Nutrient Timing

NUTRIENT TIMING

Nutrient timing is a topic that we get a lot of questions about in the gym. Typically, nutrient timing refers to the ingestion of foods, supplements, and fortified foods surrounding workouts or at particular intervals throughout the day in order to maximize body composition changes or performance. While its an important topic to consider, it’s an arena that often gets skewed in gyms or in diet trends as a means to ingest certain elixirs that will magically do things to our muscles or fat.

Nutrient timing is an accessory that can supplement a diet once the rest of the day is entirely well-managed. In other words, do we care about a post-lift anabolic window if someone’s breakfast is a wake-up wrap from Dunkin’ Donuts? Probably not.

Or does whey protein after a run mean much if at dinner a person is eating lo mein take-out most nights? It just doesn’t mean as much.

Nutrient timing is a supplemental addition to a healthy diet and rigorous exercise program that’s already managing high-value foundational items. How you put this together is the key to having an overall effective nutrition program.

Case Study

Let’s do a mock case study to look at this in detail. Let’s say we have a man named Steve. Steve arrives at Pure Performance to begin a new strength and conditioning program with one of our strength coaches. He is a former athlete, but hasn’t worked out with rigor in several years. He also admits to skipping breakfast most mornings, munching on snacks around the office during the day, and often getting takeout for dinner. He also tells us that he’s a terrible sleeper, and that he tried to meditate once but decided he’d rather clean his car with a toothbrush than take another stab at that miserable activity.

After evaluating Steve and writing his program, he gets going on his new strength and conditioning journey. A few weeks in, he’s loving his workouts, but he’s shocked at how exhausted he is by the end. He feels he has “no gas in the tank” for the last third of the workout even though he’s consuming a pre-workout caffeine supplement. So we ask him what he eats before the session. “Just the pre-workout drink. And I had a bacon, egg, and cheese on a bagel this morning,” he tells us.

So we talk to Steve about consuming nutrient-dense mixed meals throughout the day at feeding times. We let him know that those balanced meals are going to be the best workout supplement he can take. Thankfully, he agrees to give it a shot. Steve starts bringing lunch to work, and having a veggie scramble with fruit at breakfast. And he even tells us that he’s meal prepping dinner items on Sunday for the week ahead–a batch of chili, a roasted chicken, and roasted potatoes and vegetables.

After about 8 weeks of this excellent work, the changes in his health are detectable. He lets us know that his jeans are looser at the waist, he’s starting to sleep better, and he feels far more energized during the day.

Eventually, we are able to write Steve an even more challenging strength and conditioning program. And we talk to him about pre-workout snacks and post-workout shakes. Now that his daily nutrition is so well-managed, and his workouts are increasing in intensity, it’s time for Steve to consume more protein and supplement his healthy base diet. We formulate a whey, vegetable, and fruit post-workout shake for him that he easily whips up in his blender at home after training. And he now also packs a pre-workout snack to consume on his way to the gym after work. Now, Steve is starting to see more significant body composition changes, and his weights are increasing in his training. Needless to say, Steve feels good. As he advances further, we can look into even more variables, including essential amino acids, pre-bedtime proteins, and recovery strategies such as meditation.

Foundation and Consistency

As you can see, Steve first had to master the basics. The health and fitness industry wants to sell people items that will do the work for them. High-sugar, high-caffeine pre-workout drinks don’t make you a stronger human being. They make your skin tingle.

The key to creating changes is to be consistently conquering the foundation–consuming at least three meals a day that are nutrient-dense, high-volume, and prepared at home (so that you can control the ingredients); getting plenty of sleep; and training rigorously, regularly.

Then, we start dealing with nutrient timing and supplements. Most people are going to need  nourishing meals 1-2 hours before a workout, and immediately-2 hours after a workout. However, when exercise becomes more intense and all the other lower-hanging (and most important fruit) is managed, it can be effective to incorporate supplementary strategies.

When and What To Eat

The first major item to cover when considering nutrient timing is protein. We see in the research that regularly scheduled protein feedings (approximately every three hours) has to be of emphasis in exercising individuals (JISSN, 2017). This means ingesting protein daily, throughout the day, at evenly spaced intervals.

Additionally, post-exercise ingestion of a fast metabolizing protein will robustly stimulate the process of muscle protein synthesis (the repair and construction of new muscle tissues). A favorite, rapid protein source is a high-quality whey protein product.

“Ingesting a 20–40 g protein dose (0.25–0.40 g/kg body mass/dose) of a high-quality source every three to four hours appears to most favorably affect MPS rates when compared to other dietary patterns and is associated with improved body composition and performance outcomes.” -JISSN, 2017

Once the protein total is being managed, we can also look at supplementing with a product that contains the essential amino acids (EAA). EAAs are the amino acids that must be consumed because our body does not make them on its own. Some of the EAAs are known as branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) and these are one of the more popular items in the exercise world. BCAAs contain an amino acid called leucine, which is considered a major signal for muscle protein synthesis. Thus, if you’re consuming more signal–and all other amino acids are available because you’re consuming boluses of complete protein every 3-4 hours–then you can maximize your muscle protein synthesis.

Additionally, adequate consumption of healthy carbohydrates has to be considered for those who are exercising more rigorously. For most people, a complete meal that includes vegetables and potatoes or rice before a workout and then immediately-two hours after will be ample starch.

If we can avoid overlooking the mastery of the basics, we can get really, really far in our health and performance. We must first conquer the nutrition foundation, and then graduate to nutrient timing and supplements, and then we have a strong infrastructure to work on as a human being.

NUTRIENT TIMING

Nutrient timing is a topic that we get a lot of questions about in the gym. Typically, nutrient timing refers to the ingestion of foods, supplements, and fortified foods surrounding workouts or at particular intervals throughout the day in order to maximize body composition changes or performance. While its an important topic to consider, it’s an arena that often gets skewed in gyms or in diet trends as a means to ingest certain elixirs that will magically do things to our muscles or fat.

Nutrient timing is an accessory that can supplement a diet once the rest of the day is entirely well-managed. In other words, do we care about a post-lift anabolic window if someone’s breakfast is a wake-up wrap from Dunkin’ Donuts? Probably not.

Or does whey protein after a run mean much if at dinner a person is eating lo mein take-out most nights? It just doesn’t mean as much.

Nutrient timing is a supplemental addition to a healthy diet and rigorous exercise program that’s already managing high-value foundational items. How you put this together is the key to having an overall effective nutrition program.

Case Study

Let’s do a mock case study to look at this in detail. Let’s say we have a man named Steve. Steve arrives at Pure Performance to begin a new strength and conditioning program with one of our strength coaches. He is a former athlete, but hasn’t worked out with rigor in several years. He also admits to skipping breakfast most mornings, munching on snacks around the office during the day, and often getting takeout for dinner. He also tells us that he’s a terrible sleeper, and that he tried to meditate once but decided he’d rather clean his car with a toothbrush than take another stab at that miserable activity.

After evaluating Steve and writing his program, he gets going on his new strength and conditioning journey. A few weeks in, he’s loving his workouts, but he’s shocked at how exhausted he is by the end. He feels he has “no gas in the tank” for the last third of the workout even though he’s consuming a pre-workout caffeine supplement. So we ask him what he eats before the session. “Just the pre-workout drink. And I had a bacon, egg, and cheese on a bagel this morning,” he tells us.

So we talk to Steve about consuming nutrient-dense mixed meals throughout the day at feeding times. We let him know that those balanced meals are going to be the best workout supplement he can take. Thankfully, he agrees to give it a shot. Steve starts bringing lunch to work, and having a veggie scramble with fruit at breakfast. And he even tells us that he’s meal prepping dinner items on Sunday for the week ahead–a batch of chili, a roasted chicken, and roasted potatoes and vegetables.

After about 8 weeks of this excellent work, the changes in his health are detectable. He lets us know that his jeans are looser at the waist, he’s starting to sleep better, and he feels far more energized during the day.

Eventually, we are able to write Steve an even more challenging strength and conditioning program. And we talk to him about pre-workout snacks and post-workout shakes. Now that his daily nutrition is so well-managed, and his workouts are increasing in intensity, it’s time for Steve to consume more protein and supplement his healthy base diet. We formulate a whey, vegetable, and fruit post-workout shake for him that he easily whips up in his blender at home after training. And he now also packs a pre-workout snack to consume on his way to the gym after work. Now, Steve is starting to see more significant body composition changes, and his weights are increasing in his training. Needless to say, Steve feels good. As he advances further, we can look into even more variables, including essential amino acids, pre-bedtime proteins, and recovery strategies such as meditation.

Foundation and Consistency

As you can see, Steve first had to master the basics. The health and fitness industry wants to sell people items that will do the work for them. High-sugar, high-caffeine pre-workout drinks don’t make you a stronger human being. They make your skin tingle.

The key to creating changes is to be consistently conquering the foundation–consuming at least three meals a day that are nutrient-dense, high-volume, and prepared at home (so that you can control the ingredients); getting plenty of sleep; and training rigorously, regularly.

Then, we start dealing with nutrient timing and supplements. Most people are going to need  nourishing meals 1-2 hours before a workout, and immediately-2 hours after a workout. However, when exercise becomes more intense and all the other lower-hanging (and most important fruit) is managed, it can be effective to incorporate supplementary strategies.

When and What To Eat

The first major item to cover when considering nutrient timing is protein. We see in the research that regularly scheduled protein feedings (approximately every three hours) has to be of emphasis in exercising individuals (JISSN, 2017). This means ingesting protein daily, throughout the day, at evenly spaced intervals.

Additionally, post-exercise ingestion of a fast metabolizing protein will robustly stimulate the process of muscle protein synthesis (the repair and construction of new muscle tissues). A favorite, rapid protein source is a high-quality whey protein product.

“Ingesting a 20–40 g protein dose (0.25–0.40 g/kg body mass/dose) of a high-quality source every three to four hours appears to most favorably affect MPS rates when compared to other dietary patterns and is associated with improved body composition and performance outcomes.” -JISSN, 2017

Once the protein total is being managed, we can also look at supplementing with a product that contains the essential amino acids (EAA). EAAs are the amino acids that must be consumed because our body does not make them on its own. Some of the EAAs are known as branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) and these are one of the more popular items in the exercise world. BCAAs contain an amino acid called leucine, which is considered a major signal for muscle protein synthesis. Thus, if you’re consuming more signal–and all other amino acids are available because you’re consuming boluses of complete protein every 3-4 hours–then you can maximize your muscle protein synthesis.

Additionally, adequate consumption of healthy carbohydrates has to be considered for those who are exercising more rigorously. For most people, a complete meal that includes vegetables and potatoes or rice before a workout and then immediately-two hours after will be ample starch.

If we can avoid overlooking the mastery of the basics, we can get really, really far in our health and performance. We must first conquer the nutrition foundation, and then graduate to nutrient timing and supplements, and then we have a strong infrastructure to work on as a human being.

2018-12-01T13:55:24+00:00

About the Author:

mm
Erin is a graduate student working toward a Masters of Science in Nutrition and Health Promotion, as well as completing the Didactic Program in Dietetics to become a Registered Dietitian. She’s also a Precision Nutrition Certified Nutrition Coach and Certified Sports Nutritionist.