NUTRIENT TIMING

Now, quality of food is without a doubt the most important part of healthy eating, but it is not the entire picture. Nutrient timing refers to “when” you are eating, and is probably the area that people are most unfamiliar with. In this section I will show you how to use nutrient timing to get the most out of your food choices.


The first part of nutrient timing is pretty straight forward. You should eat a moderate sized meal or small snack, every 2-4 hours, depending on hunger. The main reason for doing this goes right back to insulin. We have already learned that the rate of digestion of food, particularly carbohydrate, directly affects our insulin levels. The other main factor that influences insulin levels is the amount of food that we eat (covered more thoroughly in the next topic). The more you eat, the more blood sugar enters the bloodstream, and the greater the increase in insulin levels. Remember that for fat loss, and for good health to some extent, you want to maintain relatively low insulin levels throughout the day. Eating medium or small, frequent meals is one of the simplest and most effective ways of keeping your insulin levels under control. Eating frequently also helps to prevent overeating. If you know you are going to eat again soon, there is no need to gorge. You can just eat until you feel satisfied and save any leftovers for later.


The next part of nutrient timing is a little bit more complicated. Your body is constantly burning calories. Those calories come from the carbs, fats, and proteins that we eat and that we have stored in our bodies. Whether the body is burning carbs, fats, or proteins depends primarily on the energy expenditure of the body at any given moment. Carbohydrate is almost always the primary fuel source, but fats and proteins are being used also. The higher the energy expenditure, such as during running, the higher the percentage of carbohydrate used as a fuel source (if it is available). The lower the energy expenditure, the higher the percentage of fat being used. Protein is used at a relatively constant rate as long as carbs and fats are available. That is an extremely rough cut of “substrate utilization,” but enough to help us with our food choices.
Knowing that our bodies have a preference for carb or fat depending on energy expenditure, we should make food choices that reflect our energy expenditure. When energy expenditure is high, eat a higher percentage of carbohydrates, a moderate amount of protein, small amounts of fat and more total calories. When energy expenditure is low, eat a small or moderate amount of carbohydrate, a moderate amount of protein, a moderate amount of fat and less total calories.


So if you just going to be sitting at your desk all day, a sandwich with chips and soda is a pretty terrible choice. WAAAYYY too many carbs (simple carbs) and calories for what you are doing. You are asking your body to store fat. A better choice would be a salad with some beans and eggs, or an apple with peanut butter and a protein shake (my all time favorite low energy snack). If you are more active during the day (doing yard work, hiking, physically demanding job, etc.) you should eat more carbs and more total calories. Rice, beans, oatmeal, fruits and veggies, even potatoes and pasta (one of the few slow digesting processed carbs) are good choices if your expenditure is high enough.


Exercise is another circumstance when your expenditure is going to be high (it should be anyway!). This is also the most important time to make good food choices. Your workouts, and ultimately your results are dependent upon how you fuel your body when it comes time to workout. To make sure you are getting the best possible results it is critical to eat both a “Pre-Workout Meal” and a “Post-Workout Meal.”


Your pre-workout meal is going to fuel your training session. This should be eaten 1.5-2 hours before a strength training session or an intense cardio session. It should consist mostly of complex carbohydrates and also some protein. Avoid eating a lot fat for this meal. Because fat digests slowly, it may still be in your stomach by the time you start working out, which can cause nausea. In addition to eating, caffeine should be taken 30-60 minutes before your workout. Caffeine has been shown to improve performance and increase the percentage of body fat used as a fuel source during exercise. Nice. I recommend green tea for the added benefits of EGCG and other anti-oxidants.


Your post-workout meal is without a doubt the most important meal on days that you will be exercising. This meal is going to be what triggers your body to start recovering from the exercise and is absolutely critical for building muscle, burning fat, and improving performance on your next workout. After intense exercise, muscle cells are hyper-sensitive to insulin. Insulin doesn’t just make the body store fat, it drives nutrients into cells, including fat cells. But, if our muscles are hyper-sensitive to insulin, meaning insulin is going to have a greater effect on those muscle cells, we can use insulin to drive carbs, protein, water, and micronutrients into cells, precisely when they need it the most. To take full advantage of this, your post-workout meal should be eaten as soon as possible after exercise. It should consist of a large quantity of simple carbohydrates (the one and only good time for simple carbs) and fast digesting protein in roughly a 4:1 carb to protein ratio. Hydration and electrolyte balance are also an important part of exercise recovery.


Taking all these things into account, the best post-workout meal that I have come across is Gatorade powder mixed with vanilla flavored protein powder (preferably whey, soy, or a blend). It covers all your bases: simple carbs, fast digesting protein, water, and electrolytes. It is also convenient in that you can bring it with you to the gym or wherever you are working out to ensure that you are getting your post-workout nutrition as soon as you are done exercising. I recommend buying some Gatorade powder (cheapest at Wal-Mart) and mixing a shake each time you workout. Remember to keep in mind the 4:1 carb to protein ratio. That means 4 grams carbohydrate for every 1 gram of protein. You will have to do a little math and measuring, but the results are well worth it. You do not NEED to have Gatorade and protein powder after your workouts, other carb and protein sources can be almost as good. But to put it in perspective, there are a few supplement companies out there selling almost this exact same formula and they charge an arm and a leg for it.


Key Points from NUTRIENT TIMING
• You should eat a moderate sized meal or small snack, every 2-4 hours, depending on hunger. This is one of the simplest and most effective ways of keeping your insulin levels relatively low and stable throughout the day. Eating frequently also helps to prevent overeating.

• Try to match your intake with your expenditure. When energy expenditure is high, eat a higher percentage of carbohydrates, a moderate amount of protein, small amounts of fat and more total calories. When energy expenditure is low, eat a small or moderate amount of carbohydrate, a moderate amount of protein, a moderate amount of fat and less total calories.

• To make sure you are getting the best possible results from your workouts, it is critical to eat both a “Pre-Workout Meal” and a “Post-Workout Meal.” The pre-workout meal should be eaten 1.5-2 hours before a strength training session or an intense cardio session. It should consist mostly of complex carbohydrates and also some protein. Avoid eating a lot fat for this meal.

• Your post-workout meal is without a doubt the most important meal on days that you will be exercising. This meal is going to be what triggers your body to start recovering from the exercise and is absolutely critical for building muscle, burning fat, and improving performance on your next workout. It should consist of a large quantity of simple carbohydrates (the one and only good time for simple carbs) and fast digesting protein in roughly a 4:1 carb to protein ratio. Hydration and electrolyte balance are also an important part of exercise recovery. Gatorade powder mixed with whey protein powder is my favorite.

Health-Related Calculators
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