There is a multitude of fad diets and trends that have gained popularity over the years.
It can often be difficult to discern whether or not these fads are legitimate and whether or not they would work for you. A dietary trend known as carb backloading has exploded in popularity over the past few years, but does it truly work? One of the supposed perks of this method is being able to eat your favorite sugary carbs seven days a week, all while building muscle and losing fat. While this method sounds quite appealing at first, does it have any actual science to back it up?
What is Carb Backloading?
Carb backloading involves limiting your carb consumption during the day and instead eating a majority of your carbs at night; specifically, after your workout. In essence, this means that you could eat whatever you want after your workout as long as you consume little to no carbs during the day.
Carbs control the growth of both muscle and fat cells, and they usually grow at the same time. However, controlling when you eat your carbs could effect which type of tissue grows. This dietary method takes advantage of the naturally fluctuating insulin sensitivity in muscle and fats cells, as well as the increase in insulin sensitivity that occurs during exercise. Insulin sensitivity has been proven to be much higher in the morning than in the evening.
This means that both fat and muscle cells will be more receptive to glucose earlier in the day. While this is good when it comes to muscle gain, it also means that you gain more fat. This function is taken advantage of in carb backloading by not consuming carbs when your body is likely to store them as fat, in the morning, and instead consuming them when your body is likely to store them as muscle, in the evening and post workout.
Does it Actually Work?
While carb backloading is an appealing idea, it is difficult to prove whether or not it actually works. While there are correlations in data pertaining to the subject, there are great limitations in observational research. Therefore, most of the data is taken from randomized control trials.
The most recent study used to support carb backloading involved a six month trial, in which researchers compared the effects of carbs eaten mostly at dinner versus carbs eaten throughout the day. The overall results involved reductions in weight and body fat were greater among those who consumed a majority of their carbs at night.
This study also showed that those who consumed most of their carbs at night had improved satiety. While this evidence seems extremely compelling at face, the dietary intake was entirely self reported and could be slightly inaccurate.
In addition to the possible inaccuracy, the protein intake of the subjects was considerably low. Subjects also were not exercising, which is a major part of carb backloading as it involves eating post workout. While this does not completely disprove the validity of carb backloading, it does not prove the theory of carb backloading either.
While many people have seen results while on the carb backloading diet, there isn’t a wide variety of scientific evidence to back it up. While carb backloading is not a magical solution to muscle gain and fat loss, it is possible that it could work for you if you like eating and working out on that type of schedule.
Author: Chris Friesen
Chris Friesen is a gym owner, personal trainer, online fitness coach and former “fat dad” living on 60 beautiful acres of countryside in rural Canada.
He specializes in helping busy parents shed body fat quickly, WITHOUT becoming gym rats OR giving up the foods they love to eat.
In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his wife and 3 kids, sitting in his hot tub out in the snow with a glass of bourbon, and yelling at his (many) misbehaving barn cats.