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DOES NUTRIENT TIMING REALLY MATTER?

Do you need to guzzle a protein shake as soon as your workout finishes? Or is it what you eat, rather than when, that really matters? Eric Helms, coach at 3D Muscle Journey and a nutrition researcher, chews over the latest scientific research

There’s a common fear in weights rooms around the world that if you don’t neck your protein shake within 30 seconds of your final biceps curl, all your hard work will be wasted. This example may be silly but it stems from a legitimate concern – the idea that when you take on nutrients has an influence on their effect on your body.

I like to break the subject of nutrient timing into three parts: timing for the week, timing for the day and timing around your workout. The first of these concerns the distribution of your macronutrients throughout the week. If you do carb cycling or have a re-feed day, for example, that might involve different levels of nutrient intake. Timing for the day means how many meals you eat per day and how frequently you eat. Timing for the workout is concerned with the nutrients you take in either side of my session. So, ultimately, do any of these have an impact on your results?

EATING ISN’T CHEATING

Let’s take timing for the week first. The biggest nutrient intake adjustment will be around a re-feed day where you increase your total calorie intake, often with a significant increase in carbohydrates. Refeeds are generally built around the idea of retaining lean body mass and losing body fat. We use refeeds to minimise metabolic adaptation, ie your body becoming used to a certain calorie intake, which means you stop losing weight. People can (and do) argue that it’s about the hormone leptin, glycogen replenishment, calorie burn or just having a mental break – but the truth is that we don’t 100% know how it works.

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