Have you ever heard of or tried Carb Back-Loading (CBL)? I will do my best to explain the science behind it and how to start it. It goes against pretty much everything I have done in the past in terms of nutrition but after hours of research and reading the CBL book by DH Kiefer, I decided to try it.
The Science of Carb Backloading
The aim of CBL is to increase lean muscle mass while keeping body fat as low as possible.
Let’s take a look at the way carbs affect your body. When you eat them, they’re broken down in to glucose. This will increase blood sugar levels and create an insulin spike to bring them back down. To get rid of the excess carbs, insulin will transport them as well as protein and fat in to either muscle or fat cells. If you have been lazy all day, insulin will store the carbs as fat. Until the insulin spike reduces, your body will not use fat as fuel. It will use the extra sugars as fuel first.
If you avoid carbs, your blood sugar levels will be low, which means your body will use more fat as fuel and help you to stay lean. With this in mind, the best time to eat carbs is after a weights session when your muscles carb stores are depleted and blood sugar levels are low. The timing of these carbs is what makes CBL completely different to other diets out there. It also allows you to indulge in your favourite foods, for example, ice cream, fries, and chocolate without looking like you do. Like the sound of that? Keep reading.
Many diets out there will recommend that you should eat a carb meal before training. However, remember what we said about insulin? Eating carbs pre-workout will reduce the amount of fat you can burn during a session and honestly, you don’t need them. Your body can cope with the most intense training sessions on just protein and fats just fine if you eat enough of these nutrients.
Another thing to keep in mind, is the effect of carbs on your nervous system. Without them, you will think clearly and react quickly. You can even recruit muscle fibres more efficiently. Eating carbs dampens this response and you will feel sluggish. How do you feel after a Sunday roast or a Nandos? Exactly.
How to Back Load
This is the approach, as directed by CBL’s creator, John Kiefer.
- Avoid eating for 2-3 hours upon waking or at the very least avoid carbs. You can extend the fast to 12 – 14 hours from the evening prior’s last meal. (If fat loss is your main goal, the early morning fast is a great way to burn that fat). Drink coffee for breakfast instead. Caffeine is a great accelerator and the chemicals in coffee act as an appetite suppressant. The reason you should skip breakfast and stick to coffee and coconut oil is because we are much more sensitive to insulin in the morning. Also, cortisol levels are at its peak in the mornings which will aid with fat burning.
- For 10 days, you will only be allowed 30g of carbs per day. This is the hardest part of the whole thing. Keep in mind, that 30g is your maximum! Aim for less. Any carbs apart from fiber counts – green vegetables are fine but root vegetables are a no go. Eat one gram of protein per pound of your body weight daily and consume plenty of good fats. There is no need for calorie counting. Initially, you will feel tired for a few days, this is normal during the depletion phase and your body will soon switch over to burning fat and restore your energy levels. Coffee with coconut oil is allowed. Continue to train as normal.
- On the evening of the 10th day, eat a lot of carbs. Plan this in advance so you can train in the afternoon/evening and demolish all your carbs in the evening. Eat plenty of carbs and protein. Aim for roughly 1g of carbs per pound of body weight. However, your body may be able to handle more – reward yourself! This is no time to be looking at sensible portions of brown rice or oats. You need to eat starchy and sugary foods which create the biggest insulin spike possible and restore your depleted glycogen stores. You can enjoy things like, white rice, potatoes, cheeseburger, fries, milkshake, ice cream, cookies, the lot!
- Repeat back loading on days you train. On days you don’t or days you do cardio, eat no carbs as you did for the first 10 days. CBL works best if you train the afternoon/evening. However, if you can only train in the morning, eat a small carb meal containing about 30g of carbs and the same amount of protein post workout. After that, stick to low carbs all day and save carb loading to the evening. You are more sensitive to insulin in the morning so if you eat a big carb meal post morning workout, some of it is likely to be stored as fat.
Apart from counting your protein intake and avoiding carbs during the day/back loading in the evening, you don’t need to count calories. Just pay attention to how you look in the morning after back loads. If soft and bloated, eat a bit less carbs next time. Lean and ripped, you’re on the right track. If your goal is to gain muscle while keeping body fat low, consume more protein and carbs during your back loads. Those who want to cut and lose fat, just need to eat less.
Supplements that I am using to help with carb back loading:
I have just finished the 10 day depletion phase and have started to carb load. I will update the blog again first week of July with before and after pictures so be sure to keep an eye out for the next blog post!
The above is the very basics of carb back loading to get you started. If you have any questions, fire away and I will do my best to answer them.