Should We Be Eating Our Carbs at Dinner? A Recent Study Seems to Suggest Just That, But Close Analysis Reveals: Balanced Meals Increase Fat Loss, Esp. from the Trunk

Time for carbs, or time for protein? Not really a useful question, as a closer analysis of a recent study shows.

Members of the ISSN Facebook group may already have read my comments on a recent study from the Federal University of Vicosa in Brazil (Alves. 2014). For someone like Lawerence who posted a link to the study in said Facebook group and who doesn’t have access to the full-text article, the study apparently suggests that you “should be eating your carbs at dinner” (see his comment).

Why? Well, the conclusion of the study, which investigated the effects of macronutrient timing on on body weight and composition, energy metabolism, and biochemical markers in overweight/obese men, speaks of increased dietary thermogenesis of eating carbs at night and a negative impact of eating protein mostly at dinner and carbohydrates at lunch on glucose management.

Learn if meal frequency matters more than composition, right here at the SuppVersity

Grazin’ Bad For the Obese!

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Frequent Protein Consumption

Myth: Few Meals More Bodyfat

8 Meals = Stable, But High Insulin

Int. Fasting & Exercise

What is actually interesting is not what happened, when the scientists messed with the diets of their 18-45 year-old subjects with body mass indexes ranging from chubby 26kg/m² to obese 35 kg/m² and stable weight (±3 kg) during the previous 3 months, though. What is interesting is what happened, when they were eating mixed meals like any sane individual that has not been infected by the Internet “macronutrient timing” virus.

Figure 1: Detailed breakdown of the macronutrient composition of lunch and dinner in the three intervention group; relative energy and total macronutrient content were identical (Alves. 2014)

While all diets contained the “exact” same amount of nutrients (18% of the calories from protein, 30% from fat and 52 % from carbohydrate; 1.2g/kg protein) and energy (10% below maintenance diet; ~250kcal energy deficit) the overview in Figure 1 tells you that the macronurients were distributed differently across a 24h period in the CONTROL, DCNP and DPNC groups. With carbohydrates mostly at lunch and protein mostly at night in the DCNP, and protein at lunch and carbohydrates at night in the DPCN group.

Don’t fall for what the abstract suggests

Now the initially mentioned conclusion in the abstract on pubmed and elsewhere suggests that it would be beneficial to postpone your carbohydrate intake to the evening hours. I mean, an increase in DIT (=dietary thermogenesis) sounds great and the absence of the nasty ups and downs of the glucose metabolism in the DPNC group certainly ain’t bad, either. So why shouldn’t we eat all our protein at lunch and the carbs at night?

Well, the reason is easy. The abstract does not mention the most important observation: The fact that the control diet was superior in the practically all relevant study outcomes. So, the increase in DIT as nice as it may sound – What is it worth, if it does not translate in increased fat loss?

Figure 2: Changes in body composition and glucose & lipid management (Alves. 2014)

If you take a look at the data in Figure 2, you will realize that the improvements dieters will usually look for, i.e. decreases in fat mass, and especially trunk fat, were (non-significantly) more pronounced in the control than in any of the two “nutrient timing” groups. In view of the fact that the same goes for the improvements in glucose and lipid management ain’t an argument in favor of “having all your carbs in the evening either – even if the only significant difference were for insulin and HOMA-IR (compared to the DCNP group).

Bottom line: As fancy as it may sound, the whole macronutrient timing shenanigan eventually doesn’t provide measurable advantages over the allegedly boring, but simple and effective consumption of balanced meals. When all is said and done, it’s rather quite the opposite.

The role of insulin as a metabolic Zeitgeber would be another argument against having all your carbs in the evening … well unless you are about to travel across time zones and want to avoid feeling jet lagged | learn more.

Nevertheless, if we take another look at the data, we will have to admit that there is one advantage to having all your protein in the evening: A reduced loss of lean mass (should remind you of having a slow digesting protein pre-bed | learn more).

Whether this ~1/2 lbs difference in lean mass loss is something that warrants a reduction in fat loss, messed up HBA1C and insulin levels and reduced improvements in lipid management is yet as questionable, as the the general notion that “we should be eating our carbs at dinner.” A hypothesis that seems all the more unlikely in view of the recently elucidated role of insulin as a metabolic clock zeitgeber that would suggest to eat carbs in the morning | Comment on Facebook.


  • Alves, Raquel Duarte Moreira, et al. “Eating carbohydrate mostly at lunch and protein mostly at dinner within a covert hypocaloric diet influences morning glucose homeostasis in overweight/obese men.” European journal of nutrition 53.1 (2014): 49-60.

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Less Frequent Large(r) Meals & Caffeine – Proven Ways to Increase Your Energy Expenditure & Conserve Your Resting Metabolic Rate While Dieting | Part I of A Multipart Series

Whether you want to lose or gain weight, never forget to “Eat to live!”

To lose weight, you must create a negative energy balance.It is however unrealistic to expect your body not to do everything it can to conserve energy, when you’ve been eating 50% below maintenance for weeks (e.g. you need 2,000kcal, but eat only 1,000). Not to reduce your energy intake by more than 40% (for max. 2 weeks) and going with 20-25% if you plan to diet for 4-6 weeks would thus qualify as rule #1; a rule of which I can only say that I highly recommend you stick to it, because if you don’t even the five tips below are not going to save your metabolism from crashing (learn more about the nine rules that can help avoiding metabolic shut-down).

There is evidence of effects of coffee & CGA on your gut microbiome (Jaquet. 2009)

Fiber for Female Fat Loss

Sweeteners & Your Gut

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Lactulose For Gut & Health

Probiotics Don’t Cut Body Fat

The Macrobiotic MaPi2.0 Diet

Ah, and before I forget to mention it. If you don’t control your dietary energy intake, chances that any of the following tricks (in that case magically) help you lose weight without the need to diet are anywhere between “slim” and “zero”.

  • Eat large meals less frequently: It may go against the longstanding recommendation, but due to the fact that meal size, not macro composition is the main determinant of the post-meal increase in thermogenic effect.
    Figure 1: Increase in metabolic rate above basal metabolic rate (BMR) (kJ/min) after ingestion of
    four different test meals by human subjects (Kinabo. 1999)

    And considering the fact that the latter lasts for 5h+ (see Figure 1) the idea that you have to eat a small meal every hour “to stoke the furnace” is fundamentally flawed. No wonder, people all over the world are successfully using weight by intermittent fasting.

Thermic effect of food (in kcal/3h), when it’s consumed at rest or after a workout in lean vs. obese (fat, not just heavy) subjects (Segal, 1985)

The thermic effect of food is reduced with obesity: A review of 49 pertinent studies by researchers from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center clearly indicates “the reduction of TEF in obesity is related to the degree of insulin resistance, which may be influenced by a low level of sympathetic activity.” (Jonee. 1997). A study by Segal et al. measured a difference of 42% at rest and 64% if the meal was consumed after a workout (see figure on the left). Accordingly those of you who are still carrying more than “some” extra weight should be careful not to overestimate the benefits of food induced increases in thermogenesis. Don’t misinterpret this as “you got to eat more often”, though! This could make things even worse.

  • You have to be careful, though, long arduous workouts during the fast or fasting for more than 12-16h could nullify the thermogenic benefit of being able to eat to satiety once or twice a day. And no! The Kinabo study is not a statistical outlier, it’s just like a study with almost identical results by Tai et al. (1991) real vs. broscience which dictates that you “got to stock the furnace” – a practice of which the latest controlled studies show that is has “no significant effect on 24-h fat oxidation, but may increase hunger and the desire to eat.” (Ohkawara. 2013)
  • Use 4mg/kg caffeine per day – You will certainly have expected to see caffeine on the list of agents that help. Unfortunately, caffeine is significantly more effective for lean vs. overweight individuals. In a study from the Institute of Physiology at the University of Lausanne, David Bracco and colleagues were able to show that the thermogenic effect of caffeine coffee (4mg/kg body weight) was 35.6% more pronounced in the lean vs. obese female subjects (Bracco. 1995) – similar results have been reported by Belza et al. (2007), Hollands et al. (1981) increases of 15% in the two hours after the ingestion of caffeinated vs. decaffeinated coffee.
    Figure 2: Relative increase in resting metabolic rate, energy expenditure during exercise and sleep in lean and obese women in response to the ingestion of 4mg/kg of caffeine (vs. placebo | Bracco. 2014)

    In addition to the overall effect size, the data in Figure 2 does also indicate that an “over night” effect, as well as the increase in energy expenditure during workouts were likewise only observed in the lean, not in the obese women (since the lack of thermogenesis has been associated with decreased insulin sensitivity using 300-500mg of alpha lipoic acid, as I have suggested in a recent article, may ameliorate the reduction in postprandial thermogenesis).

Remember not to go overboard on caffeine (here’s why): Stick to 600mg/day and take it in three to four doses of 200mg or 150mg respectively; and, if possible, get some of it from coffee, for the added benefits of chlorogenic acid & co (McCarty. 2005). In fact, a recent study from the Technische Universität Kaiserslautern shows that coffee consumption 250ml 3x per day (vs. decaffeinated coffee as placebo) will even induce body fat loss(es) in the absence of deliberate restrictions of food intake in 84 healthy subjects… and on top of it, the coffee consumption protected the study participants DNA (Bakuradze. 2014).
  • Now 4mg/kg may seem like quite a high dosage for some of you. In contrast to the usual SuppVersity mantra that “more won’t help more”, those 4mg caffeine per kg of body weight are yet well necessary. In a 1999 study from the University of Geneva, for example, the administration of only 50mg of caffeine had no effect on the resting energy expenditure of 10 healthy male volunteers (Dullo. 1999).

    Figure 3: Substrate utilization (mg/min) before (filled bars) and after (empty bars) the ingestion of a complex test meal with either coffee (4mg/kg caffeine) or decaffeinated coffee (Acheson. 1980).

    Furthermore, caffeine has also been shown to increase the thermic effects of a meal and to shift the fuel utilization towards fatty acids (Acheson. 1980; see Figure 3). The latter will not necessarily help you to burn more body fat, but it will spare liver and muscle glycogen, when you’re dieting and reduce the chances that your liver resorts to amino acids from your musculature to cover the glucose requirements of your body.

    In conjunction with the net increase in energy expenditure Dullo et al. quantify in the range of 150 kcal in lean volunteers and 79 kcal as a response to the bi-hourly consumption of 100mg of caffeine in the post-obese subjects, there is little doubt that

    “Caffeine at commonly consumed doses can have a significant influence on energy balance and may promote thermogenesis in the treatment of obesity.” (Dullo. 1989)

    Studies by Yoshida et al. support this notion and confirm that the addition of caffeine to the weight loss equation will be particularly effective in overweight individuals with reduced baseline metabolic rate (Yoshida. 1995) and more recent experimental data from the University of Maastricht confirms that high caffeine intakes are associated not just with increased weight loss through thermogenesis and fat oxidation, but also with reduced fat mass, and waist circumference in overweight and moderately obese subjects (Westerterp‐Plantenga. 2005).

Suggested: Many Small Meals Suck – Especially for Diabetics | more

You already knew those two? Well in that case you’ve probably been following my articles here at the SuppVersity for quite some time, now. I have, after all, written about caffeine, coffee, intermittent fasting and meal frequencies, before. And in case you didn’t find at least a couple of additional new figures, you haven’t seen before, I can comfort you: There will be follow ups in the course of the next weeks.

It would thus be a stroke of bad luck if you didn’t find at least one new agent or trick in one of the next installments of this series or spend your time commenting on Facebook!


  • Acheson, K. J., et al. “Caffeine and coffee: their influence on metabolic rate and substrate utilization in normal weight and obese individuals.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 33.5 (1980): 989-997.
  • Bracco, David, et al. “Effects of caffeine on energy metabolism, heart rate, and methylxanthine metabolism in lean and obese women.” American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism 32.4 (1995): E671. 
  • Dulloo, A. G., et al. “Normal caffeine consumption: influence on thermogenesis and daily energy expenditure in lean and postobese human volunteers.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 49.1 (1989): 44-50.
  • Dulloo, Abdul G., et al. “Efficacy of a green tea extract rich in catechin polyphenols and caffeine in increasing 24-h energy expenditure and fat oxidation in humans.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 70.6 (1999): 1040-1045.
  • Hollands, Marjorie A., J. R. Arch, and M. A. Cawthorne. “A simple apparatus for comparative measurements of energy expenditure in human subjects: the thermic effect of caffeine.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 34.10 (1981): 2291-2294.
  • Jonee, Lilian, and George A. Bray. “The thermic effect of food and obesity: a critical review.” Obesity research 5.6 (1997): 622-631.
  • Kinabo, J. L., and J. V. G. A. Durnin. “Thermic effect of food in man: effect of meal composition, and energy content.” British Journal of Nutrition 64.01 (1990): 37-44. Segal, Karen R., et al. “Thermic effect of food at rest, during exercise, and after exercise in lean and obese men of similar body weight.” Journal of Clinical Investigation 76.3 (1985): 1107.
  • McCarty, Mark F. “A chlorogenic acid-induced increase in GLP-1 production may mediate the impact of heavy coffee consumption on diabetes risk.” Medical hypotheses 64.4 (2005): 848-853.
  • Ohkawara, Kazunori, et al. “Effects of increased meal frequency on fat oxidation and perceived hunger.” Obesity 21.2 (2013): 336-343.
  • Segal, Karen R., et al. “Thermic effect of food at rest, during exercise, and after exercise in lean and obese men of similar body weight.” Journal of Clinical Investigation 76.3 (1985): 1107.
  • Tai, Mary M., Peter Castillo, and F. Xavier Pi-Sunyer. “Meal size and frequency: effect on the thermic effect of food.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 54.5 (1991): 783-787. 
  • Westerterp‐Plantenga, Margriet S., Manuela PGM Lejeune, and Eva MR Kovacs. “Body weight loss and weight maintenance in relation to habitual caffeine intake and green tea supplementation.” Obesity research 13.7 (2005): 1195-1204.
  • Yoshida, T., et al. “Relationship between basal metabolic rate, thermogenic response to caffeine, and body weight loss following combined low calorie and exercise treatment in obese women.” International journal of obesity and related metabolic disorders: journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity 18.5 (1994): 345-350.

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    How To LOSE BELLY FAT In 1 QUICK Workout! (20-Minute Fat Loss Workout)

    Ready to learn how to lose belly fat in less than 20 minutes? This workout is very quick, but intense! You’ll have a lean midsection in no time after following this workout.

    We’re going to be doing a staircase workout at the Wentworth Stairs in Hamilton, Ontario. You can do this workout on any staircase, or even a stair climber.

    Here is the warm-up:

    -Leg Swings (Front to back)
    -High Knees
    -Step Overs (to the side)

    Here is the main fat loss workout:

    5 rounds of 45 second sprints up the stairs. These are ALL OUT sprints. Do not pace yourself.

    3-4 minutes rest between sets.


    Make sure you subscribe if you haven’t already so you don’t miss out on the next Muscle Camp episode! Click here to subscribe:;

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    30 Minutes of Hydraulic Resistance Training for Max. Energy Expenditure: 30% More Energy Demanding Than Weights, 25% More Than Running. But is it Also Anabolic?

    The Surge Performance Training HRS equipment is fancy and the training obviously intense, but will it trigger the adaptations you are looking for?

    Before I even start discussing the results of a soon-to-be-published paper from the MusclePharm Sports Science Institute (Falcone. 2014) I want you to be clear that the amount of energy you burn per hour is not what I suggest as the main criteria to select your exercises.

    In view of the fact that calories do count, when it comes to burning body fat, it’s still worth taking a closer look at what Paul H. Falcone and his colleagues did. Why? Well, first of all they confirm that doing a single session of resistance, aerobic, and combined exercise can burn the same amount of energy, when they’re performed with sufficient intensity.

    You could also make HRS a part of your periodization program!

    30% More on the Big Three: Squat, DL, BP!

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    Now this alone would not necessary warrant talking about it in a SuppVersity post. And yes, it was not the comparison of a resistance training at 75% of the repetition maximum (1RM) of the nine recreationally active men (25 ± 7 years; 181.6 ± 7.6 cm; 86.6 ± 7.5 kg) who participated in the study, an endurance cycling session that was performed at 70% maximum heart rate (maxHR) and an endurance treadmill session at 70% maxHR.

    “HRS training? Never heard of it!?”

    What really intrigued me was something the scientists describe as a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) session on a hydraulic resistance system (HRS) that included repeating intervals of 20 seconds at maximum effort followed by 40 seconds of rest.

    Figure 1: Average caloric expenditure (kcal/h) in the four trials (Falcone. 2014)

    The scientists hypothesized that caloric expenditure, heart rate, and RPE will significantly increase when using the hydraulic system, compared to typical training protocols such as running, biking or lifting weights for a similar amount of time because of the increased intensity.

    And in fact, the data in Figure 1 confirms: The caloric expenditure was significantly (p < 0.05) greater when exercising with the HRS (12.62 kcal/min ± 2.36), compared to weights (8.83 kcal/min ± 1.55), treadmill (9.48 kcal/min ± 1.30) and cycling (9.23 kcal/min ±1.25).

    With HRS it’s one machine for all body parts. Take a look at the training video to get a better understanding of how this thing works | watch video!

    So what exactly is HRS? Hydraulic exercise resistance is a different form of resistance that uses hydraulic pistons to provide resistance (instead of weight). If you take a look at the video on the left, you will soon realize that the whole thing looks more like a cardio-machine than a chest press, butterfly machine or what not. Still, with a little creativity you can do many of the things you would usually do in the gym on hydraulic resistance training equipment, as well.

    In that, the resistance is created by how (hard or fast) you either (push or pull) the exercise arms which controls oil flow through dual fluid cylinders. In other words: The harder you push the more the resistance increases.

    Before we try to interpret this results it may be a good idea to take a closer look at what exactly the subjects had to do in the study:

    • The aerobic exercises were performed on a treadmill (Woodway Desmo, Waukesha, WI) and cycle ergometer (Nordic Track, Logan, UT) for 30 minutes at 70% maximum heart rate as determined by the equation 220-Age Moderate as described by ACSM).

      Throughout the treadmill session, HR was consistently monitored and treadmill velocity was adjusted accordingly if the subject’s heart rate was+/- 10 beats per minute.

    • Suggested read: Do we underestimate the ener- gy expenditure during lifting? Learn more!

      The protocol for the hydraulic resistance system HRS (Surge Performance Training, Austin, TX) was a standard HIIT regimen provided by the device company involving 8 exercises (Chest Press-Push/Pull, Circles inside, Circles outside, 360 Twist, Two-handed Fly’s, Bent over Shoulder Press/Pull, Torso Rotation, Power X) at 4 sets each.

      Each exercise was performed for 20 seconds with 40 seconds of rest, thereby resulting in 32 exercises performed for a total of 32 minutes.

    • The resistance training consisted of 6 exercises – squat, chest press, leg extension, shoulder press, leg curl, seated row – at 3 sets of 10 repetitions each at 75% 1RM (Vigorous as described by ACSM).

      Rest periods between sets lasted for 60 seconds, resulting in a total time of approximately 30 minutes. Subjects were maximally encouraged verbally by a researcher throughout each exercise, ensuring consistency.

    If you compare the classic to the HRS training routine, you will realize that the comparison of circle to traditional training is not exactly fair. We know from previous studies that the fast-paced switch between exercises will increase the energy expenditure over the comparatively “lazy” classic resistance training protocols (Wilmore. 1977; DeGroot. 1998; Haltom. 1999). And still, a 30.1% difference in energy expenditure is pretty significant and probably not just due to the decreased rest times between the exercise.

    What are the practical implications, then?

    If you re-read the information on HRS training, you will realize that the biomechanics of classic and hydraulic resistance training are very different. With the former, the resistance decreases at the very moment the weight starts moving, with the latter, it increases – a difference of which the authors believe that it has implications for both, average and extraordinary gymrats:

    Figure 2: As a SuppVersity reader you’re well aware that you must not misinterpret the high fatty acid oxidation during treadmill running as evidence of increased fat loss (Falcone. 2014)
    • For untrained men who want to improve their health and/or body composition, the HRS provides a workout that combines the benefits of aerobic and resistance training. An individual can burn more calories performing HRS compared to other typical exercise modalities and intensities. Also, individuals can effectively burn calories performing a typical weightlifting protocol. Finally, if burning fat is desired during exercise, running on the treadmill appears to be a better option than cycling at the same intensity or lifting weights or performing hydraulic-based HIIT training.
    • For professional athletes, the maintenance of muscle mass is important as the season progresses, though training in-season is difficult due to time and energy constraints. The HRS could be used in place of 30 minutes of aerobic training which would give the athlete additional resistance training. Since the HRS involves only concentric motion, recovery may be faster due to less muscle damage, which would also be helpful for in-season training. Also, perhaps resistance training could replace some aerobic training, if the purpose is for maintenance of body composition since the caloric expenditures were similar.

    Needless to say that especially assumption II requires future research to compare the training methods and durations used in the current investigation over multiple weeks of regular training to determine their impact on strength, athletic performance, and body composition. Overtraining and different effects on protein synthesis and the neural adaptations, for example, may render the HRS protocol useless, or more powerful than classic training – without monitoring these effects in a long(er) term study, we can only speculate what’s going to happen if you, Mr Olympia or whoever else switches from classic weight + machine based resistance training to using HRS machines.

    If you look at the rater of perceived exertion, it’ll be obvious that overtraining could become an issue with HRS (Falcone. 2014)

    Bottom Line: Due to the short study duration and the questionable usefulness of comparing the energy expenditure in 30 minutes workouts, the study at hand must be taken as a reminder that there are more than just two ways to train; and that we should remain open minded towards new ways to train and other forms of resistance training – not to be able to spend more energy in the gym, obviously.

    Rather to find new ways of changing it up, of periodizing our training differently and of making faster progress towards our individual training goals by combining classic and innovative forms of working out.

    Chances that the current HRS gear as it is built by Surge Perfomance will yield superior hypertrophy results compared to a classic resistance training are yet in my humble opinion slim – the biomechanics of the machines simply do not look as if if they were build to trigger strength increases (see for yourselves). As an option to increase your fitness an get ripped and thus as an adjunct to your regular strength training routine and replacement for HIIT or steady state cardio, on the other hand, it looks promising | Comment on Facebook!


    • DeGroot, David W., et al. “Circuit weight training in cardiac patients: determining optimal workloads for safety and energy expenditure.” Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and Prevention 18.2 (1998): 145-152.
    • Falcone et al. “Caloric Expenditure Of Aerobic, Resistance Or Combined High-Intensity Interval Training Using A Hydraulic Resistance System In Healthy Men.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (2014). Publish Ahead of Print DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000661.
    • Haltom, Ronald W., et al. “Circuit weight training and its effects on excess postexercise oxygen consumption.” Medicine and science in sports and exercise 31.11 (1999): 1613-1618.
    • Wilmore, Jack H., et al. “Energy cost of circuit weight training.” Medicine and science in sports 10.2 (1977): 75-78.

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    5 Muscle-Building Tips To Eliminate Training Plateaus

    Running out of gas and not quite at your destination? Fear not. Add fuel to your training fire with these five tried-and-true lifting techniques from the Muscle Militia!

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    Ashley Hoffmann’s Abs Workout: 6 Tips For Awesome Abs!

    Ashley Hoffmann is the proud owner of great-looking six-pack. Here are six of her training and nutrition tips to help you carve your own awesome abdominals!

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    LaRon Landry’s Workouts And Favorite Exercises

    To perform as a Pro Bowl safety, LaRon Landry lifts hard and heavy in the gym. Check out his favorite exercises and workouts!

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