In this third and final installment chronicling my experimental dive into carb backloading, both “dirty” and “clean,” I’ll discuss my attempt at a period of “clean” CBL and the overall takeaways from the strategy. Regardless as to whether you’re interested in trying this stuff out or not, I think it’s worthwhile to at least understand some of the dynamics of what I experienced.
Right away, the luster of CBL is a bit lost with the “clean” version. Remember the goal is still the same: remain ketogenic (~30g carbohydrate/day), utilize heavy carb back feedings (200-400g) near the end of the day for heavy training sessions (2-4 week).
It’s worth noting that my definition of “clean” was exactly that.. MY definition. My strategy was to rely on more natural carbohydrates to get the job done and track any difference in the experiences. For example, this included large plates of sweet potatoes covered in honey on occasion. Of course, pitted dates were a “man’s best friend” for this one, too (one cup ~ 120g of carbohydrates). Considering that asparagus chimes in at a measly 8g of carbohydrates per one cup, I was missing my cookie cake from round one immensely.
This brings me to some of my observations:
When backloading, carbs are carbs. The “dirty” CBL test was much more fun that the “clean” version, but what I felt was that it didn’t matter. In this backloading delivery method, the types of carbohydrates I utilized really didn’t matter (outside of some mild allergy response from grains and dairy and accompanied inflammation), which speaks to the justification of the high performance donuts I mentioned earlier in this series.
“Dirty” carbs are MUCH easier. While my first go around was pretty fun both performance-wise and as a passionate recreational eater, I felt myself missing the fun of eating pizza, donuts, and cookies during my “clean” backloads. As much as CBL tends to include these simple foods as a display of it’s efficacy, the justification for “dirty” CBL is more complex than just showing off. That justification is that it’s simply much easier to eat carbohydrates by the hundreds of grams in such a short window with HoHos and cake than it is with leafy vegetables. Have you ever seen kale to the tune of 350 grams of carbohydrates? Back up the produce truck!
Your CBL isn’t my CBL. As a coach, I immediately began to wonder if in CBL everyone is created equal. You guessed it.. we’re all different. I found that I had to tinker with my backloading. Shifts in training sessions mean shifts in fuel needs. It took some time to find an appropriate sweet spot for me. For example, two back loads a week wasn’t enough (I seem to under estimate the impact of GPP training). I felt much better back loading 4 times per week. In theory, I would imagine someone with a moderate training volume and intensity could benefit from just one backload feeding per week.
Keto is crucial. Part of the luster of CBL is that it seems to be quite effective without too having to be precise. Every time I backloaded it felt like the perfect thing in that moment. The ketogenic requirements outside of the carb feedings didn’t leave me feeling hungry (and they shouldn’t), but when it came time to feast on carbs I was ready! This all falls apart if the your compliance fails and you aren’t able to keep your insulin at bay. This includes the 7-10 day ketogenic lead-in time. I, for example, came into this with good insulin sensitivity from clean eating, but folks entering with poor lifestyle habits and some metabolic derangement may need to be extra diligent in regulating their hormones enough to benefit from CBL. But, what do I know?
Sustainability questions. Without a doubt, I think CBL is an appropriate experience with someone with a unique set of demands on their hands. The window for physical feats and training cycles like that of folks with training volumes like this is finite. This leads me to believe that CBL should follow suit. It’s, in my opinion, a took for athletes to meet their unique demands where the straight and narrow approach of clean eating can’t keep up. In the end, we all must answer to the consequences, good and bad, of the things we put in our body and though this is a remarkable hack into our body’s fuel system I don’t think its turns Hostess cupcakes into cancer fighting super foods.
I want to thank you all for reaching out, asking questions, and sending me emails. I am by no means Robb Wolf or John Kiefer and I don’t claim to be. I also realize that I didn’t do this very scientifically with baselines for body weight, composition, and performance, but to be honest, that was intentional because I wouldn’t have enjoyed it. My old strength coach and super human, Stephane Rochet, did the same experiment with much more specific handles and data with similar results. He was my inspiration for this and I’d like to thank him publicly.
In the end, I thoroughly enjoyed opening up my perspective on the performance gains I felt during this without compromises in bodyweight or body composition. I do have to admit I felt like a sinner the WHOLE time – HA!
Like I’ve always said, tinker on..
Find max load 3-position clean.
Then complete 3 Rounds for reps of:
1 min max Med Ball Cleans
1 min max HR Pushups
-Rest 1 min-