Meal timing, also commonly referred to as ‘nutrient timing’, is a concept focussing on the importance of when you have your meals in relation to each other and your activity throughout the day.
Now, if your food across the day isn’t appropriate for your needs and goals, no amount of perfect meal timing is going to save you. But if we’ve got that side of things in order, there are times where tweaking our meal timing can help improve our progress and performance.
If you’re doing any kind of intense exercise, you NEED to eat beforehand. I’ve seen too many clients suffer through high-intensity interval training on an empty fuel tank. It doesn’t increase your fat-loss, it just hurts your performance. Training fasted, particularly at a high intensity puts your precious muscle at risk, and also reduces your maximum power output. Not good. Instead, make sure you’re having something 60-90 minutes before you train. It doesn’t have to be anything huge, but a banana, some rice cakes or a protein ball are going to help you power through your workout.
If you’re one of those 5 am crazies, a.) I salute you and b.) don’t get too stressed about the 60-90 minute recommendation. Just aim to have something as soon as you can before stumbling into the gym.
If you’ve heard of the anabolic window (a short window of time following training where you have to eat asap or you’ll lose all your muscle) then please forget what you’ve heard. You don’t need to slam a protein shake within 5 minutes of finishing your training, but you should aim to eat something within 1-2 hours. And the absolute best post-training fuel? Real food. Try and time your training session to back on to one of your main meals, and make sure that meal contains a good mix of lean protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats.
Keeping Cravings at Bay
If a 3 pm chocolate bar or eating everything in your pantry post-dinner is a regular part of your routine, it’s probably a good idea to look at your meal timing. Eating every 3-4 hours doesn’t speed up your metabolism, but it DOES help stop our hunger from reaching extreme levels. This is important because it’s in these moments of extreme hunger where we’re much more likely to make food decisions that don’t support our goals. Regular eating makes it much easier to say no to these things and can help keep us on track.
If the bulking season has you wanting to prioritize muscle gain, you’re going to want to be in a calorie surplus. For most people, that means eating a lot of food. And while you can technically hit your calorie and macronutrient goals in one or two meals, those are going to have to be pretty massive meals. Instead, breaking those down into 4-6 smaller meals and snacks makes this much more manageable and achievable. Unfortunately, this approach does require some more planning, but with some good quality Tupperware(even better our reusable containers) and some Your Prep, you’ll be fine!