Everything starts with your desire to change something in your appearance. You’ve been postponing it for a long time, but your dissatisfaction grows and you decide that you need to do something. As a person who has self respect, you decide that you will research what you should do and how you are supposed to structure your workouts and your diet. Two hours later you are hating the decision to do this. Now you are even more confused – some people look wonderful and they tell you that you shouldn’t eat carbs; others have the body of your dreams, yet they tell you to stay away from eating fats; some are ripped and their advice is to eat whatever you eat as long as it is in moderation. What are you supposed to do?
No matter which advice you decide to follow… you will be wrong! All of this is just a short term solution; prescriptions that work in the short term and then leave you just as disappointed as you are at the beginning. Why is that?
Because most of the things that circulate in internet are based on disciplining yourself, depriving yourself. They are based on fighting with your body, its needs and the physiological drive to eat one thing or another. Everything obeys to going against your body and your nature.
In reality this is not a winning strategy. It took me a long time to realize it and I was on this road for a long time. I tried a bunch of things that used to work – for a while and then they stopped working.
During the last two years I changed my approach and I stopped following strict diets. I started choosing my food based on how the body functions in the environment it is situated.
What do I mean?
Health and good shape are more than exercise and nutrition. They are the result of so many factors. Exercise and nutrition work just when other factors are taken in the equation. Or to say the least – they always work, but the difference is that in one case we achieve everything with a lot of struggle and deprivation and in the other case everything is smooth and pleasant – we do not fight with our body but we listen to it and serve it.
The way our body functions is linked to two main things – the length of daylight and the temperature. Through evolution everything else has changed, but these two factors have been a constant. The body uses light and temperature as its main sources of information about what is the environment, what is available (food sources, water and so on) and what it needs.
The choice about the ratio between macronutrients (proteins, fats and carbs) is based exactly on these factors. The nutrient timing and when we choose to eat more carbs or more fats is once again directly linked to temperature and the length of daylight.
Few people in the industry think about these things. Everybody looks on the surface and ignores what actually happens in the body. Probably this is the reason why when you are tired of following a diet or when you stick to a particular nutrition plan for too long, your body just breaks down and health problems occur.
It is not important to be ripped and have abs for just 1-2 years. At least in my opinion. I intend on being in such shape for a longer period of time, without this having negative consequences on my body. How? Well, I will keep on learning about circadian rhythm, chronobiology and how the body responds to seasonal changes, temperature and the length of daylight.
Today I will debunk the myth about carbs. I will write a small encyclopedia about carbs – when, how much and what type of carbs you are supposed to eat.
What happens when your breakfast contains a bigger quantity of carbs?
A breakfast that contains more fats, makes the body work in a regimen where fats are being oxidized better, while more carbs in your breakfast lead to more carb oxidation during the day. What does that mean in plain English? This means that if you start your day with more fats, you will burn more fat during the day, i.e. you will burn the fat stored on your body and you will get rid of your love handles way faster. If you choose more carbs for breakfast – you will preferentially burn them and you won’t get to your own body fat for energy.
The circadian rhythm (you know that everything in nature functions in 24 hour cycles or at least that is how it is supposed to be in the healthy individual). From this point of view the time when we eat and the foods we eat matter. Why? Because the circadian rhythm regulates energy homeostasis (the balance) and the type of food and the time when we eat has a direct effect on it.
You do not need to eat every 2-3 hours. It is far better to allow your body to switch between its natural anabolic and catabolic processes, which improves your health (and you haven’t forgotten that the good appearance is a result of good health, right?)
Insulin sensitivity and more carbs for dinner
I know that most of you are thinking: “Ines, insulin sensitivity is better in the morning! How come am I gonna eat more carbs at night?
This is one of the main arguments. It is true that insulin is a hormone which is once again in synchronicity with the circadian rhythm and that insulin sensitivity is better in the morning and declines in the evening. For those of you who do not know what is insulin sensitivity it is pretty much how sensitive to insulin are the receptors on the cells.
There are two sides of the coin. Insulin is a hormone (an anabolic hormone), which contributes to the growth of all tissues – i.e. both fat and muscle. In our case, we’d like to have an increase in muscle tissue but not in fat tissue.
If we start the day with a bigger dose of carbs, then we will aid the growth of both.
Besides that bigger amount of carbs during the day, suggests higher insulin levels. This usually has to do with the enchanted circle of high blood sugar, followed by low blood sugar –more hunger- disappointment that we can’t fit in our old jeans or what is the reflection in the mirror.
What are we supposed to do, so the carbs we eat can feed our muscles but not store as fat?
There is an interesting detail about insulin. You know that insulin helps glucose to get in the cells and to be stored either as glycogen or to be turned into fat. Still, insulin doesn’t do the work by itself. Instead, in order to move the sugar molecules through the cell membrane, insulin uses the so called glucose transporters (1) – GLUT4.
Fat cells and muscle cells contain the most GLUT4. When there is a higher insulin sensitivity then fat cells and muscle cells “soak” sugar and store it as fats or glycogen, respectively. As John Kiefer says when you are resistant to insulin – you are either fat and jacked or skinny and weak.
There is something really interesting. As I mentioned insulin sensitivity is different during different parts of the day. As I mentioned, insulin sensitivity is different in different parts of the day. In the morning, the cells that have GLUT4 react more to insulin, than they do in the evening.
There is another way to manipulate the activation of GLUT4. A way that is not dependent on insulin. I will skip the details and I will go straight to the essence of it. During strength training, GLUT4 moves towards the surface of muscle cells, no matter the levels of insulin. That’s why people who have insulin resistance, could benefit from strength training.
In this case, if we decrease the amount of carbs during the day, then we will skip the peak of insulin sensitivity – and yes we won’t get the benefits for the muscle growth (we will postpone it a little bit), but we won’t endure the negatives from the fat tissue growth.
Besides that we will avoid the ups and downs of insulin, which lead to more hunger and more food consumption.
Instead we will train during the day and we will postpone the carb consumption for later, when GLUT4 will transport the “sugar” molecules towards the muscles and thus we will take advantage of our muscles getting bigger, without gaining more fat.
How the distribution of carbs throughout the day has a direct influence on the hormones that are responsible for the energy partioning and the feeling of hunger/satiety?
There is another reason that is linked to insulin. Have you heard about the hormone adiponectin? Doubt it, but it is not the name that matters. What matters is what it does and how without knowing much about it, we can take it on öur team”. Adiponectin plays a key role in energy regulation and in the metabolism of lipids and carbs, by decreasing the amount of glucose and lipids, improves insulin sensitivity and has an anti-inflammation effect.
Adiponectin, as well as other hormones, has a 24 hour cycle – i.e. there are times of the day when it is higher and times when it is lower. Higher levels of adiponectin are something good. Adiponectin and insulin are two hormones that do not like each other – when insulin is higher, adiponectin is lower and vice versa. When we eat less carbs during the day, insulin is lower and adiponectin is higher and this improves a lot of health markers and besides that we in a position where we burn fat better and the best part is that it is in the active part of the day – i.e. we accelerate the process.
Here, you can read more about a research where the subjects were on a diet with more carbs at night, for the time period of 6 months. The participants lost more fat, improved their health markers and this distribution of macros has a positive effect on adiponectin and leptin (the hormone that is responsible for signaling satiety).
You know that the most important thing in order to stick to a particular nutrition plan is for it to be satiating. By manipulating leptin to work in our advantage, we achieve satiety and satisfaction.
It is an interesting thing how the distribution of macronutrients could change the cycle patterns, that rule the release of key hormones – leptin, adiponectin, grelin (the hormone of hunger). Researches (here) with diets where carbs are eaten mainly in the evening, show how the release of these hormones switches in favor to those who want to get leaner: leptin changes its behavior and it is higher during the day, which leads to less need of food; adiponectin increases and grelin reaches its peak in the evening – exactly when we are about to eat the meal with the highest carb content.
Is it possible to train in the morning without fueling on carbs pre and post workout?
Now those of you who train in the morning will ask how come you will train and not eat carbs pre and post workout. You are probably wondering what is gonna happen with your recovery. Actually, the body doesn’t need that much glucose (5-10grams, in case you are not keto adapted), in order to be in optimal level and go through a heavier workout.
And as far as carbs post workout, if you are not a professional athlete, working out twice a day and you are not gonna have another workout in less than 8 hours, then it doesn’t matter if your post workout meal contains carbs or not. Besides that (2) insulin is anti-catabolic hormone and in reality it is amino acids that are the key stimulator of protein synthesis – i.e. a meal with more protein and fat will still be great for your body.
Sleep and carbs. Carbs, eaten at night aid in the release of tryptophan and serotonin. As you know they improve sleep and contribute to better mood.
When do you have the strongest carb cravings? In the afternoon and at night! Here is why…
Last but not least, let me ask you: When do you have the strongest carb cravings?
You do not need to tell me. From everything I read and from the nutrition programs I make, I know that it is during the second half of the day. Then why would you fight your body? Why would you deprive it from something and force it to take more carbs in the morning, when it obviously wants them during the second part of the day?
A lot of nutrition plans that work like Borge Fagerli’s Byorhythm Diet (who is the guest on my next IFS Podcast show), John Kefir’s Carbbackloading, Martin Berkhan’s Leangains and Nate Miyaki’s Feast Your Fat Away are based exactly on this – eat most of your carbs at night.
Since the topic is so vast, in my next posts I will write more about seasons and the ratio between macros, the length of daylight and carb consumption.
Now, I will give some general recommendations about when and why you should eat carbs. I will make a note that the quantity of carbs depends on the amount of your physical activity and goals.
Why is it better to eat most of the carbs at night?
-a breakfast with more carbs, switches the body to oxidize more glucose, which means that during the day we burn the varbs we eat and not our own stored fat.
– a breakfast with more fat will make the body oxidize fats, which leads to a higher metabolic flexibility or in other words we burn our own fat storage during the day.
-a breakfast with less carbs leads to less ups and down in insulin levels and thus to less hunger and more satiety.
-a breakfast with less carbs leads to less insulin release, which means more adiponectin during the day, i.e. improvement in health markers and metabolism.
-insulin sensitivity is higher in the morning – both for fat and muscle cells and declines during the day. By distributing the carb intake for later in the day, after strength training, we redirect the carbs to the muscles and we do not encourage the growth of fat tissue.
-carbs at night rewire key hormones – increase in leptin levels during the day which leads to satiety.
-carbs at night improve sleep and mood;
-everyone of us has stronger carb cravings during the second half of the day – are you gonna ignore the signals of your body?
-last but not least – this works. Here are some of the results of people I coach:
My own transformation