Light at Night Spicy Tacos

Posted by Kelli Jennings on

Over the past few years, I’ve repeated a few key recommendations for athletes trying to lose fat or maintain a lean weight.  Over and over, you’ve heard me say, “Light at Night.” It’s true.  I recommend eating the vast majority of your calories, and especially your carbohydrates, during the day when you’re most active (of course, this gets a little tricky when you train at night).

I reject the idea of skimping by during the day, only to come home ravished in the evening, and ready for the nightly feast.  This usually doesn’t work out well.  Give your body the fuel it needs when it needs it.  If you simply lounge and relax after dinner before going to bed, keep it light at night.

Recipe of the Week: “Light at Night” Spicy Tacos


  • 8 large lettuce leaves
  • 1 pound organic/grassfed (if possible) ground chicken, turkey, beef, elk or venison (optional, if eating meat)
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa (optional, if not eating meat)
  • 2-4 Tbsp Homemade Taco Seasoning
  • 1 cup refried or black beans
  • 2-4 oz. cheese
  • diced tomatos
  • salsa or green chili sauce
  • 4-8 lime wedges


1. If eating meat, cook ground meat in skillet until cooked through.  Add Taco Seasoning to taste (can get spicy).  If you haven’t tried this easy seasoning mix yet, you definitely should!

2. If not eating meat, cook quinoa.  Once cooked, add Taco Seasoning to taste (can get spicy). If you haven’t tried this easy seasoning yet mix, you definitely should!

3. Meanwhile, warm beans, grate cheese, prepare guacamole, and cut limes.

4. Wash and dry (well) large lettuce leaves.

5.  Build tacos with desired toppings, using lettuce leaves as shells.

Serving size: 2 lettuce tacos.  Serves 4.

Comments: Why do I keep harping on eating “light at night?”

If you’ve been around Apex Nutrition or the Fuel Right Blog for more than a month or so, you’ve likely read about my recommendations to keep dinner light.  Mostly, my definition of a “light” dinner is relatively low in carbs and high in good proteins, healthy fats, and vegetables.  In fact, even with reduced amounts of carbs, this “light” dinner will actually be very satisfying and flexible.  Most all meals can be made light in this way.  And, tacos are no exception.

Here’s the what and the why of a “Light at Night” taco:

  • Proteins: Organic Ground Meat, Beans, and Quinoa.  Protein at dinner can further decrease any muscle wasting, encourage muscle repair and rebuilding, and reducing spikes in blood sugar/insulin.  Especially if you’re training earlier in the day, make sure to include protein at dinner.
  • Healthy Fats: Avocados. A healthy fat source like avocado, nuts and seeds, olive oil in salad dressing, or organic coconut oil promotes overall wellness and good hormone balance without increased blood sugars.
  • Vegetables: Dark Lettuce Leaves, Tomatoes, Green Chilis, Black Beans, Chilis/Spices in Taco Seasoning. Vegetables are a great source of antioxidants that supports cellular repair and decreases the oxidative stress that’s often elevated from training.  The black beans do contain carbohydrates, but the portion is small and black beans are highly nutritive.
  • Carbohydrates: Why not grains and other carbohydrates?  While I think it’s fine to include these occasionally, if you’re actively trying to lose fat, keep it to just 2 dinners or so a week.  Carbohydrates are simply not needed by the body in the evening if you’re relaxing, and serve only as an extra calorie source.  They promote increased insulin levels, which promotes fat storage, especially when they are not readily used (as they would be immediately before, during, or after training).  They are often inflammatory in the body, especially if they are refined grains or sugars (refined grains act very similarly to sugars in the body). What’s more, the extra insulin output can interfere with hormones that are released at night and work to promote optimal muscle repair and recovery.  Bummer!

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule.  Proactively add carbs back in, around 30 grams or so, when it’s the evening before an extra strenuous or long training or if it’s immediately after an evening training.  Thirty grams of carbs is the equivalent of 2/3 cup cooked brown rice, quinoa, or beans, 1 large banana, 1 medium sweet potato, 1 cup whole-grain pasta, 1 1/2 cup fruit, 8 oz. chocolate milk, etc.

Another easy way to keep it light at night.  Asian Wraps and now Spicy Tacos.  Don’t forget to purposefully add in loads of vegetables, proteins, and healthy fats.  It’s not about minimizing foods.  It’s about eating the right whole foods, when you’re body needs and can use them.  Eat for wellness day to day.  Eat for performance before, during, and after your ride.

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