Carbs and protein are the two most talked about nutrients and the most highly debated. Do you eat carbs in the morning or night? What about protein?
You've likely heard many different scenarios of when you should eat each. Have carbs in the morning to fuel your day. No, have protein in the morning so that you can stay steady. Eat protein late in the day so that you burn fat while you sleep, or no, wait—eat carbs in the evening so you sleep better.
What is the right way?
Let's dive into the reasons for proteins in the morning and carbs at night.
Protein in the Morning
Are you team egg and veggie scramble or team oatmeal and fruit? Of course, both fill you up, but which is a better way to start your day?
It depends on your goals, but most people benefit from the high-protein breakfast. One research team studied two groups, one with two eggs for breakfast and the other with oatmeal. The study found that the group that ate eggs for breakfast felt fuller longer, even though both foods were filling in the moment.
In addition, protein doesn’t affect blood glucose levels the same way carbs do. Prioritizing protein in the morning could help maintain your blood sugar levels for several hours after a meal, setting you up for a day of steadier energy. Stable blood sugar helps even out your moods and energy. It also could decrease the risk of a long list of conditions like heart disease, kidney issues, and vision loss.
That said, your lifestyle comes into play. Say you’re an athlete with tough training sessions first thing in the morning. You’ll need to fuel properly for those, so you might choose to prioritize carbs on training days.
Carbs at Night
Carbs have a bad reputation, but they don't deserve it. Believe it or not, they are an essential macronutrient your body needs. Even the keto crowd is realizing that keto may not be a forever solution, and carbs are part of the program.
Now, that being said, nothing is good in excess, so you can overdo it on carbs—in fact, it’s easy to go overboard. But if you eat in moderation, here's why you should consider having most of your carbs at night.
Moderate carb consumption at night has been shown to help people fall asleep faster. However, too many carbs can reduce or eliminate REM sleep, an essential part of your night. Eating carbs in moderation at night, though, may help you spend less time fighting to get to sleep and more time sleeping and restoring.
Carbs at night may also help your body rest and recover. Throughout the day, your body goes through cycles that include high cortisol levels. This hormone activates the sympathetic nervous system, known as “fight or flight” mode. It’s a highly aroused state that’s not ideal for sleep.
However, if cortisol levels remain too high all day, it can interfere with your sleep and your body's ability to regenerate, relax, learn, and enhance your memory. Carbs play a role in helping to calm high cortisol levels, which could ease your body into parasympathetic mode and allow your body and mind to relax and recover for the next day.
As with protein, carb timing is individual, so work with a doctor or dietician to help you decide the best eating pattern for you.
The Best Proteins and Carbs to Eat
This doesn't mean you should eat an excessive amount of proteins and carbs. It’s crucial to make smart, balanced food choices.
Protein in the morning is easier than most people think. Here are some great ways to get plenty of protein and stay satiated longer.
- Chicken sausage
- Cottage cheese
- Greek yogurt
- Leftover protein from last night’s dinner (it doesn’t always have to look like a traditional breakfast!)
There are two types of carbs you can consume – simple and complex. In general, complex carbs break down more slowly, which could be helpful at night.
Simple carbs are found in candy, white bread, pasta, and other sugary treats. The carbs in fruit and milk are also simple. But, unfortunately, your body processes them fast, which causes the sugar levels to be high and then crash.
Complex carbs include vegetables, whole grains, and beans. Your body takes a longer time to break them down, keeping your hormone levels even and avoiding the “carb crash.”
Eating protein in the morning and carbs at night may help your body function better. Of course, every person is different, and all foods should be eaten in moderation, but it may help you get a better night's rest, have better memory, and function better.
You can still mix in proteins and carbs throughout the day in moderation, but your morning and evening meals should focus on protein and carbs, respectively. As a result, you'll enhance your body's performance, feel better, and be able to tackle everything that the day brings you.
- Missimer A, DiMarco DM, Andersen CJ, Murillo AG, Vergara-Jimenez M, Fernandez ML. Consuming Two Eggs per Day, as Compared to an Oatmeal Breakfast, Decreases Plasma Ghrelin while Maintaining the LDL/HDL Ratio. Nutrients. 2017;9(2):89. Published 2017 Jan 29. doi:10.3390/nu9020089
- Franz MJ. Protein: metabolism and effect on blood glucose levels. Diabetes Educ. 1997;23(6):643-651. doi:10.1177/014572179702300603
- David Benton and others, Influence of Carbohydrate on the Stages of Sleep – A Meta-Analysis, Current Developments in Nutrition, Volume 5, Issue Supplement_2, June 2021, Page 896, https://doi.org/10.1093/cdn/nzab049_009