Book Review: Carb Back-Loading by John Kiefer

CBLBook Review: Carb Back-Loading by John Kiefer

When I picked up the Carb Nite Solution, I also purchased Kiefer’s Carb Back-Loading (CBL) book at the same time as part of a discounted package.  Kiefer has mentioned in a few different places that the Carb Nite Solution is mainly for folks who don’t work out too much, while Carb Back-Loading is for people who like to exercise, particularly with resistance training, more regularly.

Since I’ve been trying to integrate more regular weight training into my regimen lately I decided to read through the Carb Back-Loading book, and I have to say I really enjoyed it.

It is a very quick read with a good amount of science spread throughout the book.  He also provides ample references in the index should anyone feel inclined to look into the source info themselves.

In his introduction he introduced a concept that really caught my attention:

 “That’s what carbs do, they make things grow.  They make lots of things grow like fat cells and muscle cells.  Carbs don’t discriminate.”

I had never considered carbs in this light before, but the moment I read it, I knew it made sense.  He goes on later in the book to clarify that it’s not so much the carbs as it is the insulin response that they elicit that leads to the indiscriminant growth of tissues.

Before going into the CBL protocol, it’s important to examine what happens to the body under normal conditions.

Normal Conditions

According to Kiefer, upon waking, the body has a hormonal milieu that is primed to burn fat.

Fat cells and muscle cells are also the most sensitive to insulin in the AM, and any changes in insulin sensitivity will affect both fat cells and muscle tissue in the same way.

Over the course of the day, insulin sensitivity decreases all day with the lowest point being in the afternoon while other hormones also change.  Testosterone, a sex hormone that also stimulates muscular growth, meanwhile remains stable.

The moment a typical carb-laden breakfast is eaten, the body shifts from fat burning into a fat storage mode due to the exposure to insulin, and this effect lasts for the rest of the day.  The insulin response also causes the creation of new fat cells.

Each time carbs are introduced in subsequent meals throughout the day and insulin is released, both fat and muscle tissues respond by soaking up as much blood sugar as they can, triggering growth.

The mechanism by which insulin triggers this growth is by increasing the translocation of GLUT 4 and GLUT 12 transporters into the cell membranes, which then allows the cells (both fat and muscle) to absorb glucose from the blood stream.

Carb Back-Loading

This is essentially a variation on the targeted ketogenic diet in which minimal carbs are eaten throughout the day and on off days, while carbs are then added around or after workouts.

The central idea behind this protocol is to take advantage of the process by which we give each tissue of the body specific instruction, i.e. growing muscle tissue while burning fat tissue.

CBL utilizes two main keystones to maximize this.

Firstly, by minimizing the amount of carbs ingested in the first part of the day the body is forced to continue using fat for fuel, extending the normal morning fat burning mode.

Kiefer also recommends avoiding protein intake with the first meal of the day because protein also stimulates insulin release.

The second keystone is the use of afternoon resistance training.  The afternoon is the ideal time of day to train because of the favorable hormonal conditions.  Cortisol, the main stress hormone with catabolic properties is lowered, while testosterone and other anabolic hormones are elevated.

Resistance training, particularly with heavy concentric muscular contractions, stimulates the translocation of the GLUT 4 and GLUT 12 transporters into the cell membranes WITHOUT the presence of insulin.

Carbs are then eaten immediately after training and during dinner.  The insulin spike triggered by this inhibits muscle breakdown, preserves muscle mass, and replenishes glycogen stores.

This takes advantage of the modulated tissue response by getting muscle tissue to soak up carbs while simultaneously leaving fat cells in their standard late-day insulin-resistant state, unable to store energy.

Training in a low carb state also promotes the release of adrenaline, which further amplifies the burning of fat.

These two pillars, specific late day/post-training carb timing AND resistance training, decouple the normal growth of both muscle and fat cells, instead solely targeting growth of muscle cells.

Preparation Phase

As with the CNS you will have to eat ultra-low carb (less than 30gm) for 10 days to eliminate all glycogen reserves and allow the body to become adapted to using fat for fuel.


He also provides a list of his recommended supplements with doses and timing as well as a list of clean carbs for people who are so inclined.


Along with all the research citations, Kiefer includes a nutritional guide and tables that help you calculate your starting macronutrient requirements.  There are also sample meal plans depending on what time of the day you train, and whether or not it is a back-load day versus an off day.


Kiefer injects his own brand of tough-love humor and personality throughout the book.  Here are some passages that really illustrate what I’m talking about:

“Some things seem obvious and I shouldn’t have to point out that two triple cheeseburgers from a fast-food restaurant do not count as carbs for a Carb Back-Loading evening. Making food choices such as this is nothing more than using Back-Loading as an excuse to eat like shit—excuse the expletive, but that’s the most precise way to describe it.”


“People like to oversimplify—because they want an excuse to be lazy and still eat everything they want— and start finding random excuses to justify back loading.

Vacuumed the living room today? Well, that’s kind of like resistance training, all of those reps, pushing and pulling the vacuum cleaner. Obviously, this calls for a Back-Load. Walked up and down the stairs in the house several times today? Back-load. Turned page- after-page of this book or clicked mouse-button after mouse-button to get through the electronic version? Back-load!

This may sound asinine, and I am going a bit far, but not far beyond things I’ve heard in real life.”


While I feel like there are a few places the he could have been more clear about, such as with the macro calculators in the appendices, and my inner scientist would have liked to have read more about the physiology behind it all, overall I’m still glad I read it and am intrigued enough to make it the subject of my next n=1.  What he submits seems to make sense and it is supported with tons of research as listed in his appendix.  The only question now for me is whether this will be effective for me… hence my next experiment.

As we saw during my Carb Nite Solution experiment, the amount of carbs weren’t enough to prevent my prurigo pigmentosa rash from coming back.  My thyroid hormone levels took a hit (though not as bad as when I was doing strict nutritional ketosis), which in turn contributed to a rise in my LDL-P cholesterol levels.

I also suspect that the amount of carbs I consumed while on the Carb Nite Solution was insufficient for my volume of activity, so I’m definitely interested to see the effect of Carb Back-Loading on these things.

The science he introduces and describes alone made me happy I picked it up.

If you’re interested in reading this you can pick it up directly from his website here.

If you want to read more about the Carb Nite Solution, you can pick up the e-book here and the physical book here.


5 Responses to Book Review: Carb Back-Loading by John Kiefer

  1. Mike says:

    Great review. I am using CBL with great results. I always had that little bit of extra abdominal fat and now with CBL I am able to finally lose it. My body has transformed with it. I am very interested in following your results.

    • BJJ Caveman says:

      Thanks… feel free to chime in with any suggestions on my followup posts!

      Hopefully I’ll have as good of results as you!

  2. MikeC says:

    I am on Carb Nite now, 60 days, going well. I also got induced into buying CBL in his recent sale.

    CBL is more technical than CNS, which is good. Kiefer is sort of “all over the road”. He markets the book CBL as “eat crap and still get ripped” yet he says in the book to not eat crap? He needs a press agent or someone to make sure he has congruent statements across his books and podcast appearances.

    Great review of CBL, but I have to say your giving the program away basically for free in this blog. The detail is too high. I don’t care personally, just a comment. I notice most blogs will keep the reviews more general.

    • BJJ Caveman says:

      Thanks for bringing this up… I was worried this was going to happen and I guess my worries were well founded. I got so excited about the program that I guess I gave away too much of it.

      I just edited so that not everything is given away while still allowing me to discuss points of interest. Hopefully this was sufficient!

      • MB says:

        I don’t think you gave away to much details at all. There are a lot of tips and tricks in the book that are well worth the price.

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