Lacking energy in the gym? Having trouble seeing those abdominal muscles despite endless cardio and your “clean” diet eating? Is fat loss a complete struggle for you? Maybe you’re timing your carbs wrong.
An Odd “Phenomenon”
However, when he is home, he’s on vacation full-time (and a big daddy goof-ball).
On (pretty much) a nightly basis, I watch my husband eat tons of carbs (usually in the form of pizzas, rice cakes, Chinese food, or plantain chips), drink alcohol, and go to bed. The following day, he wakes up perky and heads straight to the garden to tackle his tasks with the aquaponics system or tramps through the jungle behind us. He completely skips breakfast running solely on coffee and cream until early afternoon.
Now, previous to this, I held the opinion that skipping breakfast and eating carbs before bed was a sure way to stack on fat. I never ate late in the evening, ate breakfast, and always tried to eat lots of small meals each day to stimulate my metabolism. Oddly somehow he managed to get and stay lean, develop a six-pack, and have tons of energy without much effort at all. And me, well, I had to work super-duper hard to maintain my physique and didn’t get to have nearly as much fun and enjoy my food like he did. What’s the deal?? Testosterone? Is he a genetic freak that runs on beer and coffee?
New Research Is Our Friend
Well, even though my husband may be my superhero, there is actually science behind what he was already doing naturally….and it probably bares route to our genetic ancestors as well. Think about it…ancestral speaking, our ancestors would have naturally spent the majority of the daylight foraging, hunting, and gathering (definitely not, cracking and milling wheat and preparing 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 and the day’s tasks were complete. Everyone would gather around a campfire to enjoy the fruits of their labor for the day, celebrating with some glug, and eating whatever (if any) carbs they had prepared. In eating these carbs at night, it would signal insulin and human growth hormone, helping them to sleep heavily through the night and to prepare their muscles for the next day’s activities. And this method, according to science, is the best way for our human bodies to do the same.
Why Carb Back-loading Works
The video below is an excellent talk from John Kiefer. Keifer, a physicist turned nutritional scientist, engineered carb back-loading (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 will break 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, your body will stop burning everything else—including your stored glycogen and fat reserves, in favor of the carbs you’ve just eaten. You 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.
I think our oldest son may follow in my husband’s carb-night-eating-machine footsteps. I already can’t keep up with these two beasts!
Now, let me caveat this and say that I am not suggesting that everyone go eat pizza and beer before going to bed. This routine of nighttime carbs and beer was from a guy who actually does eat “traditionally” clean food. My husband loves natural, raw foods, however; late at night, he prefers to eat a bit “dirty.” I just wanted to highlight one of the reasons (observing my husband late at night) that I started looking into the subject of “carb-backloading” as a legitimate way to hack your metabolism, lose fat, and preserve muscle.