Back Loading Carbs - What is it? Pros and cons

Back Loading Carbs - What is it? Pros and cons

What is Carb Backloading?
There’s been a fair amount of attention drawn to the term “carb back-loading” recently; I get many questions about it, the marketing behind it seems almost too good to be true, and it’s pitched as the answer to getting lean and jacked.  But what’s the science? Is it legit?

A study conducted in Israel found more significant weight loss and hormonal changes after a 6-month diet with carbohydrates eaten mostly at dinner.
This study investigated the effect of a low-calorie diet with carbohydrates eaten mostly at dinner on anthropometric, hunger/satiety, biochemical, inflammatory parameters, and hormonal secretions. Seventy-eight police officers (BMI >30) were randomly assigned to experimental (carbs eaten chiefly at dinner) or control weight loss diets for six months.
More significant weight loss, abdominal circumference, and body fat mass reductions were observed in the experimental diet compared to controls. Hunger scores were lower, and more significant improvements in fasting glucose, average daily insulin concentrations, insulin resistance (HOMA(IR)), Total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, CRP, TNF-α, and IL-6 levels were observed in comparison to controls. The experimental diet modified daily leptin and adiponectin concentrations compared to those observed at baseline and a control diet.

In the simplest terms, Carb Back-loading is eating protein and fat in the morning and early afternoon and then “loading” your carbohydrates at night. We know the importance of replenishing glycogen in the post-workout period. But how does carb back-loading work for the average population, and can it work for performance athletes?  Here are some points for thoughts:
* Protein and fat increase the thermic effect of food, satiety, and lipolysis through cortisol release.
* Carbohydrates, timed at night after this effect, attenuate cortisol, increase serotonin, and preserve hormonal health.
* Over-consumption is less, due to 1) depleted glycogen from the day, and 2) higher pro earlier reducing hunger
* Inflammation markers like CRP, IL6, and TNFa were likely lower due to lower overall glucose intake.

* Can this work? Maybe. Training glycogen depleted has been shown to improve the use of fatty acids as fuel. But, purposeful abstinence of carbs post-workout can increase cortisol output and lead to quicker over-reaching/over-training. 

* Food quality is still of the absolute utmost importance. “Carb-Backloading” is not an ok to crush pizza and doughnuts, as promoted by specific individuals. Here at Elevated Experience Coaching, we understand the importance of nutrition beyond protein, fats, and carbs, especially concerning performance and body composition.

In the end, carbohydrate partitioning (a term more accurate, and one coined a long time before any “back-loading”) can be a valuable tool for the sedentary, the novice athlete, and the experienced athlete – it just needs to be applied appropriately.

-Written by Mike K.

Source: Sofer, S., Eliraz, A., Kaplan, S., Voet, H., Fink, G., Kima, T. and Madar, Z. (2011), Greater Weight Loss and Hormonal Changes After 6 Months Diet With Carbohydrates Eaten Mostly at Dinner. Obesity, 19: 2006-2014. doi:10.1038/oby.2011.48

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