You might have heard that you should eat a meal approximately every 3 hours to keep your metabolism high and effectively burn more fat, but do you have to do this? Nope! Previous blog posts have focussed on what to eat and how much to eat to help achieve your goals, but not necessarily on when to eat and how this might affect body composition.
If you are losing weight, but losing the same amount of fat and muscle at the same time, then your nutrient timing might be a little off. If you are feeling too tired to workout, your nutrient timing may be off. If your recovery time post-exercise is taking longer than usual, your nutrient timing may be off! Nutrient timing can be manipulated to combat these issues and help you make the most of the food that you’re eating.
A very basic principle to follow is to eat the majority of your carbohydrates (approx. 60% of your daily allowance) around your workouts. This is because your body can better utilise carbs during exercise and in the recovery period afterwards. Some people eat a meal rich in fast acting carbohydrates an hour before they enter the gym to fuel their body with the energy to really smash their workout, and then eat another carbohydrate rich meal a couple of hours after exercise to kick-start the recovery process and refuel your glycogen stores. The remaining carbohydrates should be spaced throughout the day – aim to eat good sources of slow release carbohydrates like wholegrain foods, vegetables, and other fibrous foods. These help to control insulin levels throughout the day which is important as we don’t want big insulin spikes throughout the day! When I say “eat the majority of your carbs around your workouts” I don’t mean immediately before and straight after – as long as you keep it to roughly 3-4 hours on either side of your workouts.
At times out with the 3-4 hours either side of exercise, your plate should ideally have a source of protein and fat, with 25% or less slow-release carbs. Add plenty of leafy greens to your plate to bulk up meals, as these will fill you up and add plenty of micronutrients to your meals. This means that you are supplying a slow and steady release of nutritious carbs to your body to fuel you throughout the day, leaving the bulk for when your body needs it most.
Is this for everyone? No. It can be a challenge, especially for people new to eating a nutritious diet or counting their macronutrients. Your work routine or daily life might get in the way, and timing meals is sometimes too much to handle. As long as you’re eating a nutritious diet that fits within your macronutrient targets then you’re off to a great start. Once you’ve built a foundation of nutritious eating, then you could consider timing your nutrients to supply your body with what it needs, when it needs it most!