Nutrient timing. Hype or help?

There is a lot of buzz around timing of nutrients.  Some say that you should not eat any carbs after 5pm.  Some "experts" say you should do lots of carbs at breakfast while other "experts" claim no carbs at breakfast for best results.  I have heard it is best to have no food before training and, the same day, heard that you should have at least 1/2 of your calories before training.  So what is it?

Before we even dig into this, it is important to learn to walk before we try running.  Some people will get so focused on nutrient timing without addressing total calories consumed in a day.  Controlling calories in is FAR more important than timing of nutrients.  So, once you have established your calorie goal and committed to being consistent, we can now take a look at properly timing nutrients.

The short answer is yes, there can be some benefit to properly timing your nutrients.  First lets take a look at carbohydrates.  In general, consuming the majority of your carbohydrates around your more active times of the day can be beneficial.  Why?  First, we want to make sure that we have adequate glycogen stores in the body to prevent muscle break down.  Exercise depletes glycogen therefore, consuming carbohydrates around the workout will make sure you have gas in the tank!  Second, carbohydrates cause an insulin response.  Insulin response tends to get a negative reputation however, it can be really helpful to maximizing your workout and muscle growth if you put yourself in a position to receive that response before, during and immediately after exercise.  I would recommend 50-60% of carbohydrates in a fairly simple form between your pre and post workout meals.

Next, we will look at fat and protein.  There is some convincing research that suggests a higher fat breakfast may help to program your metabolism for the day.  I recommend egg yolks in the morning as they are a nutrient dense fat.  I would recommend keeping fat fairly low throughout the day and increasing your amount of fat again in the evening to prepare your body for recover and replenishment of hormones while you sleep.  Also, is would be beneficial to keep fat low before and after workouts as this slows the absorption of some nutrients.  In terms of protein, this is one that stays fairly consistent throughout the day.  You will want to make sure to keep a steady flow of protein every 2-4 hours of your day.  I would recommend getting this from whole sources as much as possible.

Other important timings to take into consideration would be fiber.  Fiber is great but, not so great before a workout.  I would recommend keeping before and after workout meals lower in fiber.