Until now, you haven’t had many options. If you wanted to get lean, you had to diet strictly— and weeks of food deprivation stripped a little fat but also left you smaller and weaker. If your goal was to get bigger, you had to eat like a pig. Then, of course, you’d pack on not only muscle but fat as well.

The reason why both strategies lead to less than satisfying results can be answered in one word: carbs. Consuming large amounts of carbs (particularly the sugary and starchy kind) raises your blood sugar. This triggers the release of the hormone insulin to bring your blood sugar level back down. If you’ve just finished weight training, that’s good, because insulin will take the calories you’re consuming straight to the muscle cells for rebuilding. At any other time of day, however, insulin will store those calories as fat.

Manipulating this effect is the key to getting the perfect body—lean, muscular, and strong.

I’m going to outline two methods of carb manipulation I have researched, road tested, and ultimately trademarked: the Carb Nite system to lose fat and carb back-loading to pack on lean mass. You can alternate them throughout the year to stay big and lean simultaneously.

While you’ll still have to choose whether you want to focus on losing fat or primarily gaining size, you won’t have to give up muscle or a trim waist to achieve either one. You also won’t have to count calories or forsake your favorite foods. In other words, you have options—at last. As a former obese kid, I thought I’d never be able to stay muscular without being a little fat. Using these two strategies, I now maintain 6% body fat year-round without much effort and without giving up any of the junk food I love. Here’s how it works.

Carb Nite If you want to get shredded and strong, use Carb Nite, which takes advantage of your body’s weekly hormonal rhythms to help you lose fat, maintain muscle, and increase strength. You can cut significant fat without even working out.

1) Start With a 10-Day Recalibration Prime your body to use fat for energy instead of carbs and stop all the processes that make it easy to store carbs as fat. You do this by following an ultra-low-carb diet for 10 days. Eat 30 grams of carbs or fewer per day (approximately one piece of fruit or a small serving of oatmeal). Any starches and sweets in your meals must be extremely limited.

2) Enjoy a Carb Nite On the evening of your 10th day, starting around 5 p.m., begin eating carbs. Your discipline can take a hiatus: eat pasta, pizza, french fries, or any other sugary/starchy carbs you can get your hands on. Want brownies or Krispy Kreme doughnuts? Go for it. High-glycemic carb sources like these are actually better choices than sweet potatoes and rice. You need to refill your carb stores, crank up your metabolism, and give your mind a break. You’ll get the best results if Carb Nite falls on a day you lift weights, so try to time it accordingly. Don’t worry about getting fat. Several studies show that because of the change in enzyme production that occurs in your body throughout your low-carb days, gaining fat on a Carb Nite is nearly impossible.

3) Lean Out At this point, you’ve gotten your body to switch over from using carbs to fat as fuel. Return to the menu you used during recalibration, but this time you won’t have to follow it as long. Eat 30 grams of carbs per day and, once per week, have a Carb Nite. Note that this is a six- to eight-hour “night,” not a daylong carb binge.

4) Maintenance This is where you get to look ripped all the time. Once you drop below 10% body fat, you’ll probably need two Carb Nites per week to keep your metabolism going and spare muscle mass. So you could have your first Carb Nite on Wednesday and your second that Saturday.

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Nutrition At a Glance A quick look at how to use each method: Carb Nite: 30 grams of carbs or fewer per day. One night per week, begin eating sugary/starchy carbs at 5 p.m. until bed.

Carb back-loading: 30 grams or fewer of carbs until around 5 p.m. On training days, ingest carbs from post-training until bed. On non-training days, have a single carb meal at night.

Postworkout Nutrition Muscles need carbs after a workout to replenish their energy stores and prevent further muscle breakdown. But if you’re on an ultra-low carb day as prescribed in the Carb Nite plan—or you’re doing carb backloading but must train early in the day—you can’t ingest many carbs without compromising the program. These supplements can help you get around this problem. We don’t recommend training without them.

Carb Nite Consume 20 to 40 grams of a protein blend containing 50% whey and/or casein hydrolysates; also have 5 grams leucine.

Carb Back-Loading The same as for Carb Nite, but add 30 to 50 grams of a high-glycemic carb source like rilose or maltodextrin powder. Pick up Kiefer’s custom supplements, Blend D and Blend H (both whey and casein hydrolysates but mixed in different amounts) at dangerouslyhardcore.com Pick up Kiefer’s custom supplements, Blend D and Blend H (both whey and casein hydrolysates but mixed in different amounts) at dangerouslyhardcore.com

What is Carb Back Loading? To lean out and gain muscle, try carb back-loading. As the name implies, this limits carb consumption to late in the day. Taking in carbs in the afternoon or evening is done for a strategic reason. Carbs make both muscle and fat cells grow—and often at the same time. But by shifting when you eat carbs, you can actually control which kind of tissue grows.

As stated earlier, Carb Nite can be effective without training. Carb backloading, on the other hand, requires resistance exercise to work. Your body’s sensitivity to insulin is highest in the morning and lowest in the afternoon, leading many to believe that we should eat carbs first thing in the morning because much insulin won’t be required to keep blood sugar under control.

The problem is that if you raise insulin even slightly by eating carbs—30 or more grams will do it—you seriously impair your body’s ability to burn fat for the rest of the day. Worse, you may even get fatter because of the presence of another hormone—cortisol. A stress hormone, cortisol will break down fat all morning, but combined with raised insulin, it can actually cause your body to create new fat cells.

For these reasons, most of your carb intake must come in the evening. Toss in a weight-training workout right before you eat carbs, and you maximize your ability for insulin to store them in your muscle cells while leaving fat alone. Studies in the Journal of Applied Physiology have demonstrated that lifting allows muscles to use and store sugar for several hours post-training—that means it will be quickly absorbed by the muscles you’ve trained to help them recover and grow. The best part? You get to eat tasty treats almost every day.

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How to Do It:

1) Deplete Carbs Follow a depletion phase similar to the recalibration period that begins Carb Nite, but over a shorter time frame. Keep carbs at 30 grams or fewer for five to six days and your body will store them more effectively.

2) Start Gaining What and when you eat will depend on when in the day you train (and if it’s a training day or not).

Afternoon/Evening Training This is the ideal setup. Until the after noon, keep your carbs low— 30 grams or fewer. Begin your weight workout at some point between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. (it’s fi ne if you have to train a little earlier or later, but this is the sweet spot). Afterward, ingest a postworkout shake that’s rich in carbs, and keep eating carbs until you go to bed. The same foods prescribed on Carb Nite apply here—pizza, ice cream, and so on. It is not uncommon for followers of the plan to eat 400 grams of carbs and still lose body fat while gaining muscle mass.

Morning Training If you train in the morning, you’ll need to eat a small amount of carbs after your workout and take advantage of supplements that help spike insulin (see “Postworkout Nutrition” on the previous page) so that you can recover from your workout without throwing off the hormonal rhythms of back-loading. That night, around six, eat your carbs, but go mainly with less sugary sources like rice and potatoes.

Non-Training Days On days you don’t lift (this includes days you just do cardio), limit carbs to a single late-day meal. Say, dinner or a dessert before bed.

Training You don’t need to follow any particular regimen when employing either Carb Nite or carb back-loading. Since nutrition is the most important aspect of gaining muscle or getting lean, just make sure you fully commit to one eating strategy or the other. And make sure you follow “Postworkout Nutrition.”