Should you eat carbs at night when bulking? When bulking, your primary focus should be on hitting your daily macronutrient and calorie targets which means the time you consume them is less important. There is an optimal time (around workouts) however restricting the time of day you can consume carbs will mean you struggle to hit your intake targets when bulking.
Misinformation is something that spreads faster in the health and fitness industry then in any other area of life in my opinion. You can hear a particular phrase, let’s make one up and say “eating peas with your rice helps you digest carbs better” and before you know it there are infographics and people claiming that studies have shown it to be true.
Of course I’m exaggerating that point a bit but then you will constantly hear multiple opinions and claims surrounding health and fitness that are rarely ever proven to be true or false. They become fads or a way of life and everyone has an opinion.
This could be doing cardio fasted first thing in the morning to speed up fat loss, eating a maximum of 20g of protein per meal because this is the maximum amount your body can digest and absorb or for the purpose of this article the question of whether you should eat carbs at night when bulking.
This has been a popular talking point for weight gain/weight loss for a number of years when it was claimed eating carbs late at night get stored as body fat when you are sleeping. Below are a number of studies and articles that either backup this claim of debunk the myth:
These are just a few sources examining the topic in detail for the general public who heard from a friend that eating carbs at night can make you fat. I, however, spend my time researching much more specific topics when it comes to body composition and that’s why I want to run through whether you should eat carbs at night when bulking.
If you are training with a goal of body composition which involves the long term goal of maximum muscle mass and minimal body fat then it is important to pick up strategies and knowledge to assist you along the way.
I’m not saying you need to be a pro level bodybuilder to consume this content but a basic understanding of macronutrient requirements and energy demands from resistance training would certainly make it a more appealing topic to you.
When bulking your absolute primary goal is building lean muscle mass and therefore you need to ensure that you are fueling your body sufficiently to allow for this.
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Why Is It Considered Bad to Eat Carbs at Night
There are multiple restrictions on when you should consume carbs, when looking into the recommendations before writing this I’ve seen 2pm, 6pm and 8pm come up most frequently but regardless of the specific time mentioned they all follow the same reasoning.
The reasoning is that you don’t burn as many calories at night (especially when sleeping) so the more carbs that you consume later in the day the more likely it is you will store them as body fat as your body is not utilizing them as an immediate energy source.
This is sound logic however this is information specifically targeted at people looking to lose body fat.
Should You Eat Carbs at Night When Bulking
This concept gets branched under many different umbrellas and body composition goals despite the fact that it is for people who have a specific goal in mind. It became mainstream and accepted that you shouldn’t consume carbs at night seemingly irrelevant of your training goals.
The reason this is crucial to understand is because heavy weight training significantly increases the body’s demand for carbohydrates to be used as an energy source and if you limit the time frame in which you consume them then you are limiting your recovery and training capabilities.
When bulking you need to be in a consistent calorie surplus on a daily basis (if you can’t manage that then at a minimum the surplus needs to be averaged out over a week) to ensure you are fueling your training sessions and recovering and growing from them.
Carbs are essential in this process and required to restore liver and muscle glycogen stores which is an essential requirement for moderate to high intensity exercise and training.
If carbs are not present in a diet then the body can go through a more advanced process to convert fats to be used as a primary energy source however if we ignore the complications of that specific scenario then we can say in general, a specific amount of carbs are required when bulking.
The reason this is so important to understand is because the more intense your training session the more glycogen you will deplete and the long it will take to recover and restore these levels. This study on moderate to high intensity cycling over a prolonged training session shows that it could take a full day to replenish glycogen stores following a high carb consumption after training.
See also – Bulking snacks before bed
Is It OK to Eat Carbs at Night After Working Out
If we keep in mind that it could take a day to fully replenish muscle glycogen stores, then the time you train will play a major factor into the thought process of consuming carbs at night.
Not everyone is an early bird and not only do some people train late afternoon or in the evening for lifestyle reasons (after work for example), but many do this because their nervous system is more switched on and they have better training sessions later in the day.
If you train at night but don’t consume carbs at night then how can you possibly replenish your muscle glycogen stores optimally? This is a genuine question that I would urge someone to call me out on and put me in my place.
As mentioned I’m a big fan of the optimal route to body composition with the minimal interference to everyday lifestyle. If you struggle taking the time to cook meals on a bulk then buy microwaveable rice and packaged, ready cooked chicken from the refrigerated section and your cooking and prep time then becomes 2 minutes at a maximum.
This is my thought process when it comes to building a physique, I don’t really care about the absolute micro adjustments that will get you marginal progress but rather the factors that contribute to 80% of your overall progress like actually training and meeting your dietary requirements.
Therefore if you train workout at night but don’t consume carbs afterwards then not only will you miss the period of time when your body is most receptive to nutrient uptake and partitioning and insulin sensitivity is at its highest but you will then be going into a 7-9 hour fast as you sleep.
I think it’s clear to see where I’m going with this, if you train late at night then not only is it ok for you to consume carbs after working out but it’s pretty much essential for optimal progress, especially on a bulk.
The risk of a small fat gain from consuming is far outweighed here by the risk of not replenishing your glycogen stores after a workout and therefore not fully recovering which will have a negative impact on future training sessions and ultimately results.
I’m not dismissing the possibility that eating carbs at night could see some be stored as body fat but what I am saying is that on a bulk this should be a secondary thought with your primary focus being on consuming your carb requirements daily regardless of the time of day.
Hopefully you can see that when bulking, consuming carbs at night should not be something you need to be concerning yourself with too much as it’s a marginal contributor to your physique. I’ve raised some points that are hopefully thought provoking however I have of course left the best bit of information until the end.
I’ve mentioned numerous studies in this article just to show how much information out there covers this and that I’m combining personal opinion alongside these studies to form a verdict but if you’ve made it this far then I’ve got the best study to present that will sum this topic up much better than I could.
This study (source) published in the journal of obesity actually shows that participants consuming 80% of their carbs at night actually lost more weight than the participants that spread carb consumption throughout the day!
Like I said at the start, some of these fads come from word of mouth and end up being taken as pure fact. If you are bulking then I’d strongly recommend you spend more time focusing on getting stronger in the gym and hitting your daily caloric targets. Your physique and body composition will look much better for it.
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