Macronutrient timing can be a confusing topic at the best of times, but when it comes to bulking – does it actually matter?
Let’s take a look at the facts…
What does ‘macronutrient timing’ mean?
Macronutrients consist of protein, fats and carbohydrates. Macronutrient timing is simply the timing you implement through your day to eat these specific nutrients.
We’ve previously discussed about how spreading your meals out every two to three hours may not necessarily speed up your metabolism any more than spacing them out further apart. However, it is optimal to eat a meal every 4-4 and a half hours whether you are bulking or cutting. This is especially relevant to protein consumption.
With regards to carbohydrates, it is also beneficial to eat the bulk of them around your workouts when your body needs them the most – especially if you haven’t got very many to play with, which can be the case in some individuals even when bulking.
Recent studies have in fact shown that what is ultimately important is the amount of macronutrients ingested over the full course of a day. This is the factor that is crucial to your body composition and performance in the gym rather than the mere timing of their ingestion.
Of course, how you divide up your macro nutrients is a very individual undertaking, but here is a rough guide to help you space yours out through the day!
Meal Timing Tips
#1 Divide macros accordingly
This is a really simple way to split up your macros through the day. Look at how many meals you are eating and split up your macronutrients accordingly.
If you have four meals planned, split each macronutrient total by four and choose foods accordingly to fit in.
#2 Remember | It can be hard to go wrong in a bulk
Aside from gaining too much body fat during a bulk, it is actually very difficult to do it wrong. Due to the surplus of calories in general, your body won’t be stuck for calories as it tends to be in a cut meaning it is not a struggle to maintain and gain new muscle during this period of time in relation to calorie intake.
By placing too much emphasis on macronutrient timing, many athletes don’t give importance to other factors that may undo their hard work in the gym. Macronutrient timing is actually quite low on the list of priorities for making gains during a bulk in comparison to ensuring stress levels are managed, getting enough sleep, eating enough fruit and vegetables ect.
#3 Don’t sweat the small stuff
For years and years there was serious emphasis placed on the post-work out anabolic window. A thorough review by schoenfeld (2013) illustrated that we won’t in fact lose all our gains if we don’t eat within half an hour of finishing training.
Many individuals in argument of the macronutrient timing debate will often refer to the study by Cribb and Hayes who found that there was a benefit to post-exercise protein consumption. This study was however limited by the addition of creatine monohydrate to the supplement, which possibly caused increased uptake following training.
It is important to note, that the supplement was taken both pre- and post-workout and so this confounds whether an anabolic window mediated results. Basically, if you have eaten a meal before training, the pressure will not be on post-workout to get food into you straight away.
However, if on the other hand you haven’t eaten for some time before training and are due another feed by the time you finish training, you might want to get eating in that case. Of course it is sensible to eat for recovery, but you may have a longer time frame to do so than previously thought in the past.
Take home message
Your priority should be eating the correct foods in the correct amounts to reach an optimal body composition to fit your goals.
Science has illustrated that meal frequency is a matter of preference with a special note to be made regarding protein, it is not possible to compensate for eating too little protein through the day with a larger feed later on, therefore you should ensure that you have sufficient amounts spread through each meal.
Do what works for you. We are all unique and the fundamental factor that will determine your success is whether you can be consistent with the lifestyle you choose!