carbs, backloading, timing, meals, nutrition, food

Try It: Carb Backloading

Some athletes could benefit from eating meals dense in the macronutrient later at night.

Carb backloading bucks traditional wisdom that says to eat your biggest meal early in the day and limit carbs in the evening to avoid weight gain, says Precision Nutrition coach Brian St. Pierre, R.D.

And it could be more effective than what you were originally taught. While there is research suggesting that people who eat larger meals earlier in the day are better able to maintain their weight or avoid gaining it, there’s also studies—including one published in the journal Obesity — that finds eating carbs at night can aid in weight loss, helping keep concentrations of leptin—the hormone that lets you know when you’re full—high during the day instead of when we’re sleeping.

Ultimately, the answer of when to eat might be more individual and related to your natural circadian rhythm, St. Pierre says. “Your hypothalamus controls your internal biological clock, and people have variances,” he explains. “If you’ve always felt like a night owl or a morning person, it may naturally fit with how you prefer to eat.” So it’s key to listen to your body.

To see whether or not carb backloading works for you, note weight; as well as waist, bicep, thigh, and calf measurements. Try eating larger, carb-filled meals for 30 days and note any changes.

Don’t only focus on numbers, St. Pierre says. Look for positive or negative changes in energy levels, mood, digestion, and sleep. “Even if you don’t see big improvements, if you’re eating a healthy, appropriate amount and you enjoy the timing of your bigger meal then it’s still a win.”