Carb Back Loading : The New 'Trend' In Fat Burning...So What's It All About?

Don’t worry, this is NOT another celebrity fuelled fad diet that entails drinking lemon and syrup, copious amounts of soup or nothing but water! As you will come to realise, Carb Back Loading is not conventional and does not conform to the usual governmental recommendations for healthy eating, therefore whether you wish to follow the protocol or not is entirely to your discretion.

Carbohydrates and weight gain

Carbohydrates (Carbs) are no more energising than protein, the Atwater figure (amount of energy they yield per gram) for both is 4kcal per gram. Carbs are the bodies preferred energy source, and granted that protein breakdown is not ideal, this is because their main purpose is to support cell structure, muscle integrity and growth. It is widely understood that carbohydrate intake (if not controlled) can hinder your toning and definition goals, the structure of Carbs mean that they attract water via an osmotic shift, this is responsible for reducing definition. In terms of fat gain, an excess of carbs will result in its conversion to fat in the form of adiposity. Carbs also have an insulinogenic effect; insulin is needed for protein and fat absorption which often results in the storage of fat! Therefore if you wish to control what your body does to the carbs you ingest, then you need to adjust your hormonal and enzymatic responses to carb consumption.

What's Carb Back Loading all about?

You may remember us discussing the Intermittent Fasting protocol not too long ago, which entails not eating for 16 hours followed by an 8 hour eating window. Well, Carb Back Loading requires similar levels of discipline which is accompanied by the same periods of indulgence. Basically the Carb Back Loading protocol requires that you consume a normal intake of protein and fat, whilst only consuming 30g of carbs a day for 10 days. This is followed by a 'Carb Backload' whereby on the 10th day you can indulge in carbs...any carbs you like! From here on you are in the world of Carb Backloading (read on for the specific protocol). Remember…because of the fixed windows permitted for eating in both Intermittent Fasting and Carb Back Loading, the nutritional density and adequacy of your meals is more important than ever!

Carb Back loading is practiced by a growing number of fitness models and bodybuilders in order to develop ideal aesthetics, and isn’t designed to maximise health and wellbeing per se. Another well known ‘extreme’ diet that manipulates carbohydrate includes the Atkins diet, this requires you to avoid carbs completely and eat copious amounts of fat and protein. This may well deplete fat stores, but the long term health effect (particularly on heart health) isn’t likely to be positive!

How is Carb Back Loading different?

The difference with Carb Back loading is that you only minimise carbs for 10 days, and you only binge on high carb foods for short periods. If these carbs aren’t consumed in excess (the all important word) then chronic health does not have to suffer. Carb Back Loading is designed to enable you to burn fat whilst at the same time maintaining lean muscle mass…some might say the ‘holy grail’ of bodybuilding.

The Carb Back Loading protocol:

Re-calibration / Priming Phase:

This is where you prime the body to burn fat for energy ahead of carbs and muscle. To do this you must follow a low carb diet for 10 days, this entails consuming no more than 30g carbs per day e.g. portion of fruit OR an average Oatso Simple porridge sachet.

Carb Back Load:

On the 10th day at approx 5pm (ideally on a training day) eat whatever carbs you choose, this can include pizza, ice-cream, doughnuts and/or white bread…the higher the Glycaemic index of these carbs the better according to John Kiefer, author and founder of Carb Back Loading and The Carb Nite Solution. This said, I would urge you to moderate the amount of high fat and sugar sources for long term health, maybe stick to rice cakes, pop corn, white bread, bagels etc (your call), but also consider a carb and protein source such as XL Nutrition Xtra Whey Protein with 3-4 teaspoons of Optimum Health Ultimate Carbs added, this minimises total fat ingestion support long term health. This carb re-feed must only go on for an hour or so, but the window is anything up to 6-8 hours after 5pm…Remember that moderation is key here!

The introduction of these carbs increases glycogen stores as well as boosting metabolism. The likelihood of your body storing fat is slim (no pun intended) because of the enzymatic changes that occur as a consequence of reducing carbs over the 10 days (Fujita, Dreyer, Drummond, 2007).

The Maintenance Phase:

On all of the days that you strength train (resistance training) you can carb backload i.e. consume plenty of carbs. On non- strength training days or rest days, as well as days when you just do cardio, eat as you would during the first 10 days i.e. no more than 30g of carbs whilst just consuming proteins and healthy fats.

NOTE: Exercise caution with any diet that suggests manipulating major food groups and macronutrients, micronutrient deficiencies may occur if your diet is not balanced, energy levels may be low. Health (not looks) must always take precedence!

The purpose of this article is to inform you on the growing trend that is ‘Carb manipulation’ and particularly ‘Carb Back Loading, and by no means am I promoting this as a healthy, balanced method of eating.


Carb Back- Loading. Manual for total body fat control. Retrieved 11th June, 2013, from

Fujita S, Dreyer HC, Drummond MJ, Glynn EL, Cadenas JG, Yoshizawa F, Volpi E, Rasmussen BB. Nutrient signalling in the regulation of human muscle protein synthesis. J Physiol. 2007 Jul 15;582(Pt 2):813-23.

About the Author

Job Role Qualified Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist Qualifications BSc (Hons) Sports Science | BSc (Hons) Dietetics Tom has always participated in sport both recreationally and competitively which led to an unquenchable thirst for information on anything health, nutrition and fitness. After leaving school Tom went on to play for a football academy during which time he studied Sport and Exercise Science. From here he went on to study a BSc (Hons) Sport Science at UEA followed by his second BSc (Hons) degree, this time at the University of Hertfordshire studying Dietetics. Tom has worked in the fitness, educational and clinical nutrition industry starting out at David Lloyd Health and Leisure Clubs. He then went on to work as a Dietitian (RD) in the NHS, during which time he conducted clinics for healthy eating, weight loss and weight gain, as well as specialised consultations on Diabetes, IBS and Coeliac disease to name a few. He has vast amounts of experience at devising diet plans and supplement regimens, as well as working in the community with schools and competitive athletes. As Head Nutritionist and Supplement expert at Discount Supplements Tom is here to provide current and evidence based health and nutrition information to help you reach your health and fitness goals!
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