Carbohydrate loading, um, I mean, unloading. Yep, you heard me correctly. I have written about this topic in my Metabolic Efficiency Training: Teaching the Body to Burn More Fat book but I thought it was time for a refresher because I keep meeting athletes who are frustrated with their metabolic efficiency experience.
Let's take a typical endurance athlete who may be consuming 500 grams of carbohydrate (2000 calories) per day. This athlete wants to be more metabolically efficient and he knows he must periodize his macronutrients to teach his body to burn fat more efficiently. Let's say he has in his head that 150 grams of carbohydrate per day is a good number to achieve a better balance of carbohydrate, protein, and fat. Great. Next step is to just decrease his carbs, right?
Wrong! Most athletes require a stepwise reduction, or what I call, carbohydrate unloading protocol, in order to successfully change this nutrition behavior and avoid mood swings, fatigue with exercise, and "foggy-brain". The best way to do this is to reduce carbohydrate intake each week until your desired carbohydrate level is met.
Back to our athlete example. I would recommend he begin with reducing his carbohydrate intake by 100 grams per week (yes, per week) for best results. That means he would eat 500 grams, then 400, 300, 200, then to his goal of 150 grams of carbohydrate per day. This would take him a good 4 weeks and would promote a much higher success rate at adapting his body to the new levels of carbohydrate (and protein and fat).
I will say from personal experience that I do not recommend a drastic reduction of carbohydrate in one day. I did that for my 4-week experiment back in 2012 and was extremely hungry, my mood was a bit off and I couldn't think right. It took me a couple of days of altering my protein and fat to make up for the significant reduction of carbohydrate until I felt better.
So, lesson of the day. If you want to lower your carbohydrate intake (and balance out your protein and fat consumption), be patient. Any type of nutrition change is a behavior change and requires time. Give it at least 4-6 weeks in your quest to be more metabolically efficient. Believe me, you will thank yourself later for the little bit of time you spend on the front end being patient!