Meal Frequency And Timing

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In this week’s blog I will be discussing an important factor when optimising a diet – meal frequency and timing. Before I start, I think is important to say that nutrient timing is by no means the most important factor when trying to establish a successful diet. If you are looking at optimal performance or body composition then calories and macronutrient intake are much more important and if you are are looking for optimising your health then the quality of your food intake would also be more important. It is a finer detail but if you are looking for the best results then it is something that should be looked at. I will first be looking at meal frequency and then how you should time your nutrient intake around workouts or physical activity.

Your body is continuously breaking down and building muscle and so you should be taking in nutrients fairly frequently. Protein should be consumed every 3-5 hours in order to maximize muscle growth or minimise muscle loss. This is especially important if you are in a fat loss phase or if you tend to eat a lower fat, higher glycemic carb type diet as digestion tends to be quicker and so the body is more likely to sacrifice muscle for energy rather than from your food. Four meals spread evenly throughout the day should be sufficient for most people; any less is probably suboptimal and any more comes down to personal preference.

Nutrient timing is another important factor in a diet, especially if you are looking to perform at your best in the gym or if you want optimal recovery. When looking at eating around training, the main thing I will be discussing is carbohydrates. Carbohydrates help fuel hard workouts and help with recovery from these workouts. It is therefore a good idea to consume carbohydrates around your workout. Before your workout you should consume a higher carb and lower fat meal with a serving of protein. The closer you eat to your workout, the faster absorbing these nutrients should be and when eating further away from a workout, slower digesting nutrients should be consumed. For example, if you are training in 3 hours then a good preworkout meal might be lean beef with brown rice. But if you are planning on training in an hour or even less then a whey protein shake and a bowl of kids cereal might be a better choice. Unless your workout is particularly long and strenuous or your preworkout meal was a fairly long time before your session then having carbs during training probably isn’t necessary. However if you do fall into one or both of these categories then it might be a good idea to consume some high glycemic carbs (normally in liquid form e.g. Lucozade) and some whey protein towards the end of a session. Post workout is also an important time to take in nutrients. If you did not have a shake during your workout or if you didn’t consume a large meal immediately before exercising then a post workout shake with high glycemic carbs and whey protein is probably a good idea. As you get further out from your workout then carbohydrate intake should decrease and fat intake can increase and you should also start to eat lower glycemic index foods like brown rice and sweet potatoes rather than sugary cereals and sweets.

Like I said in the introduction, nutrient timing is definitely not the most important factor when it comes to planning a diet. However if you want to take your fitness to the next level and want to perform your best in the gym then it is definitely something you need to consider.

Speak to you again soon.


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