Carbohydrates as a food group are pretty much vilified across the board when it comes to dieting and weight loss plans. Despite the fact that many health experts and nutritionists warn about the dangers of cutting carbs, the ketogenic diet (which follows low-carb, moderate protein, and high-fat eating) continues to rise in popularity. And now, another very different approach growing in popularity is carb backloading, which involves eating all of the carbs later in the day to lose weight.
While this concept might sound totally counter-intuitive to folks who believe you should avoid carbs at night, there’s a little bit of research that might suggest the opposite. A study out of Cambridge suggests that “carb backloading,” or eating most of your carbs later in the day, can actually help you to lose weight. The rationale supporting carb backloading involves insulin and insulin sensitivity. Insulin spikes after eating crabs and helps your cells transport and store energy. Insulin sensitivity indicates how efficient this process is at any time and is highest when you’re craving carbs—like after fasting or after a workout. Shape explained the link between insulin sensitivity and carb backloading really well in a recent article, highlighting that insulin sensitivity is higher earlier in the day, which promotes carb absorption into your muscles and fat tissues. By eating carbs later in the day you’re encouraging your body to use fat for fuel during the day—you may even choose to work out later in the evening to promote better carb absorption into your muscles.
Theoretically, you should be able to lose fat faster with this technique, because you’re using fat as fuel throughout the day. However, before you order a third helping of sweet potato fries for dinner in the name of weight loss, you should know that the Cambridge study supporting this theory was done on only 44 subjects, which is a pretty major limitation. And, as Emmie Satrazemis, a registered dietitian, told Shape, “It is easy to prove just about anything looking at individual studies with small sample sizes.” So go ahead and enjoy those fries—but just don’t think you’re doing it for any particular health reasons.