Carb early but not often

*if you’re going to carb, that is



The Sofer study was uniquely insightful in that they compared 3 carb-rich meals per day with the same amount of carbs but restricted to 1 meal.  Both groups ate 3 times per day.  Tl;dr: one carb meal is modestly better than three even when total carbs are controlled.  Since the carb-meal happened to be dinner, #fakenews reported that “carbs at night” are superior… but we saw right through that – the real conclusion was carb frequency not carb timing.




If they wanted to conclude something about carb timing, they should’ve controlled frequency; ie, carbs at breakfast vs. carbs at dinner.  3 meals per day in both groups.  But they didn’t.

And here on the blog I’ve tried to make the argument [many times] that calories should be front-loaded, and if you’re gonna carb: carb early but not often.

Early” to match the circadian variation in glucose tolerance and to co-entrain central & peripheral circadian clocks.

Not often” because of the Sofer study.





The effect of diurnal distribution of carbohydrates and fat on glycaemic control in humans (Kessler et al., 2017)


4-week crossover study, where carbs were served mostly in the morning (HC/HF) or mostly at night (HF/HC).  Protein, carbs, and and calories were controlled.


Those who ate carbs at night also had on average 8% higher daily blood glucose averages.  We’ve seen this before: Dawn PheNOMNOMNOM and “Afternoon Diabetes” and Nutrient Partitioning.


Overall, changes in body weight between the groups were minimal because this was not a weight loss study: calories, carbs, and protein were controlled.  The only variable was carb timing, and similar to total calorie intake: earlier is better.


That’s all.


calories proper


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  • Ketard Aesthetic Bodybuilder

    Edit: Nvm

  • Børge Fagerli

    Reading the full study text, both insulin and HOMA-IR was lower on the HF-HC, so not all bad I guess? I would also like to see a study with this setup where the feeding window was shorter, since it is fairly well-known that late-evening feeding has its own set of problems.

    • the higher blood glucose may have been at least partially due to the lower insulin levels…

  • Emmie

    Yet for someone like me who eats very low carb because carbs stimulate my appetite, if I chose to eat them early, I’d be hungry the rest of the day and sure to overeat.

    But if I ever want to have some carbs, I’d choose end of day so that sleep would eliminate the hunger.

    Of course, it should be academic, since I do best NOT eating many carbs.
    And, yes, I eat early–breakfast is typically my ‘main meal.’

  • Chris Barnes

    Hi Bill. I’ve started to test out “smaller dinners” while eating mostly ad lib good calories during the day. Results have been excellent so far with better sleep and mild weight loss.

    What is your opinion on pre-bed protein? I’ve been consuming a protein shake immediately before bed most days as I train frequently in the gym. But, I don’t want to load too many calories close to bed.

    PS – I just bought your book and I’m excited to read it.

    • iirc, there was a study that compared protein served in the morning & night vs. immediately pre- & post-workout and found no difference; ergo, I’m somewhat protein-timing agnostic

      P.S. thanks! let me know what you think

      • Chris Barnes

        I was mostly wondering whether you thought the pre-bed protein would interfere with some of the benefits of the light dinner. I’m guessing not too much assuming overall evening calorie intake is still relatively low but wanted to hear your opinion.

  • BoogerSanchez

    Matter and energy are not related-at all. They should not even be paired together in your thoughts.

    Energy is strictly a number- a purely abstract mathematical fiction that humans find useful. Calories, joules, BTU’s etc. are all exactly the same- they are all units (far too many units) we humans use to measure this number called energy.

    Physicists do NOT like the calorie-it is a very old and outdated.

    The calorie can indeed be completely done away with in favor of the joule. A Nobel Prize physicist told me that.

  • Chantelle

    Hmmm … very interesting stuff as always – but the title is a little misleading. The research shows that carb timing seems to be significant for those with an existing issue with glucose metabolization – but not for those with normal glucose tolerance.

    I think the studies make a better case for what you have been saying all along – eat a larger breakfast because our glucose tolerance seems to peak in the earlier part of the day and decline over time.

    Thanks again for always keeping it interesting 🙂

  • Basically it’s not only about avoiding carbs at night, but excess calories in general. Since adipose tissue is more primed to store fat later in the evening (Loboda et al., 2009).
    Like Chris i decided to experiment so now i have an early protein heavy dinner with vegetables, and moved most of my calories to earlier in the day.
    The results are, im losing fat and keeping the same strength.