Dinner in a Diet: Nothing After 6 PM?

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I hope you didn’t believe that we actually mean it! Myths regarding eating after 6 PM (Why 6 PM? It might as well be, say, 5:48 PM) hold on so persistently that they seem to be imperishable. Let’s see the truth about dinner in a diet!

This myth has been busted long ago.

But let’s start at the beginning. If you are an old reader of ours, you might as well skip this section, because you are likely to be bored to death by this topic. When and what can you eat in the evening? The answer to this question depends on two things: your daily activity and your daily nutrient demands. By this we don’t mean calories but macros: protein, carbohydrate and fat. And by daily activity we mean the duration and type of activities you pursue during the day. The nutrient demands are different for people who only watch TV after 4 PM and for those who still work out at 9 PM, let it be weight training or any other exercise.

This is quite simple: if you are active late at night, or you just stay up late, it wouldn’t be smart to starve yourself from 6 PM on. If your day ends early and you are not really active in the evening, you definitely have to decrease the intake of certain nutrients, but not all of them, and this doesn’t mean a total nihil after 6 PM.

This makes it quite clear why myths like “Nothing After 6 PM” make no sense at all. So, let’s just turn the page and be constructive instead!

What will make your dinner a diet dinner?

What you can eat in the evening

We must make a distinction between two possible scenarios. If you work out in the evening, different rules apply to you even in a diet, than in the case your workouts or any other physical activities take place at earlier times of the day. Now let’s see both scenarios separately, as they are as different as chalk and cheese.

If you work out in the evening

In this case there is an important thing you have to do after your workout: your muscles are worn by micro-traumas. To recover them, you’ll need amino acids which you can provide from protein sources. Plus, you’ll also need some carbs to refill your glycogen storages. Your post-workout shake should also contain these macros.

Yes, I said carbohydrates. Yes, in a diet. Yes, in the evening. If you have a hard time shredding those pounds, use glutamine instead of carbs, but basically, it is always recommended to consume some fast carbs after weight training (strictly counting the amount of the carbs, of course). It shouldn’t be much. Basically, your post-workout carb intake shouldn’t exceed 0.5 grams/kilogram of bodyweight in a diet, and even this is recommended only to those who lose weight very easily. However, half of this amount will not interfere with your diet, provided that your diet is alright in every other respect and your body type is not “hopeless” either.

So, you had your workout and your shake. Then, you should also have a whole meal for dinner. In a diet, your evening meal should be low-carb. Meat with vegetables, fish with vegetables, low-fat cottage cheese with vegetables: these are all good solutions for a diet dinner. It is important to point out that this should be the protocol, including the shake, even if you finish workout at 10 PM. The post-workout period is one of the most important periods of the day with regard to the development of your muscles, which overrides the evening meal time.

So: workout, shake, low-carb dinner. In this order. If you only have aerobic workout in the evening, consume only protein or amino acids after workout, followed by the above mentioned low-carb dinner.

If you don’t work out in the evening but rest instead

If you don’t have any significant physical activity in the evening, you should limit your evening carbohydrate consumption. But instead of starving yourself brainlessly in the evening, you should also eat smart and opt for a delicious diet dinner. What does this mean? This means, you will mostly consume protein sources with essential fats and minimal or zero carbs. If you skip this, you can easily get into a catabolic state, especially if you are on a diet. This means, your muscles will pay the price for the starvation. And the less muscle mass you have, the more difficult your diet will get: not only will your metabolism slow down, but you will lose the tightness of your muscles and skin as well. As you can see, it is a bad idea for several reasons.

What kind of food can fit into a diet dinner?

You can eat lean meat, fish, eggs, low-fat cottage cheese, low-fat cheese or slow-absorbing protein powders. You can have salad as a side. This might sound too austere, but it’s a question of attitude. You can make great meals from these ingredients. One of them was, for example, the tuna salad you might have already seen in our Builder Gastro series.

As you can see, evening meals don’t necessarily need to be about suffering and austerity. If you prepare your dinner smartly (or, we better call it an evening meal; in the terminology of athletes there is no breakfast/lunch/dinner but Meal 1-Meal 6), even an evening meal can be enjoyable. And you definitely don’t need to skip it!

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