It has long been accepted that carbohydrates (carbs) are the enemy of dieters and fitness buffs alike. Empty carbs such as refined sugar, white bread, white pasta, and sweet processed food stuffs are a huge no-no. While, complex carbs such as wholemeal pasta, whole grains and pulses, are acceptable in moderation.
Most fitness fans are conditioned in the thinking that carb intake should decrease as the day progresses; maybe having porridge oats for breakfast, wholemeal pasta or wholemeal bread for lunch, then a diet of leafy greens, low carb vegetables, and a portion of a protein rich food for their evening meal.
But is the 'no carbs after six rule' fact or fiction?
Recent studies and evidence has come to light that call this approach into question and contradict the rule.
According to a study published in the Obesity Journal, researchers had a test group eat most of their carbohydrates at their evening meal, while the control group ate their carbs throughout the day, as is the norm. Surprisingly, they discovered that the evening carb group showed greater losses in total body weight, body fat and waist circumference. In addition, they had higher leptin levels - a sign of a faster metabolism and, therefore, fat burning.
When we diet, our leptin levels naturally fall. However, it would appear that shifting carb consumption to the evening might, in fact, assist in offsetting some of the decline to a certain extent. This means that eating carbs at night should make one less likely to plateau whilst trying to get lean. This does NOT mean one should exceed one's total carb intake for the day.
The study also highlighted more stable insulin levels in the evening carb study group. Insulin management is considered a major key in fat burning and overall long term health. One is also more likely to stray from their diet plan with fluctuating levels causing one to crash and burn, so to speak, then binging on carbs to increase energy levels.
Furthermore, in a study published in the Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases Journal, researchers assessed how macronutrient distribution throughout the day impacted the secretion of hunger-controlling hormones such as ghrelin, leptin and adiponectin. While adiponectin influences glucose levels and fat burning, ghrelin is responsible for driving the hunger response.
After comparing the hormone levels of the test groups, they concluded that eating carbs in the evening may indeed prevent midday hunger, better support weight loss, and improve metabolic rates more so than conventional diets.
It's early days. For most of us, the jury is still out on this subject matter, and only time and further studies will tell.
Will you be taking on board this new data now or will you be sticking with your tried and tested carb consumption until further evidence shows that it is the way forward?