The first, and most basic rule, when beginning any fitness journey, is to monitor your calories in vs. calories out. This applies both to those looking to lose weight as well as those working to gain muscle. If your goal is to lose weight, you will want your calories in to be fewer than your calories out, meaning that you will need to burn more calories in a day than you are consuming. The opposite applies when your goal is to build muscle and gain some size.
If you are just starting out, and have not yet mastered this, we suggest getting this down before considering implementing meal/nutrient timing changes. A great place to start would be to check out this blog post on macronutrients, to help you learn how you should be fueling your body properly.
Now, if you are already following this basic rule, chances are you have already seen some major changes in your body composition, and maybe even your performance. That’s great and we congratulate you on the progress that you’ve made thus far! But if you are ready to take it one step farther and see your progress shoot through the roof, nutrient timing is a concept that can be implemented into your diet and training program for maximum results.
Let’s dive in.
What is Nutrient Timing?
Nutrient timing is a dietary method in which you plan your meals, and the content/nutrient makeup of those meals, around your daily activities. The three main macronutrients to manipulate are carbohydrates, protein, and fat, each offering different benefits at different times throughout the day.
Why is Nutrient Timing Important?
Nutrient timing is so important, especially for athletes, because some nutrients, carbohydrates specifically, are crucial for reaching peak performance during training sessions and on game day. So, it is vital to consume enough carbohydrates around these events. If your pre-workout meal is not fueling you properly, it will be harder for you to perform at your best.
How to Implement Nutrient Timing?
Nutrient timing is an easy concept to implement if you have a basic understanding of macronutrients and if you plan your meals in advance.
There are four major meal phases throughout the day that need to be considered.
It is first thing in the morning when you require enough energy to break the fast (from your sleep) and to provide you with energy for your day. This is an appropriate time to eat a carb-heavy meal. However, don’t neglect your other nutrients here. Your body will also require protein and fat. Fat is a slower digesting macronutrient, so consuming it first thing in the morning can help you to feel full for longer. But remember, its important to consume high-quality unsaturated fatty acids, from sources such as eggs and avocados.
Similar to your morning meal, your pre-workout meal needs to be high in carbohydrates. It is during your workout that you require the most energy and carbs are one of the best fuel sources to help you power through a grueling workout or a tough game.
At this time, it is also imperative that you consume a sufficient amount of protein. Consuming protein before a workout has been shown to stimulate protein synthesis post-workout, meaning your muscle will recover quicker.
Before your workout, its recommended to consume very little fat, as fat takes longer to digest, and you will need quick releasing energy for a workout.
Immediately following your workout, it is essential to consume both protein and carbohydrates to begin the recovery process and minimize damage to your muscles.
If you are unable to eat a full meal immediately after your workout, this is where a protein or post-workout supplement will come in handy. Check out Bodylogix® protein options to find one that works for you.
Read more about the perfect post-workout meal.
The rest of the day, your meals can contain a mix of all three macronutrients, fat, carbs, and protein. However, because of the importance of carbs in the morning as well as pre- and post-workout, the other meals throughout the day should be lower in carbohydrates in order to save them up for the meals where they are needed most.
How Often to Eat Meals?
Another important consideration when implementing nutrient timing is determining how frequently you will be consuming your meals.
There have been numerous studies arguing the benefits of consuming many small meals throughout the day, especially for athletes. These frequent, small meals can provide athletes with the continued energy that they need throughout the day as while as reduce gastric discomfort that can be caused by eating infrequent, large meals.
This is especially important before a workout, as a full and uncomfortable stomach can hinder your performance. It is recommended to have your carb-heavy pre-workout meal 3-4 hours prior to training in order to allow for digestion time. However, many of us may need another smaller carbohydrate snack or drink 30-60 minutes prior to exercising.
Nutrient timing is an effective strategy to help you maximize your exercise performance and enhance your recovery. It’s important to remember that these are guidelines, based on scientific research, but as everyone’s training differs, we suggest giving these recommendations a try and adjusting as necessary to ensure your diet works for you.