It’s one of the older nutritional myths and repeated: carbohydrates are fattening at night, and therefore should never be included in dinner. In recent times this idea has also spread to fruit, even hearing that it is “prohibited” after a certain time. They are widespread ideas in the sports world and, especially, when it comes to losing weight, but they only divert attention from what really matters, the quality of the diet and its adherence.
Food myths are fixed in the population because they are very simplistic repeated messages often ad nauseam, sometimes based on outdated knowledge and sometimes reinforced by so-called voices of authority that, in reality, are not so. If they are famous and popular people on top, it can further confuse the general population.
The obsession to lose weight quickly continues to prevail in our society, returning cyclically each year with seasonal peaks according to the calendar. The theory to lose weight seems simple, but it is clear that in practice it is very complicated. And in large part it is because we remain committed to look for solutions or magic formulas, when it is a long-term long-distance race.
Believing in nutritional myths is easier than changing habits
That is why there are ideas such as that ‘fruit at night makes you fat’ or ‘carbohydrates accumulate at night in the form of fat’ are so pervasive. We would rather believe myths than change habits. Because the main key, diseases or specific circumstances aside, is more about what and how much we eat, without losing sight of the physical activity that we practice.
In order to Daniel Ursúa, dietician-nutritionist and author of Nutrihabits, “human metabolism is too complex to be governed by a rule as basic as that if you eat something after one hour it has a different effect than another.” And it states that “it is necessary that Let’s overcome that obsession with what makes you fat and what doesn’t“As the maxim that guides its outreach work says, weight loss should be a consequence, never an objective.
Eat carbohydrates when you want, but choose them well
Who has not heard that “I stopped eating carbohydrates and lost several kilos”? It’s probably true, but not so much because of the schedule. It would be necessary to analyze what exactly did those hydrates consist of and how the diet in general was modified from that change. Because we usually talk about leaving poor quality white bread, cold cuts and cheese sandwiches, refined pasta with very fatty sauces or pizza.
Carbohydrates are a macronutrient that includes a multitude of essential foods, including fruits, vegetables and legumes, but at a popular level we understand that they are basically cereals and their derivatives (rice, bread, pasta, flours, cookies, cakes), as well as certain tubers such as potatoes .
The theory that banishes these foods at dinner is based on the fact that, as they are a source of energy and at night we hardly burn calories, they accumulate in the form of fat. However, scientific evidence affirms otherwise.
As our colleagues from Vitonic, there are numerous studies that show that not by eating carbohydrates at dinner we are going to get fat, and in fact its consumption could even be beneficial to lose abdominal fat. The technologist also agrees Mario Sanchez, stating emphatically that “carbohydrates do not gain more weight at any specific time of the day, so it makes no sense to restrict their intake after a certain time.”
Ursúa stresses that human metabolism is very complex. “The energy expenditure of our body it is not based solely on the amount of exercise we do. In fact, it is not even the most important variable, so eating pasta for breakfast or a few hours before bed is not going to make any big difference. “
It is true that carbohydrates, like proteins, can be transformed into accumulated fat, but it is a question of more the quality of the food, its quantity and our glucose levels. The key is to select complex carbohydrates, avoiding refined ones that are badly accompanied (such as an industrial white bread sandwich with cold meat), taking into account the overall diet as a whole.
Will be good options, for example, whole wheat pasta with roasted vegetables, quinoa salad, a cream of legumes and vegetables, roasted sweet potato, brown rice or artisan sourdough bread made with quality cereals. Wholegrain crackers, potato chips, or breakfast cereals low in fat they are not.
And what about the fruit?
Perhaps due to an association with carbohydrates, or a general concern about excessive sugar consumption, fruit has also been peppered with the myth that it should be avoided at night. We already had the popular proverb that helps to create confusion (“melon gold in the morning, silver in the afternoon and kills at night”), and lately they have been added mixed messages disseminated by different means with little scientific validity.
The calories in fruits are exactly the same, regardless of what time they are consumed. There are no fruits that make you fatter at night, and there are no fruits that we should avoid because they supposedly make them fatter. All are recommended, within a coherent and balanced diet, according to our lifestyle. The truth is that it is still difficult for us to reach the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables per day, so it makes no sense to prevent excess consumption.
Can it be more indigestible at night? There is no scientific evidence to support this myth. You could feel more bloated if you have eaten a lot of dinner, if you have consumed too much fiber or fluids, but the fruit, by itself, is not indigestible. If you overdo it or have it for dessert with ice cream and cream after some broken eggs with chorizo, you might have a bad night.
Fruit is always recommended, whatever and at any time of the day
The exception we would find it in people with intolerances, allergies, diseases or specific conditions, whose dietary guidelines should be guided by professionals appropriate to each case.
As detailed by the dietitian-nutritionist Juan Revenga In this extensive article, the fruit must be part of a healthy lifestyle, and all the medical-health associations agree with resounding unanimity. Again, don’t get so obsessed with fruit sugar, worry more about the globality of your diet.
And no, juices, smoothies, ice creams, smoothies or smoothies are not a substitute for a piece of natural fruit. Eat it in bites, with all its fiber and skin, if it is edible, helps increase satiety and prevents us from choosing other less healthy foods instead. It provides us with energy but avoiding glucose peaks.
More timing and food myths: does mealtime or frequency matter?
Associating we determine foods at specific times of the day can be linked to another of the great myths that instilled in us since we were little: we have to do five meals a day. It continues to be repeated today, along with the belief that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and that we should not skip the snack. However, scientific studies increasingly disprove these beliefs.
Increasing or decreasing the frequency of meals or practicing intermittent fasting are not good or bad practices in and of themselves. As it tells us Daniel Ursúa, “the feeding is much more than just nutrition. We do not eat solely for the purpose of nourishing ourselves, so it is logical that we are not only influenced by the merely physiological. “
In this way, it is stated that the breakfast It is essential because it gives us the energy we need to face the day after the overnight fast, but, as Ursúa also reminds us, “the typical breakfast scheme consisting of milk, cereals and fruit is a social construct heavily supported by the industry. “But forcing yourself to eat breakfast out of habit is a mistake, especially when choosing unsavory foods.
Until now, scientific evidence has not shown that spreading more or less meals for the day, or skipping breakfast, is more or less healthy or can contribute to weight loss or weight gain. As he also defends Julio Basulto, the key is not in the number of meals we eat, but in what those intakes contain.
Different studies have analyzed the possible effects of delaying breakfast or earlier dinner; however, the conclusions are not clear and often offer conflicting results.
Ideally, eat when you’re hungry, but really hungry. And that is when we enter more swampy terrain, because human beings do not eat food just for the purpose of nourishing ourselves. The social, cultural and personal context is decisive, as well as our individual relationship with food, which must be satisfactory and positive.
Avoiding anxiety, binges, unhealthy whims, caloric snacking, cravings for sweets or eating out of boredom are factors that affect us when it comes to losing weight or taking care of our health. That is why it could be beneficial to eat more meals throughout the day but less copious, since it would help to change habits by reducing the feeling of hunger; but not a single rule of thumb that can be applied to everyone.
Chrononutrition and its possible benefits
Now that our country is talking about the possibility of advancing the dinner hours for economic reasons derived from the Covid pandemic, the experts propose to take advantage of change our habits also for health. So would it be beneficial to have an earlier dinner?
This is what the discipline of chrononutrition suggests, which studies the effects of respecting the body’s rhythms when planning meals. In other words, it is about feeding ourselves taking into account our circadian rhythms, known as the internal clock that regulates metabolic physiological rhythms and the secretion of hormones.
In the opinion of Ursúa, “there is beginning to be evidence that the individual rhythm of each person may be relevant when planning your diet. In any case, in my opinion, we should focus much more on the what and the …