Nutrient Timing – Why Does It Matter
Does the time of day I eat my nutrients have an impact on their effectiveness in my body? The answer simply is, YES. And knowing how to determine the best times of day to eat meals or key nutrients can have a big impact in your long-term health and fitness regimen.
What is Nutrient Timing?
Nutrient timing refers to the intentional scheduling of nutrient intake with the intent to better promote health, workout performance, and to lose or maintain optimum weight.
Nutrient timing strategies are created based on how your body interacts with different foods/nutrients at different times throughout the day. Here’s an example of a nutrient timing principle: it is better to eat non-fruit and vegetable carbohydrates during and after workouts.
Nutrient timing is an important concept for all of us to understand; knowing when to eat certain foods can make our body more efficient and it can promote better health. But for the athlete and body builder, it is a critical concept to master.
What Do I Need To Know About Nutrient Timing?
To understand nutrient timing, we must first understand the concept of body composition. Our body has the ability to gain or lose weight in the form of fat, muscle and water. If you are working out frequently – or if you have stopped working out – your body will expect to gain mass (or lose mass) because of your metabolic activity. We all understand the concept of a pre-workout beverage to boost our energy, enabling a more productive workout. And we understand the concept of “feeding” our body’s cells with nutrients after a hard workout. Imagine the difference if we drink Nutrology’s BEET Natural Pre-Workout right before an intense gym workout, compared to if we take a sleep aid two hours prior to our workout. Or if we had a Nutrology Grass-fed Tripact Protein Shake immediately post-workout compared to no food at all for 4 hours after our workout, then eating a dozen doughnuts prior to bed. These are easy examples, but you get the point. Not only can the composition of the meal, but the timing of it, have a dramatic impact on our body’s ability to build lean muscle, compared to adding on simple carbs that will be stored as fat.
Important Phases of Nutrient Timing
While it can become very scientific to chart out exact nutrient timing, there are easy-to-remember rules that can really help make a difference in your nutrient intake patterns.
We are going to speak to the fitness and bodybuilding reader, but the concepts and “rules” apply to all of us. There are three important phases of food intake for the fitness-focused person – pre-workout, during-workout, and post-workout. Certainly, nutrition outside of these periods are very important as well. For example, we always recommend not eating significant meals after 7pm if possible to enable your liver and kidneys to get a full period of detoxification in the evening and while you sleep.
How soon before a workout should I eat? It depends.
Generally, it is not recommended to eat immediately before a workout because you're asking your stomach and digestive tract to get to work at the same time you will be stressing and pushing your muscles. This dual “request” can degrade optimal performance. Eating too close to workout time may also induce some GI issues that can detract from your workout as well.
So as a rule, plan to fuel your body 1-3 hours prior to your workout. Learn what time works best for your body. If you're a competitive fitness athlete, understanding your optimal pre-workout timing will be important to your game day performance. Avoid foods that bloat or make you sleepy (turkey, for example).
Nutrology recommends a mix of proteins and carbs. Carbs are the fuel. Protein is what rebuilds and repairs, but also "primes the pump" to make the right amino acids available for your muscles. Nutrology’s Tripact Grass-fed Protein and BCAA Natural are great options for protein and amino acids a couple hours prior to your workout.
For a pre-workout and during-workout beverage to provide energy throughout your session, the benefits of beetroot are well known. Drink Nutrology’s BEET Natural Pre-Workout 5-15 minutes prior to your workout, and during your workout to both stay hydrated and drive your gym time like never before.
During Your Workout, or “The Energy Phase”
Your high demand for nutrients during your workout should be met with an appropriate release of stored nutrients or an appropriate amount of ingested nutrients. We have known for years that exercise combines both catabolic and anabolic effects on the body, and they occur simultaneously. But what we now know is the timing of nutrient intake can impact the ratios of that catabolic/anabolic activity.
John Berardi, President of Science Link, Inc, explains how anabolic effects can be bolstered and catabolic effects can be tampered by the timing (and type) of nutrient intake. “A protein/carbohydrate supplement ingested immediately prior to exercise (or sipped during exercise) can actually increase skeletal muscle blood flow. Since this drink not only enhances blood flow but stocks that blood up with amino acids and glucose, the protein balance of the muscle will be shifted toward the positive and glycogen depletion will be significantly reduced.”
Post-Workout, or “Anabolic Phase”
Post-workout, we all experience a 1-2 hour “anabolic phase”. Anabolic refers to that period where muscles are stressed and fatigued and are primed for growth. With correct timing of nutrients, your muscles with respond during this period more effectively than they would with poor nutrient timing. Interestingly, as Mr. Berardi notes, if we do not get our timing down, muscles can actually remain is a catabolic state, precluding an ideal opportunity to feed, restore and grow muscles.
Wait too long, and the catabolic effects of the workout – muscle breakdown – continue longer than necessary. But feeding those stressed muscles 15-45 minutes after workout allows you to repair muscles quickly, promoting growth in either size and/or quality. Nutrology specializes in post-workout muscle recovery and growth products: Tripact Grass-Fed Protein, Nutrology New Zealand Grass-Fed Whey Protein, and PC-10 MicroFine Chia are all outstanding recovery and growth products. To add carbohydrates post-workout, include vegetables, fruits and legumes. These carbs are absorbed more slowly because of their high fiber content and have a more metered ability to control blood sugar. They are also packed with other outstanding nutrients and are part of a well-balanced meal plan.
Eat the right foods, at the right time, and watch your workouts and overall health soar!