Catherine Saxelby challenges the popular myth that avoiding carbs after 5pm is good for weight loss.
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been asked about not eating carbs after 5pm (or after 4pm or 3pm) when trying to lose a little weight. It’s one of those modern myths that needs to be laid to rest once and for all.
If you eliminate starchy carbs such as pasta, rice, potato or bread at dinner, all you’re eliminating, is kilojoules. There’s nothing ‘fat-burning’ about the timing. You won’t lose weight any faster. It’s simply a way of reducing your intake. For instance, cut out a large baked potato and you reduce your intake by 585kJ. Say ‘no’ to a cup of steamed rice and you’re down 870kJ. Avoid a cup of cooked macaroni and you zap 835kJ. So, out of a total dinner intake of 1200kJ for grilled steak, potato and a salad, you can knock off nearly 50 per cent of the kilojoules if you ditch the carbs. That’s why you lose weight!
Saying ‘no’ to starchy carbs creates an unbalanced meal. Steak with salad, or a chicken and veg stir-fry, needs a small amount of carbs to satisfy your appetite and balance blood glucose levels. Without this balance, you’ll soon be searching for something sweet because you are still hungry.
For some reason, people forget that sugars are carbs also, and are much easier to over-consume. For instance, two chocolate biscuits or two scoops of premium ice cream contain approximately 790kJ; which is more than an average potato. But the trouble is, sweets (high in sugar and fat, and high GI) before bed are not the same as wholegrains or low-GI carbs. Such ‘smart’ carbs – in modest portions – are a better choice. Especially when you take into account that the quality of your insulin wanes at night, making slower-digesting carbs easier on the body.
Big meals at night
Irrespective of the whole carb debate, eating a light dinner, and no dessert, can assist with your weight loss. Our metabolic rates actually drop during the evenings, so it’s harder to burn off a heavy meal at night. Especially as that’s when we’re least active – often sitting in front of TV before bed.
In conclusion, a light but balanced dinner will help guard against late night binges. Avoiding this binge (usually on unhealthy snacks) will make a big difference to your weight.
There’s no need to skip cards – a portion of ‘smart carbs’ (one cup of rice or pasta, or a slice of grain bread) creates a light-but-balanced dinner, making you feel a lot more satisfied – and less likely to reach for dessert.