are they designed to be a way of allowing the body to obtain energy, they are also actually the easiest form of energy for the body and are therefore the body’s primary source of fuel. They get their name due to the fact that they are made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. They provide fuel for the body though that isn’t to say that they are essential for the body, because in some cases they aren’t and in actual fact, sometimes, consuming too many carbohydrates can be detrimental to your health.
The difference between simple carbs and complex carbs
You’ve probably heard people talking about the different sources of complex carbohydrates, and simple carbohydrates, yet may not have had much idea about what the main differences are. Put simply, complex carbohydrates are much slower to digest, break down, and be absorbed into the bloodstream, whereas simple carbs are broken down and absorbed quickly. Complex carbohydrates are known as polysaccharides and three or more different sugar molecules. These are often found in starchy foods and provide a slow and steady release of energy, due to the fact that they are broken down and absorbed much slower than simple carbs. A few examples of complex carbohydrates include: brown rice, whole grains, whole grain pasta, potatoes, beans, lentils, and legumes. Simple carbohydrates are known as monosaccharides and contain just one or two sugar molecules. Simple carbohydrates are generally considered the far unhealthier form of carb, due to the fact that most simple carbs are made up of simple sugars. These molecules are designed to be absorbed quickly, which can then lead to spikes in blood sugar levels and insulin levels. Insulin is designed to control blood sugar levels and remove sugars from the blood and force them into our cells. With simple sugars however, as they are absorbed so quickly, the insulin doesn’t have chance to work, and overtime, too much insulin secretion can damage the pancreas, which is the organ responsible for secreting it, which can then lead to insulin resistance, or worse still, diabetes.
What does this have to do with when we eat our carbs?
Put simply, complex carbohydrates and simple carbohydrates behave very differently within the body, and function in different ways. If you’re trying to lose body fat whilst maintaining muscle mass however, you will need to watch out for your carb consumption. In order for you to get the most out of your carbs, for training purposes at least, experts recommend leaving carbs and fats out of the same meals. So, for example, if you were to have a breakfast containing carbohydrates, you should keep the fats to a minimum, and on the flipside, if you were to have a breakfast rich in healthy fats, again, carbohydrates should be left clear. There is a common myth and misconception, which states that, by cutting out carbs after 5 or 6pm at night, you are far more likely to lose more body fat than if you were to consume them in the evening. This however, is total nonsense and is not true. Each day, our bodies require a certain amount of macronutrients, based upon our goals and targets. Providing we hit our macro goals and targets, and don’t go over, or under, we will still be able to lose weight and/or build muscle.
When to avoid carbs in the evening
With that being said however, there are still instances where late night carb consumption can be detrimental to your gains, and this is primarily when you pair them up with fats. If you consume carbs with fats in the evening, your metabolism does naturally slow down later at night, because you’ve used more energy during the day and will be more tired. For that reason, you won’t be able to burn as many calories anyways. By eating fats and carbs however, the body will utilize whichever carbs it needs for energy, and will save the rest as body fat for a later date. Not only that, but the fat that was found in the food you ate with the carbs, will not be used and will also be stored. So, put simply, providing you having gone over your daily macros, and providing you don’t pair up carbohydrates with fats, it doesn’t matter whether you eat carbs in the evening or not.