Nutrient Timing - Does it Matter When You Eat Your Food?

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Nutrient Timing - Does it Matter When You Eat Your Food?

Don’t eat after 6 pm.

You have a 2-hour “FREE” window after workouts to eat whatever you want, without any adverse effects.

It is better to eat your carbohydrates earlier in the day rather than at night.

How do we know what to believe when there are SO MANY different opinions out there??

There are some very long standing ‘myths’ out there that I’d like to go over, and hopefully, clear up some common questions I get about nutrient timing.  What I mean by nutrient timing is when you eat what throughout the day or in other words, when you take in your carbohydrates, your fats, and your proteins. 

 Point #1 – Late night eating does not make you fat.  Your body is not on a 24-hour clock. What matters is how much you ingest vs. how much you burn over time. 

Typically the main reason people believe in this myth is more due to the types of food they are eating late at night, rather than the sole fact that they are eating at night. 

Does this sound familiar?

You come home after work and are both stressed and ravenous.  You start picking at foods while you’re making dinner, you eat your dinner, and then you are on a quest for something sweet to cure your cravings.  So you eat half the bag of chocolate chips in your baking cabinet because you don’t have any other chocolate in the house.

Believe it or not, it does not matter as much WHEN you eat; it matters WHAT and HOW MUCH you eat.   Your body does not store fat more readily at night than at other times during the day. Just make sure you are consuming the correct amount of calories, and proportions of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats to ensure you are reaching your goals. 

If you eat all the food you are supposed to before 7 pm, then you shouldn’t be eating past then, BUT if you find yourself at 8 pm with 30g of carbohydrates and 20g of protein left to eat in your day, I hope you’re making yourself a sandwich to get you there! 

Point #2 – You do not have a “free” window after your workout to eat whatever you want without adverse effects.  Although, you can improve your recovery and performance by timing your food intake around your training.

So before you think I’m contradicting myself, like I mentioned WHEN you eat does not outweigh what and how much you eat.  Although, the timing of your foods can have a positive impact on your results as long as you have the proper amounts and quality of food in place. 

If you have the right amount of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats determined in a day that you should be eating, but are trying to figure out how to split it up into your day, then here is what I’d advise:

Having a meal with sufficient amounts of protein every 3-5 hours.  This will prevent your body from pulling amino acids (building blocks of protein) from other muscle tissue to supply itself.  AKA – You won’t have muscle breakdown due to lack of calories and can keep your ‘gainz’.

Eating 3-5 meals per day will help you get the proper amount of calories necessary without feeling too hungry at any point, as well as not having to eat HUGE meals to reach your caloric goals for a day. 

Your post workout meal is important because this is when you are starting your recovery process.  As soon as we’ve stopped ‘gasping for air post-workout,' our recovery phase has begun. What does that even entail?

  • Replenishing muscle and liver glycogen stores (aka our energy stores which are fueled by CARBOHYDRATES)
  • Muscle Repair which can be aided by protein intake
  • Restoring fluid and electrolytes
  • Helping the immune system to handle the damage of exercise and the stress it causes on the body (don’t worry – it’s a good stress!) 

So if you are trying to figure out how often to eat and when to eat what, keep these two things in mind:

  • Worry first about how much and the types of food you are eating before you start worrying about the timing of those foods.
  • Eat 4-6 meals throughout the day evenly spaced out and include a good lean protein source with each.
  • If you are weight-training/exercising consistently, try to have slightly larger meals pre-workout (1-3 hours prior), as well as post-workout (within 90 minutes) to aid in performance and recovery.  These meals are where I would focus a larger amount of calories to restore glycogen to muscles (aka from carbohydrates) as well as aid in muscle tissue repair (aka from a lean protein source). 

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