What the Heck Is Carb Backloading?

Evening workout warriors, listen up.

Carb Backloading

When I was 20 years old, I was a server in a Mexican restaurant, and there were many memorable moments (that time I got a horrendous Yelp review and the GM printed it out and posted in the kitchen for all to see or the mess that was every single customer on Cinco de Mayo, for instance), but one of the memories that stuck in my 20-year-old, “Is butter a carb?” mind is the time when one of my co-workers started to reach for a tortilla chip then glanced at her watch before her fingers touched the basket, snapped her hand back and said, “Nope, it’s past 3 p.m. No carbs past 3 p.m.” The discipline was beyond what my college sophomore brain could digest, and I’ve never forgotten it. So, naturally, it was this former co-worker I thought of when I saw this article on Shape about carb backloading, a trend in timing out your carb intake so that it all happens—to my former co-worker’s horror, no doubt—in the later part of the day.

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As registered dietitian Emmie Satrazemis told Shape,

“The theory of carb backloading is based on the fact that insulin sensitivity is higher earlier in the day, which promotes carbohydrate absorption into your muscles and fat tissue.”

Long story short:

We all want to store carbs in our muscle tissue, less so in our fat tissue. “Carb backloading requires you to eat all of your carbs later in the day to promote using fat for fuel during the day, and suggests you also work out in the evening to promote better carb absorption into your muscles,” leading you to, in theory, burn fat faster, she says. Think of it as keto light.

Go ahead, everyone who’s been avoiding carbs at dinner for years, rejoice. Okay, done? Let’s move on.

Some research does back up the theory of carb backloading, but if you’re dreaming about the giant bowl of pasta you’re going to eat for dinner, it’s important to note that carb backloading isn’t necessarily the ideal way to eat for everyone. According to the experts Shape spoke with, there are two groups who benefit most: Those who workout out at in the evening, and spread the majority of their carb intake around their evening workouts to maximize gains and recovery, and those who are trying to lose weight but aren’t ever hungry for breakfast and are always ravenous in the evening. So if you fit into one of these groups, congratulations! Carb backloading might be worth trying—especially if the keto flu is so not for you.