Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Women on Carb Back Loading

Carb Back Loading (CBL) is really taking off. It's a THING! And it's because it works.

If you spend anytime embedded in fitness or athletics, you know that low carb is a super fast and efficient way to lose body fat. While human health requires a baseline level of protein and fat, there is NO baseline need for carbohydrates.

Now, for most CrossFitters, weekend warriors, and people wanting to be sexy, that's quite enough. But if you're looking to get as strong as possible, jacked, or eventually compete in strength or aesthetics type competitions, you might notice that low carb makes strength training challenging.

That is when CBL comes in.

Seriously, it's not for CrossFit. It's not for endurance training. It's not for your typical gym go-er who focuses on yoga, light to medium weights. It's for people who TRAIN.

(If you think you fall into the CF/endurance/ casual gym go-er, check out Carb Nite by John Kiefer instead.)

Kiefer makes it pretty clear, though, that the standard CBL protocol outlined in his book and on his website isn't primed for women. It's really not THAT different, however, I've had several people ask me about the differences, so putting them in a place that is easily accesible might be the best route.

1) Women and muscle mass
This is the most obvious, women don't have as much muscle mass, so they aren't going to have as much storage space to put the glycogen during a back-load. That simply means that a man's whole pizza and full banana brownie split with beer right before bed might be a woman's beer and normal brownie sundae.

2) Estrogen changes things a little
It make our metabolism during bouts of exercise favor fat usage over carb usage. So it takes longer workouts to get women to use up our glycogen stores. It take more intense focus on training to failure, and it means that most women should include some sort of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) into days they want to do CBL.

However, once the activity stops, we turn over to glycogen usage, so apparently, even when women train in the AM, they can still effective CBL at night, and it requires less fiddling with post workout nutrition than it does for men.

3) A hybrid CBL and Carb Nite is probably best.. 
Because of estrogen, muscle mass, and particularly if you take a hormonal birth control, you might want to do a hybrid of the two protocols. For instance, if you train hard three days a week, pick on of those nights to be your pizza, beer, and ice cream night, and then on the other days stick to a turn over or two right before bed after a normal low carb dinner.

4) Other resources
Here are some links I recommend for further reading. All are articles written by powerlifter Julie Ladewski. She has her own website, and if you need more detailed info from a lady in the trenches, she offers phone consultations, too.

This touches on how estrogen sort of messes with how our bodies process fuel:

These are Julia's account of how she uses CBL to optimize her strength gains and fat loss for powerlifting:

It's also worth looking at the BioJacked Radio section of Dangerously Hardcore. One of the Q&A sessions covers more specifics on how to tweak CBL for women. 


  1. Wait, so I can have a pizza and beer night, too? For realz?

  2. Yes... kinda. If you want to talk about putting in the occasional Carb Nite of pizza and beer (an ice cream, and....), let's talk in person and figure out the best routine based on what we do and when you want that.

  3. Hi, I'm looking for answer to my questions but can't seem to find it so hoping you can help me.
    1- Can you do CBL and IF same time? because that's what I'm doing now.
    2-My window for eating is from 4pm-12am and I workout at 11am-1:30pm. So what should I have post workout because I won't have my lunch till 4pm.
    3- They said I should only consume 30 grams of carb for the day and I know it's really important to take carb for post workout. And I take BCAA.


  4. Hi Young Argyros,

    Are you female? If so, I'd say that doing both IF and CBL would be pretty tough on your hormonal profile. IF in general is pretty tough on women, so honestly I'd ditch that. Some research that Robb Wolf reviewed has shown that low car eating causes the same metabolic profile as IF, so combining them would be pretty extreme. Especially if you're also training that full 2.5 hours.

    For post workout nutrition, if you're getting enough protein, your body will synthesize carbs. It's inefficient, but I'd say getting enough protein is priority. Also, a recent study by Aragon and Schoenfield show that post workout nutrition is far less important than getting in your overall needed calories and macros during your day/ week.

    Hope this helps a little.

  5. Hi there!

    I recently started CBL and am curious to know what i should be generally aiming for in regards to grams of protein, fat, and carbs. Carbs being limited to post workout backloads. I dont plan on counting calories or anything, but i would like to have guidlines in mind. I am female, i am 5'10", i weigh 152 lbs, and if i had to make an educated guess i would say i am 22-23% body fat. If you could help me out it would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

    1. I'm not a nutritionist, so I'm not comfortable making specific recommendations for people. But there are a lot of great calculators out there. I'm a fan of the one at