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Carbohydrates for lunch and proteins for dinner: how to adjust?



One of the most debated issues when it comes to a correct and nutrient-balanced diet is whether it is correct to distribute carbohydrates and proteins according to the time of the meal, i.e. whether it is better to consume carbohydrates at lunch and proteins at dinner. Universally there is no answer, except that at night, and therefore after consuming the evening meal, energy consumption tends to drop. However, depending on the individual, whether they are following a low-calorie diet or are, for example, athletes, the needs change.

Macro nutrients, according to experts, should never be missing from the main meals of the day. At breakfast, lunch and dinner, we should always have carbohydrates, proteins and fats, in clearly different percentages, especially in the presence of certain pathologies. An example: in meals in which only the first course is consumed, this can be seasoned with vegetables and a protein source (such as legumes or fish) in order to obtain a meal balanced. Similarly, if you choose to consume a second course, this can be accompanied by a side dish, bread or potatoes as a carbohydrate source.

In general, except for athletes, the intake of carbohydrates at dinner is still not recommended by personal trainers and nutritionists. The explanation, of a metabolic nature, would refer to the intake of carbohydrates and relative increase in blood sugar, a predisposing factor for type 2 diabetes, hypertriglyceridemia and the accumulation of adipose tissue.

Carbohydrates for lunch or dinner?

Following one Mediterranean dietit is possible to eat carbohydrates (therefore also pasta, rice) both a lunch both a cena. The relevant factor is the containment of calorie depending on the circadian rhythms: l’metabolic structure and production hormonal changes over a twenty-four hour period. For this reason it is healthier to distribute the calories of meals so that dinner does not provide more than thirty percent. Generally speaking, it is better to prefer more digestible carbohydrates in the evening, so as not to alter the quality of sleep. Pasta and rice, for example, are better if wholemeal: lighter and able to stimulate serotonin.

Not just cereals: foods that contain carbohydrates

Not only pasta, rice, bread and cereals contain carbohydrates. Many other foods are a source of carbohydrates such as:

  • fruit (citrus fruits, apples, pears etc.),
  • vegetables
  • latte
  • miele.
  • legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils etc.),
  • pseudocereals (quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat etc.),
  • starchy tubers (potato, yam, cassava etc.)
  • chestnut

Carbohydrates for dinner: yes or no?

A crucial role is played by insulin, whose metabolism is related to that of glucose, and therefore to that of carbohydrates. Meals are fundamental in this sense as insulin metabolism is optimal in the morning hours rather than in the evening hours (and not due to pancreatic activity).

This is where the insulin resistance factor comes into play. Consuming a greater quantity of carbohydrates (albeit reduced in subjects with diabetes, obesity, insulin resistance, etc.) in daytime meals reduces the persistence of insulinemia and post-prandial glycemia, and consequently the production of fats which are deposited in adipose tissue.

Generally speaking, the night time, which therefore follows the evening meal, is characterized by the lowest caloric expenditure of the entire day. In fact, dinner must not support particular subsequent activities, as on the contrary breakfast or lunch must provide energy to face the day. Even though the body needs nutrients, vitamins, minerals etc., energy consumption is drastically lower. It follows, therefore, that glycids – carbohydrates – should be distributed in the hours preceding greater energy expenditure, i.e. in the morning and until lunch.

On a diet and for athletes

What has been illustrated so far is generally valid. However, there are exceptions, such as, for example, those who follow a diet aimed at losing weight, and athletes who train perhaps at the end of the day and need energy for muscle recovery. Anyone who is following a low-calorie slimming diet, especially a low-carb one, or intends to normalize the tendency to hyperglycemia must keep in mind the universal rule of energy balance: if you introduce more calories than you consume, you accumulate weight. Otherwise, in a calorie deficit, you lose weight. This happens completely independently of the nutritional distribution between lunch and dinner. As already widely said, in this case, carbohydrates should always be consumed in moderation but at breakfast and lunch, and to a lesser extent at dinner.

For athletes the situation is even different. Above all, aerobic activities are practiced, a form of training in which the consumption of glucose is very high, and consequently also that of muscle glycogen. A carbohydrate debt is therefore created. If the dinner is devoid of carbohydrates, muscle recovery is also compromised which leads to a clear decrease in performance.

This is what proteins are for when you train.

Here's how to add protein to your meals.

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