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Nutrient Timing & Exercise

When it comes to reaching health and fitness goals, nutrient timing can have an impact on the outcome and rate at which you reach those goals. Nutrient timing is essentially the time either before or after exercise where you supply your body specific nutrients two help boost energy levels and/or increase overall muscle growth and recovery.

Carbohydrates are very beneficial by increasing energy levels that should be used as a source of fuel for the body prior to a strenuous bout exercise. For endurance athletes the time at which these carbohydrates are ingested can be crucial to overall performance. For more complex types of carbohydrates, such as pasta, increasing the carbohydrate intake throughout the week beforehand allows time to process and fill the muscle glycogen stores. This is usually combined with a “taper” in the training which allows the body to be at optimal performance level the day of the endurance event. Often times you will see endurance athletes, such as marathon runners, have some sort of energy pack or another form of simple sugars, like Gushers, to provide the body a quick boost of energy in order to get through the rest of the race. Normally ingesting straight sugar would not be recommended, however, in scenarios like this, having those simple sugars is actually helpful because your body uses that sugar as fuel and allows these athletes to continue to perform at a high level.

Shooting for approximately 1g per pound of body weight a day of protein allows the body to increase muscle proteins synthesis while also reducing rates of muscle protein degradation. When this is coupled with exercise, more specifically resistance training, hypertrophy of the muscles will be seen over time. If you are looking to increase lean body mass, hitting that 1g per pound of body weight a day will be very beneficial to this goal. The “anabolic/metabolic window” was a newsletter topic in January. In that newsletter I discussed how this isn’t necessarily a required time window where you need to take protein to see results. Rather, having around 20g of protein (food, shake, protein bar, etc.) every 3 waking hours would hold more significance. This allows for optimal protein synthesis to occur in our muscles. A lot of research out there shows that there isn’t a major difference between ingesting protein before, during, or after a bout of exercise. They all lead to an increase in MPS. Having some sort of protein combined with a carbohydrate after a workout can help to kick start the muscle building and recovery process, but is not as important as the overall amount of protein consumed per day (1).

Studies have also shown that having a high protein diet, while in a slight caloric deficit (200-500cal/day), will allow an individual to lose weight (especially body fat) and increase or maintain fat free mass. This ensures that it is done in a sustainable and healthy manner, which is the most important aspect (2). This table shows recent studies that looked at high-protein diets versus low-protein diets in various populations. All of these support the claim that a high-protein diet can help increase/maintain fat free mass, while reducing fat mass over the same time period. (

Another way to help increase muscle mass and enhance recovery is by supplementing with creatine. Creatine is not bad for you and it is actually one of the few supplements actually does what it is prescribed to do. It doesn’t take a whole lot of creatine for the effects to be seen. All that is needed is around 5g per day. Creatine can be found in a lot of red meats as well as many different powdery supplements. If you don’t eat red meat, you may lack creatine and iron levels in the body, so taking some sort of supplement for these nutrients would yield positive health benefits.

Providing the body with enough omega-3 fatty acids it’s also crucial. This can be easily found through eating fish or supplementing with fish oil pills. Omega-3 fatty acids help to reduce inflammation in the body as well as maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system. They are “essential fats” which means that the body cannot naturally produce them and must be supplemented in some way, shape, or form. Most health organizations recommend that fatty fish, or an omega-3 supplement, be taken at least twice per week (3).

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