How Not To Run A Self Experiment with Carb Nite and Carb Back-Loading

CBL and CNSIntroduction

I’ve pretty much been too embarrassed to share this until now because of how poorly run this 8 week self-experiment was.  Now that it’s been a few months and I’ve had some distance, I feel a little more ok with this, and I only share this so that maybe one of you will be able to take something away from this so that you don’t make the same mistakes I did.

I’m just throwing all the raw data that I collected in a table below, so it may be a little difficult to read through.  I’ll do my best to go through everything but again, I warn you, it won’t be pretty.

Background

I had just recently returned from a long trip to Israel, Jordan, Italy, and Monte Carlo and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I hadn’t gained any weight!  I accomplished this by trying my best to follow the Carb Back-Loading template by eating all my carbs at the end of the day.  I’d do my best to just have coffee and milk/cream in the morning, something meaty at lunch, and then whatever carby cultural dish or pastry that I wanted for dinner.

I was happy to see that I weighed exactly the same when I returned from my travels as before I left, around 189 lbs.  After I got home, I figured I’d keep the momentum going by continuing to do Carb Nite, especially since I had some success with it before… but as you’ll see, things did not go according to plan.

Supplements

These were pretty much the same as what I used when I was messing with Carb Back-Loading:

The only addition was the use of Athletic Greens (you can read my review here) as well as some various sleep supplements.

Tools

Results

How Not To Run A Self Experiment with Carb Nite and Carb Back-Loading1 How Not To Run A Self Experiment with Carb Nite and Carb Back-Loading2

Carbohydrate and Calorie Intake

You can see that during the first week I actually did a good job of restricting my carbs.  The second week is when things started falling apart.  I began week 2 with a Carb Nite by eating 355 gm of carbs and a total of 3396 calories.  While this was definitely on the high end, if it’s only done once a week as prescribed by Carb Nite, it wouldn’t have been a big deal.  The problem is that I followed this up with 3 more Carb Nites that same week!  I

remember doing this for two main reasons: Firstly, the keto rash came back (which it always seems to do when I go 4-5 days ultra low carb), and I wanted to eat carbs to make it go away.  Secondly, whenever I let myself eat a bit of carbs, my inner fat kid decides that he’s in control and he just goes buck-wild saying things like:

You see that donut there?  Doesn’t it look delicious?  Especially after 7 days of eating ultra low carb?  Let’s get one…. better yet, let’s get 5 of them.  The carbs will make your keto rash recede… so it’s actually a good thingYou do want the rash to go away don’t you?

and

Lifting weights tomorrow?  Well we need to make sure your glycogen levels are topped off… We don’t want you having a bad workout right?   So we should Back-load with these 6 cupcakes.

and

You just had a great lifting session.  It’s time to make Back-load!  You deserve it.  We want to make sure your thyroid is taken care of don’t we?  I think those 3 cookies over there will do just the trick…

He can be a seductive bastard.

This pattern repeated itself during weeks 4, 5, and 7.  Mistake #1 was letting myself believe that going nuts on so many carbs so often would be helpful for my thyroid or keto rash or glycogen status, despite all the evidence showing me that it was counterproductive to my primary objective of improving my body composition.

It’s actually interesting that if you average out my caloric intake for these 8 weeks, you’ll see that I averaged a total of 2150 calories… which you would expect to be enough to lead to a favorable change in body composition, especially for someone for my size, strength, and activity level… but no, that was not the case.

Weight

I started this experiment weighing 189.6 lbs and actually gained a few pounds up to 192.6 lbs, before managing to cut it back slightly to 191.6 lbs.  Mistake #2 was that I didn’t change things when I saw that my weight was headed in the wrong direction.  If my goal is to lose weight and whatever I’m doing is leading to the opposite result, then obviously there’s something wrong!  I actually remember thinking at this point that it was OK that my weight was going up because I was lifting weights and this probably meant that I was putting on muscle… as we’ll see, that was nice steaming pile of denial.

Abdominal Circumference

I began at 34.5 inches, WENT UP to 35 inches… and then brought it slightly down to 34.75 inches.  This indicates that my body composition actually got worse!  All that self-talk about putting on muscle mass as the reason for my rising weight was completely wrong.  I was just plain getting fatter during this time.

Sleep

While I’m actually very happy with the quality of the Basis Band sleep tracking, you can see that the sleep itself was horrid.  There were quite a few nights where I only had 4 to 5 hours of sleep.  In fact I only had a full 8 hours of sleep 3 nights out of the entire 8 weeks!  This is what doing shift work will do to you… and in retrospect is probably one of the main reasons I’ve had such little success with changing my body composition.

How could I expect to lose weight and improve my body composition when I was barely getting enough sleep to function?  My adrenals were probably all screwed up and my cortisol all over the place.  When placed in combination with all the carbs I was eating because my inner fat kid was running wild, it’s no wonder I got fatter.

Mistake #3 was not realizing this soon enough.  If I’m going to be sleep deprived, the addition of carbs is just going to make things worse.  At most I should be eating carbs just once a week.  Even Nora Gedgaudas recommends going ketogenic under these conditions.

I don’t think these sleep issues are something I can ompletely solve until I finally switch out of shift work.  At most all I can do is damage control by managing my carbs, while continuing to optimize my sleep supplement stack and drinking my Athletic Greens.

Exercise

With the weight training, I continued to use the Stronglifts 5×5 model which consists of 5 main exercises: Backsquats, Deadlifts, Overhead press, Barbell Row, and Bench press.  Starting week 5 I made a few modifications to this.  Firstly, I combined all 5 exercises into one day instead of splitting them up into two different sessions to save trips to the gym.  Secondly, I kept myself at the same weights instead of increasing them by 5 lbs each time, because I was following the philosophy of Coach Sommer in making sure that my connective tissue had enough time to adjust to the load.  I surmised that because I was advancing my weights too aggressively before, this probably contributed to some of the injuries that I incurred.

AM Blood Glucose

You can see that these were hovering in the high 90’s and low 100’s, despite being in the 70’s to 80’s when previously doing Carb Nite, Carb Back-loading, and Nutritional Ketosis.  The fact that my blood sugars were higher despite being ultra low carb even during the first week was another signal that there was something going on in my body.  Perhaps all the stress of travel and the shift work were making me especially insulin resistant.  Again, this was another indicator that I ignored… mistake #4.  I got so frustrated that by week 2 that I gave up measuring this regularly and even went whole weeks without measuring it.

AM Blood Ketones

I at least had the wherewithal to cut my losses here.  After a few times where I saw that my blood ketones were going nowhere I gave up entirely.  These suckers are expensive and I didn’t want to waste them.  I knew that since my blood sugars where running in the 90’s and 100’s there was a very low likelihood that I was going to be in ketosis.  I did use both the ketonix sport and ketonix on the few occasions that I measured my blood ketones just to get a better sense of how those devices correlated with the blood measurements (I plan on writing about these results in a separate post).

HRV

I also plan on writing a separate post documenting my experience with the Bioforce HRV, but in short, it provides a heart rate variability number and color (Green, Yellow, and Red).  If your HRV for that number is green, it means that you can train on all cylinders.  If it’s yellow, then you need to take things a big more slowly.  If it’s red then you’re at higher risk of injury and you really need to take it easy.  I mainly wanted to use this as a way to help me gauge how hard to train, especially since earlier this year I was the victim of quite a few injuries.

In the 8 week span of this experiment I managed to stay green the majority of the time, with only a few yellows, and one red.  I actually liked this device and thought it offered helpful information.  The fact that I was green most of the time probably meant me that I wasn’t working out hard enough.

Conclusion

Again, I’m a little embarrassed at how I let things fall apart while I was actiively tracking so many things… and I hope that reading through this will at least help some of you to avoid some of the mistakes that I made.

The big takeaway is to always remember why you’re tracking things in the first place!  There’s no point in tracking things if it’s not going to lead to changes in behavior.

I tracked every single bit of food that went into my mouth and can tell you precisely how many calories and how many grams of whichever macronutrient I ate… and yet… I let my inner fat kid go wild and kept eating!  Did I say: “hey, I see in myfitnesspal that yesterday I ate 400 gm of carbs and over 3000 calories, maybe I should cut back a little today.”  Nope.  I just ate some more!

I initially planned this to be primarily Carb Nite… but let it turn into Carb Back-Loading midway through… and kept at it despite all these indicators telling me that what I was doing wasn’t working.  I saw that my blood sugars were higher and my blood ketones were lower while at the same time my weight and abdominal circumference were both creeping higher… and I didn’t change a thing!

I’m worked up just thinking about it!  How could I have been so blind?!?!

Needless to say, I was discouraged enough to stop tracking for a couple months altogether… until recently.  I’ve decided to get back on the horse and I intend to avoid these same mistakes the next go around.

4 Responses to How Not To Run A Self Experiment with Carb Nite and Carb Back-Loading

  1. Ben G says:

    I have been following the the 5×5 protocol since January. I too experienced an injury. In June trying at 260 deadlift I tweaked my back which took a couple of months to get over. I had to go way down in both my deadlifts and squats. Since I work out a home (by my self) I made couple of adjustment. I do weighted pushups and weighted pullups. The bent over row caused me to have back pain. I too have been increasing the weight at a slower rate since my injury. Truth at 65 I am striving for longevity rather that quick gains. I also changed the deadlift from 5 rep to ten reps. I am fairly sure that I was getting careless with my form. I have since taken videos of my form and discovered that part of my “strength” gains were do to cheating. I am also doing the GST Foundation series, and it has helped my flexibility.

    • BJJ Caveman says:

      Sorry to hear that you also injured yourself… I know how easy it is to get caught up in the whole progression thing. Somehow the ego always finds a way to sneak in there..

      I still need to remind myself that keeping form is paramount and must be maintained at all cost!

  2. Albert says:

    Great post! It’s not easy to write about an N=1 that does not go as well as initially planned, it would be easier to forget about it, yet you still do it, and in such a sincere way, I love it, that speaks a lot about you.

    BTW, I’m sure that the experiment was a success in some way, you earned a lot from it 🙂

    If I ever get to have enough time to write about my latest N=1 to try to prove that one can get fat with an hypercaloric ketogenic template I’ll let you know, I guess you’d enjoy it since you have been playing a lot with keto.

    • BJJ Caveman says:

      Thanks for writing this! It wasn’t easy for me to share that post… but it was important for me to make sure I shared things honestly. I didn’t want to just be a fair weather blogger and write only when things work out as I intended.

      You’re right in that I DID learn a lot from that experience…

      I’d love to read about your n=1. Please let me know when you have a chance to write it.

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