Hierarchy of Importance
When speaking of nutrition for improving body composition or training performance, it's crucial to realize there's an underlying hierarchy of importance. At the top of the hierarchy is total amount of the macronutrients by the end of the day. Distantly below that is the precise timing of those nutrients. With very few exceptions, athletes and active individuals eat multiple times per day. Thus, the majority of their day is spent in the postprandial (fed) rather than a post-absorptive (fasted) state. The vast majority of nutrient timing studies have been done on overnight-fasted subjects put through glycogen depletion protocols, which obviously limits the applicability of the outcomes. Pre-exercise (and/or during-exercise) nutrient intake often has a lingering carry-over effect into the post-exercise period. Throughout the day, there's a constant overlap of meal digestion & nutrient absorption. For this reason, the effectiveness of nutrient timing does not require a high degree of precision.
The Primary Laws of Nutrient Timing
- The First Law of Nutrient Timing is: hitting your daily macronutrient targets is FAR more important than nutrient timing.
- The Second Law of Nutrient Timing is: hitting your daily macronutrient targets is FAR more important than nutrient timing.
NOTE: Please do not misinterpret the above to mean that timing is irrelevant. On the contrary, it's very relevant. Timing just happens to have MUCH LESS impact on results than hitting your macro totals for the day. This doesn't diminish the fact that people need to individualize their meal timing so that it maximizes their training performance (& does not hinder it). The latter manipulations vary widely, because people have different training protocols, goals, and tolerances. For example, some people experience their best training performance in an immediately fed state, while others do best in a semi-fasted or fasted state. Endurance athletes who neglect carbohydrate timing will not optimize their training capacity. Strength/power athletes with minimal endurance demands have much less of a concern for this. There's no way to 'universalize' a nutrient timing prescription that applies to everyone & all types of athletes. But to reiterate, macro totals for the day overshadow timing in terms of importance, especially for bodybuilding. If macro totals for the day are not hit, the most precisely neurotic timing of meals is all for sh!t.
Further reading for those interested:
For the technically inclined:
Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window?
Same paper in PDF: http://www.jissn.com/content/pdf/1550-2783-10-5.pdf
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