The Renegade Diet Vs. Carb Back-loading
written by sean hyson
I’ve gotten several questions about Jason Ferruggia’s Renegade Diet and Kiefer’s Carb Back-loading plan. How do the two compare? Which is better? And so on. Let’s look at both of them.
Both involve a period of fasting (Renegade Diet is, admittedly, a kind of intermittent fasting—IF). That is, going several waking hours without food in order to arouse the sympathetic nervous system, cause the release of fatty acids for energy, and stimulate growth hormone (among many other benefits).
Both entail eating most, if not all, of your carbohydrates for the day in the afternoon/evening. Apart from a small amount of carbs post-workout if you train in the morning, you’ll eat mainly meats and vegetables until around 4–6 p.m. (this is the ideal scenario). You’ll then train, consume a post-workout shake, and eat carbs liberally along with protein and some fats until bed.
Both warn about the insulin-stimulating properties of eggs and whey protein, and recommend similar supplements like BCAAs, whey, and caffeine.
The main one has to be that Ferruggia’s plan does not allow for junk food, while Kiefer’s encourages it in some cases. While I wouldn’t say that Carb Back-Loading is inherently unhealthy, Renegade Diet is much more health-focused. Ferruggia talks extensively about the use of digestive enzymes to ensure proper assimilation of food, the importance of organic, grass-fed meat over the conventional kind, and emphasizes getting your carbs from whole-food sources like sweet potatoes. Rice and oats are not high on his list because of the digestive difficulties they have the potential to cause.
Kiefer doesn’t discuss these topics at any length, and I don’t think this makes his approach more dangerous, but there’s little or nothing you can say can cause ill-health about Ferruggia’s method. Knowing Jay very well, I can tell you that he’s personally combated many digestive problems over the years and is very sensitive to how foods effect him. If you don’t do well with lactose, gluten, soy, or grains, Jay’s way should appeal to you. He’s given a lot of thought to how to get around these problems.
With all this said, Kiefer’s back-loading has to be more fun. Ice cream, pizza, and fast food are all perfectly acceptable WHEN CONSUMED AT THE RIGHT TIME. It seems like common sense that eating these kinds of foods regularly would be disastrous to health, but read his book and you’ll see why they’re permissible. Kiefer has assured me that none of his clients have gotten any bad news when they’ve had their bloodwork done, and neither did I when I got mine tested recently—and I’ve been back-loading consistently for the past year. I’m also approximately as lean and as strong as I’ve ever been, and I feel absolutely fine.
In the case of morning training, Back-loading and Renegade both recommend taking some carbs in after training. Even the amount the two experts prescribe is similar. Beforehand though, Ferruggia likes to take coffee and BCAAs. Kiefer agrees on the coffee but strongly disagrees about BCAAs, saying they’ll spike insulin and limit fat burning. Who is right? As with so many arguments in the fitness/nutrition world, there is evidence for both sides, but MY PERSONAL TAKE is to go with Kiefer on this one and play it safe. Unless your training loads are extreme and your workout is long, I don’t think BCAAs will do so much to prevent muscle breakdown that they’re worth the chance of putting the brakes on fat burning. Training fasted with no nutritional interference makes fat burn like crazy for fuel, and I’m certain it’s been essential in keeping me as lean as I am while eating as much junk as I do at night. The lack of pre-workout BCAAs hasn’t cost me anything as far as I’m concerned. I feel the same as I ever did after a hard training session and I’m still making smooth gains.
That’s about it as far as the scientific differences in the two protocols. The fact that Ferruggia and Kiefer agree on, I’d say, 90% of the main points—and the fact that many other IF proponents do as well—makes me think they’re really on to something. That, of course, and the results I’ve seen for myself. As far as how each product—the two e-books themselves—are laid out, there are a few more differences.
Kiefer’s book is heavy on science with plenty of charts, graphs, and references. Ferruggia spares the layman that kind of work and explains things quickly and colloquially. Ferruggia gives you more detailed macros to shoot for, more meal plans, and specific tips on how to diet for leanness. Carb Back-loading’s primary focus is getting stronger and bigger while staying lean, and not so much a means to maximum leanness, so in this regard it’s like comparing apples and oranges. If you’re very heavy with a lot of fat to lose, I might go Ferruggia’s route. If you don’t have much dietary discipline, no major digestive issues to speak of, and you want to get bigger, I would probably recommend Kiefer’s stuff.
I’m not picking a favorite because the plans aren’t in head-to-head competition with each other. They’re simply two smart and effective versions of the fasting/carbs-at-night concept, and I’ve seen great results with both of them. If I had to stick my neck out, I’d say Renegade Diet is the safer, healthier pick between the two, and will get anyone lean in a hurry. Carb Back-loading is more lenient, more fun, and probably better suited to helping you pack on size.
For more information, read my Renegade Diet review HERE.
Read my interview with Kiefer on this site and listen to it on muscleandfitness.com
And look out for my coming e-book, the 2012 Buyer’s Guide To the Best Training and Nutrition Programs, where I look at both of these plans in great detail.