Throw out our carbs? Maybe when you pry that baguette from our cold, dead hands…

Fortunately, we may not have to. As Debra Atkinson writes for PRiME WOMEN, giving up carbs completely may be the wrong strategy for those hoping to lose weight. 

freshly made pasta

What if you could tie in good sleep, weight loss and renewed energy? Here’s the key. Don’t ditch carbs completely.

Keep some carbs

Include complex “low and slow” carbohydrates at every meal. Increase the number of carb servings at each meal throughout the day. Start with eating carbs at a lower amount for breakfast and have the most carbs at dinner. Shocked? Here’s how to make sense of that.

Cortisol levels ideally peak in the morning and fall throughout the day. When cortisol drops you can become more edgy. If calming carbohydrates increase as cortisol decreases you’ll avoid that “hangry” feeling.

Sleep yourself skinny? Recent studies support this dream of getting slim passively. There’s growing evidence that longer sleepers (compared to individuals who don’t sleep nearly as long) are slimmer, with lower body mass index (BMI) levels, and they perform better. In spite of exercise and diets that should result in weight loss, your body could actually conserve your fat, at the expense of your lean muscle, without the right amount of shuteye.

If you have a hard time getting adequate quality or quantity of sleep, pay special attention when eating carbs. Eating the largest por­tion of carbohydrates at your evening meal will calm you with some serotinin and help you get a better night’s sleep. If you’re in the habit of decreasing your carbohydrates at night to help pre­vent weight gain, and you’re not sleeping well, this small change by itself may improve weight loss. More carbs for weight loss? Who knew?

All carbs are not the same, however. Choose low and slow. That is, low Glycemic Index (GI) and Glycemic Load (GL) foods that are released slowly. Quinoa, brown rice, legumes, and sweet potatoes are good examples.

Eat for Sleep

Nine out of ten women who begin a Flipping 50 program have two things in common.

They have severely reduced carbohydrate consumption at night.

Their rating of sleep quality is 5/10 or less.

That’s not coincidence. If you are struggling to sleep and lose weight both, there’s a chance that the very thing you’re doing to reach your weight loss goal is sabotaging both that and short-sheeting you on sleep.

Eating carbs boosts your natural production of serotonin. Serotonin is your feel-good hormone. Women have lower levels of it than men. Too little of it can make you feel depressed. The right amount helps keep you calm and will improve your readiness to sleep in the evening.

Though simple math about carbohydrate storage in the body can make you lose weight quickly by removing carbohydrates, it could sabotage you later. For every one-part carbohydrate stored, three parts water is stored. Eliminate carbs and you’ll lose water weight. After a short time, driving your carb intake too low can disrupt your sleep and cause cravings you can’t out-willpower.

Dinnertime is a good time to eat more carbohydrates. That is, eat more than you have at previous meals in the day.

Still with me?

I know it’s often the exact opposite of what you may be doing. But if you’re both sleepless and weight loss has stalled, what have you got to lose? Women usually come back within a week and tell me they can’t believe how much more energy they have, and how much happier they are! We do love eating carbs. The trick is to not go for the breadbasket or the chips to do it.

Try one or two of these suggestions for a full week and see what happens.

Tonight, have a sweet potato with your dinner. If you prefer, have some brown rice or quinoa. Make a butternut squash soup or have chili made with beans. Finish with a small cup of berries.

Since sleep affects every aspect of life, it’s important to be aware of the fact that sleep duration not only enhances your weight and your weight loss efforts, it also benefits the quality of your sleep. It’s a two-way street. It may not take a lot to improve your sleep. In fact, as little as 10 minutes of exercise a day can boost self-reports of sleep quality by nearly 30 percent. Couple that with eating carbs at night, and you are on your way to weight loss!

Check out Hot, Not Bothered: 99 Daily Flips to Slimmer, Trimmer, Fitter Faster So You Can Master Metabolism Before, During, and (long) After Menopause for more!

Have you tried bumping up your healthy carbs to improve sleep and help with weight management? How did it work for you? Leave us a comment below, or talk to us on our Facebook page or in Midlife & Menopause Solutions, our closed Facebook group.

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Shannon Perry

Shannon is a celebrated author and global educator. Whether she’s interviewing a physician or producing a podcast, her appetite for research, facts, and truth culminates in credible health education and programming that women can rely on. An avid runner, cyclist, and climber, Shannon knows a thing or two about thriving in midlife and lives in Seattle with her cat, dog and boyfriend.

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