Eating carbs at night may sound like a controversial recommendation, I know.
It’s a common belief that late-night carbs are a bad idea because they would lead to weight gain and negatively impact body composition and health in the long run…
And it seems to make sense: we’re at rest, so all energy consumed in the form of sugars (simple or complex) would be stored as body fat.
While there might be some physiological truth to the fat-storing process, carbs consumed late in the day won’t lead to weight gain unless you consume more calories than your body needs over the course of the day.
And that’s valid for any food: late night or not, we store body fat every time we eat yet always end up using that energy, supposing we’re not consistently overeating.
Moreover, recent research suggests that nighttime consumption of small, nutrient-dense and low-energy foods does not appear to be harmful and may very well promote positive physiological changes in healthy individuals.
In particular, certain nutrient-dense carbs have been shown to help us fall asleep faster and get deeper, more restful sleep.
Better sleep improves mood, hormonal balance, energy levels, cognitive ability and food intake control… in turn promoting a leaner, healthier lifestyle.
So how exactly does eating carbs at night improve sleep?
You’ve probably heard of melatonin…it’s a sleep-inducing agent, which is why some people supplement with melatonin before bed when they have a hard time falling asleep.
It turns out, carbs increase concentration of an amino-acid called tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin. And serotonin is a precursor to melatonin. Some carbs even contain serotonin and melatonin in their final form.
For these reasons, consuming specific carbs zero to four hours before bed will shorten your Sleep Onset Latency (SOL) and help you fall asleep faster.
Yet that’s not all…
Eating the right carbs at night will restore your liver glycogen, which directly feeds brain activity when you’re asleep. The availability of glucose in the liver will allow your brain to regulate your metabolism and hormones better, so you can rest and recover properly.
So not only will you fall asleep faster, you’ll also improve the quality of your sleep.
Now you might be wondering, which carbs should I eat to reap these benefits?
Let me share 6 of the very best pre-bed carbs:
- Whole-grain oat: rich in stress-reducing vitamin B6 as well as melatonin, which makes it a powerful sleep-inducing carb—eat up to one hour before bed
- Banana: rich in magnesium and potassium, which will help you relax in the evening. Bananas are also rich in tryptophan, which will give your body a boost in melatonin—eat up until bed time
- Kiwi fruit: contains many health- and sleep-promoting agents, among which are antioxidants and serotonin, the precursor of melatonin—eat up until bed time
- Honey: one tablespoon of honey will help tryptophan get to the brain and contribute to the release of more melatonin—eat before bed
- Tart cherry: has a high dietary concentration of melatonin and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory benefits for improving sleep quality—eat up until bed time
- White rice: has been shown to increase sleep quality due to its high-glycemic index—eat three to four hours before bed (at dinner).
Give these pre-bed super-carbs a try as part of balanced diet and see how you sleep at night.
And if you’d like more tips on how to improve your health and body composition while keeping flexible eating habits and enjoying yourself, feel free to check out my best-selling book 67 Laws of The Lean & Strong.
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