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By Carmen Grange

How To Carb Backload – Carb Backloading

We’ve all heard various bits of science about carbohydrates (carbs; CHO): should you have them at all, what time of the day, are all carbs created equal?  The truth is, you can find actual science to back up just about anything.  You may find one article that says that the best way to lose weight is to go on a low-carb/no-carb diet.  You may then find a very different study which found that carb backloading is the best way to ingest carbs, etc.  Both are true.  

Carb Backloading

Sure, going on a low-carb/no-carb diet will inevitably help you to lose weight…weight, not fat.  Decreasing CHO intake minimizes carbohydrate metabolism (the most sued metabolic pathway); thereby, increasing fat metabolism (good) AND protein metabolism (bad).  The thing about low-carb/no-carb diets is that mentally many people just simply cannot handle it.  Carbs = sugar and sugar fuels our brain.  Without carbs, it is possible to still function at normal capacity, but it really just depends on the individual.  Some people get extremely lethargic, process information more slowly, not to mention significant increases in forgetfulness.  But others, myself included, handle low-carb/no-carb diets very well.  Actually, my mental capacity increases when I go on those sorts of diets, but many others cannot handle it.  On the other hand, I’m very carb sensitive.  Meaning that when I eat carbohydrates, it’s noticeable.  I bloat very quickly.  Even with small quantities.  So what should you do about carbs?


Well if you’re a bodybuilding competitor/avid gym-goer carb backloading is the way to go, in my opinion.  What does this mean?  Carb backloading is the process of ingesting carbs at the back end of the day.  This is probably different from what you’ve grown up hearing, right?  But, it isn’t junk science.  Carb backloading has been proven to show significant increases in muscle resynthesis following a workout.  Here’s why (the short version): fasting from CHO earlier in the day means that your body is metabolizing fat, not protein.  Protein metabolism is typically only seen in extreme conditions (i.e. starvation or significantly low percentages of BF).  So anyway, CHO fasting means fat metabolism will occur at the front half of the day.


So, throughout the day, you eat lots of proteins and fats and you’re getting your energy source from fats and stored carbohydrates (what you haven’t used that’s just sitting, waiting to turn to fat).  Then you go the gym in the evening and kill your workout.  Now you’re ready to feast. PERFECT! In addition to protein ingesting 30-45 minutes post workout (to be discussed in a future article) carb ingestion <60 minutes post-workout and every 2 hours after that has shown statistically significant increases in protein synthesis and resynthesis (i.e. muscle hypertrophy).


Why does this work?  Basically, working out depletes your energy stores.  You’re working hard, causing metabolism to speed up (I.e. More energy being used), but you’re not eating so you’re not replenishing your macros to fuel your body.  After you workout, glycogen is depleted and, if you did it properly, muscles are torn/wore out.  Because of this difficult concept that I’ve simplified here, you absolutely must eat after your workout to replenish your body.  Protein combined with CHO ingestion provides the final piece to your puzzle to enhance muscular hypertrophy.  Because your carb fasting all day and then you workout, further increasing metabolism, your energy is low and your muscles are depleted.  People who overeat carbs exhibit increases in fat gain, but when you carb backload after a workout, those carbs are going straight to the source that needs them…your muscles, and not to storage.  While scientifically this phenomenon is a fairly difficult one to understand, it’s quite simple to execute.  Eat carbs soon after your workout, and every two hours after that.  It is not imperative to eat carbs every 2 hours post-workout, however, studies have suggested significant increases in muscle resynthesis and muscle hypertrophy in doing so.

carb backloading


Carb backloading is the most efficient source of nutrition for increasing muscle hypertrophy and decreasing fat gain.  Of course, this doesn’t mean that you’re free to eat all of the carbohydrates you can before you go to bed, because, again, eventually those carbs stop being used for necessity and instead sit in your body’s storage and turns to fat.  If you’re looking for a quick fix to weight loss, low-carb/no-carb diets are fantastic, but you pay a heavier price…greater protein degradation.  So, if you’re going to low-/no-carb it, make sure your protein intake is sufficient to meet your body’s needs.  This also means increasing healthy fat intake.  And ladies, don’t be afraid of CHO backloading.  I know it’s something that we mainly hear male bodybuilders talk about but it’s not limited to only that demographic.  If you’re trying to be/stay lean AND put on size, I definitely suggest trying carb backloading.

carb backloading before after


Lambert CP, Frank LL, Evans WJ. Macronutrient considerations for the sport of bodybuilding. Sports Medicine 34: 317-327, 2004.

Roy BD & Tarnopolsky MA. Influence of differing macronutrient intakes on muscle glycogen resynthesis after resistance exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology 84, 890-896, 1998.

Tremblay A, Simoneau JA, Bouchard O. Impact of exercise intensity on body fatness and skeletal muscle metabolism. Metabolism 43: 814–818, 1994.