Carb Loading vs. Carb Back Loading

I’m sure most of you are pretty familiar with carb loading by now. It’s a classic fueling technique in the world of endurance sports and other highly glycolytic sports like sprinting and swimming. What most people don’t understand is carb loading, while it may have its short-term performance gains by means of maximizing glycogen stores resulting in an increase in total performance, it could potentially have some negative effects if sustained long term.

One of the potential issues I have with this fueling method is that consuming excessive carbohydrates prior to a race can lead to bloating, gas, and indigestion. This is something you do not want to experience coupled with the pre-race jitters. Another issue with this feeding regimen is the blood sugar imbalance resulting in a crash-and-burn effect during the race. You might start firing on all cylinders, but end up fading due to an over reliance on sugar as the primary fuel source (NIDDK, 2011). Keep in mind that humans have a limited supply of glycogen where as fat is a whole other story. The body has anywhere from 20, 000 to 30, 000 kcals of fat stored varying from person to person. Are you beginning to see where I’m going with this?

A better way to fully optimize glycogen stores and begin turning into a fat burning machine and even turn on some anti-aging longevity genes is this new concept that is flying under the radar. It’s called “Carb Back loading.” The idea behind carb back loading is that during the day when you haven’t trained or exercised intensely yet, you should focus your attention on eating a low carbohydrate diet. You should preferably keep it under 50 to 70 g of carbs with a big focus on healthy fats, leafy greens, non-starchy vegetables and moderate protein before exercise and/or competition. By keeping protein consumption moderate, you will ensure you are staying in the optimal fat burning mode since excessive protein has the potential to spike insulin levels especially if you are one who has an insulin deficiency (Franz MJ, 1997).

Following the workout or competition, you should aim to consume a carbohydrate 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. This will increase protein synthesis, restore glycogen stores, replenish electrolytes and support hormone balance. The key here is focusing on whole food sources of carbohydrates like berries, bananas, sweet potatoes, yams, and white rice. This will ensure a proper recovery so you can come back next ready to go (Cordain, 2002). You will notice a stellar recovery as well as overall performance and brain function. You just feel better in general and will have a more calm-like focus and stable mood to go along with it. What’s not to love about carb-back loading? Give it a try. You might be surprised by your performance in both mind and body.

Cordain, Loren (2005). The Paleo Diet for Athletes. Rodale Published. Retrieved on August 14, 2015.

International Diabetes Center (1997), Protein: metabolism and effect on blood glucose levels. Retrieved on August 13, 2015.

NIDDK (2011).  Gas in the Digestive System.  Retrieved on August 11, 2015.

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