Nutrient Timing

If you are new to fitness you might be asking what the heck nutrient timing is, let alone how to do it. But if you’ve been around the gym a little while and seen someone frantically smash a banana in their face between swig of a protein shake before they even step out of the gym, you probably have some idea about nutrient timing.

Nutrient timing is simple in concept – all it is, is eating certain types and amounts of food in a scheduled way around you activities in order to maximize their effect on your goals. Actually, even that definition sounds complicated, I take it back. It’s complicated. But it boils down to “when should I eat for maximum effect?”.

Well you are going to have a heck of a hard time finding a simple answer to that questions, lots of people have different approaches including fasted cardio, carb only in the morning, stopping eating before 7pm etc. But there are a few approaches that most people can follow and improve their results dramatically. I’ll lay them out for you based on the goals you might have.

Goal: Get big muscles, fast!

– Eat many small meals a day to keep your body anabolic (storing calories).

– Eat the majority of your carb intake in the form of a moderate to slow acting carb 60 mins prior to working out (think fruit or a potato) – this should be 30-40% of your daily carb intake

– Eat a portion (10 – 20% of daily intake) of fast acting carb like a banana or even gatorade can work WITH a fast digesting protein like whey powder within 30 minutes post workout

Goal: Get Lean, keep muscle

– If you choose to, do 20-30 mins of steady state cardio before eating anything. Pre workout supplements and BCAAs can be taken prior to the cardio session to improve energy and recovery. This is a method that works well, but is not for everyone as it saps your energy pretty fast.

– Eat the majority of your carbs around your workout, but overall carb intake should be lower than maintenance levels.

– Eat a moderate acting carb 60 mins before your workout

– Eat a fast acting protein like whey within 30 mins post workout – carbs at this point are optional and can help recovery if you had a really tough workout, but if you are looking to lean out, leaving out the cars at this point is beneficial

Goal: Get really strong and/or fast

– Eat carbs… like all the time. But particularly eat carbs before a tough workout.

– Eat a large serving of carbs before bed the night before a hard workout

– Ensure that you are getting fast acting carbs before AND after a workout within 30 mins of each

– May be beneficial to supplement with carbs (sugar) during long workouts

– Eat a fast acting protein within 30 mins of a workout

The PWO meal

The PWO meal

You may have noticed the carbs are the main nutrient that is involved with nutrient timing, and protein is really only mentioned post workout. This is typical, but can be confusing. Many people get into the trouble because they take these guideline ON TOP of their existing diet. Well that’s NOT how this works. This is about timing only, you should be deciding you total calorie and macro intake separate from all this stuff and in line with your goals. After you have those number you should allocate the macros and calories to fit into the nutrient timing for the particular goal. For instance, I want to lean out slowly while maintaining muscle, first I should determine my calories and macros for that goal. Currently that is as follows:

Calories – 1800-2000

Protein – 130-150 grams

Carbs – 100 – 180 grams (varies depending on workout or rest day)

Fat – 50 – 100 grams

Now that I have those numbers, I take into consideration my nutrient timing. I don’t like fasted morning cardio, so I don’t worry about that. I usually workout after work so a typical day would looks like this:

Breakfast – Cals 300-400, P 20g, F-10g, C 25-40g

Snack – Cals 250, P 20g, F 5g, C 20g

Lunch – Cals 400-500, P 30g, F 5-15g, C10-40 g

Pre WO – (banana or other fruit) 100 cals, C 20-30g

Post WO – (protein shake) 150 cals, P 25g

Dinner – Cals 400-500, P 30-40g, F 10-20g, C 10-20g (mostly from veggies)

Of course there is lots of variability, but you can see I am within my calorie and macro targets as well as hitting my nutrient timing and that is the key. You should not be adding or subtracting anything in order to hit the timing goals, only moving things around within your existing framework. That’s where the magic happens! 🙂



9 thoughts on “Nutrient Timing

      • Yeah absolutely! Keep your metabolism operating at an optimal rate and have calories to spare rather then cut to a SUPER low calorie range and slow your metabolism down 🙂 You’ll crush it in no time

  1. Great post! It wasn’t until I started teaching group fitness classes twice a day that I got a first hand experience of just how important the timing of consuming certain nutrients were. Now I am one of those people peeling a banana on the way to the gym!

  2. Hahaha I laugh because I just did a “round table” with the 3 other writers of Lifestyle and Strength and the topic was nutrient timing. Even just between the 4 of us there were virtually 4 completely different plans and importance around the different macros and when to eat them with the exception of carbs and protein post workout. Such a fun topic, and I could go on and on forever about it. It was fun to read your take on it, thanks!

    • Exactly! No one agrees on anything except right around workout. And even then there is a lot of discrepancy. But everyone agrees it’s important. Lol. It’s probably one of the most confusing topics out there. But what I really wanted to emphasize was that you shouldn’t change your daily macros or calories. I think people sometimes miss that.

      • Absolutely right and solid advice! What most of us agreed on was what was more important than when to eat was making sure you get the right nutrients in. Eating so many times a day and all that is very debatable. Even the pre-workout meal was pretty heavily debated!

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