Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

Tell Me More
Stay Connected
December 15, 2014

Dear Mark: Carbs at Night, Banana Breakfast, and Raw Milk Death

By Mark Sisson
41 Comments

BananaFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’ve got three questions from readers. First is an interesting one from Brandon, who’s concerned about the nighttime consumption of carbohydrates spiking insulin enough to interfere with the growth hormone release that occurs during slow wave sleep. Should we be worried? Next, what’s the deal with bananas? A reader wonders whether his three-years-strong morning banana habit is introducing too much sugar into his system. I answer and explore the health effects of banana consumption in general. And finally, what are we to make of the recent death of a Melbourne toddler who drank bad raw milk?

Let’s go:

All the evidence for nighttime carbs that you and Asprey present seems perfect except….. INSULIN

Doesn’t eating a decent amount of carbs in the afternoon/before bed cause a rise in insulin, which decreases anabolic hormones (that you want in the first bit of sleep). Also won’t the glucose give you energy (thus preventing sleep and melatonin production)?

Thanks a lot man! Any short, quick answer will do 🙂

Brandon

Great question. Yes, the presence of insulin blunts — but doesn’t abolish — growth hormone release. Since carbs increase insulin, it seems like eating them at night before you go to sleep could disrupt the much-beloved growth hormone spike that occurs shortly after falling asleep. Is this a problem?

In healthy people, your standard carb-induced insulin spike will return to baseline two or three hours after eating the carbs. So if you time things right, you can eat some carbs and get to sleep without impacting the growth hormone spike that occurs during the first three hours of sleep. Try avoiding a baked potato or sweet potato fries right before you go to sleep. Instead, eat them 2-3 hours before bedtime to give your insulin levels enough time to subside.

If you’re insulin resistant, of course, your body will probably produce more for the same amount of carbs and the insulin spike from eating carbs will last longer. One way to circumvent this: exercise. Exercise increases insulin sensitivity and, if it’s intense enough, can even activate something called non-insulin dependent glucose uptake, which is a method for increased glucose uptake by the muscles without using insulin at all. According to some researchers, “the effect of exercise is similar to the action of insulin on glucose uptake.” In fact, a bit of physical activity at night is helpful for anyone, even if it’s just some light movement, a brisk 30 minute walk, or a roll in the hay with your partner/spouse/etc.

And at any rate, human growth hormone secretion patterns are pretty robust. When we “miss” a planned surge in the hormone because we skip sleep or we’ve exercised heavily, the body makes up for it later with an “off-schedule” growth hormone surge.

As for the effect of glucose on sleep, you’re probably safe. A 2009 study found that high-glycemic (fast-digesting) carbs eaten four hours before bedtime helped subjects fall asleep faster than those who ate low-glycemic (slow-digesting) carbs. Quality of sleep was identical across both groups, suggesting that slow wave sleep — during which growth hormone is released — was unaffected by carb intake. Of course, four hours is enough time for the insulin spike to die down, so that could also be explaining the lack of an effect.

How about melatonin production? High-glycemic carbs increase the amount of circulating tryptophan relative to other amino acids, and that increases brain serotonin levels. Since brain serotonin is the precursor to melatonin, we can expect that a moderate dose of carbs at night — maybe some potato or a banana (see next question) — should in turn boost melatonin and make you sleepy. And that’s exactly what happens, according to the study above.

I have been drinking a couple of glasses of water and eating about half of a banana right after I get up in the morning for about 2-3 years. I drink water before I even clean my tongue and eat banana after.

Recently, reading your blog and finding out about all the bad sugar can do, I have gotten suspicious if eating half of a banana first thing in the morning is too much sugar for empty stomach.

I’ll appreciate your advice.

Thanks

Munish

Bananas contain sugar, but they aren’t just sugar. Sugar isn’t all that defines them.

Just so you don’t take my word for it, let’s examine some of the research into the health effects of bananas:

Your half banana habit is fine, Munish, especially if you’ve been doing it for years without an issue. Keep doing what works! You could switch things up every now and then and eat a greenish banana instead of the riper ones. Less of the starch in a green banana will be digestible, lowering the blood glucose response, giving you a bigger dose of resistant starch to feed your gut bacteria, and improving your digestive and probably overall health. Resistant starch starts converting to sugar as the banana ripens.

But you should really watch out for that water. It’s deadly stuff. Did you know it inhibits breathing?

Hey Mark, just seen this on the Daily Mail about a child dying from drinking raw milk? What are your thoughts?

Paul

Man, what a terrible story. Very sad. I’d be careful about consuming any raw dairy not sold for human consumption because there are fewer consumer protections put in place when you’re buying “pet milk” or “bath milk.” Rather than highlight the dangers of consuming any and all raw milk, it actually highlights the health risks of raw milk prohibition and relegating the product to an illegal market. Had the milk been subjected to regular tests — commonplace wherever raw milk is legally sold for human consumption — the microbial loads would have been detected and the milk discarded. For that reason, I would avoid consuming any raw dairy not explicitly sold for human consumption.

When raw milk can be sold for human consumption, producers no longer have to operate in the shadows. They must keep up with safety inspections, quality control assurances, and regular testing. As it stands, raw milk legally sold for human consumption is still fairly safe in general. But nothing is completely safe. And yes, when raw milk is bad, you have the potential to get a really bad batch of raw milk.

This is an argument for legalization as much as it’s an argument against off-label consumption of bath milk, if anything. Without full legal acceptance, these admittedly rare occurrences will keep happening because the demand for an otherwise nourishing food like raw milk is only increasing.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Be sure to give you input/feedback below. Have a great rest of the week!

Subscribe to the Newsletter

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

Leave a Reply

41 Comments on "Dear Mark: Carbs at Night, Banana Breakfast, and Raw Milk Death"

avatar

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Martin
Martin
1 year 11 months ago

>> All the evidence for nighttime carbs that you and Asprey present…

perhaps it should be noted who really started pushing this idea and made others like. e.g. Asprey pick it up…

Good answer nevertheless 🙂

Vince
1 year 11 months ago

Definitely right…Carbs at night is the holy grail and let’s give credit where credit is due (not the first time Asprey ripped something off from him).

Clay
Clay
1 year 11 months ago
Sometimes a sweet potato before bed is just the right thing. Depends on my activity level and what my body is telling me. One time I ate one in the middle of the night because my body needed it. I was so hungry. As for bananas, they create a damp and cool situation in the body. if you run hot and dry it’s not an issue. For someone like me, who runs damp and cool, they make my nose run right away and make me sluggish. Fruit in general needs to be watched if you run cool and damp. These… Read more »
Animanarchy
Animanarchy
1 year 11 months ago

Yes, sometimes oranges give me a bit of a runny nose. I wondered if anyone else gets a similar reaction.Then again spices like pepper and ginger affect me that way even more.

Time Traveler
Time Traveler
1 year 11 months ago

Thanks for the carbs and banana questions. Since going primal, I cut on bananas to a minimum and resorted to eating green (for the starch) or partially ripe ones. So it’s good to know that it’s not such a devil and there’s more to it then just sugar. My favorite is a banana shake with egg yolk, coconut cream, coco powder and spirulina.

Livi
1 year 11 months ago

Loved the carb info, thanks for another great post!

Harry Mossman
1 year 11 months ago

Thanks for the banana info. I do eat green bananas for the resistant starch. Being diabetic, I avoid ripe ones and choose ones that are barely ripe enough to eat. Actually, I like those better than the really ripe ones.

healthywings
healthywings
1 year 11 months ago

now I can truly celebrate the banana – yes! and will have to try the greenish ones..

Also, and agree that things get better when”producers no longer have to operate in the shadows” – kinda why I am glad certain “surgeries” are legalized – not because I support those surgical procedures – but it keeps things safer and “in the light” – thanks MDA

Lydia
Lydia
1 year 11 months ago

I’ve been wondering the same thing about nighttime carbs! Great post, as usual!

Amanda
Amanda
1 year 11 months ago

The case of the child that died is being hyped up about the raw milk connection. The company that produces the milk was tested, and came back clear. They produce it to be drinkable, they test it regularly, drink it themselves too. I can only hope that the mass media actually reports what the ABC has already (minus the sensationalist headlines of course).

Lynda
Lynda
1 year 11 months ago
I’m all for people being able to buy raw milk if they choose, but I hope that everyone who is making that choice is fully informed. The problem with listeria (which is the main concern with raw milk) is that it can come from a perfectly healthy looking animal in a clean environment. It’s not an issue of contamination, the listeria is shed directly into the milk and there’s no way to tell if the animal is a carrier. While listeria can cause nervous dysfunction in a cow or goat, it can also be complete asymptomatic. It’s not a big… Read more »
Shary
Shary
1 year 11 months ago

Listeria can sicken or kill anyone with a compromised immune system. Also, it’s not the only dangerous pathogen that can be found in raw milk. I’m not a fan of raw dairy products for this very reason, although I do believe they should be more readily available to those who think the benefits outweigh the risks.

Anna
Anna
1 year 11 months ago

Mark makes a good point. It is about the lack of proper regulation, not raw/not raw. I mean, meat is raw and it can harbor any number of deadly bacteria. Yet we don’t insist on selling it cooked for safety. The safety comes in the monitoring and testing.

Mark P
1 year 11 months ago

“This is an argument for legalization as much as it’s an argument against off-label consumption of bath milk, if anything. Without full legal acceptance, these admittedly rare occurrences will keep happening because the demand for an otherwise nourishing food like raw milk is only increasing.”

It’s a good argument for the legalization of most things, but you couldn’t really expect the gov’t to be that sensible, could you?

Jack Lea Mason
Jack Lea Mason
1 year 11 months ago

My grandmother always had raw milk from a resident cow. She kept a silver coin in the container because it,”kept the milk from spoiling.” Listeria is a nasty bug because it continues to grow under refrigeration.
I understand silver ions under certain environmental conditions are antimicrobial. Perhaps processed foods need to be sterilized because silverware is no longer made of silver.

Animanarchy
Animanarchy
1 year 11 months ago

Copper is also antimicrobial. I read they’ve started using it a lot in at least one hospital.

sonia
sonia
1 year 11 months ago

The raw milk that was sold was subjected to regular testing. It was also tested after consumption and showed nothing…. it came back clean. Full details are not known but the child who died had terminal cancer.

Mitch
Mitch
1 year 11 months ago

A few days ago someone else said the same cancer thing on another blog – my reply was :

“I can’t find anything on the web to support this – please provide main-stream media link/s”

No response or link given – now it’s your chance to provide a web address link.

sonia
sonia
1 year 11 months ago

If you have a look on facebook at the group called the Australian Alliance for raw milk – there are a few statements there about it. Of course the media aren’t going to report the other side of this because it is all about fear and that is what sells.

Mitch
Mitch
1 year 11 months ago
Thanks for the lead on that. I had a look at the site – keep in mind anyone can start a Facebook account/blog/comment-thread and state anything they wish without evidence. The facebook entry states: Dec 10 2014 “we are still gathering information on the young cancer patient who died” – no source on their cancer information Dec 12 2014 ” little child that passed away was seriously ill, and as I understand, his mother was advised by an alternative therapist, to give him the milk to help his condition” – no source on this either If it wasn’t in the… Read more »
Olivia
Olivia
1 year 11 months ago

Hi Mark,

I have two active children, that said my son has a very heavy build and despite his activities has a weight issue (chubby) My questions is: For school, breakfast what carbs should I be giving them if any? Most nights we have no carbs. This is quite the heated debate in my house hold and would love any guidance you can offer.

Josh
Josh
1 year 11 months ago

Send him an email, your question might get lost in the comment section.

Daffy
Daffy
1 year 11 months ago
My two cents: Experiment, experiment, experiment. Splitting the baby probably won’t work (one diet in the morning, another diet in the evening), at least when trying to differentiate among confounding factors. I’m sure everyone in your household wants to help. But, the most important thing is to find what works best for the individual (not for someone’s opinion to be proven “right”). So, perhaps you could propose something like this: Each person details what specific technique they think will be most beneficial. Then, everyone agrees to give a fair chance to everyone’s idea. My suggestion would be for each trial… Read more »
erosan
erosan
1 year 11 months ago

“But you should really watch out for that water. It’s deadly stuff. Did you know it inhibits breathing?”

HA!

You should sign the petition to ban it! Its now in our food, you know? they use it in pesticides too!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yi3erdgVVTw

jessica m.
jessica m.
1 year 11 months ago

Most of the time I would probably think “why would anyone eat a baked potato or sweet potato fries right before bed?” But I literally just ate a baked potato. And now I’m going to bed. Just felt right at the time…

Sandy
1 year 11 months ago

Bananas may have bad rep compared to darker & less caloric fruits, but even eating a ripe banana, especially half of it, especially especially if you’re not diabetic isn’t completely wrong and futile – good guy tumor necrosis factor ftw 😉

Sally Wade
1 year 11 months ago

Great banana post, I love bananas and was told as a child by my mom to eat bananas if I couldnt sleep, but she told me if I didnt chew it properly I would have nightmares. Never chewed a banana so well..

Animanarchy
Animanarchy
1 year 11 months ago
I used to have some wild temper tantrums as a kid, lying face down on a ceramic floor while flailing my arms, kicking my legs, and banging my forehead. Somehow it was never actually painful. I blame how I was treated since I was a pretty good kid. My parents thought there was something wrong with me however and most of my life my mom was on a mission to get me diagnosed with some sort of mental illness and brought me to the doctor to get checked out with a blood test. The only abnormal result was a low… Read more »
Georgina
Georgina
1 year 11 months ago

Banana with maple infused almond butter. Nuff sed!

FrenchFry
FrenchFry
1 year 11 months ago
Healthy carb sources (fruits, unrefined starchy foods) are best in the morning in my opinion. After reading lots of stuff from Bill Lagakos at caloriesproper.com and experimenting with circadian rhythm and meal timing, I find carby food in the AM much better. A light dinner with fewer carbs is also good for one main reason: – insulin sensitivity of different tissue types varies with the time of day: muscles are more IS in the AM, while fat tissue isn’t, whereas the opposite is true in the evening. Apparently, circadian rhythm is VERY important when it comes to metabolic processes. In… Read more »
Terrell
Terrell
1 year 11 months ago

My personal experience with eating carbs at night is different than described above. If I eat fruit or other carbs before going to bed I wake up between 2 and 4 AM like clockwork. On the other hand if I eat fat before going to bed (e.g., half an avocado, tablespoon of butter or other animal fat) I fall asleep quickly and sleep soundly through the night.

Jenn
1 year 11 months ago

You handle the raw milk question very well! Bravo bravo!!!!!

Michele
1 year 11 months ago

Raw milk for my kids has always scared me, I’m glad you addressed this question! I haven’t ever noticed a problem eating carbs at night, but of course everyone handles it differently.

Storm
Storm
1 year 5 months ago

The “Raw milk” argument has come up before, and I think the conclusion was that the risks versus the benefits means that it just doesn’t make sense to bother with it.

If you live on a farm and can milk direct from the cow yourself, then consider it, otherwise, I wouldn’t touch it, especially for my kids.

ChocoTaco369
ChocoTaco369
1 year 11 months ago
I don’t understand most of the “insulin logic” that goes around. Insulin is one of the most important hormones in your entire body. It is crucial to survival. It is NOT a “bad guy” by any means. Having a healthy insulin response is imperative to health, and insulin needs to be spiked regularly in order to maintain insulin sensitivity. Avoiding foods that spike insulin creates insulin resistance. Insulin is supposed to go up and down after eating. The issue is when you have an abnormal insulin response – it goes too high or doesn’t go high enough. This isn’t caused… Read more »
Terrell
Terrell
1 year 11 months ago

“insulin needs to be spiked regularly in order to maintain insulin sensitivity. Avoiding foods that spike insulin creates insulin resistance”

Would you list your source/reference for this statement?

ChocoTaco369
ChocoTaco369
1 year 11 months ago
Do some research on “physiological insulin resistance.” The higher your carb intake, the higher your insulin sensitivity. The lower your carb intake, the higher your insulin resistance. This is a natural reaction – a person eating a low carbohydrate diet needs to accelerate fat oxidation to make up for the ATP disparity from the lack of carbohydrate in their diet (carbs provide more ATP more quickly than fats, which is why carbs are superior for physical activity). Insulin levels can only drop so low, so you become resistant to the insulin in your body to accelerate fat burning. With that… Read more »
Storm
Storm
1 year 5 months ago
I agree with this one to some extent – I don’t believe in the High Carb Low Fat or the Low Carb High fat camps – you should eat as many “Carbs” as you need. Of course, “Carbs” can come from many sources, and vegetable “carbs” come packaged with fermentable fibre, which your gut bacteria love. They don’t love the so called “fibre” found in wheat though, which is almost useless as it can’t be processed by our gut bacteria. Some people obsess so much about the “low carb” idea, that they freak out, in fact, the whole eating “half”… Read more »
Storm
Storm
1 year 5 months ago

I have to say – “half a banana” – lol – seriously, if I eat a Banana, I just eat a whole thing – eating a “half” banana reeks to much like Calorie counting, if your cutting it that close, don’t eat it at all.

Storm
Storm
1 year 5 months ago
Some of the reading I have done has indicated that basically the body goes into a “fasting” state overnight as you have a large period of time until, “break fast”. If the body is low in glucose overnight, it goes to burning fat, unless you have food within 2 hours of going to sleep, in which case, all fat burning is put on hold, and it burns the newly delivered glucose instead – especially if this is something sweet like desert. Unfortunately its a catch 22 though if you are already overweight – by its very definition your leptin levels… Read more »
wpDiscuz