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Is carb backloading a nutrition-tip dream come true?


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While plenty of diets restrict carbs, one concept that actually leans into the bread-y bounty is gaining some traction: carb backloading. With this plan, instead of spreading out your intake, you essentially eat all of your carbs at the end of the day. But is it a healthy nutrition-tip dream come true or simply too good to believe?

“Carb backloading requires you to eat all 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.” —Emmie Satrazemis, registered dietitian

The effectiveness of the plan might be legit—the thinking is that eating carbs later on supposedly makes your body use fat as fuel to get you through the day, thereby making you shed said fat faster. “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,” registered dietitian Emmie Satrazemis, told Shape. “Carb backloading requires you to eat all 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.”

There isn’t much science to support the concept, but one study published in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that the method helped participants lose weight and reduce appetite. Unfortunately, those results are based on a super-small sample size of 44 people.

“It’s easy to prove just about anything looking at individual studies with small sample sizes. Currently, there’s not enough evidence to show that when you eat carbohydrates affects your weight-loss capabilities.” —Satrazemis

“It’s easy to prove just about anything looking at individual studies with small sample sizes,” Satrazemis told Shape. “Currently, there’s not enough evidence to show that when you eat carbohydrates affects your weight-loss capabilities. Without randomized controlled studies, much of this is just applied theory.”

So should you give it a try? Diet expert Mike Israetel, PhD, told Shape it can be a good strategy if you exercise later in the evening and eat high-quality carbs like whole-grain bread and pasta, quinoa, sweet potato, brown rice, oats, and beans. But carb backloading is not an excuse to gorge on unlimited platefuls of spaghetti at midnight: You still have to eat only when you’re hungry and watch your portion sizes. So I guess it’s not a total dream come true, but as far as exciting carb-related diet news goes, it’s certainly pretty close.

Here’s what one study has to say about calories versus food quality. Or, check out the five things you should never eat before a workout.

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