Can you compete in a bodybuilding competition using ketosis and carb backloading?

Chaz Branham is a man-beast and a freak of nature in all the best ways. This is a guy who entered the Texas Shredder Classic, his first bodybuilding competition, on a dare—and did ridiculously well by using a fat-based approach.

He’s my good friend, a venture capitalist, a trainer, and the first person I thought of to answer your questions about burning fat fast, ketosis, and carb backloading.

Chaz Branham has coached some of the world’s greatest athletes, executives, and early stage entrepreneurs. He started his fitness career by helping college and professional athletes fine-tune during the off season and now he’s a venture capitalist investing in startups in Austin, TX. He also advises Fixed Foods, an explosive subscription-based paleo meal delivery business that’s selling 2,500 meals per week after only 7 months in business.

Chaz’s Fat-Burning, Muscle-Building Story

This is the story about how Chaz went from essentially having zero knowledge of ketogenics to getting crazy awesome results using a ketogenic diet—in only 14 weeks!

It all started over a plate of ribs at my house during the Super Bowl.

I mentioned the ketogenic diet to him, and he just kind of tucked that info away until he started bantering with some guys at the gym who were eating food out of little plastic containers.

Chaz ended up betting these guys that he could beat them in the Texas Shredder Classic (a natural body building competition) by eating nothing but fat and protein.

Challenge accepted.

And Chaz started training for his first bodybuilding competition just 14 weeks away. He called me for help… and he started on a journey of education and implementation, which wasn’t always easy. In fact, it was really hard.

He started out reading “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living” by Dr. Jeff Volek, PhD, RD and his second book, “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance.”

He dropped the carbs out of his diet and amped up the protein and fat—in two days, he started to feel a euphoric type of high and this incredible mental acuity.

He wondered if the “wall” people talked about was really just a myth… but then at Day 9, he was doing shoulder presses at the gym and he couldn’t squeeze out those extra few reps. (By the way, Chaz deadlifts 630 lb, benches 400, and squats 450+lb.)

But for the first time he couldn’t explain what happened at the gym—why he couldn’t get in those extra reps.

Well, it was because he hit the “wall,” which is really just this brief period wherein your body is making the switch from using your glycogen stores for energy to burning ketones (fat). It can last a day or two before you’re in full ketosis.

Chaz was eating things like a pre-workout meal of grass-fed butter, magnesium, and sodium. It was a different type of energy than he was used to, but once he found a rhythm he noticed that his energy levels didn’t fluctuate—he was able to manage his energy levels and his body composition at the same time simply by changing what he ate.

The not-so-weird thing is that his personality also changed—he came over to my place and I was like, “Who is this guy?”

There’s a level-headedness that comes with removing carbs and simple sugars from your life—which is why people with ADHD and ADD are often on a restricted diet… to help them focus better.

“The process was extremely difficult and stressful,” says Chaz.

There wasn’t much precedent, as very few had used a ketogenic approach to bodybuilding. Chaz was blazing a trail.

At this point, Chaz was working out twice a day, had hired a guy to help him work on his poses, and was trying to get a tan… all for the competition.

He says he had a lot of thoughts like, “This isn’t going to work.” But, he hates to quit anything he starts, so he just went for it.

His determination paid off—he placed in his first ever body building show! Chaz started at a svelte 12% body fat—and competed at a seriously lean and mean 3% body fat.

Now, I’m usually around 10 – 12%, or maybe down to 8% if I’m trying. Chaz at 12% already had incredible muscles, so he was trying to manipulate his mass not just for strength, but also for beauty.

He got down to 6% in just a few weeks… but then he went into a 2 – 3 week lull where nothing was really moving. So, he switched it up. He started utilizing sweet potatoes to store glucose in his muscles, which makes muscles really bulge.

While on a ketogenic diet, he added 350-400 grams of carbohydrates in the form of sweet potatoes to his diet—and within a day, he felt like his muscles were going to explode right out of his skin.

Adding the sweet potatoes worked to pull water out of the body and skin and into the muscles, and his body was super-receptive while on the keto diet.

At this point, Chaz started questioning the sanity of this experiment… at under 3% body fat, you die. But, Chaz wasn’t going to quit, even though he took on this stunt as sort of a superficial pursuit. Even though he started feeling his energy stores depleting.

Chaz weighed 216 pounds when he started the experiment, and got down to 179 pounds for the competition just 14 weeks later. It would be illegal to put those kinds of results on a product label. This is such a testament to what a body is capable of doing.

What Now? How Do You Apply Keto To Real Life?

“Now,” says Chaz, “I practice carb backloading and timing nutrients.”

He might eat his first meal at noon, relying on intermittent fasting and coffee to power him through the day. Or, he might have a bowl of meat and veggies at lunch time. It’s easy to follow, you can even just have a burger with no bun.

Then, he doesn’t eat his main meal until after he’s worked out fasted. Men produce the most testosterone and human growth hormone in the late afternoon, about 4pm – 7pm, so that’s the best time to kick it at the gym. Then, you want to have your feast later in the evening. Doing this, he finds it so easy to gain mass in a lean manner when he wants.

Chaz claims that intermittent fasting and nutrient timing makes sense in his highly scheduled world. He doesn’t have time to eat 5 – 6 small meals a day out of Tupperware containers. This method allows him to be serious about both fitness and everything else in his life, including his work.

“It’s got to save me 10 – 15 hours a week,” he says of this way of eating. It’s simple and easy to stick to on a long term basis—as a lifestyle.

Because of the intermittent fasting and carb backloading, Chaz doesn’t have to take lunch breaks, doesn’t get distracted by hunger, and doesn’t experience energy lulls. This approach allows him to be quicker, more efficient, and more focused.

The Choice Not To Drink Alcohol

As someone who enjoys a glass of wine now and then, I asked Chaz why he’s chosen not to drink at all.

“Not drinking allows my body to work as efficiently as I feed it,” he says.

He doesn’t have to worry about three days of recovery after a night out drinking. Plus, “It saves a ton of money.”

He says he can smell the alcohol sweating off the guys at the gym after they’ve been drinking, and all the pros know that drinking just slows them down.

A lot of runners drink a ton of beers after a long run, and it’s just really not a good idea. Never-mind the carbs, the alcohol just doesn’t do good things for the body—and you’ll notice maybe a 10-second slower pace the next day.

Plus, Chaz points out that alcohol taxes the liver… and the health of our blood has so many ramifications on how we look and feel.

So many people sort of pressure themselves into drinking in social situations because they feel out of place, but really, people don’t care if you drink or not.

If asked, Chaz just tells people it’s a health choice—which opens up a good conversation, usually.

Tips For Starting A Ketogenic Diet

Go through the process of allowing your body to become fat adapted. Get into ketosis, and once you’re there, utilize carb backloading and intermittent fasting. Then, find a pragmatic approach that fits into your lifestyle utilizing these techniques.

Where to Find Chaz

You can find Chaz Branham at or at If you’d like to reach Chaz, you can tweet @ChazBranham or if you Google his name, you can find nice pics of him in a speedo. 😉


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