Mike and I have been using the Carb Backloading diet for several years now. We have stuck with it because we generally feel better when we’re on this diet and we also lift better.
It was developed by a physicist named John Keifer who happened to like recreational bodybuilding and weight lifting. He based this diet on significant amounts of research about how the body reacts to carbohydrates (carbs), specifically when using heavy resistance training as one’s main form of exercise.
The basic premise of this diet is the manipulation of your hormones for maximum fat loss and muscle growth at the same time. This is an ultra low carb diet with periods of very high carb consumption.
The way it works is you eat ultra low carb - under 30 grams - on all non-weight training days and until between 4 and 6pm on days that you do lift weights. This includes all incidental carbs found in your food. This means that if you want to use this diet successfully, you will have to dedicate yourself to learning what nutrients are actually in the food you eat. YES, there is even carbs in fruit, so it means no fruit during your ultra low carb time. It also means no brightly coloured vegetables, like carrots. For the most part, colour equals sugar. Most fruits and vegetables contain a high amount of carbohydrates and relatively low amounts of protein and fats. Some of this carbohydrate is in the form of cellulose, which our bodies cannot break down, so it passes out of our systems as fibre. The rest of the carbohydrates that make up fruits and vegetables are found in various sources like fructose and glucose. These are the useable carbohydrates that we are concerned about. When figuring out the amount of total useable carbohydrate, look it up online or read the label; take the total carbs and minus the fibre. This is the amount of carbohydrate your body can use.
Who Does This Diet Work For?
This diet works for anybody that does resistance training. The basic idea of timing when you eat your carbs will work for anybody though. The reason that it works so well when you lift weights is because after lifting weights, your muscles are like sponges trying to absorb carbs, and no other physical training causes the same phenomena. This sponge-like state allows the carbs to be absorbed without the presence of insulin. This is especially relevant to anyone who experiences insulin-resistance, since this ability to absorb the carbs without insulin can improve their overall health.
How It Works
This diet works because of how your hormones function. When you are sleeping, your body is on its fat burning system. When your body is burning fat, it also releases growth hormone. So for maximum lean tissue growth and fat loss, growth hormone is a major benefit.
When you get up, you want to keep this fat burning going as long as possible. This can be done by only ingesting fat and protein; however you must consume more fat than protein so your body does not switch to burning protein instead. Caffeine can also accelerate fat burning, so a great thing to have in the morning is coffee with some heavy whipping cream.
At lunch time, you start eating fat and protein. If it is a non-training day, you will continue eating only fat and protein for the rest of the day. It is a good idea to include plenty of fibre-containing veggies, or a fibre supplement like Benefibre to make sure things keep moving at a normal rate through your Gastro-intestinal system.
Some of you may be wondering about how eating all this fat and cholesterol can be healthy. Research shows that eating fat does not make you fat, and eating cholesterol does not raise your cholesterol levels in your blood. It is when you eat a high fat and high cholesterol diet in conjunction with carbs that it becomes a problem.
Sometime starting between 3 and 5 pm is the ideal time to do your resistance training for maximum results from this diet. If that isn't possible, you will just delay eating carbs until 5 or 6 pm. If you can train starting between 3 and 5 pm, you will start eating carbs after you are done training. Training should take between 1 and 2 hours.
The carbs you eat for the first couple hours should be high Glycemic Index (GI), low fat and moderate protein. A banana chocolate shake is my favourite. The reason for high GI carbs is you want the highest insulin spike you can get, because this allows the muscles to suck it up easier and faster. You also want your blood sugar to drop back down quickly, especially before bed. This is because your body will not release growth hormone until your blood sugar drops back to normal levels.
After this, just eat normal meals consisting of meat, carbs and veggies. Eat as much as you like, but keep the carbs to higher GI choices. This means white rice, white potatoes, white bread and white pasta. You can also eat things considered "junk" food. However, you need to eat the least processed foods as possible.
Women and Carb Backloading
This diet will work for women; however, you must be far stricter than men do. It is a result of the fact women release higher levels of stress hormones. A woman’s body goes through many different cycles of hormones throughout the month that a man’s body does not. Stress hormones are the enemy and make it so women cannot just eat whatever they like during the carb backload.
Men can get away with eating donuts and things generally thought of as "junk" food. Women can usually only get away with eating one dessert per backload. This is all thanks to Mother Nature. The female body is hard wired to create more energy stores (fat) and carry less lean body mass (muscle) than a man’s. Due to this fact, women should stick to a snack after training that contains protein and carbs, and one regular sized meal.
Rules To Follow During Low Carb Time
Anything that is green or once had a face is good to eat. Make sure you are eating enough fat; otherwise your body will start burning the protein you are eating. A ratio of 1 gram of fat: 1 gram of protein is safe, however 0.5 grams of fat: 1 gram of protein is the minimum. That is because in each gram of fat there are nine calories, and each gram of protein has 4 calories.
Avoid artificial sweeteners as much as possible. I only use Splenda which is a mixture of sucralose, maltodextrin and dextrose. There is still about one gram of carbs (from the maltodextrin and dextrose) in every four grams consumed so I do not go crazy with the stuff. Sucralose is the only artificial sweetener that is not metabolized by the body, so it passes out in the exact same form it went in.
You must really watch for sugar alcohols. They will be listed on labels, but when it says three grams, your body can change this into five or six grams of useable carbs. This is dependent on the type of sugar alcohol it is, but the bottom line is sugar alcohols are still useable by the body as carbs!
Another artificial sweetener to watch out for is acesulfame-potassium (acesulfame-K). For some reason not totally understood, this sweetener can inhibit fat loss. So if you are consuming this sweetener and not having the results you should, cut it out of your diet completely.
Artificial sweeteners have actually been linked to diabetes and other metabolic diseases, so their consumption should be limited in the name of good health.
Rules To Follow During the Carb Backload
When doing your carb backload, eat the least processed foods possible. If you're going to have a donut, it should be fresh made at a bakery from wholesome ingredients. If you're going to have a pizza, get it at a restaurant or at home, not from a box. This is because eating highly processed fats (trans fats) and carbs (like high fructose corn syrup) have been shown to have many adverse health effects, and these are often present in commercially manufactured foods.
As you can see, there are not a lot of rules to following this diet once you get the hang of it. A basic understanding of what nutrients are in the food you eat is essential, but after you have that down it is quite simple. Once you have been doing this diet for a while, you will also start to crave carbs less and less. The world of dieting is slowly shifting away from the low fat diet that has been recommended by doctors and even the government for the last few decades. Get ahead of the trend and start carb backloading now!