Carbohydrate Back Loading (CBL) is an exciting diet for intermediate to advanced weightlifters looking to lose fat or gain lean muscle mass. This works really well if you are weight training for at least an hour per session - we're talking heavy weight training - and it applies to men and women equally.
By eating carbohydrates after you train, and restricting them at all other times, CBL keeps your body in an optimal fat burning state. A typical non-training day will see you consuming whole eggs, white and red meat, avocado, cheese and nuts - the usual sources of protein and fat.
However, CBL is especially exciting because it allows you to periodically eat carbohydrates on training days. This includes carbs of all kinds - including pizza, ice-cream, potatoes and pasta.
The outcome - your body will burn fat, process carbohydrates efficiently and deliver protein to your muscles - all while allowing you to eat your favourite carbs.
That's right, you can eat [enter favourite carbohydrate] and lose fat.
How do you implement carb back loading?
Your first step to CBL enlightenment is to enter a low carbohydrate state. Your body needs to be near-starved of carbohydrates - and to do this you'll need to minimise intake for ten days. Keep carbs below 30g, which basically means you can only eat green vegetables.
After approximately ten days you will be ready to eat carbohydrates again and it's quite easy to figure out when you're ready. After a few days of low-carb intake you'll feel a little groggy. Break through this barrier and you'll start to feel normal again. Once you're back to normal levels of energy, keep off the carbs for three more days then you'll be ready to kick off CBL. This usually takes around ten days, and on your next available intensive training day you'll be ready to carb-up.
Start the annointed day by training in the afternoon or evening, then reunite with carbohydrates that evening in the most ravenous yet delightful session of feeding you've ever had. I'd go for fried chicken and roast potatoes, but feel free to substitute for double pepperoni pizza, cookie dough and chocolate ice cream, spaghetti bolognese or any other luscious source of carbohydrates. Of course you may opt for sweet potato mash or brown rice sushi, but convention suggests that high-glycemic carbohydrates are quicker at replenishing your muscle cells and why would you even argue?
Aim for 1 gram of carbs per pound of bodyweight, or 2.2 grams of carbs per kilogram of bodyweight. You still need to consume protein at your usual rate, and any associated fat intake is perfectly acceptable too. If you've done this right, you'll feel warm, fuzzy and cuddly that night. The next morning you'll wake up feeling incredibly lean and full of energy.
When you don't train - perhaps the next day - avoid carbs like you did at the beginning. And when you do train, you can treat yourself to carbs again, but adjust your intake based on how you feel the next day. Aim for 1-2 carbs per pound of bodyweight (2.2-4.4 per kg) and keep to the bottom end of the range if you're looking to lose weight.
How does carb back loading work?
It sounds a little odd, but think of it like this:
- You are taking advantage of your body's natural ability to burn fat
- You are eating carbohydrates when you need them most
- You are consuming protein throughout
You are a natural fat-burning machine. When you sleep, your body produces cortisol, which peaks in the morning - this hormone supports fat burning in a low carbohydrate environment, but supports fat storage in a high carbohydrate environment. Luckily cortisol naturally declines during the day, so by consuming carbohydrates in the evening you are minimising the chances of it spoiling your physique.
Eating carbohydrates causes a spike in blood sugar and insulin is produced to regulate this. When you train intensively, insulin delivers carbohydrates, protein and fat into your muscles, which will help with recovery and growth. When you are not working out, insulin acts like cortisol by converting carbs into stored fat, which is why you need to avoid carbs on non-training days.
Why not avoid carbohydrates altogether?
Carbs are great for recovery, but perhaps just as important - you love them. It's hard to maintain a diet by skipping the foods we love so it is important to take a balanced approach to nutrition in the long run.
Carb Back Loading is an exciting way to mix up your diet when training, and many lifters consider it the best way to stay lean and stay sane. We are testing it live in the second half of our - How to lose 10kg in 50 days - experiment. Our lab rat is a little behind his target weight at day 25 and CDL may well be the solution he has been looking for.