Carb-loading is a quick fix for getting into top shape, commonly used by athletes for various endeavors, particularly long distance endurance events. The practice dates back to the late 1960, when a Swedish physiologist Gunvar Ahlborg discovered the phenomenon of glycogen super-compensation.
In short, this method requires large short-term changes in your consumption of carbs, sodium and water, and is usually implemented by depleting carbs for several days and then reloading your muscles with glycogen, which creates miraculous changes in muscle conditioning. The end results are an increased aerobic capacity caused by feeding your muscles with the maximum amount of glycogen possible, and enhanced aesthetics, which is very important for competitive bodybuilders. Regardless of your goals, carb-loading is guaranteed to provide you with the perfect mix of size and conditioning in the shortest period of time possible.
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Prepare for cutting: increase intake of sodium and water
A day or two before starting the carb-cutting part of the program, start increasing your sodium consumption by simply sprinkling some extra salt on all of your meals and eating more sodium-rich foods such as beets, celery and meat. This will increase water retention in your body. Follow the high-sodium diet until one day before starting the carb-loading, which should happen on the 6th day of the program. Pair the increased sodium consumption with drinking 50% more water than usual, which is very important for achieving the best definition possible at the end of the program.
Part I: Deplete carbs (Days 1-5)
- Cut your carb consumption in half – In the first three days, reduce your intake of carbs by 50% and stick to slow-digesting carbs in your pre- and post-workout nutrition.
- Increase protein consumption – As your carbs intake drops, your protein consumption should mildly increase for the sake of preventing muscle breakdown. However, this needs to be done slowly, by adding about 50 grams each day during the first five days of the program. If you increase your protein intake too much or too fast, your body will burn the excess protein as fuel instead of depleting its glycogen stores.
- Train with higher reps – During the five days of carb-depletion, use lighter weights than usual and double the number of sets you would normally perform, with 12-18 reps per each set. This kind of training is most effective at maximally emptying your carb reserves. Don’t forget – the more carbs you lose now, the more you can store during the second part of the program, resulting with bigger and meaner muscles.
- Give carbs the final blow – Between the third and fifth day, reduce your carb intake even further, lowering it by an additional 25-30%. Consume no more than 0.7 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight daily and make sure to take them early in the morning.
Part II: Reload (Days 5-7)
- Pause from training – During the carb-loading phase, it wise to avoid training and physical activity as much as you can so that you don’t lose any of the newly arriving carbohydrates and keep your muscles as full as possible.
- Cut down on sodium and water – The time to drop the extra salt you’ve been consuming in the last 5-6 days has come. This will spur changes in aldosterone levels, causing your body to excrete more water, especially from beneath the skin, resulting with greater definition. Also, eliminate those 50% of extra water you’ve consumed in the previous phase. The restricted water intake will push your muscles to use up the last drops of subcutaneous water, resulting with an optimally shredded physique.
- Carb up – By this point, your muscles should be extremely low in fuel, thanks to the last five days of low carb consumption and high-volume training, so now you’re ready to replenish them. Consume 3-5 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight on a daily basis and all of this carb goodness will go directly to your muscles. Again, opt for complex-carb sources like potatoes and whole grain products and avoid fast-digesting sugars as much as you can.
- Reduce protein – Cut down the extra protein you’ve added to your diet – as your carb intake increases, you won’t need that much protein anymore, so drop down to one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight daily during the last two days of the program.
- Pump up! – On the 7th, final day of the process, pump up your muscles using relatively light weights and focus on completing a full range of motion, while keeping the reps in the lower range. Your muscles will be full and maximally ripped, giving you a much larger and tighter appearance. Don’t forget to photographically document your amazing condition and use it to track your bodybuilding progress.