When Is the Best Time of Day to Eat Carbs For Weight Loss? These Dietitians Give Us an Answer

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POPSUGAR Photography | Sheila Gim
POPSUGAR Photography | Sheila Gim

You may have heard that you should only eat carbs at a certain time of the day: some people swear on eating them earlier in the day so you have all day to use them for energy and burn them off, while others insist on carb backloading, where you eat most of your carbs at night. So, which is best for weight loss? Short answer: there's no definitive answer.

"There is no complete consensus on this," Jim White, RD, ACSM, and owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios, told POPSUGAR. In fact, he said people who eat a higher-carb breakfast and a lower-carb lunch and dinner have shown success in keeping blood sugar steady and losing weight. On the flip side, a lower-carb breakfast and lunch and a higher-carb dinner (like you do in carb backloading) has helped people lose weight, lose inches, and maintain muscle mass and blood sugar.

In terms of workouts, however, he did say carbs are important to eat before and after a workout to prevent muscle depletion and fatigue. Eating carbs before a workout gives you energy, and eating them after a workout is good for repleting your muscle stores. If you eat the bulk of your carbs before and after your workout, then you should eat low to moderate carbs throughout the rest of the day.

Michelle Routhenstein, MS, RD, CDE, owner of Entirely Nourished, agrees it's important to eat carbs before a workout. "Carbohydrates are best consumed about an hour prior to working out since they are the preferred fuel used when exercising," she told POPSUGAR. "Eating carbohydrates prior to working out allows the body to be more efficient during exercise since it will utilize the carbohydrates for easily available fuel. This also can prevent excess carbohydrate storage, which can help to facilitate weight loss."

While eating carbs before a workout can be beneficial, every body is different, and carb timing shouldn't be a one-size-fits-all approach.

"There isn't necessarily one best time of the day to eat carbohydrates," Jim said. "You should experiment [with carb timing] and see what is more efficient for you in terms of what's best to manage, prevent energy dips, and fuel your workouts."