Manipulating the timing of certain nutrients can be incredibly beneficial to combat stress and even enhance sleep patterns. Many people find themselves feeling sluggish after meals, especially meals that are heavy on carbohydrates. It makes us almost want to drop right into a nap! The solution to these common issues could be carb backloading! Carb backloading is a simple concept and is just intaking most, if not all, of your carbohydrates in the evening and/or night time.
Carbohydrates make tryptophan more readily available in the body. Tryptophan can be converted into niacin which in turn, creates serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps with sleep and digestion! Therefore, timing your carbs to up serotonin levels in the evening might just be the fix you need! Depending on your schedule, generally, you would want to introduce carbs anywhere from 2-4 PM and eat them only during and after that time. It can ultimately help us unwind and relax as we get ready to sleep!
When intaking carbohydrates in the evening or night time, it also suppresses cortisol levels, thus leaving you feeling less stressed and getting into a better routine of winding down. When consumed, carbohydrates increase blood glucose levels and in return, lower cortisol levels. This is a good way to manipulate and take control of your stress if you feel like you still cannot unwind after coming home from work. Due to Covid-19, many people are working at home as well, making it difficult to avoid taking work stress home with you. Moving your carbohydrate intake into the evening and even pairing it with other steps, such as an evening yoga/stretching session or meditation (Mindful Approach to Improve Health), to reduce stress could be that positive boost you need to get your sleep and stress on track! Check out our Post-Training Protocol: Breathing for more on breathing techniques.
Calculating Energy Requirements
To use a carb backloading system, making sure your protein intake is where it needs to be is important as well. It is recommended that your protein intake, if carb backloading, is 2.6-3 grams per KG of LBM (lean body mass). Then whether you like a high, low, or moderate carb daily intake, you would fit that carb range in during the later side of the day within your meals. The rest of your total calories can include whatever else you’d like to add!
If you see improvement in your sleep and stress reduction, then this might be a sustainable option to keep with! This can also be helpful if working out in the morning or midday is your go-to. Carbohydrates can be heavy on the stomach if eaten before a session, however, how foods make a person feel is completely different for everyone. Finding out what foods and at what time to eat them makes you most comfortable is the goal!