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Should You Mix Fat and Carbohydrates in the Same Meal

fat and carbohydrates
Maybe you’ve heard the adage that you shouldn’t mix fat and carbohydrates in the same meal. Many people believe that to maximize fat loss, you should never mix the two together. Is this true? I’m going to break down the pros and cons of mixing fat and carbohydrates in the same meal, give you my own opinion, and then let you make the decision for yourself.

Cons of Mixing Fat and Carbohydrates

The explanation behind this theory is that by mixing two different energy sources at the same time, your body will only use one of them, and store the other as fat. Why is this? Well, as you know, carbohydrates illicit an insulin response. Insulin is one of your body’s most powerful fat storage hormones.

Being that insulin is a fat storage hormone, how are you going to be losing fat at the same time you’re storing it? If you are going to be eating fat and carbohydrates in the same meal, carbohydrates are going to take priority. They are going to cause your body to release insulin. And as a result, the fat you just ate is going to be stored as fat. Or so the theory goes…

Find out why you need to eat fat to lose fat.

Pros of Mixing Fat and Carbohydrates

On the other hand, there is the theory that mixing fat and carbohydrates in the same meal can actually be beneficial. These people believe that by adding fat to your meal, it slows down digestion enough that the insulin response is muted. By keeping insulin levels low, it allows your body to mobilize and use fatty acids from both your meal and your body fat stores.

Read these 10 ways you can keep your insulin levels down so that you can release fatty acids.

Will Mixing Fat and Carbohydrates Prevent Fat Loss?

My opinion is that both theories hold their weight, and that you can take the ideas from both of them to formulate a diet plan that is optimized for fat loss. I believe that the whole idea of not mixing fat and carbohydrates comes more from the idea of eating high fat, high sugar processed foods. This is no doubt a recipe for fat storage. Not only will they illicit a huge insulin response that will prevent fat burning, but the fat you eat from processed food is usually highly saturated or trans fat, and will be even more likely to be stored as fat.

My personal theory is that your diet plan should have a mixture of meals that are carbohydrates, fat, and protein, and also carbohydrates and protein, and even just protein, fat, and veggies. Whichever macronutrient makeup you decide to use, each one has a lot to do with the idea of nutrient timing. With nutrient timing you can influence different effects on your body by changing the macronutrient makeup of your meals.

For example, your 5 meals during the day could look something like this to take advantage of metabolic effects:

  • Meal 1 (post workout) – carb / protein / veggie
  • Meal 2 – healthy fat / carb/ protein/ veggie
  • Meal 3 – healthy fat / carb/ protein/ veggie
  • Meal 4 – healthy fat / carb/ protein/ veggie
  • Meal 5 – healthy fat / protein / veggie

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After your workout, you want to replenish glycogen stores and give your body protein to jump start protein synthesis. It makes sense then to limit fat from this meal. For the rest of your meals, you want a nice steady supply of carbohydrates to help metabolize fat, and provide you with energy throughout the day. Then at night, we can start to taper off the carbohydrates to help promote the release of growth hormone while we sleep. Growth hormone is a powerful muscle building and fat burning hormone.

Read here about how you can naturally increase your growth hormone.

By combining carbohydrates (veggies and fiber), fat, and protein in these meals, you mute the effects of insulin enough to enable you to mobilize fatty acids. Your body is constantly storing fat and releasing fat. You don’t just go through the day storing fat and then suddenly you switch over to fat loss. There is a constant storage and release of fat, that at the end of the day, will be determined by several factors. These include your total energy balance, your exercise program, and the timing and macronutrient makeup of your meals.

So don’t be afraid of mixing fat and carbohydrates in the same meal. However, be mindful of why this can be a problem, especially with processed foods, and use this knowledge to further fine tune your diet program to maximize fat loss.

  • Tom Parker

    Good article. Glad to hear you came to the conclusion it is OK to mix carbohydrates and fats. To be honest I think your diet is going to be pretty limited if you could not mix carbohydrates and fats. You couldn’t have vegetables with your meat for starters.

  • Coach Calorie

    I think the whole don’t mix fat and carbs in the same meal was meant more for high sugar, high fat foods, and eventually it was adopted by hardcore dieters. I think the idea has some merit, but I don’t think it’s necessary to separate them.

  • Ahmed

    Great article here, glad you emphasized the variation and how different meal macros and meal timings have different effects. I read Nutrient Timing a few years back, a great read there too!

  • Coach Calorie

    Thanks Ahmed. Nutrient timing and this article really compliment each other.

  • Lee Smith

    While I agree that separating out Carbs and Fat long term is to some level impractical, regularly eating lots of milk chocolate containing refined sugar and fats WILL make you fat – regularly eating sausages and potatoes WILL make you fat – (unless of course you trek the Antartic or run marathons). OK occasionally, but regularly will be a problem. This is what most people do, particularly with refined carbs and hence, people are getting fatter. Personally, if you’re trying to lose weight, I think best to avoid mixing them to avoid presence of insulin in your bloodstream while there’s fats and oils, at least until you wish to stop losing weight. And even then, mix them in, being selective and using common sense. I don’t think that’s hardcore. I think just sensible.

    • Coach Calorie

      Hey Lee, you’re right – mixing processed foods with fat is a sure recipe for fat gain. However, if you are eating whole foods, along with their natural healthy fats, and low glycemic carbohydrate content, you will have no problem continuing your fat loss.

  • Donna B.

    I think if you choose low glycemic carbs and healthy fats than it’s fine – all things in moderation.

  • Selina

    Is nutrient timing a must for fat loss? I get so confused by nutrient timing and macros. Can’t I just eat clean healthy foods along with strength training & HIIT to lose fat or promote fat loss?

    • Coach Calorie

      You absolutely can just eat healthy and exercise. Nutrient timing and other “advanced” fat loss methods are for squeezing out the last bit of body fat percentage or for when you hit a plateau.