In this article, we talk about how you can use carbohydrate backloading to lose fat and take some of the stress away from knowing what and when to eat. We are big fans of this approach and have seen it work for both ourselves and our clients when applied correctly. It was created by Dr John Kiefer who caused a stir in the health and fitness industry when he claimed that he was able to maintain six pack abs eating all sorts of unhealthy treats, from pizza to cakes, and all of this without any cardio! In fact he claimed that carb backloading is more effective eating these kind of foods! Sound too good to be true?
Maybe, but the science behind Carb Backloading is strong and thousands of people sing its praises for helping them lean out without restricting what they eat, lets see what the fuss is about.
What is Carb Backloading?
Simply put, carb backloading explained looks something like this; Before training you only eat protein and healthy fats and after training you should eat primarily high glycemic index carbs to cause a large surge of insulin at a time when this hormone can maximally benefit your muscles and when the chances of these carbs being shuttled to fat storage is slim to none. Its very simple and Kiefer in his e-book Carb Backloading 2.0 explains the science behind why Carb Backloading is so effective for reducing and maintaining very low body fat without having to use a restrictive and strict typical fat loss diet.
With carb backloading you don't need to do this, in fact if you stick to the main principles of carb backloading the types of food you eat after training don't seem to matter as long as they are carbs and they are fast digesting (from ripe bananas, to rice, to candy, and even cakes!) Kiefer and many fans of Carb Backloading claim that despite eating some pretty unhealthy foods in the post workout window they are still seeing fantastic progress with their bodies, It's all about the hormones and timing!
Kiefer levels that the conventional wisdom of eating carbs in the morning with breakfast means that most of us are missing out on one of the best times to burn body fat hormonaly and by eating carbs we are putting a halt to that pretty quickly. By not eating carbs in the A.M and focusing on healthy fats such as coconut oil, butter, and MCT oil you encourage the body to go in to a state called ketosis (using stored fats for energy) as well as allowing a surge of natural growth hormone to happen which is incredibly beneficial when trying to reduce body fat.
He also describes how the perceived need to fuel our bodies with carbs pre workout is a myth. In fact training in the absence of carbohydrates shows no negative effect on blood sugar levels, increases the sympathetic nervous system response to training, and releases adrenaline faster and makes you more sensitive to its fat burning effects. Going all day without eating carbs and then adding late afternoon resistance training in to the mix primes us to take advantage of our bodies natural hormonal responses to use the carbs we consume post workout primarily to replenish muscle glycogen stores. In simple terms, not eating carbs throughout the day until after afternoon/evening resistance training means we are eating them at a time when there is the least chance of them having a negative effect on body fat levels and maximum beneficial effect on lean tissues (the opposite of in the morning). Maximising the insulin response by eating high glycemic carbs further boosts the effect of maximising muscle uptake of glycogen and down regulates fat storage, makes sense right?
Tips for maximising the effectiveness of Carb Backloading
- Make sure you are getting plenty of healthy fats in the early portion of the day to fuel your activities and encourage ketosis. We like MCT oil and plenty of butter with our breakfast.
- Shift training to late afternoon/early evening for the optimum hormonal response to carb backloading. It can still be effective for those who train earlier in the day but just less so.
- Make sure you are getting high glycemic carbs to maximise the insulin response after training (no oats, wholemeal bread, or too many fats here). We prefer to go clean rather than dirty foods like cakes, sweets, and pizza but thats not to say you can't still get great results using these foods because you can! Our favourite choices are white rice, ripe bananas, dextrose, and sweet potatoes. We just feel better eating these types of foods.
- Use resistance training.
- For maximum effectiveness take 4-5 days with no carbs before beginning backloading to reset insulin sensitivity.
Our thoughts on Carb Backloading
Carb backloading is as simple as it gets when it comes to nutritional approaches and it works. We have seen this countless times with clients and for anyone looking to reduce or maintain bodyfat levels without any major food restrictions or obsessive food measuring this could be the approach for you. Don't feel like you have to eat cherry turnovers, cookies, and candy to properly backload. There are loads of clean carbohydrate sources which do the job just as well with a few listed above.
Overall, if you are stuck in a traditional schedule of eating spreading carbs across the day and you are not happy with your body fat levels or how meticulous you need to be to keep it in check then give carb backloading a go and you might be surprised by the results. It is one of the single biggest changes we make to clients nutrition that yields some of the greatest fat loss results. All without severe restriction, calorie counting, or excel spreadsheets detailing everything you must eat.