This week I thought I’d go at it a different way and try a Q&A format. Thank you to those who submitted questions. Now before you read on, may I say ahead of time I am sorry if there are a lot of “it depends” which I realize can be a frustrating answer. The truth is, this is going to be the answer to most diet related question and if anyone ever speaks to you in absolutes you should probably run the other way. All nutrition science has to be taken in the right context, and it is always individual, never black and white.
Let’s see what you want to know?
- Does it matter what time of day you eat your carbs?
- Should you stop putting any type of food in our mouth after certain hour of the day? For rest and recovery purpose.
- If you haven’t met your macros for the day, let’s say protein and it’s bed time should you make it happen with a shake or is it better not to due to the late hour?
Let’s start with carb timing:
If we are talking in terms of weight loss, the short answer is no. If you have your caloric balance dialled in and are not eating more than you need then no it doesn’t matter if you eat your carbs at any particular time of the day. It may feel better if you spread them throughout your day but what will give you results is being consistent and keeping your calories in check.
No, eating a toast before bed won’t make you fat. In fact it is my experience that we often sleep better with a little carbs before bed, I especially see this true with my higher volume athletes.
In terms of athletic performance and recovery, timing starts to make a bit more of an impact. For me, I like everyone to be consistent first and then we can start to think about timing. But generally you will start to see improvement in your performance and energy in the gym when you start using your carbs to help you. Pre-workout carbs are needed as you need the fuel to perform your best. Anywhere from 25-35% of your total daily carbs. That is especially important for clients who have aesthetics goals that may be operating on a calorie deficit.
Post-workout everyone associate the protein shake with the gains, but don’t forget carbs! A primary goal of traditional post-workout nutrient timing recommendations is to replenish glycogen stores. We now know that it takes longer to replenish your glycogen stores, a process that happens over a longer 24hrs period*. Still your body is best suited to digest carbs and utilize them post workout and they should be a part of your recovery protocol. Especially as they apply to your nervous system recovery. We know that carbs will help our bodies go from their fight or flight mode to rest and recovery. Training is a stressor on the body. It is a good stress, but our body does not always know the difference. If you are training hard, you are generating a stress response and elevating your cortisol. Elevated cortisol is not something we want for too long. Cortisol contributes to muscle break down and has an effect on your immune system. One of the ways to shut down that cortisol response quick is to get a spike of blood sugar and this is why your post workout carbs are so magical.
*Which is why you will rarely see me prescribe rest days macros for my athletes.
Should you stop eating after a certain time of the day?
Yes, just like any other system in your body your digestive system needs a break. And it has nothing to do with weight loss or restricting calories. There is a lot of compelling science around time restricted eating**. Personally I think the science makes sense, digesting what we eat can take up to 40hrs, if we are constantly shovelling food in our mouth it’s a lot of work on the body. I tend to naturally do 11 hours daily, done eating by 7pm most days and breakfast around 6am. I will make exception to that rule if I am in a multi-day or weeks competition like the Crossfit Open when managing my recovery becomes more of a priority.
The real reason eating at night gets a bad rap is that most people that eat at night tend to also make other poor lifestyle choices. Guilt by association. 😉
**Google Satchin Panda.
Should you force down a shake before bed?
Again the right answer is it depends. Let’s say you are super consistent all the time, but had a really busy day and it’s the end of the day, you are tired not really hungry and have a bunch of protein left and some carbs. Go to bed! Tomorrow is a new day, don’t sweat it.
Neither coach Kate or myself like to be militant about this. Counting your macros is not about downing 1/4 cup of egg white and a dry rice cake before bed with your nose plugged so you get your Unicorn. We don’t care how perfect you are, we want to get you to be consistent. We understand there is a learning curve, in the beginning you may struggle to plan your day and eat all your protein. If on the other end every night you find yourself 30-40g under your protein then what are we not learning here about meal planning and setting up your days?*** And for the record, I have never in my life forgotten to eat, but maybe that’s just me. 🙂
***hint hint talk to your coach! we are here for you.❤️
Pursue consistency over perfection. And if you like this format feel free to comment and send me more questions to answer in the future.