Carbohydrates are my favorite food group – period. When I talk about carbs in this article, I’m pertaining to starchy carbohydrates like potatoes, breads, pastas, rice, etc. So, when I decided to finally win the battle of the bulge, I got sad thinking I may not be able to have all the carbs I want.
Thankfully, with careful research, I found a way to eat carbs, enjoy them, and still lose fat. In the bodybuilding and/or fitness circles, this strategy is called nutrient timing. Nutrient timing is the idea of eating certain food groups at the right time so that we can maximize their effects to serve our goal. For instance, the best time to eat or drink a high carb meal is after a workout because the carbohydrates get immediately used up by our muscles for energy. This practice can be done whether your goal is to lose weight or build muscle.
The other best time to eat carbohydrates besides after a workout is in the morning. Because our bodies have been in a fasted state during sleep, we immediately use the carbohydrates for energy. However, if we eat carbs later in the day and we haven’t worked out, the excess carbs are stored as fat and hopefully used for energy later. So, in this case, the best times to eat carbs is after a workout and during breakfast.
What About the Other Food Groups (Protein and Fat)?
As most of us know, we need protein to build muscle. So, whether your goal is to lose weight or gain muscle, you always want to eat a diet high in protein and make sure you’re eating protein with every meal. Besides its muscle building capabilities, protein is also great way to keep hunger and cravings at bay. The common suggestion for the average person is to eat 1g of protein for each pound of bodyweight a day in order to have enough protein in our diet. For instance, a 120 lb person would need 120g of protein a day.
As for fat, we don’t need a lot of it because it is a calorie densed food group. For instance, 1 g of protein and carbohydrate has 4 calories while fat has 9 calories per gram. So, the best way to incorporate fat into your diet is to get them from healthy fats like coconut oil/milk, olive oil, nuts, fish, etc. Fats are best eaten with meals as it helps us slowly absorb food and keep our blood sugar stable but always remember that we don’t need a lot of it because it is high in calories.
Putting it All Together
I wanted to leave you with a better idea on the best times to eat different food groups by giving you a specific example. In this example, I will be describing a woman who works out in the morning before work. Let’s name her Mary. Mary works out at 5 a.m. so she gets up, gets dressed, and doesn’t eat anything (I can tell you the reason in another post) before she works out. She only drinks water during her workout. As soon as Mary gets done with her workout, she drinks a protein shake with bananas as her source of starchy carbohydrates. On days where she has more time to cook breakfast, she eats scrambled eggs with pancakes. Throughout the day, Mary would still eat protein but she will only get her carbohydrates from high fiber sources like salad greens, different types of berries, and vegetables. She would also add a small amount of an olive oil based dressing to her salads or eat a handful of almonds as her snack to get her healthy fats.
As you can see from the example above, the starchy carbs are limited to Mary’s morning meals and/or after her workout. If you happen to workout at night or some other time of the day, you can have a high carb meal in the morning and a high carb meal after your workout so that you will use the carbs right away instead of storing it as fat.
I barely scratched the surface on this topic because I didn’t want to go into a lot of details that may confuse you. But, if you learned just the timing on when to eat carbs, you will be way ahead of what a lot of people know. If you want to learn more about nutrient timing, a book called, “Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle (BFFM),” is a great read on this topic.