What is nutrient timing and how can it help you maximize your performance, recovery or body composition goals? We get this question a lot! So, today we are going to cover how nutrient timing can support your training, specifically resistance training, help you recover better, and come to each workout feeling stronger.
First, what is nutrient timing? Nutrition timing refers to eating a specific amount of macronutrients around your workouts. Dialing in our nutrient timing can help fuel your body for workouts and support recovery. Nutrient timing is more of an advanced nutritional protocol for performance based goals once the foundation is in place - things like quality of food, overall balance of protein, carbs and fats, as well as consistency. If those things aren’t in place yet, don’t waste your time worrying about timing of food because those are more important than when you eat.
You can probably also imagine that this is also very individualized based upon the person, the type of training, frequency, intensity, performance goals and recovery. As we dive into this, understand that you may need to experiment a bit with this and find what works best for you.
In this article, we are going to primarily cover the importance of protein and carbohydrates as they relate to resistance training performance and recovery. Resistance training increases protein synthesis, and it has been demonstrated that high-quality protein intake enhances the protein synthesis response to an acute bout of resistance exercise. We are not going to dive into fat as resistance training is ananaerobic activity, relying on the phosphagen system and carbohydrate oxidation for ATP production. (source)
So, how can we support our training and recovery with carbs and protein, and when should we consume them?
A study conducted at the University of Texas sought to investigate the effects of pre-workout carbohydrate plus protein supplementation on resistance exercise performance. (source) Participants included non–resistance-trained male subjects who completed 3 sets of 8 repetitions to volitional fatigue in 7 different exercises targeting the upper and lower body. The participants either ingested an electrolyte and artificial sweetener solution (placebo), or a carbohydrate plus protein beverage (in a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein). Then they evaluated the total amount of weight lifted on the third and final set completed to fatigue in all 7 exercises and found that there was no significant impact in terms of performance. However, there are favorable outcomes resulting from carbohydrate and protein supplementation in terms of enhancing adaptations over time and on recovery. (source)
Table 1 highlights the effectiveness that appropriately timed carbohydrate and protein/amino acid ingestion has on each desired outcome related to enhancing performance, recovery and muscular strength. Here you can see that consuming both protein and carbohydrates gives us the most benefit across the board.
So how much should you consume and when?
It is hard to say exactly how much, because this will depend upon your individual intake goals. However, as a general rule of thumb, we like having a 1:1 carb to protein ratio post workout, or for more intense training sessions, more of a 2:1 carb to protein ratio.
Something to remember in relation to your carbohydrate choice is that you will want more high glycemic carbs rather than low glycemic carbs the closer you are to your workout. You want your body to utilize the carbs quickly which makes the higher glycemic carbs preferable as they will hit your bloodstream faster than lower glycemic carbs.
What to eat before working out in the morning
If you workout in the morning, you may or may not want to eat, and ultimately this is your personal preference and it will be something for you to experiment with to determine what you feel best with.
You may find you feel better working out fasted, and that is okay too. You can learn more about the debate on fasted workouts burning more fat HERE.
However, you may want to have something small as many people feel a bit better during their workouts. If that is the case, you will want to have a quick digesting carb and some lean protein. If you can’t stomach both, we recommend prioritizing carbohydrates.Then, just make sure you have a quick digesting protein (such as a CLEAN protein shake) ready to consume right after your workout.
A few ideas here include:
What to eat when working out in the afternoon/evening
If you prefer to workout later in the day, lunch is going to be the meal to focus on. If you are training close to lunch, within 1-2 hours, then this meal would be a bit lighter. Otherwise, you will want a more substantial meal if you have 3-4 hours to digest your food. If you’re training twice a day, it would depend upon the time between training sessions and that would require a bit of experimenting to see what you feel good with, you may want to keep it a bit lighter so you don’t go into your workout and then have your largest meal of the day after your second workout.
Experiment a bit and play around with timing and combinations of food to find what you feel best with. If you find that you’re hungry or feel like your performance is suffering and you don’t have enough fuel in the tank, then try eating a bit more one day to see if that sustains you. You can also have a lighter lunch and then a small snack a bit closer to your workout. Again, reference the idea list above for a quick digesting carb and protein source if adding in that afternoon snack. This will totally be personal preference, and of course the intensity of the training session will also make a difference.
The biggest thing to note here is that you will want to keep fiber a bit lower, and moderate the amount of veggies you eat prior to the afternoon/evening session. No one wants to do burpees and feel like vomiting.
Lastly, your post workout meal is the MOST IMPORTANT meal of the day. We don’t fully benefit from our training until we recover, so we want to emphasize that your post workout meal is going to be the biggest thing to focus on.
If you train in the morning, that means your breakfast and/or lunch is going to be the meal to focus on the most. Conversely, if you workout in the afternoon/evening then your dinner will be the meal that will impact your recovery.
Post workout, we again want to give your body quick digesting carbs, lean protein, and here you could add in some healthy fats as well, especially if you didn’t eat anything prior to your workout.
No matter what time you train, you want to ensure that you’re focusing on having carbs and protein around your workout and then the rest of the day you can add in plenty of veggies and healthy fats to your meals to hit your overall intake goals.
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