The Carb Back-Loading Program
To lean out and gain muscle, try carb back-loading. as the name implies, this limits carb consumption until late in the day.
Taking in carbs in the afternoon or evening is done for a strategic reason. Carbs make both muscle and fat cells grow—and often at the same time. But by shifting when you eat carbs, you can actually control which kind of tissue grows.
As stated earlier, Carb Nite can be effective without training. Carb back-loading, on the other hand, requires resistance exercise to work. Your body’s sensitivity to insulin is highest in the morning and lowest in the afternoon, leading many to believe that we should eat carbs first thing in the morning because much insulin won’t be required to keep blood sugar under control.
The problem is that if you raise insulin even slightly by eating carbs—30 or more grams will do it—you seriously impair your body’s ability to burn fat for the rest of the day. Worse, you may even get fatter because of the presence of another hormone—cortisol. A stress hormone, cortisol will break down fat all morning, but combined with raised insulin, it can actually cause your body to create new fat cells. For these reasons, most of your carb intake must come in the evening. Toss in a weight-training workout right before you eat carbs, and you maximize your ability for insulin to store them in your muscle cells while leaving fat alone.
Studies in the Journal of Applied Physiology have demonstrated that lifting allows muscles to use and store sugar for several hours post-training—that means it will be quickly absorbed by the muscles you’ve trained to help them recover and grow. The best part? You get to eat tasty treats almost every day.
How To Do IT
1. Deplete Carbs
Follow a depletion phase similar to the recalibration period that begins Carb Nite, but over a shorter time frame. Keep carbs at 30 grams or fewer for five to six days and your body will store them more effectively.
2. Start Gaining
What and when you eat will depend on when in the day you train (and if it’s a training day or not).
This is the ideal setup. Until the afternoon, keep your carbs low—30 grams or fewer. Begin your weight workout at some point between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. (It’s fine if you have to train a little earlier or later, but this is the sweet spot.) Afterward, ingest a post-workout shake that’s rich in carbs, and keep eating carbs until you go to bed. The same foods prescribed on Carb Nite apply here—pizza, ice cream, and so on. It is not uncommon for followers of the plan to eat 400 grams of carbs and still lose body fat while gaining muscle mass.
If you train in the morning, you’ll need to eat a small amount of carbs after your workout and take advantage of supplements that help spike insulin so you can recover from your workout without throwing off the hormonal rhythms of back-loading. That night, around 6 p.m., eat your carbs, but go mainly with less sugary sources like rice and potatoes.
On days you don’t lift (this includes days you just do cardio), limit carbs to a single late-day meal. Say, dinner or a dessert before bed.
Sample Carb back-loading meal plan
Upon Waking – Coffee (unlimited), 2tbsp heavy whipping cream, 1 scoop whey protein
Mid-morning Snack – 1/4 cup almonds
Lunch – 6 oz (or 6 slices) bacon, 1/2 cup cottage cheese, 1 medium tomato, sliced
Pre-workout – 1/2 scoop whey protein plus 5g creatine
Post-workout – Mango or banana slices, 3 scoops whey protein plus 5g leucine, 5g creatine
Dinner – Splurge on your favorite foods, paired with 1 scoop whey protein