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.
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).
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.
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!