Benefits of Correct Nutrient Timing
During the Clean Challenge, the primary component we are concerned about is the quality of food we are putting in our mouths. This approach alone has shown to be greatly beneficial to the majority of the population and should be the #1 concern for any nutrition program. The second concern is how much to eat for your desired body composition. Combining these two components for the vast majority is all that you need to reach your goals.
Nutrient timing is the next step and can have a huge effect on how your body adapts to exercise induced stress. For those that are less active, nutrient timing is less important. For those that are more active (5x/week for 45-60 minutes at intensity) nutrient timing is crucial.
Using nutrient timing can help to enhance your hormonal response to the type of food you are putting in your body. Everyones body is in a state of constant flux when it relates to hormone metabolism and creating a better balance will help you have better energy levels throughout your day, increase metabolic efficiency, and even improve sleep patterns. Those better sleep patterns also go hand in hand with a healthy hormone metabolism.
How to Use Nutrient Timing for Performance and Muscle Gain
For athletes working out more than 5 days a week at a high intensity, carbohydrate metabolism is greatly enhanced especially during the time around your workouts. The time period immediately prior to, during, and directly after your workout should be focused on carbohydrate and protein intake. Carbohydrates help to replenish ATP stores and also help to increase protein synthesis, which directly impacts muscle growth. This is the time of day when simple carbohydrates are your friend and not your enemy. The suggestion here would be to have a nutrition shake during and after your workout with about a 2:1 ratio of carb:protein. Focusing on a drink that is high in amino acids and fast digestion carbs would be the ideal way to go. This will enhance protein synthesis, fight against the catabolic effects right after exercise and promote muscle-gain. What we do not want around our workout is fat as that will decrease the absorption of muscle-glycogen and protein synthesis during this time.
An hour after your workout make sure to have a well balanced meal consisting of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Something like a little chicken stir-fry with veggies over rice. During the rest of the day I would stick to well balanced meals with lots of veggies, slow-digesting starches with lots of fiber, quality protein, and beneficial fats (i.e. coconut oil, grass-fed butter, avocado, olive oil). This means sweet potatoes, squash, and other veggies as your primary carbohydrate source, and focusing on free range chicken, grass-fed beef, and especially fish as your primary meat sources.
This article from Harvard Health can give you some guidelines for both fast digesting carbs to be eaten around your workout and slow digesting carbs to be eaten throughout the day.
Nutrient Timing for Fat Loss
The #1 take-away from this section is that eating primarily for fat loss will not mean that you are not going to gain muscle, but the primary goal is to lose excess fat even if that means not gaining muscle as fast as the group above.
At the forefront, focusing on quality foods in the right quantities throughout your day is going to be the most beneficial approach to leaning out and losing that excess fat. As stated in the previous blog post by Melissa, focusing on trying to keep your insulin levels balanced and not yo-yoing throughout your day by having large sugar spikes will help to increase energy throughout the day as well as help you lose fat.
#1 Rule to start your day: Drink water first thing and preferably with a touch of sea salt or himalayan salt and lemon. This will help to promote healthy digestion which will enhance how you utilize your food throughout the day.
#2 For those that workout in the morning, I would go to the gym fasted and worry about eating until right after your workout with a 2:1 Carb:Protein ratio. Shoot for 30 grams of carbs and 15 grams of protein. A good way to go about this is to have some fruit or coconut water and whey protein isolate.
#3 For those that workout in the afternoon I would start your day with 20 grams of protein and some high quality fats. A good way to do this is bulletproof coffee with some protein powder added. If you do not drink bulletproof you could just start your day off with a little salmon salad. The idea here is to try to ride out the first initial ghrelin increase (your hunger hormone telling you to eat) that also typically increases cortisol levels. After that first initial response your body’s hormonal metabolism will start to normalize and you will gain mental focus and energy without the initial surge stemming from carbohydrates, which will create that first surge in insulin. After the first part of your day you can eat and apple with some almonds as a snack and then for lunch make sure that you have some quality carbohydrates in the form of sweet potatoes, squash, berries, etc. and good quality protein in the form of fish, chicken, or grass-fed beef and lots of veggies! *note: If you tell me you don’t like veggies, I will also tell you that you are not five years old anymore and as an adult, a strong vibrant adult, we eat veggies! Then you will follow strategy #2 for replenishing your fuel stores after your workout and go home and eat a healthy well balanced meal before bed.
No matter what your goals are, eat high quality, well-balanced meals throughout your day! Try to stick to a meal and snack schedule, so your body knows what to expect. Focus on a 2:1 carbohydrate:protein ratio around your workouts and be consistent in the gym. Those 3 small things put together can yield large sustainable results.
Have fun and challenge yourself over the next 30 days to stick to this and see what type of results you see. You will get stronger, leaner, and feel more confident!