Updated: Sep 21, 2018
Did you know that if you don't consume 46.8g of protein within 3 mins of putting your last weight down you will lose 50% of your gains? Or did you know that you eat carbohydrates at night they will be stored as fat because you're not moving around?
I'm only joking I think it's essential that you understand that while nutrient timing can affect intra-training energy and help blunt catabolism post training that this section just really makes up a tiny portion of your results. While messing up your calorie balance can make or break a dieting strategy and having messed up macronutrient rations can hinder your rate of progress deviating from nutrient timing will only affect you a small amount in fact for the majority of the people I work with I'm not concerned at all with nutrient timing. So if your a competitive athlete or looking to get to extreme levels of muscle gain or fat loss then you probably don't need to worry so much about slamming that protein shake post training.
Before we merely discard nutrient timing its essential to remember that you can benefit it from it and if your trying to push your body to its limit then the 1-2% improvements might just be the difference from being 1st or missing the podium altogether.
This brings me to a story that occurred all too often. Yo Jordan can you help me with my diet I just can seem to gain any muscle size I have protein shakes with creatine and a banana after every training session..........Ok cool, what are your eating for the rest of the day?..........................mmmmmmmmmm, sometimes I have cereal for breakfast then lunch is a sandwich if I have time. Let me stop you there your wondering why you can't gain are more muscular size when you only eat lunch in you have time. Face.palm.Repeat.
So what exactly is Nutrient timing?
Nutrient timing is when nutrients are taken explicitly in/consumed at certain points of the day. We can split nutrient timing into A. Meal Frequency B. Intake concerning the timing of activity. So let's look at meal frequency first what are the potential benefits if any. Is it better to meal 1 or 6 meals a day? And then move on to intake timing concerning the activity.
To be truly accurate, we must look at each macronutrient individually.
So Protein first, the body can store fat in adipose tissue and carbohydrates in the liver and muscle glycogen. But it cannot store excess protein. Muscles grow and shrink in continual slow curves depending on which side of the calories balance equation you fall most often. Muscles require amino acids to build and repair its components, and because we cannot store our excess amino acids to supply them in times of no food intake, our body will burn other muscle tissue to provide muscles in need with the amino acids required. This is obviously not great if maximum muscle mass or retention is the goal! So it would be logical to then think about meal frequency and supplying amino acids systematically throughout the day via ingestion. Now you could get really into protein absorption rates, but then I feel you'd be all to caught up in the small stuff which honestly causes far more confusion and stress than is necessary. To support continual levels of amino acids in the blood, having meals containing protein separated relatively evenly throughout the day should suffice.
Protein and timing to activity.
I might be time to stop worrying about that post-training shake because protein timing in regards to activity does not carry so the same impact as regular digestion. Having Amino acids in the blood during hard training can help with preventing muscle catabolism, but if your meal frequency is relatively consistent, then you should already have some amino acids circulating in the blood anyway. So yeah you could implement eating protein around your training sessions, but this would only be useful if you're not eating at regular intervals. So what about the post-training shake the staple nutritional advice of the personal trainer you know you need to make sure you consume protein immediately after training to ensure maximum gains. Well, muscle growth occurs in the days after training, not the 3hr's post-training, so that brings me back to the original point if your consuming protein at all meals and your regular eating meals then you should have your protein requirements covered.
Meal frequency regarding carbohydrates is much less essential than amino acids, and I would only worry about this at very high levels of carbohydrate intake. This is because it becomes very impractical to and also very difficult to absorb vast amounts of glycogen feedings. I know very few people who consume this much carbohydrates per meal to cause a problem.
this brings us to Nutrient timing of carbohydrate.
This is much more important than meal frequency. The pre-training meal has several essential functions that can contribute to body composition and performance. Consuming carbohydrates pre-training helps keep glycogen stores topped up while supplying blood glucose for muscle contraction as well as nervous system activity. It also has significant muscle sparing effect it does this by saving amino acids from being used as an energy source via the process known as gluconeogenesis ( bet you had to say that twice ). Without getting into to it too much, gluconeogenesis is the metabolic pathway that results in the generation of glucose from non-carbohydrate sources.
Let me just break the fourth wall for a minute - Now you know what gluconeogenesis is it seems kinda funny that people specifically remove carbohydrates from their diet only for their body to create glucose from non-glucose sources. Human body - Moves Queen to C6, check mate.
Intra-Training consumption effects are similar to pre with regards to keeping blood glucose levels topped up helping to stall CNS fatigue. Intra is more important for endurance athletes and keeping energy levels high.
Post Training again helps to ward off catabolism by being muscle sparing, also replenishes glycogen stores which can become depleted with very high volumes of training. High GI carbs consumed post training will spike insulin levels which will shuttle nutrients to the muscles for repair. So it's quite evident that consuming carbohydrates around training can be beneficial. Personally, I prefer to make sure I eat the most substantial portion of carbohydrates pre-training with moderate amounts after and the rest of my daily allowance balanced between the remaining meals.
The only concern with fat timing is that fat slows the digestion of proteins and carbohydrates. So limiting consumption in pre and post-training meals might be wise to allow more rapid absorption of protein and carbs to get amino acids and glucose into the bloodstream. But it actually might offer some advantages in other meals, slowing the digestion of protein can mean that amino acids are released into the bloodstream for prolonged periods of time between meals because the fat slows down the absorption of protein.
This section has a much smaller effect on body composition than calories or macros, but there maybe be a little performance gain to structuring the timing of the different nutrients. What I'd personally only worry about this is your a competitive athlete, looking to be extremely lean or reaching your maximum muscle potential.