Nutrient timing is one of the most effective ways to ensure that the foods you eat work for you rather than being stored as unwanted body fat. Focusing on eating protein and limiting carbohydrate intake in the evening makes sense because our bodies' preferred source of fuel is carbs--such as rice, bread and potatoes--and the evening is usually the least active time of the day. Carbohydrates, especially high-glycemic ones such as simple sugars, are readily stored as body fat when they aren't burned as fuel. Hence, there is no need to eat large amounts of carbs in the evening while sitting on the couch or preparing to go to bed.
Consume all of your carbohydrates and simple sugars earlier in the day. If you work out in the morning, you can eat half of them before your workout and the other half after. This nutrient timing strategy, referred as carb stacking, is recommended by "X-treme Lean" authors Jonathan Lawson and Steve Holman. For example, you might eat all of your carbs for the day before 3 p.m. The faster you want to lose weight and the slower your metabolism, the earlier you should cut out carbs to let your body burn its stored fat for energy.
Eliminate carbohydrates from your dinner meal, especially starches. Focus on eating lean sources of protein such as turkey, chicken, lean cuts of beef and fish. In place of starches, add some healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, whole eggs and/or nuts and seeds. In addition, add as much of the healthy cruciferous vegetables as you want, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts or cauliflower. If you absolutely must have carbohydrates with dinner, eat wet carbs. In his book "Combat the Fat," Jeff Anderson distinguishes between "wet" and "dry" carbs. Wet carbs are low glycemic fruits and vegetables, which don't encourage fat storage and are very nutrient dense.
Incorporate satisfying protein-based desserts. For example, low-fat ricotta cheese can be used to make many different desserts, such as cheese cake. Ricotta cheese is made from whey, a high-quality source of protein that helps burn fat and build muscle. Use a non-calorie sweetener such as Splenda or stevia in place of sugar in any dessert recipe. Many healthy, delicious recipes can be found at Bodybuilding.com or the Foodnetwork.com.
Make a smoothie one or two hours after dinner. With the right ingredients, you can make a healthy protein shake taste like a real milkshake. Blend one or two scoops of whey protein with 1 tbsp. heavy cream, 4 oz. to 8 oz skim milk or water, and three ice cubes. Add natural peanut butter, berries or dark chocolate to taste. Check out the protein shake recipes at Bodybuilding.com for more fun ideas.
Have a serving of protein before bed. If you've been diligently sticking to a workout plan--part of any successful weight-loss regimen--the extra protein will help your body recover and repair muscle tissue while you sleep. For example, mix 1/2 cup cottage cheese with a handful of berries, then sprinkle with a little stevia. This healthy midnight snack gives your body slow-digesting protein, which produces a trickle effect of amino acids and nutrients to your muscles overnight. As an alternative, you can always have another protein shake before bed.
- Combat the Fat; Jeff Anderson; CQC LLC, 2009
- X-treme Lean; Jonathan Lawson and Steve Holman; Homebody Productions, 2008