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The TRUTH About Nutrient Timing for Athletic Performance

The TRUTH About Nutrient Timing for Athletic Performance

The TRUTH About Nutrient Timing for Athletic Performance

What is nutrient timing and how does it affect your body composition?

Nutrient timing has zero effect on changes in your body composition. The international society of sports nutrition issued a position stand on nutrient timing in 2008 which, was reviewed in 2017 and their conclusion is not surprising. Nutrient timing offers no beneficial effect on body composition when macronutrient volumes are controlled. This means that if you eat the same foods in exact quantities at different times on different days, there would be no change in your body composition.

Nutrient timing is a widely researched area around sports performance and previously the only data to give evidence to this claim was from the secondary information collected during performance based studies. However, in the last 10 years, this has been scrutinised and research has been focused specifically on nutrient timing on body composition changes and the results show that there are no acute effects on body composition. The time that you eat does not affect your fat mass or muscle mass.  This is the reason that methods like intermittent fasting, 5:2 diet and flexible dieting all work just as well as each other when the goal is to change body composition. These diets work because they control the daily intake of calories and macronutrient proportions. If nutrient timing had any effect on body composition, there would be a diet that is better than the others but this isn’t the case.

However, nutrient timing absolutely influences your performance and recovery which, in turn can provide physiological adaption within your body causing changes in body composition in the long term. It is well known that pre, during and post exercise carbohydrate and protein intake will increase training intensity, duration and improve recovery which, can induce muscle growth and other physiological adaptations.  If you lift heavier weights or train at a higher intensity during your training sessions and also have more complete and faster recovery, you will induce physiological changes within your body. Whether, that is increased muscle mass, improved cardiac output or higher respiratory uptake, these kinds of physiological changes may change your body composition over time.

THE VIDEO: The TRUTH About Nutrient Timing for Athletic Performance

Pre-training nutrition

We know that carbohydrates are converted into glycogen which, is stored within the body. Nevertheless, glycogen stores are limited. Endogenous glycogen may only last for 60-180 minutes at 65-85% VO2 Max intensity. The higher the intensity the faster the glycogen stores will be depleted. It is well documented that the quality and intensity of exercise is increased when a pre-exercise meal containing carbohydrates is ingested. According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, the optimal carbohydrate and protein content of a pre-exercise meal relies on several factors including exercise duration and current fitness condition. Their general guidelines recommend ingestion of 1-2 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of bodyweight and up to 0.25g/kg of protein between 90-180 minutes before exercise.  If protein and carbohydrate sources are ingested together pre-exercise, significantly greater levels of muscle protein synthesis are induced making uptake of protein higher reducing recovery time and improving muscle growth. This in turn can create changes in body composition.

Intra-training nutrition

Carbohydrate availability and glucose levels are a major determinant of endurance performance. If your body is saturated with readily available glucose, you will be able to perform at a higher intensity for a longer duration compared to being in a depleted state. This also lends its hand to strength training. You will be able to lift heavier and your recovery between sets will be faster and more complete. The international society of sports nutrition recommend 1-2g per kg of bodyweight every hour of exercise to uphold the highest intensities and induce the fastest recovery rate. During strength training this can be combined with a protein source to improve protein synthesis and inhibit muscle damage. Training at a higher intensity and lifting heavier weights will create larger muscle growth and burn more energy during training sessions which/ in turn will lead to beneficial body composition changes.

Post-training nutrition

You might have heard of the anabolic window. It is the 20-40 minute time window after your training during which, you must consume proteins and carbohydrates or all of your hard work will be lost. This may be a little extreme. Following high intensity training, the specific musculature will be in a state of repair for the next 24-28 hours. This means that your protein synthesis is going to be higher for this period. As long as you are consuming enough protein within this time your body will adapt and grow. However, there is some truth into this window of gains. The international society of sports nutrition have stated that to include the highest recovery rate and create the highest muscle protein and glycogen synthesis, a combination of proteins and carbohydrates should be consumed. Additionally, the consumption of creatine can create even greater adaptions to resistance training. Consuming carbohydrates and protein minutes after exercise won’t directly change your body composition however, it will create a faster and more complete recovery which, means you will be able to train and exercise at a higher intensity during your next training session and in the long term, you may experience beneficial changes in body composition.

Pre-bed time nutrition

Consuming carbohydrates before bed will not make you fat. Actually, it may do the opposite. As we have mentioned above, carbohydrates are stored as glycogen within the body. When the body is in a saturated condition, your recovery will be more complete and at a faster rate. If you are training hard, you will need to squeeze every recovery technique available as much as possible in your schedule to get the best results possible. Eating a well-balanced meal with carbohydrates, protein and fats 2 hours before hitting the sack will keep the fire burning during the night. The protein will be digested into amino acids which, will rebuild and repair your muscles and tissue during sleep. The carbohydrates will help shuttle the protein around the body and increase your muscle protein synthesis during sleep as well as saturating your muscles with glycogen so you will feel recovered when you wake up. The fats will slow down the digestion process which, means you will have a consistent supply of nutrients throughout the night. If you stay within your calorie target, food before bed will not be stored as fat. It will help you recover better which, will allow you to train at higher intensities during your training and in the long term, you may experience beneficial effects on your body composition.

Fat intake

Increased quantities of fats pre, during and post training can inhibit the rate of carbohydrate and protein intake by slowing down the digestion time and lowering the glycaemic index of the foods ingested. For this reason, fats should be kept to a minimum around 90 minutes before, during and 60 minutes after high intensity exercise.  However, fats are essential for normal human bodily function and hormone regulation so don’t skip them out.

If changing your body composition is your main goal, the timing of your nutrients is not important as long as you are consuming the correct energy intake and your macronutrients are in the right proportions. Instead of paying attention to the timing, ensure that you are consuming the right amount of energy which, is specific to your goals. If you are an athlete and are looking to perform at your best and recover at the fastest rate then, nutrient timing is absolutely on the list of your priorities. Ensure that you are consuming proteins and carbohydrates before, during and after your training or competitions to perform at your best and recover for your next training. As you improve and are able to lift heavier or train at higher intensities you may see changes in your body composition but this is not directly related to the timing of your nutrients, it is just a consequence.

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