Nutrient Timing

Buzz over nutrient timing has cyclists, swimmers, runners, and weight lifters alike all excited. Nutrient timing is the study of what specifically to eat before, during, and after exercise and the effects of diet patterns on exercise recovery and muscle growth.

This branch of science is relatively new, and as our understanding of exercise physiology and nutrition grows, it has become apparent that when you eat can affect your body just as what you eat does. The advances in nutrient timing has been shown to be beneficial for both endurance exercise like swimming, biking, and running and resistance exercises like weight lifting.

Response to exercise includes both catabolic and anabolic hormone signals. Catabolic signals tell the body to break down nutrients like glycogen (carbohydrates stored in muscles) and fat for energy. Anabolic hormones are ‘building up’ hormones, and tell the body to replenish glycogen stores and build up proteins in muscles.

The three periods that nutrient timing deals with are the energy loading period, the anabolic period, and the growth period. The energy loading period occurs before and during exercise. Good practices for the energy loading period are to ingest protein and carbohydrate in whatever form is most palatable. Using a mixture such as this before and during exercise can maintain energy levels, allow you to do more sets in a resistance workout, and can aid in glycogen and muscle recovery afterward.

The anabolic period involves the hour immediately after exercise is done. Carbohydrate eaten immediately after exercise ensures that there is enough glucose to start the recovery process without breaking down more glycogen stores in your body. Instead, anabolic signals take over in rebuilding the body. A mix of carbohydrates and proteins with a higher proportion of protein than in the energy loading period aid in muscle protein recovery.

Protein and carb meals in the growth phase allow for glycogen restoration to be most effective and leads to better protein synthesis. Many hours after exercise, carbs with a low glycemic index are most highly recommended as is lean sources of protein.

Before, during and up to 4 hours after exercise is when high glycemic index carbs should be taken in. In these periods, the body needs relatively high blood sugar levels to prepare the boddy for exercise, maintain muscle activity without fatigue, and jump-start glycogen recovery. In all periods, a mixture of carbohydrates and a little protein in a ratio between 5:1 and 3:1.

An example of good nutrient timing applied to a bike workout: Before the workout, eat an energy bar with 5 grams of protein and 20-25 grams of carbohydrate with water. During the workout, drink an electrolyte replacement drink with carbohydrate and protein ratio of about 4:1 or combine an electrolyte replacement with an energy bar to get the same nutrient mix. Immediately following the workout, grab a carby snack that has a slightly higher protein content, like a bagel with peanut butter. after 4 hours, switch to carbs that have a low glycemic index like fruits, vegetables, and whole grain bread with lean proteins like poultry and fish.

Some speculate that he is part man, part animal, but the only thing that you need to know is his obsession and dedication to the art of living lean and helping you to achieve your body fat goals.


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