Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Base Building Part 7 - Carb Backloading

I promised a while back I'd talk about how to incorporate carb backloading into your workouts.  Especially for base building, where the volume is high and demanding.  Obviously, carb backloading can be used with any training protocol you wish, however I could not train in base building fashion while doing carbnite.  There is too many reps and too much volume.  Not to mention, not eating any carbs all week is just a really shitty way to live after a while.

To start, some of my opinions have changed.  Mainly about workout pre/peri/post intake.  I've really embraced a lot of what John Meadows has written about it, and the science and research he's put behind his words.  I'm not much of a lab coat guy unless those lab coat theories have been put to the test.  This is another reason why I hate the mental masturbation crew and people that say dumb shit like "Paul comes to all the right answers for all the wrong reasons."  You mean that I don't come to a specific conclusion because of "lab geeks" and prefer real world anecdotal evidence?  Yes I do.  Because I rarely trusts those god damn "controlled environment tests".  Kiefer, Poliquin, and many others have touched on the fact that many of these research projects are "fixed" or at the very best disingenuous.

That's neither here nor there at this point.  My point is, I'm fine with research so long as it also has been used by athletes, bodybuilders, powerlifters, etc and been proven to work outside of a research project.

So back to workout nutrition.

Some of the things that Meadows wrote about were actually things I used to do via my own thinking.

For example, I used to do my oatmeal and shake an hour or so before lifting, and later it was cottage cheese and rye bread with jelly.  I know that Kiefer says carbs beforehand are not really required, however Meadows wrote/said the same thing I did.  It's hard to train on low/no carb when you really want to train balls out and hard.  If you're doing some singles?  Sure.  That shit is easy.  Not a lot of fuel required for that.  However if you want to grow reps are required.  Don't give a shit about the debating of that.  Reps are required for growth, and so are carbs.  As much as I like keto diets for fat loss, and agree you can still hit reps early on in them, eventually the bottom falls out with only one carb up per week.  This is not an ideal environment for growth and strength in my opinion.  It's also a time when both lab rats and meat heads agree for the most part.  Keto diets are not growth producing environments.  If your goal is strength and mass, it's not ideal.

Let me also add that in the past, I never noticed much of a difference with the workout nutrition, however now that I don't eat a lot of carbs I notice a HUGE difference.  In recovery for sure. I am generally not as beat down and dead after a hard training session if I really go hard after the carbs post workout.  Again, I use clean carbs now, just with a high GI.  

So with all of that written, I will write about the options you can use with backloading and some of what I am doing now (which is still backloading to a degree).

I think one of the facets of backloading that is missed by most people is that you're not backloading to refuel glycogen stores from the workout that just happened, you're filling them for the next days session.  This is something I ended up figuring out on my own, even though Kiefer does spell it out in the book.  The problem is, most people think of backloading as something you do every night, which you can do, however I gained a ton of weight doing that because I can eat whole cakes then a gallon of ice cream.  This eventually adds to to a lot of extra calories (obviously), and for someone like me, who gains weight pretty easily, it's not very ideal.

If you're a skinny guy, it's obviously very ideal, however the one thing I have changed my mind on is loading up with processed food.  The whole point of doing so is for the insulin spike however  from a "health" standpoint, I think that loading up on things like white potatoes and white rice are a much better option than loading up on M&M's.  It gives me great pain to write that, however I will go more into that in a second.

So with all of that said, this is simply my opinion on how to use these methods in accordance to what you want to do, bodyfat/conditioning wise.

Fatass mode - keto/carbnite 

This is pretty simple.  You run a keto diet for 10 days, keeping carbs below 30 grams a day, then add in a carb up night once a week.  I'm not sure if anyone can make it any simpler than that.  Stay this route until you feel like you're lean enough.

Once you feel you are happy with where you are at bodyfat wise...

Maintenance/strength gaining mode - 

Although I am not anywhere near shredded right now (mainly because I have spent too many weekends eating all I wanted because of time with loved ones who also like to eat!) I am pretty ok with where I am at bodyfat wise.  Especially since meet prep starts next week.  To give you an idea, I was 249 this morning after quite a bit of rice and chili last night (sodium).  I am pretty bloated for me right now, as my weight has been around 243 in the morning, and more like 248-250 in the evenings.  I feel fine right now at this particular level of bodyfat, and with the amount of carbs I'm eating I feel just about right.

So this is where I am at with eating and using carb backloading.

I basically eat carbs almost every night now.  The amount of carbs, and the type of carb is what I have really paid more attention to.

The junk is now cut out, and my carbs generally consist of jasmine rice and white potatoes.  Sometimes I do sweet potatoes, however I've noticed that sweet potatoes bloat me more than I'd like.  So I avoid them most of the time now.

So I basically eat no carbs at all until pre-workout.  Which generally consists of 30 grams of oats, some peanut butter, and 50 grams of whey.

During training, I use Vitargo s2.  1 scoop, which is 70 grams of carbs.  I also mix in some casein hydro with it.

Post training, I eat 1 or 2 meals with carbs.  This varies on how hungry I am, and my energy levels.  So I might do a couple of pieces of Ezekiel bread with organic jelly and another 50 grams of whey, or I may just wait an hour and have 1-2 cups of jasmine rice with 8 ounces of grass fed beef or wild caught salmon.

Generally my whole day of eating looks like this -

Training day - 
breakfast - 4 whole eggs with turkey and cheese
lunch - 8 ounces of chicken breast with a handful of almonds
afternoon - 50 grams of whey and natural peanut butter
pre-workout - 30 grams of oats with 1 tbs of peanut buter and 25 grams of whey
training - vitargo s2 with casein hydro
post-training - 1.5 cups of jasmine rice with 8 ounces of grass fed beef or wild caught salmon
optional - 2 cups of cottage cheese with 2 tbs peanut butter

Non training day - 
All the same except no workout nutrition and only carbs at dinner.  Usually more white rice or white potatoes in a small amount.

My advice to most guys, after you get to a phase where you are happy with where you are at bodyfat wise, is to add in carbs ONLY to your nightly meal the night BEFORE you train.  I would start with 2 backloads a week, then increase after a few weeks so that you don't just blow the fuck up.

So basically low/no carb it all day then the night before you will have your biggest training sessions of the week, carb up all you want.  Just keep it clean but with high glycemic carbs.  This is not complicated.  I know there will still be eleventy thousand questions about "I work a night shift and rob banks during the day....how should I..."

It's not difficult.  No carbs all day.  Carbs at night the night before your big sessions.

Once you get serious about moving your strength and mass back up, start adding in the carbs during the workout, and maybe 2 meals post workout.

So basically what the goal here is, to limit bodyfat while still being able to eat carbs to drive the hard training sessions, and enhance recovery.

Tailoring it to fit your needs - 

I answer a lot of questions each week, and the most annoying ones I get are in terms of diet and "if I eat X amount what do you think...."

This is something YOU must play with, to figure out.  It's not hard.  Use the mirror, and the weight scale.  Or really, just the mirror is fine.  Get your bodyfat checked if you really want to get anal about it.  I don't do that anymore as I feel like I can go by how my clothes fit, and what the scale reads in conjunction with that.  If I'm 250 and my pants are somewhat loose in the waist, I'm doing things right.  Simple monitoring methods work.  Simple adjustments also work.

Too fat?  keto until lean
Lean enough?  add in backloads the night before your big sessions.  Start at 2 a week.  Add in another backload if you feel you need it.
Too skinny?  Just eat a ton of clean foods.  Throw in a protein shake after each meal with peanut butter.

This is not hard.  Don't make it that way.  You basically adjust your carbs up or down based on your bodyfat goals.  If you need to shed fat, take em away.  If you want to get stronger and gain mass, add them back in appropriately.



  1. This is EXACTLY what I needed, right now. Thanks, Paul. I am getting ready to start CarbNite to lean out a bit, but was already thinking down the road. This is my answer.


  2. Hey Paul, do you ever smile?

    I'm bookmarking this page. Can't make it any simpler then this.

  3. Hey Paul, excellent timing as I wanted to ask how the carb cycling was going. Questions.. I know I'm complicating things (sorry). I'm following the CN protocol right now. I had great progress at first, but pictures showed no changes the last 2-3 weeks.

    I was told it's possibly two things which are not enough carbs on my carb-up night or too much fat on my keto days. How much fat do you get in? And how much carbs would you try to get in?

    Looks like you're getting pretty lean Paul. Thanks for the example foods!

    1. I'm not as lean as I was right now but I'm eating more carbs so that's to be expected.

      Up the fats, and lower the carbs a bit actually. I found once I upped the fats and managed the carbs better on the carbnite I leaned out more.

  4. "I work a night shift and rob banks during the day....how should I..."


  5. Nice article Paul, i´m thinking very similar and the ideas you mentioned are just like i think.

    I still have a question though. My weekly training schedule looks like that usually:

    Mo: Conditioning/Small Session
    Tue: Bench
    Wed: Squat
    Thu: Conditioning/Small Session
    Fri: Press
    Sat: Deads
    Sun: Conditioning/Small Session

    I backloaded on every Training day, so on Tue,Wed,Sat,Sun. Now with your suggestion i´d only have carbs on Tuesday and Friday. But since the Press is my weakest lift, i feel like i need the carbs after my Squats on Wednesday, so i have enough energy to push at the Overheadpress on Friday.

    Do you think that Thursday (offday between Squats and Press) is too long of a gap so that i can use the carbs, which i ate on Wednesday?

    Also, i have 1 cheatmeal a week, which i usually have on Wednesday after Squats and before the Press-Session.

    Hope you understand what i wrote here, sounds a bit chaotic.


    1. Yours looks easy. I'd carb backload on Monday and Thursday.

  6. Don't you love the taste of casein hydro?

    1. Oh yes, it's fucking heavenly. That's heavy sarcasm.

    2. Casein is gross! They make glue out of it. Can't be good for ya.

  7. Paul, about how many calories are you eating to gain? I seem to remember a while back you said you could get by on very little, especially for a guy your size. I'm the say way it seems. If I eat even 2500 consistently I start getting fat.

    I think, in general, people overestimate the amount of food they need. All of these people eating 3500-4000 calories daily and weighing 200 pounds and only working out 4 days a week are probably fooling themselves.

    1. Not a lot, yeah. Maybe 2800-3200 a day.

    2. "I think, in general, people overestimate the amount of food they need."


      The "your muscles will cannibalize themselves" mantra has been drilled into people's heads by the supplement industry consistently for over two decades.

      Then you have the "hey, weak, skinny bastard, gotta EAT BIG TO GET BIG" philosophy that's pushed onto frightened newbies by scowling fat men on steroids. Small wonder that the average trainee thinks they have to consume 6,000 cals a day to gain even a modicum of size. And some people simply like the excuse to eat four Big Macs in a sitting and call that 'bulking'.

      The thing I like most about this blog is that it bucks the trend of promoting morbid obesity as a means of getting stronger and stresses the importance of conditioning and physical fitness.

      Ridiculous. Everyone knows that running will kill your GAINZ and that you have to EATBIGLIFTBIG to not be a pussy.

    3. Great addition fatman. I may post a blurb about this today.

  8. Another great article, and another great way to spread more common sense on how to use CBL properly. Thanks for this sir!

    Paul, I do have a question for you sir, when you ran Carb Nite, how did you structure your training around the actual carb up and the days following? Just curious!

    Thank you!

    1. I didn't. I just started it 10 days after the initial keto run. I do think I did my biggest workouts on Saturday mornings, which tended to follow the carb nite (friday nights).

  9. Paul, Keifer in his Carb Backloading book takes a different approach. For early morning trainers, he suggests using CBL the night before, with a carb-laden shake after training to spike insulin. But for a late afternoon/early evening lifter he suggests CBL after your lifting sessions. The whole idea being that in the period following a heavy lifting session, glycogen would go solely into muscle cells, rather than muscle and fat cells. So it is more efficient, and less likely to produce extra body fat. Just curious why you seem to have taken a different approach. Although it seems to be working for you (and maybe that's the answer?).

    1. This is not entirely true. If you listen to my podcast with him he clarified what I figured out, was how it was supposed to be implemented.

  10. ok I missed that podcast, will go back and check it out.

  11. Paul,

    I know you hate writing about dieting, but I wanted to let you know that I really appreciate this blog (in general, and this one specifically). You got some great, simple, no-BS dieting ideas and its always helpful (for me) to read.

    So, thanks. If you ever need a biology or chemistry tutor, I'd be more then happy to help. haha


    1. hahahahaha I honestly hope I'd NEVER need one at this point in my life, but I appreciate the gesture, boss.

    2. Haha.

      I can tutor you in organic chemistry. And, if you'd like, I can make some dark sidin' stuff for you. Breaking Bad style.


  12. Paul, just wanted to say that i love base building articles and your blog in general. Thank you and keep it up.

    ps i think it would be a good idea to put those CNS related quotes from facebook here on blog, those are really good!

  13. Paul, what was the date of the Kiefer podcast? Done a few searches on your site but can't seem to find it. Thanks.

    1. http://www.lift-run-bang.com/2012/10/chaos-and-bang-your-earballs.html

  14. Thanks, I listened to this first time around, remember it was a long one (but entertaining!). At the time I wasn't doing CBL, now I am giving it a try, so worth re-visiting as you frequently pick up things from Kiefer that were either not in the book, or have been superseded by a different way of thinking etc. Thanks again.

  15. Paul,

    I'm already happy with my bodyfat levels so I'm going to jump straight to backloading. My question is should I still run the no-carb phase that people run before they backload, or am I okay to backload tomorrow?


    1. I'd still run the 10 day prep phase. It prepares the body a little better for carb uptake.

  16. Paul, another question:

    Do you also use all the Shakes Kiefer recommends?

    And do you also use a lot of coconut oil? It seems like the only way to go for many when using oils/fats...


    1. Not all the shakes he recommends. Again, I've kind of developed my own protocol based around what he and Meadows recommends because their takes are so similar. And yes, lots of coconut oil.

  17. thanks Paul! Do you use oliveoil for cooking? I´m looking for some alternatives, because coconut oil is extremely expensive here (over 20 USD/kg)

  18. Yeahh. Love the Carb Backloading! But don't do it without the Carbs. Seriously that'll cost you. Btw, check out my blog for a great deal of info on Carb Backloading Info

  19. Paul, so glad you wrote this! I've been missing the pre-workout oats'n whey.


    Do you throw in carbs after conditioning sessions? I usually do them in the a.m. and backload for lift the next day. I have been eating a banana and 6 eggs/shake in milk, keeping it Keto until around dinner time and then progressing from there.

    How hard do you go on post workout [lift] carbs? I'm on the fence; sometimes I just have a shake+banana, other times a shake and potatoes...

  20. Hi Paul,

    Interesting read this, my trainer at the gym suggested I give carb back loading a try as I'm getting frustrated in my failed attempts to shift the final 17% of body fat that keeps me feeling like a bloater. So only just getting into this. I read it in your blog and was told the same by my trainer, that you need to do carb back loading after a weight session but only when you have another one the next day. So that's how I'm doing it, this will limit me to two carb back load nights a week. I'm just wary of going over board and eating something I shouldn't. Could you tell me if stuff like half a tub of Ben & Jerry's, cookies, pizza, pastries are okay please? I don't mean in one night, at most I'd consider two of those in one night but mainly just the one. I guess what I'm really after is some sort of idea as to what is off limits.

    1. You eat junk. Yeah, pastries, candy, turnovers, etc.

      You will have to play with it to get it to working properly. Adjust some carbs up and down here and there.

    2. Apologies, another question(s) for you. I read what Kiefer has to and he lists all sorts of stuff to take. Are these necessary? Tbh I'm sort of low on money and at best can afford PHD Pharma Pure whey isolate protein powder and a lucozade sport isotonic drink. As far as supplements go, that's it for me. As a noob I don't even know what creatine is in all honesty. Also, regarding timings of meals, is this important for what you eat late at night? If for example, I plan on staying up all night into the early hours of the morning for whatever reason. When is the best time to a last meal, before midnight or just before going to sleep? And are oats off limits? I love oats but they don't seem to fit in with this. Sorry for all the questions and thanks :-)

    3. I don't use creatine. Just the whey and coconut oil.

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  22. are you supposed to keep under a certain calorie mark before you workout??

  23. Hi Paul,

    First off, thanks for this. Really helped me. I was wondering if you could give me a couple pointers. My goal is to lean out as much as possible, and I'm currently back-loading.

    I lift 5 days a week, 4 of which I'd consider heavy lifting days (maybe 3). I generally rest Wednesdays and Sundays. Should I back-load 4 nights a week? On back-loading nights, I typically keep my carb-count pretty low (I weigh 185, I consume about 130g carbs post-workout), or should I have less back-load days?