“Carbs make me fat. End of story,” uttered one of my best friends in relief as I explained the benefits of an ancestral-type diet, which eliminates processed carbs like: breads, pastas, crackers, cookies, sugar, etc…
However, what she didn’t know is that it’s not necessarily the carbs that are the problem; it is the timing. To shed fat, nutrient-timing, as I refer to it, plays such a pivotal role in body composition and so many people are ignorant of it. Until now…
Low Carb Causes Low-Thyroid Problems
After giving birth to my second child and being vegan for a few months, I immediately noticed a difference when I started eating paleo: grass-fed and pastured meats, whole, natural foods that are minimally processed. Instantly my “swollen” skin faded and I started noticing muscle; however, about 18 months in, I also started noticing fat gain, hair loss, and energy depletion. Yet, nothing had changed. My diet was the exact same; I worked out and lifted hard regularly.
With many arduous nights spent googling my problems “gaining fat, losing hair with NO changes to diet or exercise,” I discovered women need some carbs for their thyroid health. Apparently, a diet low in carbohydrates can increase hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) which causes unexplained fat gain, low energy, and hair loss.
I then discovered John Kiefer’s Carb Back-loading (CBL).
Keifer, a physicist turned nutritional scientist, engineered CBL based off his own research, countless peer-reviewed researched journals, articles, as well as trial and error (Kiefer is also an ex-bodybuilder and a nutritional & athletic coach). CBL is just what the name implies, back loading or eating your carbs in the backend of your day. Keifer explains it beautifully with science and bioenergetics in his book of the same name.
The summary: your body releases cortisol at night when it sleeps and burns fat. Upon waking, cortisol levels remain high for at least two hours. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone, meaning it breaks down your fat for fuel in the absence of insulin (or carbs). Thus, any ingestion of carbs will destroy this mechanism. When you eat carbs before your workouts, your body will stop burning everything else—including your stored glycogen and fat reserves, in favor of the carbs you’ve just eaten. One should hold off eating for at least two hours after waking, and from then till dark, just eat meat, fat, and veggies (staying under 30 grams of carbs until dinner). This will ensure you burn fat as fuel.
“When you’re looking to build mass without adding fat with a Carb Back-Loading regimen, the idea is to avoid carbohydrates for the first half of your day in order to burn fat—or at least to prevent it from being added.” -Kiefer
At night you need to rebuild your glycogen stores to fuel the next day’s performance. Therefore, eat dinner as usual, and add a high-glycemic paleo-friendly carb: sweet potato, white potato, sticky white rice, over ripe banana, tropical fruits, winter squashes, etc… You want high-glycemic because it gets in and out of your system fast. In contrast low-glycemic, complex carbs, like whole grain, whole wheat, and brown rice produce a slow, steady stream of insulin into your bloodstream. The reason you want the insulin in and out quickly is due in large to growth hormone (an incredibly powerful fat burner and lean tissue builder). It is released at night two hours after your blood sugar and insulin levels return to normal. The low-glycemic carbs keep a steady, slow release of insulin and blood sugar for hours, disrupting your growth hormone release. High-glycemic carbs, on the other hand, do not interfere with the nighttime release of growth hormone. High-glycemic carbs create a BIG insulin spike (which also helps speed muscle repair and growth) that lasts only about an hour. In other words, eating high-glycemic carbs replenishes your glycogen stores, repairs muscle, aids in growth all without interfering with your nocturnal human growth hormone cycle.
If I am lifting the next morning, I’ll also throw in another carb 1-2 hrs before bed. For those wanting to lose excess fat, Keifer recommends doing a carb night only once a week and to try to time it on the night before a heavy lifting session the next day. So, you would stay under 30 grams of carbs all week. Then, on day 7, you’d eat a carb at 3pm, a carb with dinner, and a carb 1-2 hrs before bed. Rinse and repeat for the next week. Once you lose the necessary fat, and you’d like to increase performance and/or muscle, you could then start implementing carb back-loading on the nights before a heavy lifting session the next day.
Here is what a typical carb back-loading day will look like:
|Coffee (can use: heavy cream, butter, mct oil, coconut oil, coconut milk)Do not use regular milk, too much insulin.Wait 2 hours before eating (meat, fat, veggies)|
|Meat, fat, veggies|
|Meat, fat, veggies, high glycemic carb|
|High glycemic carb(I like blending milk, a frozen overripe banana, chocolate protein, and a dash of salt).
*read the CBL book to find out ways to tweak nutrition even further for specific goal
CBL and Paleo Together
Combining an ancestral-type diet with Kiefer’s CBL makes sense. Ancestral speaking, our ancestors would have naturally spent the majority of daylight foraging, hunting, and gathering (definitely not, cracking and milling wheat and carbohydrates so they could eat them for breakfast). If carbs would have been eaten, it would have been closer to dark, when the hunting and gathering was completed and all had come back from a day of doing their jobs, gathering around a campfire to enjoy the fruit of their labor for the day.
After I read his book and implemented it, my hair came back, my energy restored, and not only did I lose the added fat, I got ripped at the same time. I feel like wonder woman! As person who looks for science, evidence, and reason-backed information, all I can say is: Where have you been my whole life?! For me, this isn’t a fad diet. It is my lifestyle and is super-duper easy to maintain!
CBL Is Fun, Easy, and Makes Life Simple
Who isn’t busy in the morning? With getting myself ready, my two boys packed up and ready for school, chores complete, and cleaning, breakfast is the last thing with which I want to deal. Not feeling guilty skipping breakfast and really enjoying my coffee has made a huge impact on my overall happiness.
When people tell me they could never do Paleo because they can’t give up the bread, pasta, cookies, cake, sugar, ________(insert whatever “forbidden” food here). I say, “Why not do Paleo CBL?” All you have to do is stay paleo till dinner. Then, have your “forbidden” food at dark. Not 100% ideal, but it is a start, and it will get them moving in the right direction.
So what are you waiting for…go time your nutrients correctly and get that super lean body you’ve always wanted!