There's really no need to restrict yourself, says certified fitness nutrition specialist, Shannon Eng.
Credit: Danny Kim for TIME

Raise your hand if you've ever been told that eating carbs at night is a big no-no. Well, Shannon Eng, a certified fitness nutrition specialist and the woman behind @caligirlgetsfit, is here to debunk that myth once and for all.

A few days ago, Eng went out for a late-night dinner with a couple of her friends and ordered spaghetti. "Two of the other girls said they don’t eat carbs at night because they are afraid carbs would make them fat," she recently shared on Instagram

But the truth is, carbs won't make you gain weight as long as you're eating within your "energy budget," Eng explained. "As in you are eating the same amount of energy that you burn," she wrote. "As long as the calories you're consuming at night are within your body's required amounts, you will not gain weight!" 

Eng says that's true for any macronutrients you choose to consume later in the evening. "[It] doesn't matter if it's either of your macros: carbs, fat, protein—your body simply won't gain weight at night unless you're eating above your macros!" Of course, that's given that you're already eating a balanced diet, properly counting your macros, and living an active lifestyle. It's also worth noting that every body is different; research shows that individual factors like your metabolism, hormones, and insulin levels can all play a role in how your body processes and stores carbs. Plus, the types of carbs you consume late at night can have a negative impact on your weight long-term.

Overall, Eng's point is that healthy carb consumption can actually be conducive to your lifestyle. She explained that she personally loves eating lean turkey for extra protein and incorporating carbs around her training sessions for improved energy and recovery.

Carbs have sadly gotten a bad rap for quite some time. In fact, this could explain why people continue to experiment with their carbohydrate consumption through methods like the trendy keto diet, which forgoes carbs almost completely, carb cycling, which allows those on low-carb diets to adjust their intake based on the timing of their tougher training days, and carb backloading, which involves eating most of your carbs later in the day. The list goes on.

But it's important to remember that beyond bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes, carbs are also found in fruit, green vegetables, legumes, and even milk. These foods are full of other healthy nutrients, including B vitamins, vitamin C, potassium, calcium, and fiber, so if you limit carbs, you could be missing a lot of the good stuff that helps your body thrive.

As Eng says, as long as you're being smart about your carb intake, and keeping an eye on both quantity and quality, when you're consuming them shouldn't really matter.