Nutrient Timing

We’ve all heard of the anabolic window. Some deem it the holy grail of muscle growth; others see it as nothing more than a layer of complexity that doesn’t do much.

In truth, nutrient timing has been the subject of much debate over the years, and you’ve probably heard of many different opinions about it.

But, how important is nutrient timing in the grand scheme of things? Let’s find out.

But First, What Is Nutrient Timing?

In simple terms, nutrient timing refers to the consumption of certain nutrients (and amounts) at specific times of the day. For example, having 30 grams of protein before or after working out. 

Over the years, we’ve seen many papers on nutrient timing, and dozens of experts have led debates regarding the importance of paying attention to what you eat and when.

The question is, does nutrient timing matter? Let’s see.

Does Nutrient Timing Matter?

We saw plenty of studies related to nutrient timing in the last century. Naturally, people jumped on the bandwagon, and nutrient timing became the greatest thing since sliced bread. Missing a meal after training was seen as the equivalent of fasting for six days straight.

Around the time, we also saw the anabolic window skyrocket in popularity. In case you’re unfamiliar, the anabolic window is the period after training when the body is primed for anabolism, and every single calorie you ingest goes to our muscles for growth and repair. At least, this is what prevailing wisdom suggested.

However, as the body of literature evolved in the early 2000s, researchers found that previous studies often lacked quality. Specifically, they were often short-term and had very few subjects (not enough to put too much stock in the data). They also looked at certain aspects of the big picture while overlooking, well, the big picture. For example, they would look at nitrogen balance and protein synthesis but would completely ignore muscle growth rates.

With that said, recent research suggests that nutrient timing matters. But now researchers believe that timing our nutrients isn’t as important as we previously thought and that our overall caloric intake and diet composition matter much more.

So, the question isn’t so much whether nutrient timing matters, but, instead, how much does it matter? We are yet to understand that fully.

How to Leverage Nutrient Timing For Optimal Results

According to Brad Schoenfeld and Alan Aragon, two foremost experts in hypertrophy and sports nutrition, nutrient timing mostly matters around our workouts. Specifically, they recommend utilizing nutrient timing to maximize our training performance, minimize muscle loss, and kickstart the recovery process as fast as possible.

To achieve this effect, they suggest that we consume a meal with carbs and protein in the hours leading up to the workout. Ideally, that would be around two hours before training. Then, once we finish the workout, we should consume another meal with carbs and protein. This will help kickstart the recovery process and prevent muscle protein loss.

They also note that if the pre-workout meal is large enough and occurs within two to three hours of training, the post-training meal doesn’t need to happen immediately. We should still have enough glucose and amino acids to support performance and muscle tissue.