Literally blasting off in its popularity within the last couple of years, carb backloading is yet another hotly debated topic in the fitness world.
It’s up there with intermittent fasting and seems just as appealing.
After all, a lot of people are stating that they’re getting their body right where they’ve always wanted it.
So what exactly is so great about this?
Well, the whole idea behind it is actually pretty promising. John Kiefer, who is the main advocate behind carb backloading, is pretty convincing. He states that this unusual kind of “diet,” which does involve losing weight and building muscle at the same time, is done in a kind of different way. In fact, a totally crazy way – over-indulging by eating your favorite carbs, every day of the week.
Yes, you read that correctly. No we did not make any mistakes typing that up.
Sounds awesome right?
Maybe too awesome. We want to know if carb backloading is any better than the traditional old diet.
We know a lot of people aren’t familiar with this concept. And if this is the first time you’re reading about it, you might be wondering what the heck is going on. We will explain it all for you, along with the possible benefits and downfalls of this.
Let’s start with the basics – this is how it works. First, in the morning hours, there is very little eating involved. This might involve skipping breakfast. The same goes for the early afternoon hours – not much eating going on. Then, at night, the feast begins.
Until you’ve had your workout, you’re going to eat barely (if any) carbs. These should all be consumed later in the afternoon, like around 5 PM.
And it keeps going through the entire evening.
Earlier, we had mentioned Kiefer. He isn’t the creator here; rather, this idea has been around since the Arnold-era. However, he’s the most popular promoter of the idea so we’re going to spend some time talking about him.
Anyway, he believes that this diet works well because it makes the most of the ups-and-downs found within insulin sensitivity. This matters because its in the muscle and fat cells; plus, it also effects the increase in insulin senility, which is also in muscle cells.
What Is The Reseach Behind Carb Backloading?
We’ll put it all together. There’s a ton of research that shows the insulin sensitivity in your fat cell and muscle is a lot higher in the morning than it is during the evening.
What exactly does this mean?
Well, your fat and your muscle cells are going to be a lot more open to receiving glucose the earlier in the day it is. This is good news when it comes to muscle, because the more glucose that your body absorbs into your muscle, the better performance you’re going to have at the gym. But it isn’t good news for fat.
Here’s why – because the more glucose your body absorbs into the fat cells means there is going to be more overall fat storage.
Now the whole idea behind carb backloading is that you’re going to use these ideas to your advantage.
By not eating any carbs when your body is a lot more likely to store them as fat, which is from the morning hours until the early evening hours. Rather, you’re going to eat carbs when your body is going to do the right thing.
Instead of storing them as fat, it’s going to store them as glycogen within your muscles, after you’ve worked out.
Why Is Post-Workout Important When It Comes To Carb Backloading?
We keep talking about post-workout and there’s a reason for it – it’s important. You’re going to weightlift in the late afternoon/evening because you want to deplete your body’s stored up glycogen. You also want to cause a jump in insulin sensitivity within the muscle (but you don’t want to do it for fat cells). This way, when you reach for those carbs and start eating them, they’re going to be shuttled right to your muscles, instead of the fat cells.
Sounds like a pretty solid theory, right?
It does sound like it’s legit. Plus, Kiefer has a ton of studies in order to back up these words. So before we burst his (and possibly your) bubble we want to look at all the benefits carb backloading can have.
One of the biggest perks carb backloading has is its different idea and theories behind it. Nowadays, it can feel like we’re drowning in a sea of BS diets, making us think getting rid of fat and building up muscle is an impossible feat – at least without steroids.
Instead of us being educated and having knowledge with weight loss and the various healthy ways to do it, we’re sucked into a pool of never-ending promises. A lot of these companies are selling simply crap and that’s it. They try to tell you they have scientific evidence and they don’t.
Carb backloading provides some much needed fresh air in a world that’s gone stale. It can help get away from all the mainstream ideas and fads, as it incorporates proper and accurate dieting. Plus, whether you want to gain muscle or get rid of some fat, carb backloading is simple – just make sure you hit that daily macronutrient target. That’s it. You don’t really need to worry about what you eat in order to help you reach your goals.
After all, when it comes to the topic of body composition, what goes into your body and when doesn’t really matter. Rather, what matters is how much.
And perhaps one of the biggest perks is this – it fits into everyone’s lifestyle like a glove. Think about it – you can only have carbs at night, after a workout. And you probably wouldn’t work out until later in the day anyway, with your work schedule. Some of us wouldn’t really like not being able to have carbs throughout the day, but others might like the fact that they can have all their carbs in one sitting.
What Is The Science Behind Carb Backloading?
Now let’s look at some scientific evidence. Now, even though there’s a pretty solid set of studies that back up the whole idea of carb backloading, it isn’t really concrete. Rather, it needs to be proven in randomized controlled trials for it to be taken as 100% effective.
There are 2 studies of this kind, however, that show proof that backloading is a lot more successful than just plain old traditional diets. It even showed to be more effective with losing fat and building up muscle, too.
One of the studies compared the differences between eating a majority of daily calories (70%) in the morning instead of the evening. A total of ten of the volunteers were put on a 6-week diet that were calorie restricted. The group that had most of their calories in the evening ended up losing a lot more fat than those who ate in the morning. They also didn’t lose as much fat.
However, the structure of this whole study was this: The food intake was majorly controlled, and exercise was a regimen of resistance training and cardio. Plus, they used the widely known inaccurate way to measure body electrical conductivity to get a look into body composition.
The other study, which was published back in 2011, had a 6-month long program in which police officers located in Israel consumed around 2,000 calories on a daily basis. One part of this group was allowed to eat carbs throughout the day. The other part of the group, however, only ate carbs during dinnertime.
Guess which group lost more body fat?
The evening group. They also had longer and better results in satiety.
So yeah, that’s some serious results. However, there are quite a few flaws here. First of all, the calorie intake that was reported was self-reported, which can leave room for some serious errors.
Secondly, the intake of protein was super low, which wasn’t enough to keep up with muscle mass. Another flaw – the participants weren’t doing any exercises, which is a huge feature of carb backloading.
It isn’t just about eating carbs later – it’s about consuming your carbs once you’ve finished your workout. Finally, the evening group only proved to lose a total of 5 pounds more over half a year, which isn’t exactly an indication of something magical.
Even though there is some research that shows eating more carbs at night can help with satiety, there simply isn’t enough evidence that shows carb backloading is the best way to get rid of fat but not cut back on muscles.
What Are Some Downfalls of Carb Backloading?
The whole sales pitch behind it. Now, if it was sold as just a way to alter meal scheduling into your active lifestyle, sure that would work. But instead, it’s pitched as a way to build muscle and finally get that six-pack. And you’ll get it without having to keep track of calories or doing annoying cardio. Plus – major bonus here- you can eat junk food! This isn’t just an option – they basically tell you to.
Here’s our point – you can lose weight eating foods like this, and you can build muscle and get rid of fat at the same time. But you have to put yourself in a calorie deficit, as well as train properly.
So even though it sounds like a sweet deal – get the most out of fat loss by maintain low insulin levels and eating protein – it just doesn’t work out.
And it’s a fact that insulin does keep track of lipolysis, but any extra fat that’s lost can actually be denied by fat storage from when you actually start eating.
Because that’s how your body works! When you start eating, it’s going to use up that food for energy and some of that is going to be stored up as fat. After your body absorbs the energy it needs from the food you’ve eaten, it’s going to look toward your fat stores to get some energy until you eat again.
So yes, when you eat less calories during the day, you are going to lose a lot more fat than you would have if you actually ate. However, what you eat at night, it’s going to give you the same exactly results.
It’s like the carb backloading is trying to hack into the body’s energy that it has burned and consumed.
There are a few other odd points we want to point out with the whole backloading idea. First of all, Kiefer really harps on the fact that training in the evening hours is going to give you a lower cortisol response, which in turn will help you get more muscle.
But research doesn’t agree with this. Instead, certain studies show that cortisol response to things like weightlifting is actually positively connected to growing your muscles. There isn’t any kind of evidence that shows a lower cortisol reaction to exercise is going to give you bigger gains.
Next, Kiefer really stresses that it’s imperative to eat high-glycemic carbs. Why? So our insulin levels increase quickly, then fall back to normal before we go to bed.
We don’t have any solid answers for insulin levels messing with the production of growth hormone as were sleeping. But here’s what we do know – it isn’t going to mess with muscle growth because it isn’t anabolic.
Plus, think about it. If you’re going to eat a ton of carbs just a couple of hours before you head to bed, you know that your insulin level aren’t going to go back to normal before you start snoring. It fact, just a combo of certain foods (like 75 grams of carbs with 17 grams of fat and 35 grams of protein) can keep your insulin levels high for hours.
Here’s our point – if you like eating on a specific schedule like the one carb backloading enables, then it isn’t going to hurt your overall health. But just know it isn’t the magical solution it’s dished out to be.
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