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Nutrition timing ; what is it all about?

I get a lot of questions about nutrition timing, how big of an impact does this have on weight loss, gain , & performance. Well it depends.

There are different variables that need to be kept in the back of our minds when deciding to try a new type of nutrition tool. First off this should be considered as a tool or an assistance to your overall eating regimen. If you do not have basic nutrition down, the timing of when you eat will not matter. Make sure you have a good understanding of portion sizes, hunger cues, getting all the macronutrients that you need to have a balanced diet ( fats, carbohydrates, protein,), proper sleep at least 7 to 8 hours, and a good way do reduce stress. If you have your base down then it is time to experiment to see what will work best for you.

We need to understand that no one diet fits everyone, being your own scientist and keeping track of your data is important. It will help you understand the changes in your energy level, hunger, and mood. By tracking this information you will have a better understanding and awareness of what is going on with your body and emotions.

Nutrition timing in its simplest form is eating specific food (carbs, protein,) with a specific amount, during a specific time ( pre-workout, post - work out , and during workout). Precision nutrition splits this up even further with (PW) post work out and (AT) anytime. These are categorized for different meals should be eaten at different times a day.

For example:

  • PW meals are higher in carbohydrates, especially fast digesting starchy carbs ( potatoes or rice) , or fruit.

  • AT meals are lower in carbohydrates, focus on lean protein and healthy fats and high fiber vegetables.

These strategies have been shown by scientific evidence to help people who work out intensely to perform better while getting leaner , stronger and healthier. This is not only limited to athletics performance or intermediate lifters . Even type 2 diabetics responded better to carbohydrate after a heavy training session. Thus The PW/ AT was recommended to many.

New research in the last decade on the current body of research, and PN’s experience with more than 30,000 clients, nutrient timing isn’t particularly important for most people trying to look and feel better. That being said, that doesn't mean nutrition timing does not work , but making it your main means to loose weight isn't the best strategy. There is a wide variation of different tools that you can use with nutrition timing that have helped a lot of people, lets go over a few to understand the benefits better and see if this will be something that will work for you !

Post - work out nutrition (anabolic window)

After hard work out our bodies are trying to absorb as much nutrition's as possible ; people will rush to there gym bags right after there training session to guzzle there protein supplement. Our muscles absorb glucose hungrily , either oxidizing as fuel or storing it as glycogen instead of fat. Protein consumption cranks of protein synthesis. This timing was thought to only be 30 to 45 minutes after your work out to get the most out of your training. New studies have shown that the window is actually larger than we thought. If you consume protein 1 to 2 hours before and after your work out, you should still be able to reap the benefits of all that protein synthesis.

Recent data suggests that the total amount of carbs and protein consumed over the course of the day is more important for body composition and performance that nutrition timing strategies. * If your not getting your basic nutrition down then timing wont matter!

Eating the majority of your calories : Breakfast Vs. Dinner

There has been studies done on each based on waist circumference , body weight, appetite, and glucose sensitivity. The Journal of Nutrition study that compared eating 70 percent of your calories at night versus eating them at breakfast. In highly controlled settings, where all subjects completed resistance and aerobic exercise, the calories-at-dinner group retained more muscle and lost an equal amount of body fat to the calories-at-breakfast group!

Not only that, but more recently, a six month study found that weight loss, waist circumference, and body fat loss were all greater when the majority of the day’s carbohydrate intake was at night, rather than spread evenly throughout the day. The “more carbs at night” protocol was also better at improving glucose control, markers of inflammation, blood lipids, and appetite.

Eating Breakfast or Skipping Breakfast?

Are you surprised that I am comparing these two? This has been drilled in our heads to always eat breakfast and breakfast is the most important meal of the day. More recent studies have shown that this varies based on person to person. In conclusion if your not malnourished, breakfast is another meal of the day. There are still benefits that breakfast does hold:

  • Decreased appetite

  • Reduced food consumption

  • Decreased body weight

  • Improve cognitive performance

  • Improve blood sugar control

There are suggestions thought that skipping breakfast can:

  • Increase fat breakdown

  • Increase the release of growth hormones which has anti-aging and fat loss benefits

  • Improve blood glucose

  • Improve cardiovascular function

  • Decrease food consumption

Which one is better? That just depends. There has been several studies breaking people down into subgroups of people who eat breakfast compared to people who do not. They all changed there routine to match a specific requirement. The outcome was that due to being more aware and mindful of what they were eating they all lost weight.

Meal Frequency

Early research suggests that eating small meals frequently would speed up metabolism. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition suggests otherwise. As long as we consume the right food in the appropriate portions, meal frequency is considered more of a personal preference. You can eat 3 bigger meals during the day spread out over a longer period or smaller meals every 2 to 3 hours. If you feel like your meal frequency is not working for you then change it up, try and experiment and see what one would fit with you the most.

Key points to remember:

  • How much are you eating? Are you only eating until 70 to 80 % Full?

  • Are you eating slowly and mindfully or are you zipping through to meal in less than 5 minutes?

  • Why are you eating your food? Is it for fuel, hunger, boredom, or triggers?

  • What are you eating? Is the food minimally proceed food of protein, vegetables, fruits, and good fats?

  • Are you 80% compliant or better with all the questions above?

  • If not work on your base, then you can consider playing around with meal timing !

At this point you are probably thinking, well heck which one would be better for me? Well , you just have to be your own scientist and try it out yourself. Everyone is unique when it comes to a healthy eating regimen, what might work for your buddy probably won't work as well for you. Make sure you get all the key points in before complicating your eating regimen. Nutrition timing can be a great tool but for people who are just starting out or just trying to get healthy do not need to worry about it as much as if you were an athlete or training 2 session days.

References :

Keim NL, et al. Weight loss is greater with consumption of large morning meals and fat-free mass is preserved with large evening meals in women on a controlled weight reduction regimen. J Nutr. 1997 Jan;127(1):75-82.

Jakubowicz D, et al. High caloric intake at breakfast vs. dinner differentially influences weight loss of overweight and obese women. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013. Dec;21(12):2504-12.

Pierre St. B. MS, RD . " Is Nutrition Timing Dead?" Precision Nutrition.

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1 Comment

Heidi Estes
Heidi Estes
Apr 26, 2021

I found this article very helpful! Thanks for sharing!

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