Many of you are consistent with your muscle building practices. Your training is on point, your supplement program is sound and you eat all of the right foods including good amounts of protein, complex carbs and healthy fats. But what if you could be better? What if you could tweak your diet to make even more significant gains?
Enter meal timing. Meal timing is the practice of taking in specific macronutrients at specific times regarding training, goals and time of day. Many trainers and nutritionists recommend the standard practice of ingesting a certain amount of proteins, carbs and fats throughout the course of the day. Recent research has shown that manipulating certain nutrients and their amounts can significantly increase gains in strength and size and burn body fat.
Immediately upon waking the body has just undergone a six to eight hour fast void of muscle building blocks of protein. Protein should be the first thing on your mind after such a hiatus. Fast digesting whey protein is the perfect fix to set your body into a positive amino balance once again and will hold off catabolism until you can get those eggs cooked! Take around 20-30 grams of whey first thing in the morning.
Another wise move is to take in a good amount of complex carbs in the morning to help refuel your glycogen stores for the day ahead. This will not only give you energy for your training later in the day, but will also stoke your metabolism to switch into high gear helping you to turn on that fat-burning furnace. Anywhere between 40 -60 grams of a complex carb source such as oatmeal or Ezekiel cereal are great choices.
Another time to keep a close eye on is the mid/late morning blood-sugar crash. Many of us at jobs tend to forget our important muscle building meals during hectic times of day that we neglect our guidelines to keep us on track. A great (and quick) solution is to pop a protein shake and some healthy fats. This can easily be accomplished with a quick shake of whey and water and around one ounce of nuts such as almonds. Not only will this feed your muscles with the much needed protein boost (not to mention convenient), but will also provide healthy fats to keep blood-sugar levels steady until your next solid meal.
One of the most critical times to actually start the recovery process after a training session is before you ever step into the gym. Saturating your muscles with protein prior to training can actually provide not only energy for the grueling session to come but can also provide key amino acids to muscles because they will be readily available for recovery. This will give you an advantage regarding performance and rebuilding for your next intense training bout. Try 30-40 grams of whey protein.
In addition to quality protein you must also consider complex carbs prior to training. Carbs are a must if you want to make any substantial gains at all. Not only will they provide a steady flow of energy, they will also spare protein to be used as energy. 40-60 grams of a quality carb source should be taken with whey protein 30 minutes to an hour prior to lifting. Good sources include oatmeal, 100% whole grain bread, rice or a medium sized apple.
We all know by now that post-workout nutrition is of utmost importance for muscle/strength gain. This crucial time has a limited window of opportunity, so it behooves the trainer to take full advantage of this important meal. After a brutal training session the body is starving for nutrients. This “window” which only lasts around an hour or less is the perfect time to down a whey protein shake to shuttle in amino acids as fast as possible to ramp up the recovery process. 40 grams of whey will do the trick.
Another key nutrient at this time is simple carbs. Simple carbs taken with your whey protein will raise insulin levels to help shuttle in more nutrients directly into the muscle. Even though higher insulin levels are related to fat gain, you won’t have to worry about that during your post-workout meal. The higher insulin levels are key in regulating hormone levels and nutrient absorption. Take in around 40-80 grams of simple carbs such as Gatorade depending on your goals.
Take advantage of these times to maximize gains and minimize muscle breakdown. These are just a few simple guidelines to try on your quest to a more muscular and leaner physique.
Meal Timing Q&A With Brad Borland
After a post-workout meal of whey and simple carbs, should I wait several hours before eating my next whole foods meal?
After consuming your post-workout meal of simple carbs and a quality whey protein, you need to consume a whole food meal within an hour to an hour and a half after training. Your muscles are screaming for nutrients after training so the post-workout meal will quickly be processed and absorbed. Not only does training increase protein synthesis, but the consumption of a fast-acting protein such as whey will also.
This will set into motion a series of metabolic events that makes it ideal to have a solid meal shortly after full of whole protein sources such as chicken, fish, turkey, or meat and complex carbs such as potatoes, rice or whole grain pasta. Taking advantage of this time will ensure you are on the right track to more muscle growth.
Is there any benefit to eating protein right before bed, or will the calories just be turned into fat?
Consuming protein prior to calling it a night can have a significant impact on your quest for a better physique. After realizing that you are about to enter into an eight or so hour fast (sleep), you can begin to see the importance protein has on long-term muscle feeding. The trick is to choose a slow releasing protein source such as casein powder or a whole food source such as low fat cottage cheese, Greek yogurt or whole eggs.
These foods have slow digestibility and will keep amino acids within the bloodstream longer throughout the night as opposed to whey which is quickly digested. The small amount of fat will also aid in the slow absorption and help regulate key muscle building hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone. And don't worry about gaining fat at night. As long as you keep your carb level low to moderate and are training with enough intensity, fat gain shouldn't be a problem.
If you do morning cardio apart from your weight lifting, should you use the same post-workout approach for eating?
Yes and no. First, if your goal is to lose body fat and are trying to keep your hard-earned muscle then taking 20-30 grams of whey protein along with no more than 30 grams of fast digesting carbs should do the trick. You are not burning up your glycogen stores as you would after an intense resistance training session so large amount of carbs aren’t necessarily needed.
Second, you can also “play around” with this number as you progress as some trainers are more carb sensitive than others and burn fat at different rates. The key is to keep a close eye on your progress in relation to your carb consumption.
Should I eat the same way on my off days?
It all depends on your ultimate goal - is it to gain mass or lean up? If you are in a mass gaining phase (especially if you are a hard-gainer) then yes, off days should be treated like training days. Your body needs a steady supply of muscle building protein along with generous amounts of carbs to keep your body in the anabolic environment in order to grow. If your goal is to lean up while maintaining muscle mass then cut carbs slightly on your off days.
This is not to say to cut out carbs to a detrimental level. This can be accomplished simply by cutting down on your pre-workout carbs meal and cutting out completely your post-workout simple carb meal. This will have a significant impact on your total caloric intake over the entire day. If you feel you still need to cut carbs even further, then other good times to cut carbs are before bed and evening time meals.