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

Aidan (00:09):

Hello, and welcome to The Ideal Nutrition Podcast. My name is Aidan Muir and I’m here with my cohost Leah Higl. And this is episode 69, where we are going to be talking about nutrient timing and what we should care about. And obviously there’s a lot of things we can and should care about with nutrient timing. We’re going to be talking about stuff like protein, what we should do with that, how we should time that. Going to talk about carbohydrates as well, meal timing, and how that relates to training and everything like that. How that also relates to our metabolism, whether it speeds it up or anything like that. We’ll talk about fiber and fat, how they fit into things. And we will also talk about whether or not this relates to sleep and whether we can improve our sleep with any nutrient timing strategies as well.

Leah (00:49):

First thing we’ll touch on is protein in relation to when do we actually time that around training? So I think a couple of years ago, even a few years ago, the idea was that there’s this very short anabolic window post-training, right? You have maybe 30, 60 minutes to get your protein in. And if you miss that window, you’re missing out on a lot of gains.

Aidan (01:12):

Or you’ll lose all your gains.

Leah (01:13):

Or you’ll lose all your gains. It’s definitely something that I saw as a 16 year old and I was like, “Oh my God, I need to take my protein shake to the gym, or everything’s over.” We’ve come to learn that the anabolic window, so our timing protein around training and having that effect of being anabolic is really three to five hours around the window of when you’re actually training. So it’s not just that very short snippet of time post-training, it’s the three to five hour window around your training. So ideally when it comes to protein, you want to be getting in 20, 40 grams of protein within that window, of course. But when it comes to timing protein, ideally you’re splitting it up consistently enough throughout the day where it kind of just falls around your training anyway.

I think one thing to note, though, is for people who maybe train first thing in the morning, so after an eight hour fast whilst you’re sleeping, and then maybe you get up, have some pre-training carbs, but maybe no protein. It could be a good idea to try and get the protein in pretty soon after training in that particular circumstance. But otherwise you have a pretty good time period to play around with where you can still get all of your gains and all those great recovery things within that few hours around training. But I also say, what’s the point of waiting at the same time? Just kind of get it in, but it’s probably not going to make a huge difference whether you have it an hour before training, half an hour after training, two hours after training. It’s probably not going to make the biggest difference in the world.

Aidan (02:51):

Yeah. One of the good things about ProScience is it’s rarely detrimental. It’s like, if you rush home to get your protein shake in or whatever, or you take it to gym, you’re guaranteed to tick this box every single time.

Aidan (03:02):

The only reason it’s really good to have this knowledge and to know that it’s like a three to five hour window, is it’s like, “Oh, if I forgot my protein shake, it’s fine. I can just eat it at the next opportunity.” It’s no big deal.

Leah (03:10):

That training session isn’t going to waste. You will survive, it will be okay. But yeah, there’s no point in delaying it, at the same time. So if you enjoy having your post-training snack or meal right after, go for it. Get that protein in.

Aidan (03:22):

Shout out to my housemate Brock, who refuses to train if he doesn’t have a protein shake available. And also doesn’t order protein for multiple months, doesn’t train.

Leah (03:33):

Just doesn’t train.

Aidan (03:35):

Logic, we call it Brock logic. Moving on to carbohydrates, we’re going to talk about, I guess, the timing of that, when it matters, everything like that. The most important aspect of this, I guess, is if you are training or competing multiple times per day, this matters a lot more. Or you could even argue that if you’re training again in far less than 24 hours, like for example, sometimes I might do a session at 7:00 PM at night and then at 6:00 AM the next day, it’s like, even though it’s still not that far away. If you are training or competing multiple times in a day, directly after that first session, you likely want to get in a decent amount of high GI carbs to resynthesize glycogen as quickly as possible.

That’s the simple advice. I’d probably keep it there for most people, just quickly absorbing carbs directly post-workout if you have to have a session again soon, because otherwise you’re likely going to be depleted in that next session and you’re not going to perform as well. For a little bit more complex advice if anybody really wanted that, particularly if you’re competing or training again in less than four hours, if you really need to optimize this, the simplest strategy would be to have around 1.2 grams per kilogram of simple carbs per hour. That’s a awfully precise number, that 1.2. But the reason is because that seems to be about as much as we can store as glycogen. If you’re adding any more, it just does not seem to be stored as glycogen effectively. Getting even more precise, adding some caffeine alongside that has been shown to increase our ability to store glycogen, which is kind of cool as well.

And another little tiny bonus on top of that is replacing a small amount of those carbs with protein, so say, like 0.2 to 0.4 grams per kilogram, can also help with glycogen replacing too. And those strategies are also things I use when I do [inaudible 00:05:18] with athletes as well. In that first hour, I get protein, I get that amount of carbs as well, or a little bit less for the protein too. And a few other things. If it’s an evening weigh-in I won’t do caffeine, because I’m like, I want them to sleep before they come the next day. But if it’s a morning weigh-in, I’d consider the caffeine as well. And if you are training or competing once in a day, this stuff just matters a lot less.

You just want to make sure you get enough total carbohydrate in across the day so that you have good glycogen stores for your next day. You just want to be focusing on that, whatever that appropriate amount of carbohydrates is for whatever you would consider it to be. You just try and get that in and not really focus too much on timing. If you have it directly after workout, awesome, but you don’t don’t need to. Have you ever seen people talking about the carbs post-workout increasing insulin, helping muscle protein synthesis?

Yeah. I’ve seen that a little bit as well and the research has shown that it doesn’t matter.

It just doesn’t matter. It seems like we can spike insulin a little bit more, but it’s not to the point that it physiologically helps us build more muscle. We obviously see, with people who are injecting insulin as a performance enhancing drug, that seems to lead to some results, but whatever we can do physically with that, just through nutrition, with little changes like this just don’t seem to matter that much. And the other complexity to that is protein raises insulin as well. I say this a lot in the podcast, but whey protein raises insulin quite a lot. I think there’ve been comparisons to, I don’t want to butcher this, but rice, it raises it as much as rice.

Leah (06:45):

Yeah. Interesting.

Aidan (06:46):

It’s very high. So don’t quote me that one, but either way it is quite high it raises it by. So if you have a sufficiently high protein intake, post-workout or whatever, adding more carbs does not seem to lead to any additional muscle protein synthesis. So you don’t need to worry about that. But that just comes back to that point of making sure you’re getting a decent amount of carbs in or whatever you’re trying to achieve overall. And then the final thing with carbohydrate timing is pre-workout carbs can help performance in a lot of cases. Particularly if you are training hard or for a decent duration, pre-workout carbs seem to help a little bit as well.

Leah (07:19):

Yeah. Leading into pre-workout meal timing, it’s really going to be super individual about in terms of how you time your pre-treating nutrition. I think a lot of it comes down to exactly what makes you feel good and the kind of training that you’re doing. So in general, I tend to recommend that you have a pretty good high carbish meal about two to three hours prior, plus maybe a smaller carb-rich snack within 30 minutes to two hours before that training session. And that seems to work well for most people.

But if you’re training in the morning, you don’t necessarily want to get up three… Like, If you train at 5:00 AM you’re not going to get up at 2:00 AM, have your meal and then have a snack an hour before. Obviously, missing sleep for this kind of timing stuff is a bit silly. Sleep is really important for recovery and it’s going to add to your performance more than this. But if you are training in the middle of the day or in the afternoon, nighttime, you could consider that having that bigger meal that’s carb heavy a few hours before, plus your snack within a closer time period to your training.

Aidan (08:26):

Yeah. No question is a dumb question, but on Instagram, every time I post about pre-workout nutrition, I add disclaimers left, right and center.

Leah (08:33):

I’ve noticed that.

Aidan (08:34):

And people still ask, they’re like, “I train at 5:00 AM. Should I get up?” And I’m like, “Firstly, disclaimers.” And I’m like, are they just flexing on me? And they’re just being like, “I train at 5:00 AM.”

Leah (08:44):

“I’m one of those people that have their lives together.”

Aidan (08:48):

Yeah, so I don’t know. But it’s very obvious, don’t get up. Maybe you could just have a small amount of carbs before your session. That’s easy. And people, I add these disclaimers, but people still sometimes push back on that being like, “No, but I get up really early.” And I’m not saying this in a judgmental way, but people say that and I’m like, we see people running marathons and having 90 grams of carbs per hour. If you look at the top end of marathon athletes, they’re all having like 90 grams of carbs per hour. There’s no reason we can’t have 15 grams of carbs, 10 minutes before we train, or even while we’re training. You just have a small amount, like…

Leah (09:19):

Yeah. There’s usually a way to get something in before you train even if you have a very short amount of time. And if you can’t stomach it initially, it is something you can do in terms of training the gut. You might start with a little bit of just liquid, whether it’s a sports drink or juice, and maybe starting with 100 mls before your training session, just before it, and then build that up over time to something that feels a little bit better. So just something you can work on. But what I get on Instagram a lot is, “Is X thing good pre-training?” And I’m like, “Well, does it feel good?” And if they’re like, “Yeah, it feels great,” then it’s great. So that’s kind of where I stand on timing your pre-training nutrition.

Aidan (10:02):

That’s my new response as well. I’ve been doing that recently where I’m just like, “Yes, assuming you feel good doing this.” The next thing we’re going to talk about is fiber and fat. And we’re really just putting this in here to just kind of cover it off and just be like, well, we’ve talked about everything else, let’s just add this in. Fiber and fat timing are not overly relevant, but the way I’d think about it is it’s more of a situation where it’s like, well, we know we need to time protein to a certain degree. We know we need to time easily digestible carbs to a certain degree.

And as part of that easily digestible kind of concept, often that means a little bit lower fat and a little bit lower fiber to make it easier to digest. And if we know we want an appropriate amount of fat and fiber, and we have these times around our training session where we want to be low in these things, maybe it makes sense to at other times of the day, have a higher intake of these things. So say you just train once per day in the middle of the day, as an example, very rare for somebody to have the luxury of being able to do that. But say you do that, maybe you have more fat and fiber early in the day and later in the day, and then less of these easily digestible carbs earlier in the day and later in the day, but more around the time of your training session.

Leah (11:06):

Let’s talk metabolism. I think that’s going to be an interesting one for the people who are like, “I’m doing X timing because fat loss.” So something I see a lot would be that eating very frequently. So eat six small meals a day instead of three large meals a day could boost your metabolism.

Aidan (11:24):

Stoke the metabolism.

Leah (11:26):

Stoke the metabolic fire. Unfortunately, this is not something that’s going to make a drastic difference to your overall metabolic rate. Shortly, acutely eating is going to boost your metabolism, and if you’re doing that more across the day, I can kind of see where people get this from. But if the same amount of food is occurring, so whether you’re having it within three meals or six meals, it’s not going to make a difference overall to the amount of calories you’re burning through your metabolism on a daily basis. When we think about the research, looking at this in terms of body composition, outcomes and timing of meals, frequently versus less frequently, the research kind of comes out as overall it doesn’t seem like it matters, like at all. There’s a little bit of research to maybe make it seem like it does matter, but they’re outliers and overall the research is just not on the same page as some people with this.

Aidan (12:26):

I don’t know if I’ve said this on the podcast before, but I’ve been following the Alan Aragon Research Review for years and I’ve gone back historically and gone through all the old copies and stuff like that. And every second review, he includes a study on this kind of timing and how it affects body composition. And it’s almost like every second review, it comes out as… Sometimes it shows it doesn’t matter, sometimes it makes it look like it matters a lot, and sometimes it makes it look like it just does not matter at all. And obviously, you combine it all together and it doesn’t matter. But it’s insane the amount of patience he has, because he goes through and breaks down the studies individually every time as if it’s a new thing just adding to the body of research. And I’m like, I don’t have that level of patience. You just put it all together and you’re like, this just doesn’t matter. No matter how you look at it, it just doesn’t matter.

Leah (13:15):

And other things to throw in this basket would be things like intermittent fasting doesn’t seem to affect metabolic rate, eating breakfast versus not eating breakfast doesn’t seem to matter. So when it comes to meal timing and metabolism, there’s really nothing worth focusing on there, specifically.

Aidan (13:34):

Yeah. And with the breakfast thing, another, this is the patience of going through it. But another thing that he’s brought up is what if you not eating breakfast makes you move differently? What if you move differently because you have even less or more energy because of that decision? And once again, it just comes back to not mattering.

Leah (13:49):

Yeah. It’s like personal preference.

Aidan (13:52):

Yeah. And another thing touching on there is, well, people will have anecdotal experiences, positive experiences. Like, For example, intermittent fasting, people will be like, “I’ve tried a bunch of other stuff, this works for me.” And it often can, obviously, but that comes down to total calorie intake. Same thing with this concept of no carbs after 5:00 PM. That’s another popular one. The logic that people will have is that it’s like, well, if you reduce carbohydrate after 5:00 PM, when you’re moving less, you will therefore, you don’t need those carbs, they’re more likely to be stored as fat. But obviously our body’s always burning calories. We don’t just burn calories through exercise, we burn it through other stuff. We can see when total calories are matched through these studies that we’re talking about that it doesn’t matter either. But anecdotally, if you stop eating carbs after 5:00 PM, what is going to happen to your total carbohydrate intake? On average, your total carbohydrate intake is going to decrease. On average, your total calorie intake is going to decrease, and it’s going to lead to a calorie deficit in most cases.

That’s interesting because it’s like, well, at the end of the day, we also just want practical outcomes. I’d rather practical outcomes rather than just being “right” all the time. This is a common theme, but it’s also important to know how and why these things work in terms of… The same thing with the protein thing, like the ProScience approach of just having a protein shake directly after a workout every time. You don’t go wrong by doing that, but what happens when you’re in a situation where that becomes really inconvenient? It’s really nice to know-

Leah (15:11):

Yeah. And even just talking about meal timing in relation to dieting. And people always ask, what’s the best way to time my meals throughout the day? And there’s just no one answer for everyone across the board. Even from a hunger management perspective, everyone’s going to be different. Everybody likes a different thing.

Aidan (15:32):

Yeah. I’ve seen heaps of people in evidence based space, talking about all of these concepts. And they’re like, “Yeah, I just intermittent fast myself because it allows me to get more work done.” And I’m like, yeah. That’s how much personal preference comes into this. Yeah. So the next thing, I suppose, the last thing we’re going to talk about is sleep. I just sort of chucked this in here because it’s like, I don’t know, it’s an interesting topic, how can we affect sleep? The obvious one, just getting it out of the way, caffeine. Caffeine obviously affects sleep if you have it close to the time you go to bed, that’s going to cause issues in a lot of cases, not in everyone. But there are strategies we can do to help improve sleep. One of the most commonly proposed ones is having carbohydrates, particularly simple carbohydrates, one to four hours before bed, somewhere in that kind of a couple of hours before bed kind of range.

I’ve gone through and looked at all of the research on that and there seems to be a slight beneficial effect of that. But it’s kind of weak and there’s even other ways why I can explain how it’s kind of weak, other examples, but research on intermittent fasting and effect on sleep does not show people sleep less or have worse sleep quality when they do that. If it was a huge advantage to having carbs one to four hours before bed, there should be a difference in the outcome significantly. So it’s like, okay, it doesn’t matter that much. But there are some exceptions that do seem to have more of a positive impact. We’ve talked about this one before, but tart cherry juice in particular seems to improve sleep a bit. There was one study that I would’ve mentioned in that podcast where I mentioned it, where it’s like in people with insomnia, there was a study that people got one hour extra sleep after having tart cherry juice like an hour before bed or two hours before bed, I can’t really recall. But on average they seemed to be improved. One hour extra…

It’s a lot. And I wouldn’t pin my hopes on getting that much, but it consistently seems to improve that, partly due to the carbs, partly due to tryptophan and partly due to the melatonin content of it. One thing that is a very common theme with sleep is if you go to bed feeling really full or really hungry, that very much does seem to reduce sleep quality. We see this in bodybuilders as well, a lot. On the way to getting [inaudible 00:17:38] they’re just hungry all the time and they get worse sleep, they get less hours sleep on average. People who just are really hungry, it’s harder to fall asleep. And that feeling of being too full when you try to go to sleep is also not pleasant. And people talk about how the body’s trying to use all this energy on digestion or everything like that as well. So avoiding those seems to be a prudent strategy.

Leah (17:57):

So there are quite a few ways meal timing can improve health and performance and there’s a lot of ways that it also doesn’t matter. And there’s also a lot of ways that are really personal preference. In general, it does seem to be less of a priority than what your overall intake is in relation to your goals. But the more you are trying to optimize things, especially when it comes to performance and recovery from training, the more this timing stuff does seem to matter. And especially with things like events and things like that, you probably want to take a little bit more care for those. But otherwise, yeah, preference and that’s about it.

Aidan (18:36):

Easy. Well, this has been episode 69 of The Ideal Nutrition Podcast. As always, if you could please leave a rating or review, if you have not already, that would be greatly appreciated.