Nutrient timing, sounds a little complicated right? Well really it is quite simple, it is how you break down your macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fats) throughout the day in order to get optimal results. This is a topic I get asked about quite often and there are endless suggestions on when to eat your food. And to make matters more confusing there are many suggestions on which foods to eat at certain times to maximise your fat loss. So let me break it down for you.
I think the biggest misconception is that nutrient timing of food is something that only body builders do, or should do. But ladies (and gents reading this) what nutrient timing really refers to is how you fuel your body. Have you ever tried to do a workout on an empty stomach? (I know we have probably all been there). How did you feel? Did you feel that you were bursting with energy or did you feel a little less strong and lacking your usual energy? Well, nutrient timing plays a big role in how well you perform during your workout as well as how well you recover afterwards.
If you have been following me for a while then you know that I have talked about 3 main macronutrients, namely protein, carbohydrates, and fats. These all play a role in your overall bodily functions and your overall results. Now I just want to clarify, that in order to reach your desired goals, what absolutely matters the most is that you hit your overall caloric intake for the day. So if you stuff up your nutrient timing that I am about to go through, do NOT freak out, it is absolutely ok. However if you aim for these nutrient timing recommendations you may just simply take your performance in the gym and your results to the next level.
Protein is the building block of your entire body and is probably your most important macronutrient in my opinion. It will not only ensure you are getting adequate tissue repair and development but it keeps you feeling fuller for longer throughout the day. Protein frequency is actually quite an important factor when it comes to body composition. MPS (muscle protein synthesis) is the process of building up new proteins within the muscle cell.
Ladies yes I said “building muscle”, but I do not want you to be afraid of this term. It simply refers to your muscle repair, tone, and definition. In order for MPS to occur, protein levels must be kept high and frequent. This is one macronutrient that you should not “bank up” or “save” for later. Protein is something that should be spread out relatively evenly over your meals throughout the day for optimal results.
Research has shown that a minimum of 4 protein “hits” or meals comprised of approximately 25-40g protein per meal or a protein hit every 4-6 hours is optimal. This will not only ensure your body is repairing all day but will also help you feel fuller for longer.
At the end of the day in order to get your desired results what matters is that you hit your required carbohydrate intake for the day. So can you see a trend starting to form here? What is the most important thing? You guessed it, hitting your overall caloric intake for the day. However, when it comes to training performance and recovery carbohydrate timing can give you that little bit of edge that you may be looking for.
Structuring a larger portion of your daily carbohydrate intake (alongside a protein) pre-workout can give you the extra energy you need in the gym to really go hard and get the most out of your workout.
After a hard workout you need fuel again for your body to recover. This is where another dose of a high carbohydrate intake (again with some protein) can help replenish the fuel you just burnt and kick-start the recovery process. The remaining carbohydrates are then spread out relatively evenly across meals throughout the day and can be placed wherever you feel you need them.
The timing of fats is really quite simple. Just keep fats as low as possible before and after a workout. Why? This is because fat slows down the digestion process. Around your workout time, you want your nutrients to be absorbed at a faster rate in order to get into the muscle quicker for fuel and recovery. If fats are too high then this can slow down that process.
I like to keep fats under 10 grams in both pre- and post-workout meals or just as low as possible. If you have a higher fat intake around this time it will NOT hurt your workout or recovery as long as you hit your overall daily intake.
At the end of the day, personal preference needs to come into play. After all, it is your diet and you need to be able to stick to your macronutrient intake and enjoy the foods you love the most. The frequency of protein based meals is completely up to you. You may opt for 6 protein based meals per day or as little as 4, which is absolutely fine.
If you have a higher protein intake you may wish to spread them out more simply to allow your body to digest the food easier, or you may wish feeling more satisfied with larger meals. When talking about carbohydrates and fats, nutrient timing pre- and post-workout is just a recommendation. What matters most is how an individual may feel. If you feel too bloated or uncomfortable consuming such a large amount of carbohydrates in one sitting then you may choose to spread them out a little more over the day. Or, if you train earlier in the day you may wish to save some carbs for the evening if you know this will help you sleep better and reduce cravings.
Nutrient timing can absolutely help you achieve your overall results, however, it is not gospel just as missing your nutrient timing will not hinder your results either. It is a trial and error process that is about finding what works well for you and your lifestyle.
Note** these are just recommendations and are not the ONLY way to split up your nutrient intake for the day.