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Nutrient Timing: Fact Or Fiction?

by Alexandra Parren
Nutrient Timing Healthy Fitness Lifestyle

What you eat is important, but did you know that when you eat it is just as important? If you are aiming for a particular goal like competing in a bodybuilding show or racing a triathlon, nutrient timing is everything. Especially if you need to cut weight while still increasing strength, just monitoring your macros won’t be enough and you need to be aware of when you are eating and if it is working towards your goal as hard as you are.

Does nutrient timing actually matter?

The short answer to this is yes. The long answer is yes, so long as you have a very specific training goal. There is a wide debate surrounding whether nutrient timing actually matters or whether it is just a myth, but I am going from personal experience so I am confident in my statement that it does indeed matter. If your goal is just to ‘tone up’ or ‘lose weight’, nutrient timing won’t matter for you. However, if you are prepping for your next big competition, whether that’s bikini fitness, powerlifting, or even an Ironman, nutrient timing is absolutely important.

What actually is nutrient timing?

Nutrient timing simply refers to when you eat certain nutrients such as protein, fat, and carbs. The human body is a complex scientific machine and if you push the right buttons, it will do amazing things for you. Nutrient timing is a very specific and deep principle which will only help you if you do it properly and fully understand the science behind how the body works.

We all know that we need protein to build and repair muscle, and carbs for energy, but your body is very specific in its needs and if you want to function at a high level, you need to figure out what those specifics are.

Simple examples of nutrient timing

While this subject can become a deeply complicated scientific debate, it’s easy to simplify. For example, if you drink a protein shake as soon as you put down the last weight of your session and then go home and eat 4 chicken breasts, this isn’t smart nutrient timing. Why? Because you’re consuming too much protein in a small period of time and it won’t be able to fully benefit you. There is a 45-minute anabolic window which is open after you train in which your cells are extra sensitive to insulin and the right nutrients will aid your strength gains and recovery. Consuming these nutrients more than 2 hours after you train will not have the same effect. Your body can only absorb a certain amount of protein in one sitting so it’s important to balance your macros throughout the day.

Another easy example is when it comes to breakfast. So many common breakfast foods like toast or cereal are pure carbs which are digested fairly quickly and leave you feeling hungry by 11am (hence the need for elevenses). Eating a lot of carbs at breakfast spikes your blood sugar which then won’t have a chance to settle back down all day and will leave you with mood swings and hunger pangs all day. If you eat a high protein breakfast instead (eggs and bacon for example) your blood sugar will only rise slightly and will then stay more stable throughout the day meaning you stay satisfied for longer and will have improved focus and concentration.

So is nutrient timing for me?

Of course, eating smart is important, and having a good balance of each macro will benefit anyone. However, if you need to increase your strength while cutting weight, or if you need to train for a big endurance event, nutrient timing will be very important. Keep your nutrients balanced throughout the day and be aware of what you’re eating.

Key points to take away

  • Eat a high protein, low carb breakfast to keep your blood sugar stable and prevent mood swings and hunger pangs.
  • Eat a protein- and carb-rich meal within 45 minutes of training when your cells are particularly sensitive to insulin.
  • Don’t wash down a protein-rich meal with a protein shake as this extra protein will be wasted.
  • Eat little and often to keep your blood sugar stable and to keep your muscles anabolic.
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