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! ūüôā



This whole good carb bad carb thing…

Yesterday was great. I bought my competition shoes (below), did a leisurely back workout with my friend (I don’t think she considered it leisurely) and went to my parent’s for dinner where I had the BEST sweet potato ever. It was so sweet that it actually carmelized a bit. It was supposed to be a low carb day, but for a cheat, sweet potato is a pretty reasonable one… I also ate significantly more chicken (and skin) than I normally would because my mom’s cooking is awesome and things just somehow taste better when she makes them.

Some practice will be needed walk confidently in these.

While I’m on the topic of carbs I would like to point out something that has always bothered me; this whole labeling carbs “good” vs. “bad” is just wrong!

Yes there are higher nutrient carb sources which I would consider BETTER for you, but that is not the division I typically see.

More often is goes “complex carbs = good and simple carbs = bad”, but it just doesn’t work like that. That puts raisins and pixy stix in the same category of bad and sweet potatoes in the same category as cereal as good. I do not accept that!

Simple carbs have their place in a healthy diet, especially one that has high intensity exercises. Complex carbs are just slow releasing carbs, they provide energy to your system slower over a longer period of time which is great in day-to-day life. They also have a slower insulin response and will keep you full longer. Simple carbs have a high insulin response, you probably all think this is bad, but there is a place where you want this as insulin is an enzyme that transports carbs to be used by the muscle. Simple carbs are great before high intensity work where your muscles will need the fuel; they are also great after a tough weight session when you are trying to build muscle because the sugar will help to muscle use the protein you should all be having post workout. Artificial and chemically processed foods, sugary foods, candy and white flour might meet the definition of complex or simple carb but they have little to no nutritional value like vitamins and minerals. Stick which whole natural foods to meet your simple and complex carb needs.

OK rant over.

Yesterday I had my friend take some pictures of my back while we were working out and was quite pleased with the level of definition.

A little blurry but you get the idea

I love working back, it just makes me feel so strong! What are most people’s favourite muscle groups to work? I feel like for women it’s usually abs, and men seem to love chest and biceps. I’m a little weird I guess.

It was supposed to be a low carb day, but as I mentioned above, I was at my parents’ for dinner and my Mom made awesome sweet potatoes so I had a nibble of one and quickly decided that it could be a moderate carb day instead. Sometimes that just needs to happen. I had deliberately eaten a little less throughout the day knowing that I cannot resist bigger servings at my parents’ house so I was still right at my target calorie level and in a good range for protein and fats and less than 100 grams of carbs.

Today marks my first day of 2-a-day workouts. This morning I did a 25 minute fasted¬†interval run and some pretty intense ab work. This afternoon I will do steady state cardio and a shoulder workout. I will try to do 2 cardio sessions every¬†other day¬†and 1 on the day in between (with one full rest day each week)¬†in an attempt to push my body to shed a bit more weight as I’m starting to freak out that the show is so close! But I’m so excited at the same time. I don’t like cardio, but it definitely has a time and a place in competition training.

I feel like this post has been a little all over the place, which is probably reflective of my state of mind… crazy diets and exercise make my brain do funny things, sorry!

Train hard!

Saturday cardio and self sabotage

I currently sit here drinking a lovely post-cardio shake that I did not take a picture of because it doesn’t look like much, but this is a similar shake from a post of Eat Clean Diet. I looooove¬†chocolate and raspberries together and this is absolutely delicious plus super simple and quick to make.

Raspberry Chocolate Protein Shake


1 scoop protein powder of choice in chocolate or vanilla (I like BioX Power Whey Complex in Rocky Road)

2/3 c. frozen raspberries (if using fresh, just add ice)

1 c. unsweetened, unflavoured almond milk (or milk of choice)1 tsp. cocoa powder

1 pkg. Splenda or sweetener of choice

  • Directions: Throw everything in a blender (I use my magic bullet) and blend until smooth.

Nutritional Info: Cals – 230¬†¬† Carbs – 14 g¬†¬†¬† Fats –¬†6 g¬†¬† Protein 28 g

I really didn’t feel like making a huge meal and dirtying up my kitchen at 9 PM but I had just done about an hour of cardio and needed to have something nutritious with¬†a good mix of protein and carbs (only a few).

After my progress pics yesterday¬†I was feeling pretty good about the whole competition diet. But as I start to lose my body fat I find myself getting tired easily. It probably doesn’t help that my workouts are getting longer and I’m adding more cardio. Yet I’m decreasing my food intake. No wonder I’m feeling sluggish. Today was supposed to be a carb up, and I did eat more carbs than on a low carb day but I would call it “moderate” carbs at about 120 g for the day because I really did not feel like hitting the gym hard and couldn’t justify the higher carbs on a lack luster gym day.

Today I went to a baseball game, out to eat and was back at my house around 6 feeling like taking a nap and lamenting the fact that my legs (particularly my bum) were rather sore from yesterday’s glute¬†and hamstring centric workout. The gym by my place closes at 8 PM on Saturdays so I had a decision to make: stay at home and lose a day of working out or drag myself to the gym and get in some kind of workout, good, bad or ugly. Since I was planning on meeting a friend tomorrow to work back and abs, I decided to just do a long cardio session. Not much thought involved in that. A trainer I have been talking to highly recommends the stair mill so that is what I had in mind. I changed into my gym clothes, grabbed a water bottle and my iPod and headed for the gym. It’s about a 15 power walk there which got my heart rate up but also gave me time to think… why was I feeling so lackluster today? Why didn’t I want to go to the gym when it’s usually something I look forward to?

Is this what they are talking about with Self Sabotage???

I really think it is!

Not that I don’t want to succeed, but it’s so much easier to stay on a couch that to walk to the gym and workout for an hour when you are already exhausted. There are a million excuses to not go and a lot of them go through my head daily but normally I love the gym, so it’s not hard to overcome those negative thoughts. Today was a little harder because, well, I hate cardio as I talk about here. So what pulled me through?

A¬†major thing was that I still need to drop my body fat down and only have 4 weeks before the competition. Do I really want to get up on stage in a tiny bikini and not be where I want to be? NO. But that’s not really useful to you guys since most of you don’t have a competition looming, but goals can be incredible motivators. If you set yourself a deadline to achieve something, not sticking to the plan might/will end in you not achieving that goal. I don’t know about you but I HATE failing. Do you have a vacation planned? A fancy event? A birthday coming up? Why not set a fitness goal to achieve by that day? It will help hold you accountable.

The other thing that got me out the door, and this is corny, so I’m sorry, but it was those stupid motivational posters that say things like the hardest step in the one out your front door, and no matter how slow you go, you’re lapping everyone on the couch. I normally don’t need a tonne of help motivating myself. But just thinking about those things made me realize that once I’m at the gym, the tiredness will probably disappear. So I made a deal with myself that I would go for 10 minutes on the stair mill (my goal is to do 50 minutes on cardio days) and if I still felt awful, I could stop. But once you start going it seems like such a waste! You’re already there, you are already sweaty, you already have your heart rate up… just keep going… and I did. I did the whole 50 minutes! It was not my best workout, but I was sweaty and felt much better for having done it. Plus, now I don’t feel like I’ve wasted my carbs today!

So no more self sabotage. Every day counts, I have 4 weeks to go and I will not let myself get in the way of success!

But speaking of carbs… I have another delicious oatmeal recipe from today ūüôā

Apple Cinnamon Oats

Apple cinnamon oats

The ingredients are:

  • 1/3 c. large flake oats
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/2 c. egg whites
  • 2 tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 a medium apple, diced
  • 1 tbsp real maple syrup
  • a generous amount of cinnamon


  1. Combine water, egg whites and oats in a sauce pan and bring to a boil over high heat stirring frequently.
  2. When boiling, turn heat to low and simmer until thick while stirring frequently.
  3. Add the applesauce and apples (i left a couple out to put on top for the picture but if you want a crunchier texture, leave all of them out and stir them in at the end) and stir to combine.
  4. Bring back to a boil until desired thickness is reached.
  5. Serve in a bowl and top with the maple syrup and cinnamon and mix it all in.

Nutritional Information:¬†¬†¬†¬† Cals ‚Äď 340¬†¬†¬†¬† Carbs ‚Äď 49 g¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Fats ‚Äst0 g¬†¬†¬†¬† Protein ‚Äst28 g

Carb up!

Today is carb up day! I’m so excited and I don’t know why… I don’t even normally eat a lot of carbs, but after 3 days (1 day fast and 2 days of low carb) of having very limited carbs and next to no fruit, I am thoroughly looking forward to the high carbs and slightly higher calories of today. But before I get into that, let me tell you about the low carb phase first.

¬†For the last 2 days I have consumed less than 80 grams of carbs per day (63 on the first and 71 on the second). I didn’t struggle too much, but I did notice I was a little tired. I’m not sure if that was lack of sleep or from the lack of carbs. Considering I usually eat around 130 grams per day this isn’t a big change, but to get down to that level requires cutting fruit and grains entirely. I was having lots of eggs, avocados, chicken, beef, salad vegetables, and other veggies along with increasing my fat intake in the form of olive oil, a few nuts, coconut¬†oil and even some butter. So all in all I was not feeling deprived, I never felt overly hungry, just a little weird. My energy would come and go throughout the day without any reason that I could identify, but I never felt dizzy or overly tired. Tuesday morning I weighed 139.8 lbs (after the fast) and this morning I weighed 138 lbs on the nose. So almost 2 pounds in 2 days. I will expect to go back up tomorrow and slowly cycle down as carbs retain water. Based on the first 2 days, I definitely think this is something that will be effective and that I can continue to do without too much struggle.

 Now on to the carbs! I planned out my meals for today in the morning yesterday because I wanted to be around 225 grams of carbs and needed to know what I should be eating. My plan is:

 Breakfast РPumpkin protein oatmeal (which I give the recipe for below)

 Snack Рgreek yogurt/apple/kashi cereal mix up

 Lunch РBeef stirfry with 1/4 c. (uncooked) quinoa

 Snack 2 РApple and 1.5 tbsp natural peanut butter

 Dinner РTurkey meatloaf muffins (see recipe here) with sweet potato, carrots and snap peas

 Snack 3 (if needed) РApple and protein shake

 If you notice there are a lot of apples in that plan that is because I have a huge amount of apples in my fridge right now from apple picking on my birthday.

 Without the 3rd snack, my daily breakdown is this: Cals Р1,812      Carbs Р222 g       Fats Р50 g       Protein Р128 g

¬†Pretty nice looking stats if I do say so myself ūüėČ

¬†So the carb refeed¬†plan is now a go, I made all my meals and put them in tupperware last night except for breakfast. I had breakfast about two hours ago and noticed a definite difference in how I felt after eating, much more full (not more satisfied, just physically full) and maybe a little clearer headed.This was how I started my carb up; this lovely fall inspired bowl of oatmeal that I like to call…

 Pumpkin Pie Protein Oats

 Here are the ingredients:


1/3 c. large flake oats

1/2 c. water

2/3 c. liquid egg whites (don’t use the real egg whites as it makes it REALLY thick, you also don’t have to add this att all and can just follow the amounts on the package with no protein)

1/3 c. Pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)

1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or whatever spice you want)

1 tbsp chopped pecans or walnuts

1 tsp organic maple sugar to top (maple syrup is also delicious, I just don’t have any at the moment)

Egg whites, water and oats get added to the pot

Step 1: Combine the liquid egg whites, water and oats in a small sauce pan and turn heat to high.

Starting to boil… turn down the heat!

Step 2: Bring the ingredients to a boil stirring frequently (I use a fork) so that it doesn’t get burnt on the bottom then turn the heat to low and let simmer.

This is the thickness I like (about 12 minutes after its starts to boil), just adjust the time for how thick you want it and keep an eye on it.

Step 3: Simmer uncovered for 10 -15 mins stirring frequently until desired thickness is reached (you can also adjust the amount of water at the beginning to change the thickness)

Add the pumpkin ūüôā

Step 4:¬†turn the heat to medium and add the pureed pumpkin, stir vigorously to combine and wait until it comes back to a boil (the pumpkin will have cooled it down, this isn’t necessary, but I like it hot)

Add your toppings and dig in!

Step 5: Stir in the pumpkin pie spice (and some splenda/sugar/agave/whatever sweetener you use if you want it sweeter) while it is still in the pot. Scrape it all out into a bowl and top with the nuts and maple sugar/syrup.

Step 6: Enjoy what essentially tastes like pumpkin pie for breakfast which is just perfect in the fall!

Nutritionals:           Cals Р330     Carbs Р38 g     Fats Р8 g      Protein Р28 g