Avoid Carbohydrates in the Morning to Lose Weight?

By Nicole German (RD, LD)

carbs in the morningI had a patient, Ms. B, swear by avoiding all sources of carbohydrates in the morning, including fruit.

She says this is the key to maintaining her energy and losing weight. She even skips breakfast some mornings to do so!

Usually, I advise the other way around: Eat carbohydrates in the morning, and avoid them late at night.

What’s going on? What’s the best way to manage your carbohydrate intake?

3 Possible Theories

1. No Morning Carbs

The Theory: Skipping carbohydrates in the morning will train your body to burn fat for fuel. Plus, some groups of people have some form of insulin sensitivity in the morning. Avoiding those carbohydrates will be easier on the pancreas.

The Problem: This is all just a guess. Unless someone has Diabetes, there is no need to worry about morning insulin sensitivity. Some diabetics may have high blood glucose in the early morning hours, and do well with a more fat and protein-based breakfast. Secondly, your body can burn fat for fuel, but it does need small amounts of carbohydrates to do so.

2. Only Complex Carbs in the Morning

The Theory: In the morning, eat plenty of complex carbohydrates like oatmeal and fruits to rev the metabolism. The body has been fasting all night, and you want to break that fast with a balanced meal including healthy carbohydrates.

The Problem: This theory is the one that there is the most research backing. However, an ideal breakfast would also include a small fat or protein source with that oatmeal like nuts, seeds, nut butter, or a boiled egg.

3. Avoid Carbs Late at Night

carbs at nightThe Theory: Avoid carbohydrates late at night instead of early morning. The idea is that our metabolism may begin to slow slightly as we get close to bedtime, and our bodies will store these carbohydrates as fat.

The Problem: There is no truth behind that. I have known people who eat carbohydrates at night and still lose weight. However, some groups of people benefit from cutting off their food intake at a certain hour in order to restrict their calories.

Others enjoy small, healthy snacks and carbohydrates in the evenings because they feel it helps reduce cravings. If a specific routine works for you, then stick with it!

The Real Answer

Eating carbohydrates at specific times during the day to lose weight is mostly a myth!

The solid truth is that calories and how many total carbohydrates you eat are the only things that matter. The only exceptions are specific individuals that have certain health conditions, or are training for an athletic event.

Do you restrict carbohydrates at any time of day?

10 Comments

  1. Paulina Castellanos Sánchez

    The biomolecules, term used to describe the components of cells in our food.. The biomolecules are part of our daily diet and is vital for us to eat them because are nutrients that help our organism to produce energy and to keep every function in a good state.
    The most complete food that contains a lot of biomolecules are the ones known as carbs. Most of the myths on diets are the one that says that with more carbs on your diet you are winning weight. This is completely ridiculous. The biomolecules are in every food as I said on the top, biomolecules are used everyday by our organisms and are not wasted, every biomolecule we eat, every biomolecule we use in our daily activity.
    Carbs are full on needed biomolecules that we need to get energy. Why are humans tired, lazy, or stressed, because of lack of energy. Imagine if you stop eating biomolecules that are on the carbs! If you include this kind of diet you won´t have energy but the one on the fat you store. Of course you will loose weight but this is not healthy we need biomolecules included in every meal and on the ones at the carbs.
    Do not stop eating carbs because they get us fat, is completely silly to do that. Our body need biomolecules we must provide those in order to be healthy people and comunity.
    REFERENCES: http://www.cds.hawaii.edu/kahana/downloads/curriculum/SectionII/Unit3/3.C.MeaaiaFoodScience/3.C.5.BiomoleculesinMyFood1.pdf

    Reply
  2. Bill

    There was a study about this, where the participants ate most of their carbs with dinner. It worked, at least in part, by reducing insulin levels (http://caloriesproper.com/?p=662).

    Reply
  3. Dan

    I forget to mention Harley, from Durianrider.org eats LOTS of carbs everyday, but remains rail thin (6 foot, 140 pounds). He is far thinner than Gary Taubes, who claims that carbs and exercise make people fat. Of course, most of the carbs he consumes are from fruit and are not refined. And, of course, Harley is super duper active and rides his bike even more than I do. I ride about 140 miles a week. He will ride 40 miles to run a marathon, and then ride 40 miles back. So much for the theory that Carbs are the universal explanation of obesity.

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  4. Dan

    I don’t really buy the idea that “carbs” make at least me fat. I find that it is mainly calorie surpluses that make me fat. Restaurant meals, if I eat them too often, can start to put weight on me. It also seems that at least for me, that since I exercise a lot everyday, that I don’t gain weight that easily, either from carbs or fats. I would tend to think excess fat, esp. of the unhealthier varieties such as from fast and processed foods, tends to put weight on me more than carbs from whole grains, beans and potatoes do. However, nuts seem not to put weight on me- possibly the fat from them is not easily absorbed. As long as I stay within my calorie range, carbs don’t make me gain weight.

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    • Jim

      Which is what shows that people are all different and have different sensitivities to different food groups.

      Reply
      • Dan

        I wasn’t trying to say that low carb diets don’t work for anyone, but rather I don’t think Taubes concepts really explain obesity in general. A lot of people eat lots of carbs and remain thin and even some eat lots of carbs and lose weight. His book about good and bad calories probably has validity is saying how low carb diets work- but it doesn’t convincingly show that carbs cause everyone to be fat. Many people will lose weight on ketogenic diets- but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other very different methods that work. I was going to say this even before your response.

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        • Spectra

          Anyone who eats a lot of carbs and is still thin is usually very active or has a fairly high metabolism–at least, that’s been my personal experience. When I was running 12 miles a day, I could eat all the carbs I wanted. Now that I’m less active, I can’t eat so many and they have to be complex carbs or I do fluff up a bit.

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  5. Spectra

    I think most people eat too many carbs to lose weight, period. Of course it doesn’t matter when you eat them; what matters is how many carbs you eat and what type of carbs they are. I eat much fewer carbs as I get older because I find that carbs are generally what makes me gain weight. I prefer to eat high protein/fat and about 150-170 grams of carbs a day (that isn’t terribly low, but it’s much lower than your average American diet). Whenever I eat a lot of carbs, I feel hungrier than if I eat a combo of protein, fat and a smaller amount of complex carbs.

    Reply
  6. Manu Kalia

    I was once advised that for me to lose some weight I should eat like a king on mornings and eat like a poor at night. I think this is just the same theory that this article has, regardless if it’s carbohydrates or not. Although, I haven’t really tried if this is effective.

    Reply
    • Jim

      I tend to think that most late-night eating is more about habits and comfort eating than it is about diet. Surely it makes more sense to energize for your day rather than for sleep…

      Reply