What is Nutrient Timing?
Nutrient Timing simply means eating specific nutrients (macronutrients) in specific amounts at specific times such as before, during and after exercise. By altering nutrient intake, we can enhance workout performance, promote health and stay lean.
Nutrient timing strategies are based on how the body handles different types of food at different times of the day. The body has particular windows of opportunity where nutrient absorption and utilisation is much greater, especially before and after exercise.
The benefits of nutrient timing include:
- Increased athletic performance
- Improved body composition
- Enhanced workout recovery
- Increase nutrient utilisation
- Improved overall health
Macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) are essential in providing energy for the body and the timing of these nutrients can have an influence on how efficient this energy is used, as well as where this energy is used.
When exercising regularly the body runs more efficiently and is primed for fat loss (or fat gain) as well as muscle gain (or loss). Meaning the right foods at the right time can enhance your efforts in the gym and the wrong foods at the wrong times can affect your performance.
Carbohydrate (glycogen) stores can be increased to 200% when consumed immediately after exercise. This is known as the ‘metabolic window’ is only open for a short period before glycogen resynthesis is decreased. Delaying carbohydrate intake by 2 hours can decrease resynthesis by 50%.
This ‘metabolic window’ is the 30 minute period after exercise which nutrition can shift the body from a catabolic state (break down of molecules) to an anabolic (building of molecules) state.
These carbohydrates are oxidised and used as fuel stored in the muscle and not as fat meaning your body is fuelled (with extra energy) for the rest of the day and your next workout. Also, adding protein to your post-workout carbohydrate meal can increase the rate of glycogen resynthesis.
Protein consumption immediately after exercise is essential for muscle growth and repair. When working out (particularly weight training), you get microtears and amino acids are essential to rebuilding this muscle tissue. This is also a part of the ‘metabolic window’ and protein should be consumed within 30 minutes of exercising. The body can only absorb approx. 25-35g of protein in one sitting, so you don’t need a lot to aid this growth and repair. 100g of chicken will provide 31g of protein, enough protein for the next 3-4hrs. All excess will be excreted from the body.
Although protein, fat and carbohydrate consumption around times of exercise are important, this only makes up 5% of our daily consumption. Consistent protein, fat and carbohydrate intake is as important, if not more important throughout the day, as this makes up the other 95% of our diet.
Post Workout and Anytime Meals
Post-workout meals should be slightly higher in carbohydrates with sufficient protein for muscle growth and repair e.g. 100g grilled chicken breast, 1/4 C brown rice, steamed broccoli or 1 slice wholemeal bread, 1 tbsp. peanut butter, 1 banana.
Anytime meals should be lower in carbohydrates, sufficient in protein and unsaturated fats to maintain energy levels and muscle tissue e.g. 100g tuna, salad leaves, tomatoes, cucumber, avocado or handful nuts or hummus and carrot sticks.
A few important notes to take out of the blog are:
– Protein, fat and carbohydrate intake outside of exercise (95%) will have more of an impact on muscle growth and repair, than only consuming nutrients before and after exercise (5%).
– Keep meals simple and well balanced and modify them according to exercise needs and requirements.
– The body can only utilise so much protein every 3-4 hours, so keep it consistent with correct quantities throughout the day.
This blog has concentrated on macronutrients and we will look further in micronutrients in the blog!!