There is a lot of controversy about how nutrient timing doesn’t matter, and all that matters is hitting your macros and nutrients for the day. This is partially true; this article explains the importance of nutrient timing for cutting fat and gaining lean mass in particular.
Nutrient Timing for Cutting Body Fat
This is where nutrient timing is most important. Changing body composition is all about how and when you consume certain food groups. When you are trying to lose fat and get more defined, consume most of your carbs in the beginning of the day so you can burn them off as the day progresses. This provides you with enough energy to get through the day without feeling lethargic, or tired, but then taper off carbs as the day goes on and do not eat carbs within 3 hours of bedtime. Converse to most people’s beliefs, it is unused carbs that turn into fat and not dietary fat.
Fit 125g of your daily carbs around workout times: eat 75g of complex, starchy carbs 1-2 hours before workout with about 40g of a lean protein source. Eat another 50g of carbs and 20-30g of protein post workout to maximize recovery and spike your insulin levels with 20 grams being a simple carb source like dextrose or an isotonic drink.
This will rush all the nutrients directly to your muscle tissue, assisting with recovery. Eat your healthy fats at night like almonds, sunflower kernels, and peanut butter, as healthy fats are proven to help recovery during the night and also provide vitamins and minerals that will give you a good night’s sleep.
If you eat carbs late at night, your body will not use the carbs for energy and will store them instead of burning them. However, bodybuilders and athletes will rarely see fat gain unless they eat a lot of carbs because the majority will store as glycogen in the muscle tissue. The more muscle tissue you have, the more carbs gets stored as glycogen, giving the bodybuilder an advantage over other people.
Nutrient Timing for Gaining Lean Mass
Nutrient timing isn’t as important for trying to gain lean mass, but it still plays a big enough factor to make a difference. The anabolic window plays a huge role in trying to gain lean muscle because this window is when the most nutrients get absorbed by muscle tissue.
There are many theories on how long the anabolic window really is, but you’re good to go with the first 30 minutes directly after a workout. In this short amount of time, simple carbs, complex carbs, and a good amount of protein should be consumed. Eat at least .5g of carbs per pound of bodyweight during this window and make about 40-50% of those carbs simple carbs. Again, throw some dextrose in your protein shake, or drink an isotonic drink to spike those insulin levels and rush nutrients to the muscles, enhancing recovery and growth.
Pre-workout, eat about the same amount of complex, starchy carbs 3-4 hours before a workout to let all those carbs settle and get digested. Eat between 40-50 grams of protein with those carbs to remain anabolic during your workout. Since you are not trying to lose weight, it is OK to eat carbs at night, but make them complex carbs like oatmeal, sweet potatoes, brown rice, or some quinoa.
Many a bodybuilders’ favorite carby meal to eat is wholewheat pancakes, as they are one of the starchiest carbs you can eat and will fill muscle glycogen stores with no problem. It helps that they’re tasty too!
A lot of people don’t think much about nutrient timing and just eat their daily macros and calories whenever during the day. A good way to think about it is that lets say your diet consists of 200g of carbs a day. What do you think is going to make a bigger difference? Eating 125g of carbs around your workout – or eating those 125g of carbs before bed? It’s pretty obvious which one would be more beneficial. You need the carbs for energy during your workout and recovery afterwards. If you don’t use carbs around the right times, your body will not utilize them as energy, but store them as fat.