Have you ever heard fitness advice in regards to when you eat?
Perhaps you’ve been told you need a protein shake directly after your workout to prevent your muscles from disintegrating?
Or maybe you’ve been told that eating after a certain time of night will lead to fat gain?
Or that you should avoid carbs after 12pm?
You may be asking yourself if — or when — this kind of precise timing is actually relevant for your fitness goals.
Here’s the (whey protein) scoop…
“Food timing” (or “nutrient timing”) refers to planning when and what you’ll eat for optimal performance or physique results. As above, the most common considerations are before and after your workout and proximity to sleep.
MAIN TAKEAWAY: As long as you’re eating the right amount of calories and protein for your goals, specific timing protocols are of minimal importance.
Or stated as the inversion, if you’re NOT hitting your daily goals, then nutrient timing is really meaningless.
That said, here are some principles to keep in mind:
More often than not, you’ll want some fuel in your system before you train. This will provide sufficient energy to have a great workout. A piece of fruit with a protein shake works nicely here, though if you’re looking to add muscle you’ll want a more substantial serving. The real determining factor here is avoiding nausea!
One timing consideration that will matter: “fasted” training will usually lead to less-than-ideal results if you’re doing higher volume and/or intensity workouts. You can get away with fasted workouts if they’re shorter in length and/or lower in intensity and volume. But as a rule, you’re best off to have some energy (food) in your system for more vigorous sessions.
If you’re not fueled, you can’t train hard enough to impact your metabolism, your muscle growth, or your performance goals. So make sure you’re fueled so you don’t get “bonked” and have a sub-par training session.
During the 60 to 90 minute window after a training session your body is looking to replenish post-workout. This makes it a great time to have your biggest meal of the day. A moderate serving of carbs are also a great choice for your post-workout meal.
But let me again reiterate: if you’re eating regularly and have food in your system (see above), this isn’t a mission critical situation.
Late Night Eating
Many people think eating late in the day leads to extra fat gain. Sometimes you’ll be advised to specifically avoid carbs later in the day, as you’ll be burning less calories and will be going to bed soon. This is often attributed to a “spike in insulin.”
This is not accurate and does not reflect how the body works. While this can be a valid strategy to support an overall reduction in calories, the specific timing won’t play a meaningful role.
If you’re eating the right amount for your goals, you have a lot of leeway to set up your daily eating schedule based on your personal preference of timing and meal frequency. In fact, many people find they sleep best by having a moderate size portion of carbs in their last meal of the day a few hours before bed.
Once again, the most important metric is total daily caloric intake. Although the above considerations for fueling your workouts can have some impact, overall, the precise timing can be played with.
And as always, the only strategies that are worth pursuing are the ones you can realistically execute within the confines of your lifestyle and preferences!
Eating a bowl of pumpkin-flavored, Special K cereal right before bed so fecking good,
PS Want to make sure you’re getting the very best results with those fueled workouts?
If you’ve never been to MFF, below are two no-commitment ways to get the party started with your ol’ pals at MFF:
- Get 21- Day Unicorn Kickstart Challenge HERE
- Get a week of totally free, at-home, bodyweight-only, online MFF classes HERE