Well hello friends!
As summer comes to end I’ve been noticing a trend around the office. With cooler temperatures looming in the not so distant future there’s been a certain “fuck it, bikini season is over” attitude. So of course, this has me thinking about carbs (let’s be honest, when am I not)?
Years ago, at one of my first personal training jobs I encountered the concept of carb back loading. It really isn’t so different from what I had been doing so the theory peaked my interest. It boasts the ability to eat high glycemic index carbs, in abundance, and still drop fat and increase strength. What is this?! The holy grail of dieting.
The basic premise of carb backloading is you use these mechanisms to your advantage by not eating carbs when your body is most able to store them as fat (early in the day). Instead, you eat carbs when your body is most likely to store them as glycogen in the muscles (later in the day, and after working out). Not only have you increased your insulin sensitivity by abstaining from foods which increase a spike in blood sugar, but you’ve also induced a insulin sensitive state through diet and exercise induced glycogen depletion. The basic premise is that you eat light during the morning, and early afternoon hours, and load up at night. This is also popular among individuals who practice paleo or primal lifestyle diets. You eat little-to-no carbs until after your workout, which should be later in the afternoon, then your carb intake begins with your post-workout meal and it continues throughout the evening.
Levels of numerous hormones vary across the day and night. Attentive readers will know, cortisol spikes in the morming (wake up hormone), and in times of stress, mental or physical. Now, cortisol fluctuations are not only attributable to changes in sleep/wakefulness and physical demand, but also to a circadian timing system governed by the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus. Sleep has a strong effect on levels of some hormones such as growth hormone but little effect on others which are more strongly regulated by the circadian timing system (e.g., melatonin). The suprachiasmatic nucleus exerts its influence on hormones via neuronal and humoral signals but it is now also apparent that peripheral tissues contain circadian clock proteins, similar to those in the suprachiasmatic nucleus, that are also involved in hormone regulation.
In modern society, many individuals frequently and/or chronically undergo circadian misalignment by desynchronizing their sleep/wake and fasting/feeding cycle from the circadian timing system. This is from shift work, chronic stress, working out in the evening because of job demands, or just modern chaos. Recent experiments indicate that circadian misalignment has an adverse effect on metabolic and hormonal factors such as circulating glucose and insulin. In lamen a terms, shitty sleep, high stress, insomnia, all equal weight gain, thanks to imbalanced hormones. So, in a society in which most individual work out post work, after long ass work days, we are deliberately throwing off our rhythm and groove. You should be winding down, not winding up! So what a girl to do? Our careers are equally as our fitness goals. How else are you supposed to afford supplements and spandex?
The answer is Insulin sensitivity. In both muscle and fat cells, insulin is higher in the morning than the evening, which means that both muscle and fat cells will be more receptive to glucose earlier in the day. This is good in the case of muscle (more glucose absorbed into the muscles = better performance in the gym), and bad in the case of fat (more glucose absorbed into the fat cells = more fat storage). You can manipulate this little fact to your advantage. By using weightlifting later in the day to deplete glycogen stores and increase insulin sensitivity in the muscle cells, but not the fat cells, you prime muscle for glycogen absorption. Therefore, when you then start eating carbs, your body preferentially shuttles them into the muscles, not fat cells. And voila!! Eat carbs, get muscles, lose fat!
In conclusion, it’s not really magic, or wizardry, and you don’t need to starve yourself to reduce your goals. It’s just the basic scientific concept of nutrient timing. When we’re talking body composition, What you eat is just as important as when you eat it!
Eat cake, get cake. You’re welcome 😉