Nutrient Timing: Why It Matters for A Lot of People

Here is an interesting quote from a presentation Brad Schoenfeld from a presentation he did at a conference with Alan Aragon:

“If you’re a bodybuilder or a strength athletes, you’re going to want to get your nutrients in pretty quickly (post workout). I will tell you both Alan (Aragon) and I, as much as we have this information here, I finish my workout, and I don’t rush home. I’m not breaking any speed barriers. But, as soon as I get home, I have my protein shake. Cause I’m figuring I am one of those research meatheads who does want the eighth of an inch on my biceps if I can get it.”


Typically, these are two guys (whom I absolutely respect) that have really led the heavily researched charge to dispel numerous fitness/training myths about sports and exercise nutrition. Alan is the guy who pretty much came up with the If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) acronym. The research they present and review all pretty much agrees that nutrient timing (in the sense of there being an “anabolic window” 45 minutes to an hour after training) is only important for a small subset of the population. Well, I disagree here. The percentage of the population where this is an important factor seems much higher to me.

In summary, the old FLEX magazine adage is “you have 45 minutes after training to fill the anabolic window with as much insulin spiking shitty carbohydrates and muscle synthesizing protein as you can cram into your mouth.” This is been widely accepted for some time now. Guys like Alan and Brad began thinking outside the box a couple years ago and started compiling/performing their own research to see exactly what the hell is going on. In regards to nutrient timing, the basics of what they found are these key points:

-The anabolism of a meal, depending on its size, lasts anywhere from 4 to 6 hours. So, a meal had 3 hours before training will still lend nutrients to cells during the session. If that session takes an hour, that anabolic effect of the meal still gives you 2 hours before you even have to consider another meal.

-The “anabolic window” of training (where there is a higher rate of protein synthesis and glycogen resynthesis after training once food is eaten) actually lasts up to 24 hours, maybe longer. The only difference between eating a meal immediately after training and 24 hours later is the speed to which glycogen is resynthesized with no effect on protein synthesis.

-Even a small amount of protein (as low as 25-30g) is enough to effectively “spike” insulin by itself.

-Nutrient timing in its classical sense (because you need to eat everyday. No shit!) only matters for highly competitive team sport athletes, bodybuilders and strength athletes.


My Question:

Where does the line get drawn where it matters? Where is the shift from “normal person” to “athlete?”

Especially with the emergence of crossfit, the population of people trying to achieve a maximum physical result from training is higher than it ever has been. I would put the people where nutrient timing has to be a priority as every college athlete, strength sport competitor at every level (including crossfit), anyone trying to “bulk,” and basically anyone who has been advised medically to begin a resistance training program. It seems like most research doesn’t consider all of those groups at once. Its interesting how the population of people this should matter to grows exponentially when you put a little thought into it.

Also, the majority of this new information is gathered from meta analysis from a large group of studies. Most of which don’t last any longer than 12 weeks. So, do we consider anyone with more than 12 weeks of training “advanced,” thus requiring nutrient timing to be more important?

I’ve got to say, in my personal experience as a strength athlete, I notice a big difference in performance when I don’t stick with my nutrient timing. Although, I am kind of an outlier by pretty much every definition these studies use (2+ training sessions a day, I’m 270lbs most of the year, relatively high level of strength, etc.).

So, what is the point of this post? Just putting out some other points of view on this topic. In summary:

-Normal healthy people only concerned with body composition= IIFYM is probably the most efficient way to go.

-Anyone looking to improve any facet of athleticism and/or health might want to revisit nutrient timing (in terms of a post workout anabolic window) because it might be a missing piece of the puzzle that can get you to your goals.


Sprint. Kill. Eat… and never let the window close.


3 thoughts on “Nutrient Timing: Why It Matters for A Lot of People

  1. I train early (wake at 5, warming up by 530-545), and am rarely hungry first thing in the morning, especially after cramming 3-4 cups of above-average strength preworkout coffee into my stomach. So sometimes I have a small snack, sometimes not. I’m trying to put on about 10 lbs for my first meet this July (currently at 85), and during the day I eat like a humpback whale (basically run around the kitchen with my mouth open and whatever falls in is fair game… but eating clean… my grocery bills are outrageous).

    From what I’ve read from your blog, and others, it seems like training on an empty stomach might be holding me back. Would you recommend eating prior to morning training? If so, what would you suggest as a preworkout snack/meal?



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