The myth that no more carbohydrates should be eaten after 6 p.m. still persists. But what is this advice about? How can carbohydrates actually be used smartly? Carb timing, i.e. the conscious use of carbohydrates at the right time, is a very smart tool in a well-controlled diet and can support various physical and health goals. However, the term is often misunderstood, which is why the topic of carb timing is explained in more detail here.

Carb timing – what is it and what can it do?

The term carb timing says it all: it's about timing carbohydrates sensibly , i.e. eating them at the right time. The term Nutrient Timing generally refers to the time-conscious use of the various nutrients. More on this follows in the text below. Carb Timing and Nutrient Timing help keep blood sugar stable and reduce energy lows and cravings. In addition, using carbohydrates at the right time, for example after strength training, maximizes muscle building. Carb timing can also optimize sleep, because the right carbohydrates in the evening promote, among other things, the release of relaxation and sleep hormones and reduce blood sugar lows at night.


Physiological rationale for carb timing and nutrient timing 

There are always critics who are of the opinion that carb timing and nutrient timing make absolutely no sense because, from their point of view, only the macronutrients and calorie balance count. You often hear sentences like “Calories don’t know what time it is!” In fact, the calories don't know this, but our complex hormonal system differentiates very precisely under which circumstances the respective calories or macronutrients arrive in the intestines and bloodstream. This can also be explained simply physiologically:
Simply put, our hormonal and nervous system is a control and monitoring system. The nervous system receives stimuli that cause the brain to transmit signals to the organism, which lead to a wide variety of reactions.

Hormones and neurotransmitters act as signals for the flow of information. The different hormones are connected in an extremely complex system and interact with each other in various ways, so that a small change at one central point can affect all the others. Which information is ultimately passed on to the body depends on a wide variety of environmental influences and hormonal processes that are already taking place internally.

Whether we exercise, whether we have slept well and on time, whether we have a lot of body fat or a lot of muscle, whether we feel stressed and therefore release a lot of stress hormones, whether we eat fast or slow sugar, whether our intestines are healthy and whether we have our Blood sugar has been stabilized first with other nutrients and our inflammation levels also influence what our body does with the carbohydrates...

He can use them after exercise to fill and expand the depleted muscle stores, he can use them as direct energy when consumption is high, but when there is a short-term excess he can quickly convert them into fats in the liver and store them as body fat.

Of course, in the end, the overall balance of calories and carb intake (the total carbohydrates consumed) also play a role. It's always about everything: what and how and how much.


When to consume carbohydrates – carb timing

Most people shouldn't eat carbohydrates for breakfast . It is better to stabilize blood sugar with high-quality protein, good fats as well as vitamins and fiber in the form of vegetables or berries in the first meal of the day.

This sets the right hormonal signals for the day, which ensure good focus and prevent energy lows.

Over the course of the day, it all depends on your general lifestyle and the current condition of your body. A few simple rules of thumb for individual carb intake look like this:


  • The more body fat around the middle of the body (belly and hips), the fewer carbohydrates should generally be eaten.

  • The more muscle mass and less body fat you have and the more intensive exercise you do, the more carbohydrates you can eat as snacks, lunch and dinner.

  • After intensive strength training, if you have little body fat, you should eat carbohydrates, such as oat flakes, bananas, rice cakes, etc., within an hour in order to replenish muscle stores and promote growth hormones for muscle building.

  • If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, you should eat complex carbohydrates such as quinoa, buckwheat, gluten-free oatmeal or potatoes at least in the evening 2 hours before going to sleep, even if you have more body fat around your middle, in order to promote sleep and growth hormones at night.

  • In general, if you aim to build muscle and have low body fat, you should eat carbohydrates at every meal except breakfast.

  • If you generally don't move much and sit around a lot (e.g. in the home office), you should eat fewer carbohydrates - ideally only in the afternoon and evening. Because with little exercise, the carbohydrates are usually converted directly into body fat and stored and they make you tired.


What constitutes a timing diet?

Carb timing and nutrient timing have a big impact on the circumstances under which you pursue physical and health goals. By using carbohydrates at the right time and stabilizing blood sugar, energy lows and food cravings can be avoided, which ultimately leads to fewer total calories being eaten and hence the excessive carb intake in the form of sugar. Because if you eat uncontrollably, sugar is always a quick fix in an emergency. This allows the diet to establish itself sustainably and, after a hard period of discipline, it is not thrown overboard at the next weak moment and crowned with a yo-yo effect.

So if you want to maintain a conscious diet in the long term that keeps the body in balance and makes you look slim and defined or muscular in the long term and, above all, promotes health, you should deal with the topic of carb timing .


Eat a low-carb meal in the evening? Use carb timing correctly

As already mentioned above, the myth “no carbohydrates after 6 p.m.” makes little sense! Rather, carb timing should be designed so that no carbohydrates are eaten in the morning and they may support sleep in the evening. In the evening, only those who have a good night's sleep should eat a low-carb diet. If you have a lot of body fat around the middle of your body, don't move much and have little muscle, you should reduce your personal carb intake significantly for a few weeks and eat low carb anyway. Carb timing used correctly is based on the circumstances mentioned above and thus leads to success.

Nutrient timing & carb timing in comparison

As already described, nutrient timing means that the various nutrients are consciously used at the right time. In the narrower sense, the term can refer to the macronutrients carbohydrates, protein and fat, but in the broader sense it can also refer to the micronutrients. There, too, it plays a role for the body when something is absorbed. If you only pay attention to the carb timing, you automatically influence the entire nutrient timing. However, if you want to plan both, then the following applies: Protein should always be included in every main meal and ideally also in snacks, regardless of whether it is low carb or high carb. When carbohydrates are eaten, fewer fats are eaten at each meal and vice versa. This is important because otherwise the number of calories will quickly be significantly exceeded. In addition, no fat should be eaten after strength training and only protein and, if necessary, carbohydrates. Nutrient timing also plays an important role, but carb timing actually has the greatest impact on hormone signaling.


Meal timing – always makes sense? A conclusion

The term can be understood as having fixed times for each meal. Depending on your individual daily routine, this doesn't make sense as it is unrealistic for many people. However, it is important to have solid and regular main meals and snacks, as this also has a positive effect on stable blood sugar. The timing of meals should be taken into account, but in a different way: You should definitely eat breakfast within an hour of getting up so that the desired blood sugar stabilizing effect occurs, on the other hand, stress hormones start to increase blood sugar again.

Something should be eaten approximately every three hours, which is why a small snack between main meals is good. With carb timing, it is important that the carbohydrates are taken immediately after training and that you do not wait longer than an hour to do so.

Ines Schulz
Ines Maria Schulz, born on December 1st, 1992 in Basel, Switzerland, also completed her Master of Education in Biology and WAH there, laying the foundation for the understanding of physiology and anatomy as well as nutrition. She is also a trained primary school sports teacher. For two years she has been a coach at MTM Personal Training, the most successful personal training studio in Berlin. There she supports customers every day who want to exploit their maximum potential in terms of mental and physical health and performance. In cooperation with doctors like Dr. Dominik Nischwitz and a laboratory for intestinal health as well as the constant exchange within the team, she can provide her customers with optimal advice about training, nutrition, micronutrients and lifestyle. She has already written a breakfast book and a large part of a lifestyle booklet for MTM. She also writes the weekly newsletter, which publishes nutritional tips and recipes she has created. Ines has completed seminars and certificates with a variety of successful coaches and specialists and is constantly expanding her skills. The young trainer has been writing blog articles for Supz Nutrition since January 2019.

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