What is carb backloading and is it the breakthrough diet bodybuilders and athletes have been waiting for? If this is a question you need answering, then this is the article for you.
In the last couple of years, carb backloading is a muscle-building and dieting technique that’s gained huge popularity. It’s advertised as a dieting method that lets you eat all the delicious carbs that you like while still cutting fat and building muscle. It sounds too good to be true, but there is some very real science behind the idea. Carb backloading isn’t a new idea, but it’s an idea that’s being explored in more depth today than ever before. Carb backloading sounds awesome, but does it work, and if so how?
The Carb Backloading Process
Carb Backloading is a way of eating that doesn’t really limit what you eat but instead limits when you eat carbs. To make the process work you need to follow a few simple rules.
- Eat little to no food for breakfast
- No carbs until after an evening workout (around 5 PM works well)
- Enjoy carbs after your workout and for the remainder of the evening
By following those three simple rules you can make carb backloading work for you and you should be able to take advantage of the benefits of the technique.
Why Carb Backloading Works
According to John Kiefer, a physicist, nutritional expert and one of the biggest supporters of carb backloading, there is a lot of science that backs up carb backloading. This technique works because of something called insulin sensitivity, which regulates how effectively your body transforms carbs into muscle or fat. Increased insulin sensitivity in fat cells results in carbs being transformed into fat more rapidly, while insulin sensitivity in the muscles transforms carbs to muscle more quickly. Fortunately, the insulin sensitivity levels of fat cells and muscle cells occurs at different times of the day. Fat cells are most sensitive early in the morning, while muscle cells are most sensitive later in the day or after a workout.
Maximize Your Muscle Growth With Good Timing
By skipping carbs early in the day, and feeding your body with them after a late afternoon workout you’re feeding fuel straight into your muscles and starving your fat cells. You should build muscle more quickly and start to cut your fat stores almost immediately with this technique and it’s simple to do.
By taking in most of your carbs after you put in a tough weight training session you’re prepping your body to build muscle as efficiently as possible. You’re burning up your glycogen stores, and you’re also upping your muscles insulin sensitivity as much as possible. When you do finally take in those carbs the body will send them over to the muscle cells as much as possible because it’s clear there is a need for them there.
That’s exactly why the theory around carb backloading looks so promising, but in real-world tests, the results aren’t quite as promising as the scientific theory is. Below we get into why carb backloading might not be quite as exciting or as effective as it sounds like it should be.
Carb Backloading Proves The Simplicity Of Dieting Effectively
Carb backloading isn’t the revolutionary idea that we’ve made it out to be up above, but it does work well for bodybuilders looking to maintain their body composition or increase muscle, it just doesn’t work much better than most other fat burning diets do. With that said, carb backloading shows that most fad diets are utter rubbish. It shows that dieting is no more than effectively hitting your daily calories and macronutrient numbers each day, and it really doesn’t matter when you take in those macros, just that you take in the right amount.
There are plenty of diets out there that will have you eat your meals at specific points in the day, and for the most part, it makes no difference when you decide to eat. Instead, it matters what you’re putting in your body. Hit those macro numbers and you’re going to see the type of results that you want. Once people realize that good bodybuilding results depend on hitting macro numbers, they’ll be able to see right through those BS diets that have you eating one type of food every day, or that starve you of important macros for success.
Carb backloading is an interesting idea that can work well for people that like eating a bunch of carbs at once, or for those that want to workout late in the evening. It’s not for everyone though, and we’ll go over why that’s okay down below.
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There’s Little Actual Evidence Supporting Carb Backloading
While the scientific theories supporting carb backloading are impressive and it sounds like a technique that would work very well for anyone looking to put on substantial muscle and lose body fat, there is little to no real-world evidence backing up the ideas behind this time-restricted dieting.
This study is often cited as proof that carb backloading works because it shows two groups of individuals eating calorie-restricted diets and exercising daily. The first group eats 70% of their calories in the morning and the rest throughout the day. The second group eats 70% of their calories during the evening and the rest throughout the day. The evening group lost more fat and lost less muscle during the test period, which suggests that carb backloading actually works. The problem is that the test only includes 10 subjects which just isn’t enough people to conclude anything. It also relies on body electrical conductivity to measure fat levels, a method that’s well-known to be highly inaccurate. There just isn’t enough real evidence to rely on this study as proof of anything.
There’s another study that was completed in 2011 by Israeli police officers that’s also cited regularly as proof that carb backloading works. This study tracks participants over a 6-month period. It limited to police officers to 1,500 calories per day. One group of officers enjoyed their carbs throughout the day, and the other group had their carbs mostly with dinner. The dinner group lost slightly more weight over the 6-month period than the other group. There are a few major flaws with this study as well though. For starters, none of the officers worked out during that period, which is one of the core components of the carb backloading theory. The officers in the study were also self-reporting their calories, which means that there’s no way to prove the test is accurate at all. The officers in the group were also taking in far less protein on a daily basis than a bodybuilder would be, which also keeps it from applying to your average weightlifter.
Again, there isn’t any real evidence available to look at with this study, and with an average increased weight loss of just 5 lbs. the difference isn’t very great between the two groups of officers.
There Are Several Studies that Raise Doubts
Not only is there little proof that carb backloading works, but there is also some proof that exists today that points to the opposite. We came across three different studies that each disproves the carb backloading theory in their own way.
The first study showed that eating calories in the morning or night had little-to-no effect on body composition or weight loss goals
The second study showed that people eating more at breakfast were able to adhere to their diet more reliably and actually experienced more weight loss than those eating the majority of their calories in the evening.
The third study split all calories consumed throughout the day into five equal parts for one group and had the other group consume their calories in the morning. The results showed that it didn’t matter when the calories were consumed.
Carb Backloading Is Misrepresented
Carb backloading isn’t bad to do, but it doesn’t appear to be the revolutionary or exceptional tool that it’s made out to be either. If experts were talking about the technique like a convenient way to fit your schedule and get all your calories in for the day, it would be a fair way to talk about it. Instead, carb backloading is presented as a miracle diet that will let you eat what you like and enjoy junk food on a daily basis. That’s just not the case according to modern studies.
It’s based on some interesting scientific theories, but the truth according to recent studies is that you really can’t adjust your weight loss, weight gain or muscle gain by adjusting the time you eat your calories. Instead, you need to control the calories that you take in and the macros that you get. If you take in plenty of protein and hit all the other important macros each day, and you limit unhealthy snacks, you’ll have a better chance of achieving your weight loss and bodybuilding goals.
Carb backloading is an interesting idea, and it’s another way that you can maintain a healthy diet, but just swapping around the time you eat your carbs isn’t going to give you the body of a Spartan warrior anytime soon. Make healthy choices, put in enough work in the gym and you’ll see positive results over time, that’s all there is to it.
Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article here at BFG Muscle. What’s your take on Carb Backloading? Have you tried it before? Have any other question? Please don’t hesitate to comment below.
Hi, I’m David and I believe absolutely anyone can achieve the body of their dreams. I’m a qualified health and fitness coach and have been helping clients achieve their dream bodies for 15 years. Whether you are looking to get beach body ready, compete in a bodybuilding show or simply to improve your confidence and wellbeing, I can help.