Nutrient Timing for Athletes
The nutrient timing you need to consider involves nutrients like carbohydrates, fats and protein. What you eat is important but so is when you eat them like for pre- and post-workouts, pre-sleep, number of meals per day and even circadian rhythm (your biological clock).
A good starting point is to define two terms:
– regular meal frequency: you eat meals and snacks at about the same time every day
– irregular meal frequency: your meals and snacks times change from day to day
Nutrient timing directly affects your body’s physiology.
Regular frequency creates:
- Predictable – increase energy, decreases stress
- Hunger cycle – getting hungry at the same times of day
- Bowel movement cycle – regular and consistent
Irregular frequency creates:
- High LDL levels – the bad cholesterol
- Increased insulin levels – irregular blood sugar
- Decreased Thermic Effect of Feeding – up to 50% decrease in metabolism
- Fatigue increases
There is a method used by scientists that measures the rate that muscle mass rebuilds after training. Depending on the workout volume and intensity, recovery can last up to three days. This means you are building muscle mass constantly, 24 hours a day for up to three days. Feeding this process during that time can reap huge dividends.
This process is dependent on nutrient timing, specifically amino acids. Providing muscles with readily available amino acids is critical. An average meal with a source of good protein will breakdown for 4-6 hours. As a result, eating up to 6 times a day with protein in each feeding will keep a consistent supply of amino acids to feed the process.
Eating a large quantity of protein in one meal is no benefit as the body can’t use it all. The best protein timing uses 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day. Separate that amount into equal portions throughout the day.
For example, this is how a 200 pound athlete could eat with a late morning workout:
Breakfast: 40 grams
Mid-morning snack: 40 grams of protein
During workout: 10 grams whey isolate protein powder
Post-workout: 30 grams whey isolate protein powder
1 – 2 hours later: 40 grams of protein in a meal
Evening meal: 40 grams of protein
Nutrient timing can drastically affect how well your body will recover and develop muscle mass. Eat several times per day and keep it as consistent as you can so your body adjusts to it.
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