Can’t sleep? “Have your carbs at night, before bed.” This has become an all too common phrase uttered by many in the health and fitness world. While the sentiment of the statement holds true, that having carbohydrates before bed increases serotonin and helps your sleep, this ultimately presents itself as a half-truth, that eventually, will do more harm than good. Having your carbohydrates at night can have a long lasting impact on many facets of our biology. Our circadian rhythm dictates everything that happens within us. This process goes far beyond merely being our sleep-wake cycle. Every gene we possess has a circadian gene in front of it. Simply put, our genes are designed to respond to our environment.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the facts.
Daily oscillations in glucose metabolism are widely reported, showing greater utilization during wakefulness rather than sleep. The circadian regulatory mechanisms of the Suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN)– periventricular nucleus (PVN)-autonomic nervous system plays a critical role in the daily rhythms of hepatic glucose output. Glucose homeostasis requires a coordinated effort of exogenous (absorption and digestion) and endogenous (utilization and gluconeogenesis) mechanisms.
The liver, like all our organs is controlled by what we call a peripheral clock, and in this instance, this particular peripheral clock regulates our blood sugar balance. The SCN serves as our master clock for all of our clock controlled genes. Peripheral clock genes and circadian cycles run continuously on their own, however, we now know that the information and environmental cues we provide our bodies programs all of these clocks. Our bodies natural rhythms of glucose and insulin are elevated during waking/daylight hours, and lowered once the sun has set. Having your carbs at night is a cue that disrupts the peripheral clock gene cycles that control glucose and insulin, as well as melatonin. Disrupted peripheral clock cycles can lead to a host of problems:
- decreased oscillation in hepatic glycogen levels and glycogen synthase expression
- expression of hepatic glucose regulatory genes are absent leading to exaggerated glucose clearance
- disrupted gluconeogenesis in the liver
- increased insulin secretion
Now, you should be asking yourself: when should I have my carbohydrates? The answer, as it always should be, is that it depends on each individual situation. First, and foremost, evaluate your own N=1 to see if you’re providing the correct environmental cues to properly program your circadian cycles. Here’s a few things you can do that are absolutely free that are sure to improve the quality of your sleep, without ruining your circadian rhythms:
- The first light that hits your eyes each morning should be natural sunlight
- Eliminate screen time and/or electronics a few hours before bed
- For every 90 mins of indoor time, spend 30 mins outdoors in natural light
- Meditate; mornings or evenings
Keep a Grateful log/journal These no-cost protocols have huge impacts on our biology.
-USAW, PICP, BioSignature, Metabolic Analytics, NKT, Nike-SPARQ, NASM-PES, CES & CPT