With endurance athletes, considerable variations can be made with regards to nutrient timing due to a high use of glycogen during endurance exercise. This means that for exercise lasting 2+ hours, replacing the used glycogen should be a priority to aid recovery. Therefore most nutrient timing recommendations are related to studies conducted on endurance training. Although physique athletes may be undertaking a large frequency of training it’s not usually for more than 1 hour at a time. It should also be noted that weight training is not as depleting on glycogen stores.
As a result, the issue of nutrient timing for these athletes does not appear to be as important, with studies showing that adequate recovery from training and glycogen replenishment can occur just from meeting recommended intake of daily carbohydrates. Studies support this theory and suggest that the total macronutrient intake each day is more important than specific timings.
With this in mind, any nutrient timing recommendations should be added to an existing, already good diet. For athletes who want to reap the most from their performance and recovery while retaining as much LBM as possible, some studies show that some nutrient timing recommendations around the workout window can be of benefit. Resistance training is known to be catabolic in nature, and a mixture of amino acids and carbohydrates taken just before or during training can boost muscle protein synthesis (MPS). With a heightened state of MPS throughout training, the athlete will maintain an anabolic state, thus improving LBM.
Studies have also shown that a similar mixture of carbs : protein upon completion of training will help to improve gains in muscular size and strength. It therefore makes sense for a competitive athlete who wants to maximize their results and be at their best to cover all their bases and apply some nutrient timing around the workout window.
Macros Over Training Periods
Research shows that a 1:1 ratio (approx. 30-40g) of carbs to protein from fast acting sources, taken pre and post training will help to improve muscular size and strength. A simple protocol could look like:-
– Pre-training (3-5 hours) – Balanced macronutrient meal from whole foods.
– Pre-training (0-1 hours) – 30g protein with 30g carbohydrates from fast acting sources e.g. whey protein powder and large ripe banana (half this for females).
– During – The above mixture can be used during training instead. Fast acting carbs could come from carb powder such as waxy maize starch, for easier consumption. Otherwise, water or BCAA powder is an ideal choice.
– Post (0-1 hours) – 30-40g protein with 30g carbohydrates from fast acting sources e.g. whey protein powder and large ripe banana (half this for females).
– Post (2-3 hours) – Balanced macronutrient meal from whole foods.
Research supports the view that metabolism is not directly affected by meal frequency. This breaks the tradition of eating as many meals as possible daily, to boost metabolism or the thermogenic effect of food – it’s not needed. What is of more concern for the physique athlete during prep is remaining in an anabolic state. The key consideration to achieving this is maximizing muscle protein synthesis.
For maximum MPS, studies show 3g leucine per meal is required. This makes the quantity and quality of protein per meal the most important factor. There is a key reason why physique athletes eat a lot of lean animal meat: it makes for a complete amino acid profile (with >3g leucine content) and typically offers the ideal 30-40g protein per serving.
MPS has shown to peak at 2 hours following elevated amino acid levels (to allow for digestion), therefore it is not necessary to space meals too close together, as the athlete will see diminishing returns through doing this. An optimal eating strategy is around 3-6 meals per day, spaced 3-4 hours, with a high quality protein source of at least 20g per serving.
Next Article: Supplementation for a physique athlete