Carb Back-Loading (CBL) is John Kiefer’s variation on a targeted ketogenic diet in which a large load of carbs are only eaten after heavy resistance training (optimally in the afternoon). This theoretically takes advantage of the body’s hormonal and metabolic response to stimulate muscle cell growth while at the same time increasing the breakdown of fat cells. You can read more about the basics of this approach from my review of the book.
Burn fat while increasing muscle mass and strength.
- Adhere to Kiefer’s Carb Back-Loading as much as possible
- At the same time, use paleo and primal principles (eating whole foods, avoiding wheat products, legumes, vegetable oils, processed foods etc).
- When back-loading, primarily use ‘clean carbs’ such as rice, potatoes, and sweet potatoes as my source of carbohydrates.
- Daily AM Blood Ketones
- Daily AM Fasting Blood Glucose
- Daily AM Weight
- Daily AM Breath Acetone
- Weekly Abdominal Circumference Measurements
- Blood tests after 8 – 12 weeks:
- Stronglifts 5×5 – Weight training regimen
- BJJ 2-3 times per week
- Walking or slow jogging at least 10,000 steps (~5 miles) per day.
- Crossfit 1 – 2 times per week. Kiefer specifically mentions in the book that Crossfit doesn’t provide enough stimulus to make the physiologic changes that Carb Back-Loading is supposed to take advantage of. This means I don’t get to do a back-load on Crossfit days. He does state that Crossfit is a great way to burn through glycogen stores which is helpful when speeding along ketosis. The BJJ Cavewife really enjoys Crossfit and enjoys it even more when I do it with her and she can beat me on the WODs… so this is one of the main reasons I’ll be continuing with this during this experiment. Need to keep this missus happy!
- My workouts will include 3 days total of either Stronglifts or Stronglifts + Crossfit or just Crossfit. With BJJ I still try to practice with light training to allow for recovery and am aiming for 1-2 imes per week on my resistance training off days. So hopefully the regimen will look something like this:
- Mon: Stronglifts 5×5 or Crossfit
- Tues: Light BJJ or walking
- Wed: Stronglifts 5×5 or Crossfit
- Thurs: Walking
- Fri: Stronglifts 5×5 or Crossfit
- Sat: Light BJJ
- Sun: Walking
- Carlson The Very Finest Liquid Fish Oil – My primary source of Omega 3s
- Jarrow Formulations Krill Oil– My source of Omega 3s on the road, recommended by Dave Asprey, The Bulletproof Exec
- Vitamin D – Because I’m way below the optimal range
- Vitamin C – Extended release capsules
- Upgraded Collagen – Used post workout and before I sleep on graveyard shifts as a sleep aid
- Upgraded Whey Protein – Protein source with colostrum and 0 carbs as a meal on the go or recovery shake
- Upgraded MCT Oil – Good source of saturated fat
- Upgraded Coffee – Mycotoxin free coffee
- Upgraded Coconut Charcoal – When I eat from uncertain sources
- Protein Factory Creatine Monohydrate – Creatine is one of the most researched supplements and Kiefer recommends it pretty much with every meal!
- Protein Factory Peptopro – Hydrolyzed casein, which according to Kiefer makes the amino acids more effectively absorbed. While it tastes terrible, Kiefer claims this is the best tasting brand there is.
- Protein Factory Leucine – A branched chain amino acid that according to Kiefer spikes insulin levels, independent of sugar and stimulates muscle growth.
- Protein Factory Rilose – A high glycemic carb derived from brown rice. This is what Kiefer himself uses.
- Beverly International Ultimate Muscle Cookies & Cream – Recommended by a friend. Tastes damn good. I don’t add it all the time, but it’s really helpful to use with the Peptopro because Peptopro tastes horrible. Sometimes I use this as a small dessert.
There is now a bunch of stuff from the Protein Factory which is one of the sources Kiefer actually recommends (here and here). In Carb Back-Loading, Kiefer also recommends a few different ‘optional shakes.’ I figured why not give this experiment the best possible chance and try as much of what he recommends as possible.
Here are some of the shakes that I’ll be messing around with.
Pre-Training Shake – Whey, MCT, and Creatine
Post-Training Shake – Whey, Casein hydrolysate, Leucine, Creatine, Rilose
Carb Back Loading Shake – Casein hydrolysate and Leucine
I’m still a big fan of Dave Asprey the Bullet Proof Executive and Mark Sisson and try to use their stuff when possible. As with my Carb Nite experiment, I try to take these things regularly but sometimes I forget to take them or forget to bring them with me when traveling, and so my use isn’t as consistent as I would like.
- Precision Xtra Blood Glucose and Ketone Meter – Measures blood ketones
- FreeStyle Lite Blood Glucose Monitoring System – Measures blood glucose
- NewlineNY Step-On Mini Travel Bathroom Scale– Measures weight
- MyoTape Body Tape Measure – Easiest and most reproducible way to measure abdominal circumference
- Ketonix Acetone Breathalyzer – As I experiment with Carb Back-Loading, I’ll also be playing with this new toy to see how accurate it is and how well it correlates with my actual blood ketones… a sort of n=1 within an n=1.
- myfitnesspal.com – The website I’ll be using to track my food intake giving me a better idea of my protein, fat, and carb intake as well as total calories. If you want to see exactly what I’m eating, feel free to add me as a friend.
Before I dive into the results, I just wanted to explain where my starting point was. Following the end of my 10 week Carb Nite Experiment, I went to Italy where the wheels understandably came off the wagon. When I returned, I messed around a little with ketosis and resistant starches, after which I went to Argentina and Antarctica, where the wheels again came off the wagon (here’s a look at some of the goodies I indulged in).
At the end of my Carb Nite experiment I weighed 184 lbs. After all my trips and international culinary indulgences, my weight jumped up to 192 lbs. This was the starting point of my Carb Back-Loading experiment. After 4 weeks, my weight came down slightly to 189 lbs for a total loss of 3 lbs. The greatest weight loss came during the 10 day induction period when I ate strict ultra low carb (less than 30 gm per day). Of course the weight came back up to 192.6 lbs at the end of week 3… and I can explain what happened there.
Weeks 2 and 3 were essentially when I was trouble shooting and trying to dial in what I ate during the CBL days. During the first couple CBL days, I approached with a Carb Nite mindset, and just went balls to the wall, shoving anything down my mouth. My inner fat man definitely came out to play, and there were days when I was able to take in 5000+ calories! It’s no wonder my weight went up. Again, if you’re curious to see what kind of crap I ate, add me as a friend on myfitnesspal and feel free to gawk at the insatiable appetite my inner fat man has.
When I saw that my weight actually climbed higher than my starting point, I knew I had to reign things back. I started trying to keep my caloric intake near 2400 calories on CBL days while increasing carbs to 100-250 gm (I would eat less fat on these days). This seemed to do the trick as seen by my weight of 189 lbs at the end of week 4.
Here’s another thing. I got so enamored with taking in all those shakes, that I would have my AM bullet proof coffee, then lunch then a pre-workout shake and a post work-out shake, followed by a CBL dinner, and topped it all off with a CBL pre-bed snack! Since the pre workout shake comes out to around 200 calories and the post work out shake is somewhere between 400-500 calories, the shakes alone were pretty much a meal in themselves. So by week four I figured out that if I had pre and post work out shakes, I had to skip lunch and my pre-bed snack.
AM BLOOD KETONES:
I imagined that since I was pretty much eating sheer crap for almost 3 straight weeks while in Argentina and Antarctica, that it would take me a while to get back into ketosis, that’s why I didn’t test for the first couple days. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I was in nutritional ketosis range (0.6 mmol) after only 5 days! I guess this means that since I’ve been ketoadapted for so long, my mitochondria and ketogenic enzymes are upregulated enough that they will remain ketoadapted for quite a while despite prolonged carbohydrate consumption. I wonder how long I have to eat carbs before I lose this adaptation?
As you can see, once I started introducing carbs regularly on CBL days, my ketones levels remained relatively suppressed, with the highest point being 0.7 mmol on the day following a Crossfit workout.
AM FASTING BLOOD GLUCOSE:
As you would expect, my sugars would be higher on post CBL days and come back down on days following my ultra low carb days.
AM BREATH KETONES:
I collected a lot of great data points with which to review the Ketonix device, so stay tuned for a full review…
I really like this program. I didn’t start at the very bottom with a barbell as prescribed for two reasons. First, because I have plenty of weight training experience, I’m comfortable with my form in each of the exercises. Second, because CBL requires heavy resistance training, if I worked my way up from the barbell I wouldn’t be throwing enough weight to generate the physiologic response needed with CBL.
- Squat: 225 lbs to 265 lbs
- Bechpress: 205 lbs to 220 lbs
- Barbell Row: 135 lbs to 155 lbs
- Overheadpress: 95 lbs to 110 lbs
- Deadlift 185 lbs to 215 lbs
It’s pretty amazing. I would hit personal bests with each training session with the progressions built into this program. The main downside is that I’ve become one of those guys in the gym that grunts/yells when I lift. I used to hate these guys… and now I’m one of them. I’ve found that yelling allows me to both release a bit of intra-abdominal pressure and at the same time pumps me up with that little bit of energy needed to lift a weight I’ve never lifted before.
I’m curious to see how far I can push this!
When I finished Carb Nite, my abdominal circumference was 33.75 in. At the start of this experiment I went back up to 35.25 in. As you can see, when I was flailing around during weeks 2 and 3 and my inner fat man was running the show, my abdominal circumference ballooned up to 35.5 in! After 4 weeks, I was able to bring it back down to 34.5 in for a total loss of 0.75 in.
PRURIGO PIGMENTOSA KETO-RASH:
I wasn’t surprised to see that the keto-rash reintroduced itself at the exact moment my ketones jumped over 0.5 mmol/L. It took over a week for it to finally disappear. After my Crossfit session when my ketones went back up to 0.7 mmol/L it briefly reappeared again, but this time all it took was one CBL to get it to re-disappear.
I can tell that when this rash shows up, it means that I didn’t eat enough carbs during my most recent CBL. Now that I have my carbs dialed in at 100-250 gm, it’s enough to keep the rash to stay away.
In each of his podcasts, Kiefer always likes to mention how ‘easy’ this diet is and emphasizes how ‘fool-proof’ it is saying that you don’t really have to be that militant over your macronutrient ratios and caloric intake. This wasn’t the case for me. It required a fair bit of trial and error (lots of error) for me to figure things out. Even now I still feel like I need to continue fine tuning with these things.
I’m very pleased with the results of the Stronglifts 5×5 program and feel much stronger now compared to week 1, and have the numbers to support this.
Hopefully now that I’ve gotten things more figured out, the following 4 weeks will yield greater changes!
If you’re interested in reading more about Carb Back-Loading, you can pick it up directly from his website here.