There are many different schools of thought when it comes to losing weight, and there are many different systems, diet plans, and strategies that claim to be the most efficient in the world.
Of course, not all of these can work equally though and so your job is to try and weed out the winners from the losers and to identify which strategies are most useful generally and also best suited to your particular lifestyle and biology.
For your consideration then: carb backloading!
What is Carb Backloading?
The basic idea behind backloading is that you are going to time your meals, or more specifically time your consumption of carbohydrates.
You’ll do this in such a way as to eat carbs like bread, pasta, and others only immediately after you have engaged in intensive cardiovascular training.
More specifically than that, you will be timing your consumption of simple carbs to follow HIIT workouts. That means that you’ll find a low-carb or no-carb diet for the majority of the day and then when you’ve finished an intense training session, you’ll be able to permit yourself to have some pasta or a sandwich.
Why Does it Work?
The idea behind this system is to first empty the energy stored in the muscles (glycogen) before turning to carbohydrates. What this is thought to do is to create a demand on the body that will ensure that the new sugar influx is not stored as fat.
You see, the body only stores excess sugar as fat when it doesn’t have any use for it. If your blood sugar is low when you eat, then your body will use some of the incoming sugar rather than store it. Unfortunately, low blood sugar also stimulates the release of many hormones, and it doesn’t take much to get a good supply back.
Consuming a large amount of carbohydrates will raise your blood sugar. When your blood sugar raises this leads for the hormone insulin to be released in order to pull the sugar out of the bloodstream and into muscle – or, if excess is consumed – be stored as adipose tissue. When working out, we release stored glycogen and restore them after a workout. This is the window where you want to consume calories as the form of carbohydrates.
Consume carbohydrates, within the anabolic window after your workout in order to replenish the glycogen stores within your muscles. At any other time of the day, however, you will store these carbohydrates as adipose tissue. Don’t get me wrong… You need carbs. EAT YOUR CARBS. But, consider carb back-loading.
Conversely, though, the body also stores a small amount of energy in the muscle cells as glycogen to allow us to run and fight when we have low blood sugar, and we are burning energy too quickly to rely on fat stores.
When this is depleted, the priority for the body (after powering core functions) is to restore this energy. Thus, any carbohydrates that you eat within a short window of opportunity will be sent to the muscle and not the belly.
How to Get it Right
Before you try this system, it is important to note that it doesn’t work if you only use the steady-state cardiovascular exercise. A gentle jog will use up the blood sugar and then turn to fat stores. Conversely, if you sprint or go at 100% output, then your body will have no choice but to use glycogen (because burning fat is too slow).
To summarize, the general guidelines of carb backloading are:
1. Eat protein or healthy fats until 5 pm, when insulin levels are highest, which is when you’re more likely to be in a fat-storage state.
2. Eat carbs after a workout to replenish your glycogen stores. To be in sync with your natural hormone rhythms, it’s best to work out in the late afternoon or early evenings. The average athlete only needs a small amount of carbs, while the elite athlete will require a larger serving.
3. If your daily workout is in the morning, have a small amount of carbs (such as a piece of fruit) paired with a protein source. This prevents excess insulin from being released, and also prevents your body from turning on the “fat storage” switch.
4. Eat your carb meal in the evening, approximately 3-4 hours before you go to bed, to encourage muscle building and fat loss.
We can only maintain max output for a short amount of time though, and this is where HIIT comes in – as the perfect way to use up this form of energy and create that significant demand.