Will eating after 7pm make me gain weight?
Do I have to consume protein 30 mins after I workout if I want to build muscle?
Does my metabolism slow down if I don’t eat breakfast?
Have you ever asked yourself these questions or been told by a trainer, friend or your favorite fitness mag that there “must do” food timing protocols that you should adhere to in order to build muscle and lose fat?
I am first going to confess that I used to once spout off some of these poorly based (sorry) claims. But once I went from consumer to coach I made it my duty to dig a little deeper into these nutrient timing topics and the validity behind their golden rule claims.
Some of the most common nutrient timing topics include post-workout protein intake, the importance of breakfast, and meal frequency.
So does any of this matter?
Should we stress ourselves out over not eating six times per day as opposed to 3 or not having time to have breakfast. How important is any of this to our performance and body composition goals?
What the heck is Nutrient Timing?
In the most simple terms, nutrient timing is defined as when to eat, what to eat and how much to improve performance to include strength and hypertrophy as well as improve body composition and fat loss.
The Claim: Eating small frequent meals (every few hours) throughout the day will speed up your metabolism and result in greater fat loss than eating large meals less often throughout your day
The Science: As long as total caloric and macronutrient intake is equal, the number of meals nor the frequency of consumption will not affect fat loss
A meta-analysis (the review of multiple studies) that looked into meal frequency concluded that “Given that adherence is of primary concern with respect to nutritional prescription, the number of daily meals consumed should come down to personal choice if one’s goal is to improve body composition,”
Bottom line, if you enjoy snacking and eating often throughout the day then break up your meals, if you are someone who is often in a time crunch or even forgets to eat then eating larger and less frequent meals may be more optimal to fit your lifestyle.
Protein Timing Post Workout (The Anabolic Window aka gains)
You only have a short window (30-45) to consume your post workout protein in order to maximize muscle gains…anything later will yield sub-par results. So get ready to race home or have it prepared in in your car after the gym.
There is no need to cause a car accident racing home to down your whey. The so called window of opportunity to maximize the “anabolic response” post workout is close to 1-2 hours. Possibly even longer if you consumed a protein-rich meal prior to training.
Bottom line, total daily intake of protein is a more important factor in aiding in building lean muscle than post workout consumption.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and if you do not consume breakfast your metabolism will slow down until you eat
Breakfast is not a magical meal that will solve or damage your body composition goals. While some studies have linked those who consume breakfast regularly to have lower body fat and better overall health, those studies have been primarily observational with results based solely on correlation and not causation. In a controlled environment where subjects. When controls are in place to test fasted vs breakfast fed groups “regular daily breakfast did not facilitate weight loss”
Consuming breakfast should be based on personal preference.
Ask yourself a series of questions to decide if breakfast is right for you. I find that if someone does not eat in the morning and then heads to work, grabs a donut or goes all morning without food forcing them to overeat at lunch the breakfast might be the solution to making better food choices through your day.
On the opposite side, if you are in a time crunch each morning and find it easier to pack a mid-morning snack or meal that you can consume at your convenience then do not stress yourself out about making the perfect breakfast entre before heading out the door. Total caloric intake once again is superior.
Do Not Eat At Night
You are more likely to store food as fat if you at night.
**Before showing you some evidence to debunk night time eating, have you noticed a theme yet?
If you googled should I eat at night you will end up very confused. There are Multiple studies that both support and debunk eating at night. While late-night snacking can lead to weight gain or prevent weight loss, it’s not because of the time of day. Instead, it’s about how much you’re consuming.
Mindless eating tends to happen at night while winding down from the day, watching your favorite show, or even studying for school. Which is why it all comes back down to personal preference and behavior.
Ask yourself the following:
Will eating at night lead me to overconsumption?
If the answer is yes then limiting your meals to earlier in the day may be a better option for you.
If The answer no, then having some chocolate, a glass of wine or some halo top ice cream bring you joy and helps with stress then go for it and grab that midnight snack guilt free.
Hierarchy Of Nutrition
Nutrient Timing above all else comes down to personal preference. Taking into account the order of importance for body composition goals meal timing is one of the least important factors you need to stress about.