Episode 69 – Nutrient Timing: What Should We Care About?

Key Topics Covered

Protein 

  • Timing in relation to training – if the goal is either to improve muscle growth/retention or just to improve recovery. 
  • Anabolic window – 3-5 hour window around training to get in >20-40g of protein (based on size) 
  • If training fasted, it is even more important to get protein in relatively soon post-workout.  
  • Outside of that, spreading protein intake out across the day is a good idea. 0.4-0.55g/kg per meal over 4-6 meals to a total of 1.6-2.2g/kg is optimal. But 3 meals to hit that same total works almost as well. 
     

Carbohydrates 

  • If training/competing multiple times in a day, directly after the first session, you likely want to get in a decent amount of high GI carbs to re-synthesis glycogen as quickly as possible. 
  • If rapid glycogen repletion is needed (<4 hours) the most straightforward strategy is to have ~1.2g/kg simple carbs per hour. Adding caffeine can technically improve this a bit. Replacing a small amount of those carbs with protein (0.2-0.4g/kg) could also help glycogen repletion a bit too.  
     
  • If training/competing once a day, timing matters less just so long as you consume sufficient total carbs.   
  • Some people suggest that carbs post workout increases insulin further which helps increase muscle protein synthesis. When protein intake is high enough though, adding more carbs does not seem to help this any further.  
  • Pre-workout carbs can improve performance, assuming you train hard and for a decent duration.  

Meal timing in relation to training

  • In general, you should also time your food so you feel good when you train.  
  • Often this comes out as a meal 2-3 hours before and a snack 1-2 hours before. 
  • But this is individual. It is also silly to miss sleep for this. 

Fibre and Fat 

  • Fibre and fat timing is not overly relevant. But theoretically, if you are having less of these things around training because you are prioritising easily digestible carbohydrates and protein intake, it makes sense that aother times of the day you would likely want higher fat/fibre intake comparatively to meet those needs. 

Metabolism 

  • Eating more frequently does not speed up the metabolism or anything. 
  • The research on whether or not eating earlier in the day or later matters for body composition makes it clear that it likely does not matter much.  
  • Some research makes it look like it matters, but it does not seem to matter much when you look at all of the research overall. 
  • Rules like no carbs after 5 pm typically “work” by reducing total carbohydrate and calorie intake, when performed in uncontrolled situations. 

Sleep  

  • Obviously, caffeine in relation to sleep has issues. 
  • There are some other strategies that might help improve sleep e.g. some people propose that having some carbs 1-4 hours before bed can help. But the impact seems weak.  There are exceptions e.g. tart cherry juice in particular seems to have a stronger impact through a combination of the carbs and tryptophan and melatonin. 
  • More importantly, it seems like going to bed way too full or hungry can reduce sleep quality/quantity. So avoiding that seems like it should be a priority where possible. 

Summary: 

  • There are quite a few ways meal timing can improve health and performance.  
  • It is less of a priority than your overall intake, but it is still something that matters and can help.  
  • The more you are trying to optimise things, the more it matters. But people can get incredible results still without focusing on it too much. 

Relevant Links/Resources:

Studies Mentioned:

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