Does it matter what time of day you eat carbs?


To carb or not to carb, that is the question. Dietitian Melissa Meier shares everything you need to know about if – and when – you should be eating carbs.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that carbs are the centre of *a lot* of fad diets.

Whether it’s eating small portions of good carbs at frequent intervals throughout the day, only eating carbs in the morning or not eating carbs at all – there’s a lot of different ideas about if and when carbs should be on your plate. To clear up the confusion, here’s what you need to know about carbs.

Chances are you already know the basics but just in case you’ve forgotten, here’s a quick refresher. Carbs are known as a ‘macronutrient’, meaning they provide your body with energy (they’re not the toxic elixir they’re often made out to be…). Carbs are actually the type of fuel your body is wired to use most efficiently. For real.

You’ll find carbs in all sorts of places, from bread, sweet potato and fruit, to chips, lollies and soft drink. Obvs, the former is the ‘healthy’ kind, and the latter is the ‘treat-yo-self’ kind.

When it comes to carbs, quality is king, especially in terms of grains (think: bread, rice and pasta). Nutrition-wise, there’s a huge difference between wholegrains and their refined white counterparts. You see, wholegrains have all three layers of the grain in-tact:

1. The fibre-rich outer layer called the bran

2. The nutrient-rich core called the germ

3. The starchy centre called the endosperm

In contrast, refined grains contain only the endosperm – so they’re much less nutritious.

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Does timing matter?

Now we come to carb timing – a hotly contested topic in the world of fad diets. The good news is… a carb is just a carb, whether it’s 8am or 8pm. It doesn’t turn into a fattening compound just because it’s dark outside. But that’s not to say the timing doesn’t matter…

For the average Joe, eating quality carbs regularly throughout the day is one of my top tips for healthy eating. This is referred to as a ‘low GI diet’, which means your blood sugars will gently rise and fall (rather than going on a rapid rollercoaster ride), which keeps you feeling fuller for longer. Balancing your blood sugars also helps you to concentrate and supports heart and eye health – and even keeps your chocolate cravings at bay come 3pm.

You might’ve also heard of carb-loading – but unless you’re a regular marathon runner, there’s really no point. That’s because carb loading is used to boost the body’s carbohydrate stores, which means you’ll have more energy to draw on in extended periods of exercise. The idea is that you wind down your training but up your carbohydrate intake in the few days before a big event. Again, unless you’re into long bouts of exercise, there’s simply no point.

The verdict

At the end of the day, carbs are an essential component of healthy eating. For most people, cutting them out completely isn’t a good thing, and neither is going overboard. To strike the perfect balance, aim for quality carbohydrates to make up a quarter of each meal throughout the day, and you’ll be well on your way to a healthy eating pattern that helps you to feel your best.

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. You can connect with her at or on Instagram @honest_nutrition.


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