Nutrient Timing – The Future of Sports Nutrition
In this series of nutrition articles I will be covering such topics as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, supplements, etc.
Before I do, however, it is essential that you understand a few key concepts. The first one being that it’s not only what you eat, but WHEN YOU EAT IT that’s important.
High GI foods, low GI foods, fast acting proteins, slow acting proteins…one is not better than the other in a strict sense. But one definitely serves a better function dependent upon what phase you muscles are in at that specific time.
There are 3 important phases in nutrition, and your understanding of them is crucial if you’re seeking to gain lean hard muscle and / or strip some unwanted body fat.
The 3 phases of muscle growth:
- Energy Phase
- Anabolic Phase
- Recovery Phase
1) Energy Phase
This phase is the one that is active while you are working out. Just think about, during this phase you’re working hard, straining under a heavy load, digging deep to bust out those few extra reps or finish your sprints. What do you think your muscles are concerned with here? Recuperating?! No way! There focus at the moment is contracting, producing energy, force, etc in order to do your workout. The bottom line, during the energy phase of muscle growth, your priority is on providing the mechanical work for the workout. If you’re doing at least a half decent workout at a high enough intensity, this means that your muscles are dipping into your stored intra muscular glycogen stores and liver glycogen stores. That simply means that during high intensity workouts, your body supplies fuel predominantly in the form of carbohydrate. Carbohydrate that is stored in the muscles and liver. High intensity exercise also involves the breakdown and depletion of stored amino pools in the muscles (something we want to decrease if lean mass is our aim).
So what does this mean for you? In order to fuel your workouts and to prevent the catabolic (breakdown) nature of your workouts, your goal during this phase of muscle growth is to supply the right nutrients to blunt these effects.
What works? Sipping on a carb drink (such as gatorade) and be sure to mix in some Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s) and Glutamine.
2) Anabolic Phase
So, you’ve just finished your gruelling workout. You pushed it hard, lifted heavy and have just depleted your muscles glycogen stores. Where to now? The Anabolic Phase is the most critical phase and this becomes the time for your most important meal of the whole day.
During this phase, think of your muscles as sponges. Sponges that are ready to soak up any bit of carbohydrate that you can get into your system fast enough.
You have a 30-45min window of opportunity to kickstart your muscle building effects into overdrive and stop your body from eating into itself. During this window, your muscles are highly sensitive to insulin and are calling out for fuel to replenish lost stores.
So what does this mean for you? Your amino pools and carb pools are depleted, your body’s priority is to replenish these. Yes, even if this means breaking down muscle in order to try and replenish lost carb stores.
What works? Immediately post workout get yourself a nice fast acting protein, for example whey protein in the form of a shake so that it is absorbed quickly. Within that 30-45min window, you’ll also need to get some high GI carbs. That’s right. Get some high GI carbs into your system to elevate insulin levels and take advantage of the fact that your muscles are highly insulin sensitive and your muscles are screaming for carbs.
If you miss out on this window, over the next few hours, your muscles actually become insulin resistant!! So make sure you get this meal in there.
3) Growth Phase
This is in between workouts. This is where your body is continuing to refuel and repair itself in readiness for the next workout.
What does this mean for you? During this phase you want a slow trickle of nutrients into your system to provide a nice steady and stable environment. A constant flow of nutrients keeps your body in a positive nitrogen balance crucial for muscle building. You need to keep supplying raw materials at a constant rate to optimise growth and recovery.
What works? Eat every 2-3 hours with a mixture of both slow acting proteins and carbohydrates. This is where low GI carbs are extremely important, but also slow absorbing proteins. A slow acting protein is one that takes a little longer to digest, a whey protein shake for example is absorbed quickly while a chicken breast takes a little longer to digest.
From the above, you can see that what you eat and at what time can be critical for your results from training. As we go over the macronutrients in the coming articles, keep in mind the critical aspect of timing in determining where they fit into the success of your personal nutrition plan.
If you have any questions regarding the content above or are interested in getting your diet plan looked at, The Courage Corner is also available for these services.