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Nutrient timing

Matt Lovell
(Image credit: Unknown)

Nutrient timing is about eating optimally to complement your training and body composition goals. It’s not just about what you eat in terms of protein, fat and carbs, but when you eat them. This can dictate their effectiveness on your training. Get it right and you will increase lean tissue while losing fat. 

A few years ago, a small case study on t-nation.com (opens in new tab) showed overweight policemen maintaining their fat mass on a hypocalorific (very low-calorie) diet. It wasn’t the most scientifically robust case study, but it showed that if you consume all your calories at night after a prolonged fast and no exercise, you play havoc with your metabolism and hormones. It’s impossible to lose weight even by eating three salads a day. Another study showed better retention of lean mass if most of your calories are eaten at night rather than in the morning. The difference was that the second study involved exercise.

Other studies have looked at the amount and timing of protein intake. Some show better absorption by drip-feeding in small amounts. Others show massive increases in protein synthesis through protein pulses – large amounts consumed all at once. The final say lies in total protein balance. It doesn’t really matter if you break it up or eat it all at once. Total protein balance relies on the amount you consume each day, regardless of portion sizes.

There’s been a fair amount of work done to show that eating before training is better for protein synthesis than it is post-training. The reasons would appear to be that the body has more amino acids and increased blood and nutrient delivery for protein synthesis. 

Intermittent fasting is a newer craze that has many benefits if you exercise and many pitfalls if you don’t. The latter include a lower metabolic rate and muscle wastage. The increase in GH release with a 16-hour fast is something I’ve been asked about a lot recently. It’s a practice I’ve been observing for 20 years and here's how it works – simply eat at 6pm and then wait until 10am the next day to eat again, aiming to exercise or take aminos once or twice during that fasting period. The massive effect this has on fat loss (as long as you have a calorie deficit) has to be seen to be believed.

Swapping a carb meal for a protein meal of equal calories seems to promote better fat loss if you do it at breakfast. And exercising at night before supper is an excellent way to counterbalance the insulin resistance that occurs later in the day in all humans. Insulin resistance leads to increased blood sugar levels, which can cause you to put on weight.

For more from elite performance nutritionist and Kinetica brand ambassador, Matt Lovell, go to kineticasports.com (opens in new tab).