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Nutrient Timing

morning coffee

Timing your nutrition is the holy grail of performance, maximum muscle building and proper recovery (some people will tell you it’s also good for body composition, but that’s debatable). A lot of people are confused (rightly so) when it comes to putting this knowledge to work, though.

So how do you eat to optimize performance, muscle growth and recovery while also keeping body composition in check? Well, if really depends on who you ask, but taking a page from my own personal experience and those of the people I look up to (Layne Norton, Lyle McDonald, Krissy Mae Cagney, etc.) there is really only one way to do it properly. 

o fat dinner


Personally, I use this method:

7am-1pm: Intermittent fasting (only consuming coffee with stevia and half and half and good quality BCAAs)
1pm-3pm: occasionally I consume a high fat/protein meal here such as bacon and eggs, salmon, etc. (no carbs) OR a doughnut (which serves as a preworkout)
3pm-4pm: Whole food carbohydrates such as rice or bananas (if no doughnuts were consumed)
4pm: Crush a workout (consuming BCAAs during)
6pm: Post workout shake consisting of about 25g protein and 45g fast acting carbs such as bananas and Vitargo (NO FATS)
6:30pm: Whole food meal consisting of lean proteins, complex carbs and very little fat
7:30-9pm: The rest of my macros. Often oatmeal with 0% Greek yogurt, fruit and sometimes fat if I have some leftover, always dark chocolate

Krissy Mae Cagney follows a similar method, Lyle McDonald and Layne Norton have a more refined method that is much more strict and better suited to those who are looking to be extremely lean and/or competitive bodybuilders/physique models. It’s quite a bit more detailed as well.

From Layne Norton on Carbs: “Therefore, it is important that performance be kept at an optimal level. Low glycogen levels have been associated with increased fatigue and decreased performance in athletes (endurance, strength, power output, etc).

Several studies have shown that consuming adequate amounts of carbohydrates before, during, and after exercise may attenuate the increased fatigue and increase performance. It is worth noting that one such study concluded that “the rate of recovery is coupled with the rate of muscle glycogen replenishment and suggests that recovery supplements should be consumed to optimize muscle glycogen synthesis as well as fluid replacement.”

Basically, Layne suggests that, based on your body type (ectomorph, mesomorph or endomorph) you consume a precise amount of carbs before your workout, then another precise amount of protein AND carbs during your workout and then another precise amount of carbs and protein following your workout, in the form of whole foods (or a shake if you prefer).

morning doughnuts

So for me, following these precise amounts can be done, but it takes a little bit of the fun out of my life. Sure, I like being somewhat lean, muscular and energetic, and I’d love to be even bigger and leaner in a short period of time, BUT, I’m just not that into dieting. For my size, I would have to eat about 1350 calories, broken down by macro of course, over an 8 week period to achieve a “contest” ready lean physique. But that would be absolute torture for me.

I’m happy with my cellulite thighs, because I know they will go away eventually if I keep lifting big and eating properly. Mostly I want to get huge and then maybe one day, I’ll diet down…but not anytime soon. I have a love of food that cannot be quenched. There is no season I don’t love. There are always foods I want to eat! Being skinny or lean is fine if you have some sort of competition or photo shoot or wedding that you want to get ready for, but for the rest of the time, I’d much rather focus on more important things, like chilling with my kids while they are still cute and willing to hold my hand when we cross the street, or reading philosophical novels from 50 years ago and learning amazing things, or seeing stupid movies with my lover and eating buttered popcorn without guilt. There’s more to life than food and I intend to see and experience all of it.

oatmeall bowl

But I will still dedicate parts of my life to my physique goals, because I enjoy it. The challenge of making your muscles grow is a fun and exciting thing for me and I love being in that world. I especially love sharing that world with my family and getting stronger, healthier and faster with them is something I will always strive to do.

If you have questions on nutrient timing, please leave a comment below!


8 comments to Nutrient Timing

  • Adrian

    Well said and super informative.

  • Kate

    Hey Liz! What about if you workout at 7am in the morning…. and have a regular 9-5 job…. would you just rotate the schedule around??

    • Elizabeth

      Kate, well, there are a couple schools of thought there. Morning workouts are not the best for gaining strength and really the whole model works on afternoon workouts best. If you do workout in the am, you can eat lots of carbs the night before, or you can go in fasted or you can cram in some carbs before your workout and some protein and carbs after and then wait at least 3 hours before eating fat. It’s kind of tricky that way, but the body works best when training in the afternoon.

  • Nadia

    Oh Lord. Sooo Many Questions. I am trying to figure a balance of what you mentioned above, but I hate watching cals/macros or cutting out things like EVOO, some pastries or rich Indian or a big bowl of guac. I am aiming to ramp up to a Half/Full marathon and a Tri next year (I love a long distance run, i know how you feel about such things 😉 but have no idea if just a healthy balance diet is enough or if I truely need to crack down. Hubby eats at the restaurant and his own diet when home, kiddo is a grazer who will vascillate between cereal, fruits or yogurt periods to random loves I can’t predict. HARD TO PLAN MEALS! Anyway, glad you’ve found something that works for you!

    • Elizabeth

      SOunds like IIFYM would be great for you! But you do have to limit certain things. I know it’s tough, but you can’t have everything! Email me Nadia if you want more detail!

  • Nadia

    I would also like to lose some body fat and continue to gain muscle – but I also have only 5-7am to seriously workout, sometimes evenings from 6-8. Sounds awkward based on your above response.

  • I’m nowhere near as dedicated as this – it’s tough for me to follow a schedule or plan for whatever reason! – and I used to fast and gained weight (overate in the feeding windows, I suppose?) but am back to fasting sometimes. It’s mainly based on how I’m feeling. I am not super intentional about eating before or after a workout because I’m not focusing on getting lean OR getting big, but do you think it hinders my overall progress to sometimes fast until about 1 pm or sometimes eat breakfast? I just want to take the thinking out of it and focus on moderation and real foods. I read so much and experiment on myself and find that too often I’m focusing on if I should be fasting or maybe not today or trying to go to bed a bit hungry or eating something at night… Any thoughts on my random thoughts would be helpful. 🙂 Love your site and IG! Lots of inspiration and I, too, could be leaner but love enjoying food, people and life!
    Bonnie recently posted..Prepping for a Long HikeMy Profile

    • Elizabeth

      Hi Bonnie, I think your progress would be more consistent if you stuck with one thing. Eating before and after your workouts is non-negotiable. Even if you just want to maintain what you have now, your body needs to be able to recover and carbohydrates and protein help that in the Post Workout window. Fasting is not for everyone, so if it is too much work for you, I would toss it out the window. And you definitely want some food in you before bed to avoid muscle catabolism. Carbs and protein are best. email me if you need more detail! elizabeth@guiltykitchen.com

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