Nutrient Timing

Nutrient timing

The importance of nutrient timing depends largely on your goals, preferences and lifestyle. For the vast majority of us its importance is vastly over played. It is certainly not the case that your workout is ruined if you don’t immediately down a shake as soon as you leave the gym. By far the biggest nutritional factor in determining your body composition is your total macronutrient intake.

How these nutrients are timed may be important for other reasons:

For long term results it is important to consider your preferred way of eating. For example do you enjoy eating more frequently or do you like to have fewer larger meals. Do you prefer eating before training or does this give you discomfort while exercising. Do you eat a larger evening meal with your family? You may want to account for this with smaller or less meals during the day.
Essentially you want to make your meal frequency fit around your lifestyle and not vice versa.

Nutrient timing may affect your performance for a few reasons..
1) Energy levels- low food intake prior to training could make you feel lethargic and reduce exercise intensity and enjoyment.
2) Hunger- going into the gym hungry means you are probably going to be thinking more about your post work out meal than your training session.

Nutrition is key to recovery. If you think about training as creating a stimulus; rest and recovery are needed to adapt to this stimulus. However, the extent to which timing is significant is frequently over exaggerated. For example the stores of glycogen (carbohydrate) within your muscles are easily replenished by the next day. This is only usually a consideration for endurance athletes training multiple times a day.

Muscle mass
Protein is needed for muscles to repair and grow after training. In theory the quicker we can get protein in the quicker the recovery and growth process can begin. However, most studies show little effect of protein timing in healthy young individuals. Where this might play a role is in older adults who experience a reduced anabolic (muscle building) response. Despite this I would still recommend ingesting protein around your work out as it will certainly do no harm and may do some good. I also definitely wouldn’t run a red light on y way home from the gym if I forgot my post work out shake.

I find this is very individual. For some people eating little and often means they never get too hungry. Others prefer to have fewer larger meals and find this keeps them more satiated. Find what works for you.

Take home:
Play around with your nutrient timing to find what works best for YOU. There is no one size fits all.

When is the best time to eat for fat loss?

When is the best time to eat for weight loss ?

There are quite a few myths around eating at certain times and these aren’t completely unfounded..

Food is not inherently more fattening at any time of day. However, we are humans not robots and we are more likely to over eat at certain times of day which is why rules like not eating after 6pm can result in weight loss.

you work a 9-5 job and eat fairly well during the day because you have a good structure. You get home and have a good evening meal.. adequate protein and lots of veg.. you’re killing it sistaaa💃💃.. but then you sit watching tv mindlessly eating pringles (once you pop you just can’t stop).
If you’d told yourself you were going to stop eating at 6pm (/ arbitrary time after dinner) you would have avoided this and finished the day in a nice little deficit.

Take home: timing of food intake isn’t particularly important in terms of physiology and energy balance but it is when we consider eating behavior and habit changes.


Can you lose fat and build muscle at the same time?

Can you build muscle and burn fat simultaneously ?

In other words can you recompose your body and use energy from fat to drive muscle growth. The answer depends who you are. If you are:

a) Returning to training after injury or time out


b) Newbie trainer with high body fat

Then yes you probably can. If not then sadly no you probably can’t.

Let’s look at situation a)

This is a somewhat observational theory. Nonetheless, people who are returning to exercise after time off tend to get in shape quicker. I am sure there are both physiological and pragmatic reasons for this. I.e. they have previously been in shape so they know how to get in shape.

Situation b) is probably more applicable. The newbie exerciser with high body fat is in the perfect situation to build muscle and lose fat.

The perfect storm:

Factor 1: High body fat
When we have a lot of energy to store (i.e when we eat too much) fat cells become full and insulin resistant making it harder to get energy in to store (Which is why high body fat is associated with hyperglycemia/ high blood glucose and high triglyceride levels).

Factor 2: New to resistance training
Those who are new to exercise have the ability to build muscle faster and from less stimuli than an experienced trainer.

As a new exerciser begins to exercise their muscle cells become more insulin sensitive driving energy towards muscle and away from insulin resistant fat cells thus under these circumstances energy could be preferentially pushed towards muscle over fat.

However, this is likely a short honeymoon period. This is because as the individual successfully diets, loses body fat and leans out their fat cells will become less insulin resistant and more likely to take in energy to add to this as they continue to exercise their rate of muscle building will slow.

After this initial ‘honey moon’ period ( I am guessing a few weeks to a few months) even slow rates of fat loss are not going to be equal to the rate which muscle can be built.

I’m sure this doesn’t hold true for assisted trainers where concurrent fat loss and muscle gain is easier to achieve

If you want to know more about body recomposition I would recommend reading Lyle Macdonald’s work. You can find this on his aptly names website

Just Click here.


The Scales Aren’t Wrong (Sorry)

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The scales aren’t wrong (Sorry)

They may not give the full picture (body composition)and they are on occasion misleading short term  but they are not wrong and if used correctly they are a good measure of progress.

It’s become popular to hate on weighing yourself and the poor scales get a lot of bad press with the key arguments against them being they don’t account for fluctuations in water retention or food in the digestion process.

This is true but water retention tends to be fairly acute/short term. For example if your goal is weight loss and you’ve not lost weight for 4-6 weeks it’s unlikely water retention and more likely that you’re not losing fat.

(before someone says it – yes it *could* be recomposition i.e you are building muscle at the same rate you’re losing fat but this is less common than many would have you believe)

Why are the scales a good tool?

1) They are cheap and readily available
2) they are reliable
3) Easy to use and interpret ( I’m assuming you don’t know how to use and interpret a dexa- you’ll also need to sit through hours of radiation training)
4) It can be used frequently – it’s all well and good going to get a dexa scan or calliper reading but how frequently can you afford to do this and how often would you like feedback?

Things to remember:

Weight loss is not linear
Every measurement tool has its limitations and margins of error accept and acknowledge these before using the tool.

Take home:

Don’t be disheartened if you don’t lose weight week on week but equally don’t kid yourself if you’ve not lost weight (assuming you have weight to lose).

Also remember that diet and exercise offer far more benefits than purely weight loss so make sure you have some performance and/or mastery goals set for yourself too.

If you’re interested in a logical no nonsense approach follow this link to work with me:


The Irony of Supplement Use

Supplement Use

I always find this quite ironic..

Who are the mostly likely group to take supplements? Young health conscious men

Who are the least likely group to need supplements? Young health conscious men

In fact I am going to focus solely on protein supplementation here..

The most frequent users are young health conscious men who probably already get over the recommended dose of protein. It’s not going to do any harm but it is probably not going to do much good either. Some of the key benefits to protein supplementation are timing and rate of absorption. Neither of which are particularly important in young healthy men. Or at least their importance has been VASTLY over emphasised.

Now let’s flip the question:

Who are the least likely group to take supplements? the elderly.
Yet they stand to gain the most.

Protein timing, quality and rate of absorption all become more important as we age thanks largely to anabolic resistance and reduced anabolic hormones. Meaning that as we age become less sensitive to muscle building signals.

A simple whey protein supplement offers high quality protein and a quick rate of protein digestion (speed at which amino acids appear in the blood stream).  This stands to reduce the rate of age related muscle wastage.

In young males who have high levels of anabolic hormones and are sensitive to stimuli from protein and exercise the timing and rate of absorption of protein is of little impact.

Don’t get me wrong protein supplements have their place in terms of ease, convenience and being a great low calorie and cost effective way to bump up protein. But it is a shame that those who stand to gain the most don’t capitalise on them.