The longer I follow a Ketogenic lifestyle, the less I feel the need for carbohydrates to fuel my workouts, so to be completely honest, when I carb load, I end up doing so for more of a cheat day than a necessity to reload my glycogen stores for performance.
One thing you’ll have to keep in mind is that carb loading (carb back-loading) won’t work if you first don’t deplete your glycogen stores. If you’re an active individual, this can be achieved by forgoing carbohydrates for a period of 10 – 14 days. By this time your workouts will likely feel sluggish and hard to complete, and you may even feel a little sick, this is a sign that your glycogen stores are depleted.
Now, the carb loading phase should be planned on a workout day, ideally a late afternoon workout. What I do is start my workout around 4PM and I’m usually finished by 6PM. I keep the first meal after my workout clean and low in fats, usually a protein shake consisting of 30 grams of whey isolate protein and 45 – 60 grams of carbohydrates in the form of dextrose.
Whey Dextrose and Whey Isolate?
Dextrose is a sugar chemically identical to glucose that is extremely fast digesting, raising blood glucose levels quickly, causing a rapid spike in nutrient-transporting insulin into the bloodstream and then to the muscles to start the recovery and rebuilding process.
Likewise, whey isolate is a fast digesting protein, high in leucine, one of the most important amino acids responsible for regulating blood-sugar levels, growth and repair of muscle and bone tissue as well as growth hormone production.
Why a low fat meal?
Since the insulin spike from the first meal will be large due to its leucine and dextrose content, we don’t want trigger the possible storage of any fats. The main goal here is to trigger protein synthesis. Think of it as insulin opens the door to nutrient transport, the issue with that is that anything to flow through the opened door, including fats. (*1)
The carb load meal
After consuming the first meal, I waiting about an hour before consuming the real carb loading meal, but why?? The first meal, the protein shake with carbs, is more of a primer, to provide a big insulin spike so it can begin the process of transporting nutrients. We allow an hour so that the insulin begins to dissipate, but not completely, this is so that when we eat our carb load meal, we don’t trigger another big insulin spike.
Like the first carb load meal, I prefer to keep this meal relatively clean. The fat sources I prefer are high in omega 3, such as avocados, olive oil and macadamia nuts. The carb sources I like are potatoes, white rice and black beans, and pasta.
Some individuals that carb load take the opportunity to have more of a cheat meal that can include everything from pizza and burgers to sugary deserts like apple pie and ice cream. If you’re in a calorie defiant state for a period of 5 or more consecutive days, this may be fine to do without gaining any fat. The type of carb load meal you choose should be what works for you, your macro target and your health goals.
As for me, I try to target around 200 – 300 grams of carbs and around 50 grams of protein. As for fats, as long as they’re high in omega 3, I’m not too concerned about the amount, but just so we have a number to shot for, let’s target around 10 grams.
What about desert?
Well, some would say that desert is the best part of carb loading. John Keifer (the father of carb back-loading) would urge you to go for a sugary treat like cherry turnover or apple crisp (his favorites).
So what’s my go-to desert, it depends, sometimes I enjoy an apple crisp with a scoop or two of vanilla ice, but the majority of the time, I’ll eat a bowl of frosted flakes, with one scoop of Isopure cookies and cream whey protein and almond milk. Why cereal? Because it’s relatively low in fat. At my age, dirty fats are hard to lose, so I attempt to limit them when I can. But this is me knowing my body, and ultimately you’ll need to do the same.
In summary …
Make sure you’re at least carb depleted before attempting to do a carb re-feed cycle. The carb re-feed should be planned after your workout with the first meal consisting of protein and carbs and low to no fats. The main meal is the feast, high in carbs and proteins and moderate to low in fats.
As for the desert, pick something that you enjoy and the your body can handle, just don’t over do it. Do your best to stick with the recommended serving sizes or what you’ve decided ahead of time is the target macros for that desert.