I’ve concluded my Carb Back-Loading experiment after doing my best to stick with it for 14 weeks. If you want to see what I wrote from weeks 1 through 11, you can find them here:
- Carb Back-Loading Results After 4 Weeks
- Carb Back-Loading Results After 8 Weeks
- Carb Back-Loading, Resistant Starch, and Cholesterol
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. If you want to see my results from the first 4 weeks, you can check them out here.
OBJECTIVE: 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.
- 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 also recommended by Dave Asprey
- Upgraded Collagen – Used post workout for muscle recovery, and also to help with injuries.
- 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.
Protein Factory 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 start going into all of the results a couple things happened to me during this time period. On 4/26/2014 as I was squatting 260 lbs for 5 sets of 5 reps, in the middle of my second set, I tweaked something and had to stop right away. I was in so much pain that I had to stop my training session and couldn’t do much of anything except walk very slowly and gingerly for the next few days. After 5 days, I was feeling pretty good again so I hit the weight room again, and after 2 or 3 reps, felt the same twinge.
Not wanting to risk further injury, I decided to stop messing around with heavy weights until I felt 100% again. Absolutely no squats and no deadlifts until I felt 100%, so I had to terminate the Stronglifts 5×5 program.
When things started feeling a little better I was able to get in a few Crossfit workouts, but this was mainly on metabolic conditioning, since I didn’t want to start throwing any heavy weights around (also since I wasn’t lifting as much, I stopped using all the protein powders).
After this injury, for weeks 12 – 14, I really tried to cut back on my carbs and started to do a Carb Nite style of eating, by eating ultra low carb throughout the week, with 1 or 2 Carb Nites per week.
Since I really had to dial back my weight training and I think this really impeded my progress… especially since one of the main tenets of CBL is hard training.
I started this experiment at 192.0 lbs. The lowest point I reached was 186.8 lbs in the near the end of week 8. By the conclusion of my experiment at the end of week 14, my final weight was 189.6 lbs, for a loss of 2.4 lbs.
AM BLOOD KETONES:
Nothing much to write home about here. I couldn’t even break 1.0 mmol/L during this period. The highest point I was able to reach was 0.9 mmol/L. I think because I was eating so many carbs on my back-loading days throughout this experiment I don’t think I was ever really in ketosis. I only got to the 0.9 mmol/L level after almost 2 straight weeks of ultra low carb eating (with only one carb nite in between)… which was pretty much like another induction period.
AM FASTING BLOOD GLUCOSE:
My fasting sugars started to look better as I started decreasing the amount of back-loads I was doing, finally getting into the 80s consistently during weeks 13 and 14. This really confirms how carb sensitive my body is!
- Squat: 225 lbs to 265 lbs (4 weeks) to 275 lbs (8 weeks), back to 260 lbs (week 11)
- Benchpress: 205 lbs to 220 lbs (4 weeks) to 220 lbs (8 weeks), back to 210 lbs (week 11)
- Barbell Row: 135 lbs to 155 lbs (4 weeks) to 175 lbs (8 weeks), back to 185 lbs (week 11)
- Over-head press: 95 lbs to 110 lbs (4 weeks) to 155 lbs (8 weeks), back to 105 lbs (week 11)
- Deadlift: 185 lbs to 215 lbs (4 weeks) to 255 lbs (8 weeks) to 265 lbs (week 11)
During this time course I was able to max out on my Deadlift and Barbell row at 265 lbs and 185 lbs respectively. The reason my Squats, Benchpress, and Over-head press weights went down is because with the Stronglifts 5×5 protocol, if you fail at your targeted weight by not being able to get the full 5×5 done, you drop the weight down 25%, and then incrementally increase it from there.
I honestly feel that I could have progressed a lot more with this if I hadn’t suffered this latest injury along with my prior shoulder injury.
On day 1, this measured 35.5 inches. After 4 weeks this went down to 34.5 in, at 8 weeks this went down further to 34 in, and now after 14 weeks, it bounced back up to 34.25 inches.
The keto-rash didn’t make any appearances during this time period… which just confirmed that I was never truly in deep ketosis.
Here are the results of the blood tests that I took at the end of the 8 week mark:
After 14 weeks, I can say that I don’t think Carb Back-Loading is the correct diet for me. First of all, we’ve already established that I have a pretty robust inner fat kid inside of me that tries to burst out whenever he can. Being able to eat carbs during back-loads multiple times per week makes it very difficult for me to eat carbs in a restrained fashion. With the way my mind and body are wired, it’s almost like a binary sort of reaction. I can either (1) exert self control and eat low carb or (2) eat carbs and let my inner fat kid go wild!
I’ve tried with only mild success in eating carbs in a restrained way… but this just exposes me to too much temptation.
In my initial review of the book, I selected two quotes from it that I liked:
“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.”
I’m ashamed to admit that, I’m this guy! I found it a little too easy to mentally justify a back-load… and probably back-loaded when my workout didn’t really deserve it. Kiefer always says, if you have to ask what ‘heavy’ is, then you probably shouldn’t be doing CBL. I even convinced myself that it was ok to have a carb back-load after certain BJJ and Crossfit sessions that definitely wouldn’t count as heavy workouts.
The other thing is that I don’t think the Stronglifts 5×5 program was the right choice for CBL since it doesn’t seem like it constitutes a heavy enough work out. If I were a body builder who trained 2-3 hours per day for monster gainz, then sure… CBL would work fine. But since I’m an every day Joe, desk-jockey, I don’t think this workout supported all those carbs. I imagine that a workout combining both Stronglifts 5×5 A and B workouts would be heavy enough for a back-load, but one of them is definitely not enough… at least in my experience.
I also don’t like the effect this had on my blood sugars, especially since my sugars always ended up higher on mornings following carb back-loads, and I’d have 3-4 back-loads per week! This was also manifested in higher fasting insulin which bounced up to 4.6 uiU/mL from 2.8 iU/mL while doing Carb Nite. While this is still in the optimal range of less than 5, I still like it to be as low as possible.
One of the big positives out this entire experiment is that despite my injuries, all the weight training helped me put on a little more muscle and definition in my shoulders, chests and arms. I’ve noticed this as I walk past the mirrors at home and pause a bit to check myself out (yeah yeah… perils of vanity and what not… but I’ve never seen bulgy veins in my arms before!), and most importantly the BJJ Cave-wife has noticed the changes also, and is happy with the results. She says I now look a lot better in fitted tees… it’s just too bad my abdominal circumference didn’t change that much.
Overall, for my purposes, I think Carb Nite works much better for me, especially since I’m primarily a desk jockey who isn’t so much a body builder or athlete, as I am someone who likes to dabble in those things.
I think it would be really good for me to continue weight training especially if I schedule it on the days following the Carb Nites when glycogen stores are replenished, as Kiefer suggests, so I can further build upon my gainz braah!
If you’re interested in reading more about Carb Nite or Carb Back-Loading you can pick them up directly from Kiefer’s site here: