Meal timing (or nutrient timing) is the concept of when you provide your body with certain nutrients. It can be further broken down into several aspects:
Meal timing: What time of the day do you eat your meals?
Meal frequency: How many meals are eaten every day?
Meal spacing: How much time lies between each meal?
Macronutrient split: Are all the meals evenly split in regards to protein, carbs, and fats?
In theory, all these factors could be mixed together to result in endless possibilities for nutrient timing. You could, for example, eat six meals a day which was the traditional advice for fitness enthusiasts for a long time. Or you could fast for part of the day and gorge during a short window of a few hours like intermittent fasting proponents do.
You could also change the size of your meals and divide them into bigger and smaller ones, or you could size them evenly. Of course, there is also the possibility to eat certain foods before and after your workout, or maybe even during.
If you are somewhat familiar with the most common dieting trends, you know that there are actually advocates of all these dieting styles even though they seem to contradict each other quite a bit.
What most of them forget, however, is that nutrient timing only makes up a small fraction of the effect your diet will have on your health. If all the other factors beneath it on the nutrition pyramid have been accounted this one makes up maybe 5 to 10 % of overall results.
Don’t get me wrong, meal timing is still important. Especially in regards to pre and post workout meals. But many beginners overestimate just how much impact it will have on your results. They often forget to focus on the more important things like calories and macronutrients first, before tackling meal timing.
The Perfect Pre- & Post Workout Meals
Your pre and post workout meals are meant to do several things:
– Reduce muscle glycogen depletion.
– Reduce muscle protein breakdown.
– Reduce post workout cortisol levels.
– Ensure optimal recovery
How exactly do you accomplish this?
Easy, you eat carbs and protein before your workout. What this means is, the most important rule of your PRE workout meal is to consume a good amount of both carbs and protein before you train.
I know it sounds very simple and maybe to simple to you, but let me tell you way too many people overcomplicate this. Of course, I don’t want to leave you with no guidelines at all so I will give you a few rough values that you can keep in mind when you prepare your pre-workout meal.
The true specifics here will always differ from person to person and depend on what time of the day you work out or how much time you actually have before your workout but it’s a good reference.
If you can, eat a balanced meal with 0.2 – 0.25 g/lbs of your target bodyweight (for both carbs and protein) around one hour before your workout and one hour afterward.
In case you don’t have time for that and/or your last meal lies more than two hours prior to your training, consume a more easily digested protein and carbs 30 minutes before your workout. This could be a protein shake with a banana for example.
I personally like to eat a normal meal of brown rice and chicken or meat an hour before my workout. This is nothing special, just protein and carbs coming from normal foods 1-2 hours before working out.
This is what is proven to get you the best results and will keep things a simple as possible. There’s really no need to get any more complicated than that, and no need to obsess about the specifics.
Last but not least, In case you don’t like rice and chicken or don’t want to eat it every day here are some more suggestions for pre-workout meals:
Meals that you can eat up to 1 hour include:
– Oatmeal with whey protein mixed in
– A large chicken sandwich with wholegrain bread
– 2x or more Hard-Boiled Eggs on an Avocado toast
– Wholegrain pasta with some sort of protein (again chicken or meat or whatever source of protein you prefer)
Snacks right 30min or less before your workout:
– A banana with protein bar
– Apple Wedges and a protein shake
– Just a protein bar