Meal Timing and Why It Matters...

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Meal Timing and Why It Matters...

Earlier this week, many of you saw our post over on instagram diving into meal timing. We had no idea it would be such a popular topic. So, we decided to bring the topic over to the blog and dive in even deeper to give you all more confidence with meal timing.

So for those of you that missed the post, we started off with a pop quiz.

Question: Does it really matter when you eat?

Answer: YES and NO! And here is why...

So the answer is no because your goals may not require attention to meal timing. There are so many different aspects to our health and your goals are yours. For example, you may simply be focused on consuming more whole foods. You may be focusing on removing processed carbs from your diet. You may simply be focusing on getting 100 oz of water per day. You may even be looking to consume more veggies. And guess what... all of those goals are perfect because they are yours. And as long as they are aligned with the end result you desire... keep on keeping on.

But I know that some of us may have more specialized goals (and may be further along in our journeys) and in those cases meal timing can definitely play a beneficial role. And this is why the answer is also yes! By specialized goals, I mean physique goals, performance goals, training goals that involve competitions/meets. And no, I am not building up to a moment where I reveal some secret formula for fat loss. Meal timing is a factor because of... drum roll please... digestion! Yeah, I know! How boring, right? So let's dive deeper into digestion.

I know everybody knows that first we eat and then our bodies digest our food BUT what does that really mean? What that means is that in order to actually use the nutrients (macro and micro) we consume, our bodies have to process them first. Kind of like your bank account. You make a deposit into your bank but until the funds are processed you can't use that money!

So to get a little nerdy, our body digests, absorbs, and transfers these nutrients to our cells. Food is more than just nutrients though. Yes, food contains macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fat) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals); but also phytonutrients (components found in plant food sources), zoonutrients (components found in animal food sources), water, fiber, as well as other substances.

Food is much more complex than we think. But our bodies are very intelligent. Literally digestion is about taking that complex matter and simplifying it. For example, most proteins are broken down into amino acids, carbohydrates into glucose, and fats into fatty acids.

So when it comes to meal timing, it matters because different nutrients digest at different speeds. What and when you eat before exercise can make a great impact on performance and recovery. So depending on what you eat, that energy will be available at different times. Carbs digest fastest. Protein comes in close second. And fat and fiber digest the slowest. Additionally, the smaller the particles, the faster they digest (meaning liquid digests faster than giant bites of solid food).

Looking at this from a more practical angle, in the 3 hours prior to your workout you'll want to eat something that helps you do the following: sustain energy, boost performance, hydrate, preserve muscle mass, and accelerate recovery. To achieve this, you'll want to be mindful of what you eat prior to exercise. I know what you are thinking... "but what about the metabolic window" post workout? Recent research shows that the "magical" metabolic window post workout isn't so magical. Focusing on your intake prior to exercise will give you the above benefits and really fuel effective workouts (and in turn foster results).

So, what does that look like?

  1. Protein Prior to Exercise: Aids in muscle retention and muscle-building capabilities. For a quicker energy boost (45-60 minutes prior to workout), you could consume a protein shake; as our bodies process smaller particles faster. 2-3 hours prior to, a full meal higher in protein and carbs would be sufficient.
  2. Carbs Prior to Exercise: Improves protein synthesis, fuels your training, and aids in recovery. For a quicker energy boost (45-60 minutes prior to workout), you could throw in extra fruit into protein shake or use a carb supplement powder. When all else fails grab a banana or a handful of berries and keep on keeping on. Just like protein, any carb source is sufficient 2-3 hours prior to exercise.

Now, when it comes to post-workout (as mentioned above), recent research shows the metabolic window (the 30 minutes after the completion of your workout) isn't really a magical window. Additionally, there’s no real evidence that protein powders, especially the fast-digesting kind, are any better for us than whole food protein after training. So, don't break your back trying to get that post-workout shake in. If a shake works for you... great! But, if you're able (and prefer to) have a high protein meal... do that! Any high quality complete protein should do the job, as long as you eat enough. That means about 40-60 grams for men (or 2 palms) and 20-30 grams for women (1 palm). Meal or shake? Don't stress! Do what works for you!

But guess what? Regardless of WHEN you eat, you will definitely see progress by focusing on eating whole foods and eating protein, healthy fats, and healthy carbs in each meal.  Don't over complicate things! And as always, feel free to reach out to us for individualized nutrition help! We can assess your needs and provide you with an individualized plan to meet your goals. Give us a call at (914) 384-3301 to schedule your assessment today.

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