Ask three different nutritionists what their ideal feeding plan would be and you would get three different answers. Sports nutrition is a relatively new science, having only been with us since the late twenty first century. Yet during that time it has thrown up as many theories and ideas as there are foods and there is no sign of slowing down.
I have been trying one of those ideas for the past few months and it seems to be working. I am a recent convert to carb back loading and I’m loving it!
What is carb back loading?
At first glance, carb back loading seems counterintuitive. Stick to fats and protein during the day and only eat carbs in the evenings. Traditional thinking has always been to load carbs early to provide the energy you need for the day and for your workout. Carb back loading turns that on its head.
The principle behind carb back loading is to mimic the dietary habits of our ancient forebears. Hunters were on the move all day and only sat down to eat at night. Therefore, their main intake was in the evening. Which did serve them well if we’re honest!
What Does it Do For Me?
Eating carbohydrates causes an insulin spike to help spread that carbo goodness around the body. That insulin has some essential functions to perform around fat burning and metabolism but it also causes a decrease in testosterone and growth hormone, when consumed at the wrong times. This we don’t want.
Eating carbs in the morning – Forces testosterone and growth hormone levels down and generates an insulin spike. It also stops the anabolic fasting state which burns fat and encourages the production of cortisol, further reducing testosterone and growth hormones.
Eating carbs during the day – We know that eating throughout the day is necessary for growth and for making gains. What we also know that if those meals contain carbohydrates, they produce even more insulin. This further reduces testosterone and growth hormone levels. It also makes you drowsy and once the insulin has gone, you can crash.
Taking on carbs just before exercise – You would be surprised at how many gyms, nutritionists and exercise websites all advocate carb loading before a workout. In my opinion, they are all wrong. Why reduce testosterone levels just before you need them most? Why reduce growth hormones just before you’re going to fully utilize them? You get the idea.
Unless you have the body composition of Bruce Lee and zero body fat, you will be carrying enough carbs to fuel you for a fortnight. It’s true. Visceral fat has enough energy stored for anything but the most endurance workouts. So if you’re doing a triathlon or Iron Man, you will need carbs during the race. If you’re doing anything less, you won’t.
Eat Carbs Later in the Day/Postworkout – With regards to Carb back loading on non workout days, you simply eat you carbs before you go to bed. The beauty of carb back loading is that it is recommended that you stick to high glycemic carbs, (White rice, white bread etc) The reason why high glycemic carbs are recommend is because your insulin levels will go through the roof, not only will this help you to fall asleep quicker, but while you are sleeping this will enhance growth hormone and testosterone production, as you know the two hormones that build muscle and burn fat.
Postworkout is the optimal time to feed your body carbs. The reason being is that you have damaged your muscles, and now is when you body wants to begin repairing the damage.Growth hormone and testosterone will be enhanced postworkout by proving your body carbs, which Is exactly what you want to build muscle and burn fat. With regards to carb back loading on workout days, you save your carbs till postworkout and continue eating carbs till bedtime. The same principle applies as non workout days, you stick to high glycemic carbs.
There is emerging science behind this way of eating and I can attest that it’s working for me too. Personally, I have a coffee or two in the morning, a light breakfast with no carbs, a carbless snack, carb-free lunch and another carbless snack in the afternoon. Then I work out after finishing work and eat a big dinner packed full of carbs immediately afterwards. I then have a banana sandwich or shake before going to bed.
Over the past month I have leaned out, grown across all muscle groups and find myself much more alert and motivated during the day. It’s definitely working for me!