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Nutrient Timing

June 8, 2019

Book cover of Nutrient Timing by Dr IvyWhen Nutrient Timing: The Future of Sports Nutrition by Drs. John Ivy and Robert Portman was published in 2004, the idea of nutrient timing became extremely popular, and people were talking about the “anabolic window of opportunity” non-stop.

In a nutshell, nutrient timing simply means eating the proper ratio of nutrients (specifically protein and carbs) in specific amounts BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER.

The post-exercise meal was thought to be the most critical part of nutrient timing for 2 primary reasons:

  1. It replenishes glycogen stores
  2. It minimizes muscle protein breakdown

But it’s not that simple. 

The body of research in this area has two big limitations.

  1. The original hypothesis was based largely on the pre-supposition that training is carried out in a fasted state. 
  2. And the majority of studies on the topic have been carried out in untrained individuals. (Remember how easy it was to gain muscle/strength when you first started training?)

Alan Aragon published a very comprehensive (and long) research study in Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Here’s a summary of his findings:

Is it important to consume protein and carbs within 30-45 minutes of exercise?

YES if:

  1. You compete in a sport that depends on glycogen (learn more about energy systems here)
  2. Your training lasts for more than 2 continuous hours
  3. There is minimal time in between your events

MAYBE if:

  1. You’re training in a fasted state, and your workout lasts for more than 1 hour
  2. You are an advanced lifter and are trying to gain muscle or strength
  3. Your goal is extreme fat loss and you’re a advanced exeriser

MAYBE NOT if:

  1. You’re not in a fasted state and your session lasts less than 1 hour
  2. You’re not training for endurance competitions 
  3. Your goals don’t include extreme muscle gain or extreme fat loss

The most current research suggests that if you are eating the right foods in the right amounts, meal frequency seems to be a matter of personal preference. So, proper nutrition is important, but for most strength athletes, timing isn’t as critical as we once believed. So, there you have it!

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