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Carb Backloading: What Is It, And Does It Work?

Carb Backloading: What Is It, And Does It Work? Carb backloading is a diet for strength athletes that have come over from the US to the Netherlands. It was designed by John Kiefer, a nutritionist. The purpose of the diet? Build muscle without gaining fat, while you can continue to eat your favorite unhealthy products.

Of course, that sounds too good to be true, so every reason to dive into it. How exactly does carb backloading work? Who is it suitable for, and does it have significant drawbacks in addition to all those advantages? You can read it below!

The role of carbohydrates

Carb backloading, as the name implies, is all about carbohydrates. Carbohydrates play quite a 'double role' in our body. Lately, they've been mostly known for their "bad" side: they produce insulin, which allows your body to store fat.

However, carbohydrates are also essential for your energy supply. You also need them to build muscle. The absorption of proteins cannot take place properly without carbohydrates. The question then, of course, is: how do you incorporate this macronutrient into your diet in a way that supports the benefits as much as possible?

Carb Backloading

What is carb backloading?

Carb backloading is a diet that provides a – fairly extreme – answer to this. The idea of ​​this 'diet' is that you only give your body carbohydrates when it really needs them: after training. At that moment you have (partially) exhausted your glycogen reserves and the new energy is immediately put into new muscle cells.

According to Kiefer, your body is more likely to be in fat-burning mode before your workout. At that moment, he, therefore, advises against eating carbohydrates: this would disrupt the fat loss. Instead, you eat fats and proteins here.

Two 'eating patterns

To sum it all up: there are two different phases within carb backloading

1. Preparation phase/rest days / before training

When you start with carb backloading, you eat a maximum of 30 grams of carbohydrates per day for ten days. This will increase your insulin sensitivity. You mainly get those few carbohydrates from vegetables, otherwise you only eat fats and proteins.

On rest days – days when you don't train – you continue to eat according to these rules. On the days where you do train, you also hardly eat any carbohydrates prior to the training.

2. After training

Once you have exercised, that changes. At that moment you need fast carbohydrates that can be immediately absorbed and used. This means that you can eat products here that are normally not 'allowed', such as pastries, ice cream, or other sweets.

Of course, you don't need the brownies after you've trained. Other fast sugars such as white rice and mashed potatoes also work well. The point is that they are products with a high glycemic index. So it's a bit of a trade-off as to what you actually feel like doing. Some products you can choose from:

  • white rice
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Rice crackers
  • crispy muesli
  • pink cakes
  • Pizza
  • Donuts
  • Ice
  • (Ripe) banana

Supplements and shakes

In addition to the above nutritional guidelines, you can also use supplements and shakes with carb backloading. However, those are optional; according to Kiefer, you can still achieve your results without extras.

The shakes that Kiefer recommends for carb backloading (optional) are:

AM Accelerator Formula (breakfast replacement)

  • Coffee (200-400mg)
  • Whey Isolate (10g)
  • MCT oil (or coconut oil ), (1-2 tablespoons)

(Mix the coffee with Whey Isolate and MCT or coconut oil )

Ignition Formula (before training)

  • Coffee (400-800 mg) or Caffeine powder (2 capsules)
  • Whey Isolate (10g)
  • MCT oil (or coconut oil ), (1-2 tablespoons)
  • Creatine (5 g)

Sustainer Formula (during practice)

  • Whey Isolate (10g)
  • Whey Hydrolysate (20 g)
  • Leucine (3 g)

Hypertrophic Potentiator (nĂ¡ de training)

  • Caffeine Powder (300-400mg)
  • Whey Isolate (15-20 g)
  • Dextrose (20-40 g)
  • Casein (10-15g)
  • Whey Hydrolysate (10-15 g)
  • Leucine (3 g)
  • Creatine (5 g)


Finally, training is of course an important element in carb backloading. Those fast carbs are really just for maximizing muscle growth. If you do cardio, such as running or cycling, carb backloading is not an appropriate diet.

Also, a workout that combines cardio and strength training does not go well with carb backloading. Examples include Crossfit and Insanity. A strength training where you are at 60-70% of your maximum strength is really the minimum to be able to use this diet.

The Disadvantages of Carb Backloading

So far it all sounds great – we all want to combine eating ice cream and building muscle. Still, carb backloading isn't quite perfect either. We list the three main drawbacks below:

1. Not necessarily healthy

A diet in which you eat only low-carb or fast carbohydrates may work for your physical appearance; it's not very healthy. This way you will quickly run out of fiber. Other vitamins and minerals also come mainly from complex carbohydrate-rich products. So there is a good chance that deficiencies in your diet will arise in this way.

Conversely, you can also get too much of some substances. If you eat three donuts and a half tub of ice cream every day, you will soon be above the recommended maximum for sugar. And those who eat a lot of meat and other animal products, get too many unsaturated fats. Carb backloading is therefore not really a balanced diet.

2. Scientifically not well-founded

John Kiefer is a nutritionist, which makes his method instantly reliable. However, he is certainly not undisputed. His books are widely criticized because he has the habit of drawing many conclusions from little research. "On the basis of four mice, he determines that all fitness must be different," it is said.

3. Stimulates smuggled

Finally, that opportunity to eat unhealthy foods may be a curse rather than a blessing. By regularly putting very sweet products on the menu, you will not lose that sweet taste. There is no question of the 'kick-off' of extreme sweets that actually help many people to snack less.

There is therefore a good chance that you will also be craving brownies for the rest of the day. Not everyone will always be able to control that. Extra 'cheating' is, therefore, common – and of course, that does not encourage good results.

Carb backloading: a good idea?

In short: should you start carb backloading now if you want to build more muscle? The diet certainly has strengths. For example, it is certainly wise to eat more carbohydrates on days when you exercise intensively. It is also a good solution for people who occasionally want to snack and can easily leave it at that.

However, the diet as a whole is quite extreme. Certainly, in the long term, it is not wise to eat a lot of fast sugars. For most people, it is wiser to eat something more balanced. Then you can still make sure you get enough proteins and fats – but also with the nutrients, you need.

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