Carb Back Loading for Crossfit and Paleo

Sweet PotatoesCarb back loading is probably the best version of what I refer to as a metabolically favorable way of eating.  The focus of this style of eating is not to create a deficit at all, it is to get your metabolism humming along like a Ferrari so when you enter your Crossfit gym you are ready to perform.  The points where I disagree with Kiefer are not significant but I think it should be brought up.  The fact of the matter is simple, if you are looking for the absolute best book to understand what goes on in your body and WHY this book does that better than any I have seen.  If I find a better one, I will put that one in the sidebar but, for now, this is the holy grail for a high functioning metabolism that allows you to burn fat.  The book is expensive, is it worth the money? I think it is.  Much of what I talk about on my blog and the associated Facebook page covers topics in the book.  The book however does a good job as a “one stop place” for an approach to eating with the scientific references to back it up.

Carb Back Loading is $53 dollars, when you consider all of the $109 nanos, $139 OLY shoes and the list goes on none of those will help your understanding of how your nutrition self and athletic self work together quite the way CBL will.

To Download your version of Carb Back Loading click here

This blog exists to help people understand their health and performance.  It is a business and as such I sell things.  I only sell things I use and I only promote products I believe in.  If you like this blog and you like my content and are considering buying this book I would ask you to use this link.

Can you do this Paleo?

Absolutely you can and it probably best describes how I eat.  I rely mostly on sweet potatoes for my carbs and occasionally white rice (many Paleo authors are starting to include white rice in their “safe to eat” foods for athletes).  My coconut milk smoothies are a perfect addition to the fat back load which is used in conjunction with carbs to get a better response before bed.

Cherry pineapple and Banana Chocolate Hazelnut smoothies

Some minor points of differences

Kiefer suggests A LOT of supplements in the book.  I wouldn’t necessarily say I disagree with his recommendations as much as I would say they aren’t necessary for all populations.  If you are eating a diet of mostly whole foods with adequate protein you have it mostly right.

Is this THE way of eating?

I think if you asked him John would describe this style of eating as the best strategy he has come up with for extreme athletic performance.  BUT IT IS JUST A STRATEGY.  It is not THE way, you could certainly take the concepts in the book and put the pieces together for an optimal way of eating designed for you.  As someone who coaches people on their diets there a lot of one off’s that you need to account for.

Even though people spend 100′s of dollars on personal trainers and Crossfit memberships they are often reluctant to spend the money for a book like this.  That is a mistake.  Even if you never carb back load you will learn infinite strategies related to how to eat to perform (catchy right).

Carb Nite Solution

The other book offered is called Carb Nite Solution, that will appeal to many people who will see it as the holy grail of fat loss.  You won’t however see see a link or it in the sidebar of this site because Ketogenic Diets (even good ones like CNS) are a metabolic train wreck for Crossfitters, especially women who have a history of extreme dieting.

He doesn’t seem to like us Crossfitters

The original versions of Carb Back Loading  was for PowerLifters and Physique Competitors (you see them as the testimonials).  His criticisms of our approach to fitness is legit for optimizing squatting 1,000 pounds or even getting shredded down to 5%.  So if those are goals of yours then you should understand that Crossfit isn’t a good method for reaching those goals.  Crossfitters are attempting different goals.  Let me put it to you this way, if you want to become the best version of yourself this book will show you a great approach to get there.  I also believe that if you play with it a bit, Kiefer describes his approach as Legos, it might take a bit to figure it out completely.  Certainly if you have any questions on how you can adapt this approach to eating to Crossfit leave a message in the comments and I will attempt to help you.

What about all of the donuts and turnovers?

You’ll just have to get over that part.  Think about it, people want an approach to eating that allows them to perform athletically WHILE ALSO allowing them to make some poor choices.  Is the turnover and donut approach vastly superior to a more Paleo approach? I have tried it, it didn’t feel right.  FOR ME.  I am a 44 year old man but I wouldn’t recommend the turnovers and donut approach to most populations.  Do I realize that it might describe an approach to the way some people want to eat? I certainly do.  If you are doing the 80% version of Paleo or even the version that Dr. Cordain recommends in the Paleo Diet for Athletes this can be easily accomplished with carb back loading and just/almost as effective for optimizing Crossfit as the donut approach might be.  Any differences would be minimal and unless you are an elite athlete those differences likely won’t matter for you and your progress related to Crossfit.

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45 Responses to Carb Back Loading for Crossfit and Paleo

  1. Sean Bigley March 2, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

    Awesome read, thanks! I’m looking to change my diet up and love what you are sharing!

    • Paul Nobles March 6, 2013 at 1:12 am #

      no problem, glad to do it

  2. gaela March 4, 2013 at 2:52 am #

    thanks for everything you post. It’s been very interesting so far. everything I read states that you optimally want to work out in the evening for this approach to beneficial. I’m a morning crossfitter. I know I read that you are too. So are you finding this to be in any way a problem to your success? I’m taking it to be skip breakfast, eat lunch of fat & protein, then dinner it up with some carbs, keeping eating window to 12-8ish?

    • Paul Nobles March 4, 2013 at 3:23 am #

      No, in the book Kiefer goes into this in detail but I had experience with this long before I ever heard of CBL. In fact I believe AM workouts to be a great fat burner. Basic protocol goes like this if you are looking to burn fat, fasted in the AM, fats and proteins, possible protein shake post workout depending on where you are in your journey. Fibrous veggies, fats and proteins throughout the day and that should set up for good “supercompensation” effect in the evening.

      • clspig25chris March 5, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

        THank you for your info and time. I’m do CrossFit on a team that went to the Games last year and looking to go again. How woukld you set this up for multiple WODs at regionals or the Games?

        Thank you ,

        • Paul Nobles March 5, 2013 at 4:09 pm #

          First thing I would do is set up a trial run weeks before the games. Rich’s video of just eating Peanut Butter and Jelly is pretty much exactly what I would prescribe. You could certainly paleo that though, something like Almond Butter microwaved or melted with bananas is probably the stand out winner. The reason you want fats with your carbs is to give a more stable blood sugar response. Also gatorade mixed with a scoop of maltodextrin for quick turnaround stuff, maybe have some sunflower seeds as you are drinking it but everyone is different. Some people could have a steak in that spot and still compete, that certainly wouldn’t be something I would suggest. Message me on facebook and I will give you guys my phone number and walk you through various options. Cherries and Blueberries for anti-oxidants and probably some BCAA’s throughout the day. I have a really good Creatine article coming out, you guys should be all over that.

          • clspig25 March 5, 2013 at 7:09 pm #

            Thank you!

  3. donovanconrad March 5, 2013 at 9:27 pm #

    What would you think about using maltodextrin (& maybe dextrose?) as the carb source if you didn’t have any real food sources on hand?

    • Paul Nobles March 6, 2013 at 1:10 am #

      I definitely use maltodextrin and it’s coming up in the bulking series. I prefer that with PM workouts, gatorade and a scoop of maltodextrin. I have dextrose but I rarely use it, it’s too sweet.

  4. Shelley Lowe March 8, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

    This is all very interesting. Most of my adult life, I am probably what most would consider a “yo-yo dieter”, trying every diet imaginable, which essentially has caused me to stay at the same weight and body fat percentage for many years. I have been crossfitting consistently now for over 5 months. I crossfit in the early morning five times a week, and my box encourages a Paleo-Zone lifestyle, which I have been following. However, not much has been happening with my percentage body fat – it is stagnant. I am relatively fit and my body appearance has changed, but I would really like to lower my body fat and get stronger and more ripped at the same time. Following the CBL approach would turn Zone eating upside down, but I am willing to try it if it would get me better results. However, I would still follow Paleo principles. Is it best for me to CBL the night before crossfitting? If so, on days prior to my rest days, should I return to the Zone approach? Thanks!

    • Paul Nobles March 9, 2013 at 9:42 am #

      Yes, CBL the night before. I am not a fan of the Zone because it’s a deficit diet and I don’t agree with that approach for Crossfitters (yes even the ones trying to lose fat, especially those folks). Zone is mostly lean meats with carbs and moderate fats. Basically that looks like this (protein=insulin higher, carbs=insulin higher so not enough fats to keep insulin under control so the only mechanism to do so is to eat less for most people). The Supercompensation effect you get from CBL is so good in combo with Crossfit and Paleo combined. It is a form of what I do and it couldn’t be easier.

      • Trinity March 17, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

        Thanks for all this information. This is my situation as well, and I’m glad to hear that AM CF can fit into the mix. I’m looking forward to trying this out after years of what I now see is deprivation (and a vicious cycle of deprive and binge).

  5. jspezzano March 10, 2013 at 12:17 am #

    Hi Paul!
    It seems like you are pretty responsive, so I would like to ask a few questions. I have been doing a lot of reading and research on CBL. I am a crossfitter, WODing 5x per week in the early morning (6 am) and running 1x per week doing HIIT. First a little background…

    I have been on every diet known to man but I had finally found weight loss success on Ideal Protein (low carb, moderate protein, moderate fat). I have been maintaining my losses for 15 months. I am now looking to keep the weight off that I lost, but I want to lose fat and lean out. I can feel that I have decent muscles, thanks to CF, but they are hidden under fat. Because of Ideal Protein, I am familiar with being in ketosis and living low carb.

    I don’t want to gain any “weight”, but I want to shed fat. I haven’t had my BF tested in while, but it is probably around 24-25%, so I really want to get lean and lose the fat. I don’t necessarily want to lose any actual pounds, either. I am not sure if that makes sense.

    Anyway, considering my past and what my new goals are now that I lost the actual weight, do you think that CBL is something that would work for me? I have been struggling to find something that would help me get the body I want. I always thought it was about losing weight, but I lost weight and I still have a high BF %, so now my main focus is losing BF.

    Any advice, insight, help that you can offer would be greatly appreciated. Before I shell out the cash for CBL, I would love to have some feedback as to if it would be worth it for me and if I am someone it would work for. I am not interested in giving up CF to lift heavy. I love CF and it is the only thing I have found that really keeps me interested in working out. Thanks for any help you can offer!

    • Paul Nobles March 10, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

      One thing that needs to not get lost in this CBL conversation is that not only is there no magic to low carbing but it’s actually detrimental if done wrong. So in that sense CBL is not magic either. At some point I am going to write my metabolic flexibility book but as I have mentioned before CBL currently stands out as the next best option. My version won’t be as “sciency” as Kiefers. In fact it could really be described in one sentence. Keep calories high (near maintenance, you aren’t trying to lose weight, you are trying to lose fat, let your body do what evolution has taught it to do, you are not smarter than 2,000,000 years of trial and error), use carbs to keep metabolism functioning properly (the book goes into great deal about this) and the majority of what you eat should be fats and whole foods.

      My book won’t be better than CBL, it will be different and it may never happen.

      Lastly eating fats most of the time and using carbs to flush those fats allows constant flow between energy systems and that allows your body to be it’s best metabolic self. Think of all of the silly things that you have bought and I assure you CBL won’t be on that list once you are done.

  6. jspezzano March 10, 2013 at 12:21 am #

    Sorry- one more piece of info:

    I am currently maintaining my weight loss by eating almost the exact opposite of CBL. A typical day looks like this:

    6:00 am- WOD
    7:00 am- post workout protein shake
    9:00 am- 2 eggs, apple, almond nut butter
    12:00 pm- salad with veggies, chicken, italian dressing
    3:00 pm- Fruit smoothie with protein powder
    7:00 pm- lean protein with veggies

    • Paul Nobles March 10, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

      6:00 am- WOD
      this frees up fat acids

      7:00 am- post workout protein shake
      this raises insulin and shoves them back in, you drink protein shakes to maintain your muscle when your body views your muscle as fuel. That is normally 15% or below. Want to rid yourself of fat consider dropping this, it’s unnecessary and this advice might seem to contradict the info in CBL just know that I am right and Kiefer likely agrees with me.

      9:00 am- 2 eggs, apple, almond nut butter
      the apple keeps insulin high piggybacking off of the protein shake and combined with the butter you cooked your eggs in and the PUFA’s in the almond butter you are fighting a losing battle as it relates to freeing fatty acids.

      12:00 pm- salad with veggies, chicken, italian dressing
      kind of like it but chicken should be 85/15 grass fed ground beef or salmon, something with fat.

      3:00 pm- Fruit smoothie with protein powder
      insulin, insulin whatever fatty acids you possibly freed up during the day this hammered them back in

      7:00 pm- lean protein with veggies
      Your killing me brother;-) This deficit way of eating may have been beneficial but my guess is your other way of eating was simply worse. I actually like the lean meat here combined with a starch. I am guessing you are under eating by about 1000-1500 calories a day using the Oprah/Weight Watchers approach. How has that worked out for Oprah again?

      • darrell March 10, 2013 at 2:28 pm #

        Paul, very interested in how his daily meal plan should have looked with his WOD schedule. I just bought the book CBL and have just got into the first few pages. I am looking forward to reading the rest over the next few days. Thanks

        • Paul Nobles March 10, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

          did you send me your info? It would be a great question for the seminar.

  7. jspezzano March 10, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

    Lol! I told you that I was eating the opposite :) BTW- I’m female, not sure if I mentioned that before and not sure if it makes a difference.

    Yes, for sure under eating (as I am coming to see) but also terrified of packing on the pounds as I worked really hard to lose them (about 60#). I have been keeping them off with the eating plan described above, and yes, the way I was eating before that was way worse. At least now I am eating proteins and veggies :) However, now that I have physically lost the weight that was too much for my frame and am now a healthy weight, I want to change my body.

    I am not looking for magic, I know that it takes hard work and dedication to get what you want, but I know I am not doing the right things to get what I want. Which is to lose fat. That’s why I was interested in CBL, because it sounds like I could get the results I am looking for. Because before I stumbled onto CBL, I didn’t know what to do.

    I am off to buy the book. I am interested in reading more about it anyway, but based on what you are saying, I could use a little education on eating more to burn fat and that really is my “new goal”.

  8. jspezzano March 10, 2013 at 10:08 pm #

    I bought and read CBL cover to cover today. I am going to start the preparation phase tomorrow, which is basically the way I ate to lose weight. I definitely have more questions and will send my info to you for the q&a sessions.

    • Paul Nobles March 10, 2013 at 10:12 pm #

      I would seriously suggest to you that might not be necessary if you have been eating Paleo and it could cause more harm than good.

      • Chet March 11, 2013 at 5:47 pm #

        How should I CBL if I have to do my WOD around noon because of my work schedule. Thanks

        • Paul Nobles March 12, 2013 at 8:58 am #

          Somewhat depends on your level of lean. If you are low teens I suggest a shake to help retain and build muscle with no carbs in it. If you have some fat to lose just eat fats and proteins keeping carbs low until about 6 pm where you introduce the carbs.

  9. besty March 20, 2013 at 4:24 pm #

    i currently train with my WODs in the AM (7ish)and then i do a strength component workout in the early evening (5pm ish) ….

    current diet plan is fast in the morning with a post WOD shake consisting of Protein, maltodextrin, leicuine, glycine and glutamine….. i then graze on 3 litre box filled with protein, fats, veggies, salad and fruits throughout the day. i sometimes take a greens smoothie of veg and fruits with protein if im having a hard working day.
    generally have a post wod shake after my evening workout consisting of the same as the morning. i then eat again an hour later with steaks or fish etc + sweet potatoes and veggies. then around 10pm i knock up an omlette.

    this is how i currently eat…just through various reads and putting together what i feel i need to eat….is this roughly simalar to CBL?

    • Paul Nobles March 20, 2013 at 11:04 pm #

      Close, lose the fruits at lunch and you have it for the most part. There are some smaller details and tweaks covered in the book that can help you dial it in and we also post some stuff that might help down the road. MCT oil in your morning shake would help keep insulin from the protein under control. Good time for fish oil too.

  10. Jack Kelly March 21, 2013 at 6:52 pm #

    Hey Paul –

    Thanks for all the help on here. I’ve been playing with this for a few weeks and have a couple questions.

    1. Are you anti-dairy for CBL purposes? Before CBL I was pretty strict paleo, with the exception of full-fat greek yogurt in the AM with some berries. Strict paleo worked well for me for a couple of years but my strength gains really started to stall over the past six months.

    2. If I workout from 3-5; teach classes from 5-7 and usually eat dinner around 8, how would you structure the nighttime supercomp phase?

    Thanks so much!

    • Paul Nobles March 21, 2013 at 11:53 pm #

      I’m not anti-dairy (even though I personally have a dairy protein allergy). I am into full fat Fage which for some reason doesn’t mess me up. I would like to see maybe a carb protein drink like the sweet potato recovery fuel in between workouts and classes. That should be about perfect.

  11. seth March 22, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

    Hey Paul, great info here I have been CrossFitting for about 4 years I own and am head coach at an affiliate I will be turning 40 in december and I am looking at a run at the games in the new masters category and it’s looking pretty promising in reference to where my standings put me in the open this year against the young bucks. I have always struggled with diet planning just because of time constraints and how busy I get during the day I really like to keep things simple for myself and I eat a 85-90% paleo diet but I know I am not getting enough calories at times when I hit two-a-days or more sessions. I wanted the simple basic guideline is it just fats and protiens throughout the day carbs protein and fats post wod then hyglycemic carbs at night before bed?

    • Paul Nobles March 23, 2013 at 10:57 am #

      Firstly let me say that buying the book (hopefully using eat to perform links so I can talk to you in the seminars) should be really enlightening. You can put the puzzle pieces together yourself but that can get tricky in spots and the small details matter. I am going to start with your last part first, add fat to your backload before bed time.

      Ignore the fruity pebbles and ice cream part (unless that’s your thing)

      For two a days you simply need shakes and creatine. The shakes for quick absorbing food, one of the reason I worked out an arrangement with Simply Pure Nutrients is because they have MCT’s in their shake products. Fat in your shakes provides a more balanced “meal like” experience. The Creatine is muscle preserving.

      For two a days check out this article, I really think for lifting heavy you should take a look at Eustress rather than double WOD’ing with intensity.

      Does that help?

  12. Tracy April 2, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

    So if I did a 9am WOD and fasted until after the workout, would you recommend a protein shake and carb load after dinner or would I still carb load after the morning workout? I do this M-F so it would be every night with the exception of Friday and Saturday right? I do plan to purchase your book next week but wasn’t sure if this was covered in it!

    • Tracy April 2, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

      Protein shake immediately after morning workout and carb load at night was what I meant to say in the beginning.

    • Paul Nobles April 3, 2013 at 11:49 am #

      You definitely don’t want to take in a big load of carbs and probably shouldn’t at all opting for evening uptake. The protein has enough insulin to do the job without the carbs (unless it’s evening and it’s part of your back load). If you Crossfit M-F I would simply adjust carbs lower and not eliminate them, your activity level needs the energy.

      Yes, all of this is covered in the book and the Foundations PDF from the Science Lab (it’s like a manual from which we teach)

  13. Eloise Eaton April 5, 2013 at 1:05 am #

    I’m just dipping my toes into the backloading idea. I’ve been a “carbphobe” for over 2 years now. I’m now up to 85g of starch a day. This is a big deal for me!
    My question is actually about the amount of fat that is required. I have Fammillialhypercholesterolemia so currently eat very low fat. What is the minimum you believe I can get away with eating and where are my best sources?

    • Paul Nobles April 5, 2013 at 11:08 am #

      that really goes into the doctor realm of things and I try to stay out of that lane. Sorry but I don’t think I can answer that question.

  14. Brad April 5, 2013 at 1:44 am #

    Hi Paul,
    I have been crossfitting for 4 years and have been to regionals the last two years. I generally train 3 days on-1 off. Mostly in the AM. I use day 1 of training for Wendler with conditioning work, day 2 accessory work with light conditioning and day 3 for moderate oly lifts and met-con(under 10 minutes) then take a rest day. I am under 10% BF and have been looking at CBL to recover/perform better. I was >125g carbs for a long time and began to get run down. I have researching CBL and will be trying a tweaked version soon. My question is due to my BF level and high activity, how should my intake go throughout the day? I have also used Paleo for Athletes 5 Stage Plan
    My plan is
    0700- Coffee with MCT oil
    0800- Training
    1000- PWO Shake with SFH Protein shake with Maltodextrin and banana(Dr.Cordains Stage 3 concotion)
    After that Im confused what would be my best options. Should I do fat/protein for the rest of the day until evening and then go to high glycemic foods?
    Or should I have my next meal (lunch 1130-1200) with some high glycemic foods like Dr.Cordain uses in Paleo for Athletes? He suggest the PWO shake immediately after training then another carb meal inside that 90 minute window which seems to be exactly the opposite of CBL. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • Paul Nobles April 5, 2013 at 11:05 am #

      No offense to Dr. Cordain but I am not a fan of his protocol for athletes. I would probably tweak your shake to have a little fat to blunt the insulin. Then yes, fats and proteins but here is the big time different part. You almost certainly aren’t eating enough carbohydrate for your level of lean. You need to read CBL like yesterday and get into the science lab classes so I can get you set up.

  15. Meg April 5, 2013 at 2:05 am #

    Could you talk about fruits at some point? The way I interpret a lot of your stuff, I save my fruit eating for right before and right after my WODs, then a few at night. One of my CF coaches said I was eating a little bit too much and that if I eat it throughout the day, it causes an insulin spike throughout the day.

  16. Brad April 5, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

    Thanks Paul,
    I actually eat a pretty large amount of carbs after I workout. My problem is trying to figure out the best time for them. I make a ton of sweet potatoes and rice and then split it up between lunch and dinner which includes veggies and meat. I am also eating an apple and banana between those meals with at least 2 glasses of whole milk. Never really counted but I guess I figured I was in the 250-300g a day. Ill look into signing up for the science lab courses today. Thanks for all the info.

  17. Lisa April 5, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

    What are your thoughts on eating quinoa, farro, millet and flax? I’ve read good and bad things. I really enjoy your blog and thought you may have an opinion.

    • Paul Nobles April 6, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

      I don’t do it because white rice is superior for my goals. In general for starchy carb sources I want them low in fiber (I realize this is contrary to all the advice that skinny non-athletes give)

  18. Tony April 5, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

    Hi Paul,
    Not a crossfitter (sorry). I’m more of an endurance guy nowadays, with a twist. I was powerlifting and bodybuilding for many years (20). Back in the days it was all about carbs, protein shakes and I was stuck in that world due to the running and triathlons that I’m training for now.
    I was diagnosed w/ celiac. I started eating less carbs and I’m leaning towards a Paleo lifestyle.
    In addition to my endurance training I train with my sons and wife for Mud runs. Just did the Super Spartan in Feb. and Tough Mudder in May. I was totally and completely depleted and the Super Spartan. I mean cramping and felt like was going to passout. I need to make some changes in my eating habits.
    My training consists of running 4-5 day a week. Riding 3 days a week. And two ro three days a week of WOD style training with out weights. Pull-ups, burpees, squats, jump squats …….
    Do you think that the CBL work for me?

    • Paul Nobles April 6, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

      I think you do but when you read the book you will get a lot of conflicting messages. Kiefer goes a bit overboard in my opinion that CBL won’t work for people like you. What he really meant to say is you probably don’t need as many as he recommends.

      The other option is to just join the Science Lab

  19. laura April 5, 2013 at 8:06 pm #

    I just purchased the CBL book last nighy and literally read front to back! I am a 34-5’0″ female who has been crossfitting avidly for 3.5 years now. Struggled with weight loss my whole adult life. Starting a program with hcg about 5 yrs ago pre-crossfit and lost about 55lbs. Then came into crossfit. About a year after that i got pregnant with our 3rd kid and managed to gain a lot of weight back. I continued Crossfit thru entire pregnancy but still gained. Since then (18 months), I’ve struggled to loose all the weight. I am only down to 155# w 35% BF and have lost about 40lbs postpartum but tried to do it with very low calorie, some rounds of hcg’ along with cfing at least 5xs a week along with coaching CF. Obviously something is no t working and I’ve concluded its not eating enough along cf workouts. I’ve been a 80/20 way of eating, even somewhat cleaner then many of our boxes clients and just canmot get the fat off. CBL seems to be an ideal solution…HELP!!

    • Paul Nobles April 6, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

      definitely get your info to maggie and get in the science lab, even if you can’t make the seminars the private group is solid gold and chocked full of helpful info.

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