Does When You Eat Matter?

May 4th, 2015

Category: Lifestyle

Does When You Eat Matter?

If you’ve been in the fitness world for a while, you may have heard about the concept of nutrient timing, or the theory that when you eat, may have just as significant of an impact on health, fat loss, and performance as what you eat.
Nutrient timing simply means eating specific macronutrients (such as protein, carbs, or fats)… in specific amounts… at specific times (such as before, during, or after exercise).
As it turns out, the concept of nutrient timing may not be as important as we once thought. In fact, for most people just trying to lose some weight and feel better, focusing more on what we eat, and how much, rather than when, may be of utmost importance.
But let’s see how the “conventional wisdom” regarding a few commonly held nutritional timing beliefs stacks up:


You Better Grab a Post-Workout Shake…and Hurry!
Those in the gym culture are familiar with the “anabolic window” or the idea that the time post-workout (usually 30-45min) is crucial for replenishing fuel sources, including protein and carbs.
During this “window” – which technically begins the second you finish you last rep of your last set – one should consume a quick digesting protein and carbohydrate source, usually a shake of some sort.
As it turns out, this magical window may actually be a whole lot bigger than we once thought. And, to the chagrin of supplement vendors, the total amount of protein and carbohydrate consumed throughout the day (yep, even from real food) is what matters most, irrespective to the time in which it’s consumed.
This is not to say that workout supplementation is pointless, rather, sheds light to the fact that there are numerous methods possible for improved body composition and performance.


It All Starts with Breakfast… or Does It?
We have all heard about the importance of breakfast for blood sugar management, increased metabolism, weight loss, etc., but much of the research regarding this topic is unclear.
In fact, those in the world of intermittent fasting (I.F.) – commonly waiting until noon or later for the first meal of the day – would suggest breakfast is blasphemy. And yes, there is research to support this concept highlighting several factors, including: increased fat breakdown and improved blood glucose control.
But before you go ditching your breakfast, you should know that much of this research has been done on animals, and while intriguing, we simply do not have the data to support long-term results, both for and against eating breakfast.
What the research doesn’t often talk about is the concept of nutritional awareness; when people become more aware of their food intake, regardless of when, they get better results.
So in the end, there is no right or wrong, rather personal preference based on self-experimentation and desired results.


What About Meal Frequency?
“Eat 5 small meals per day” has been many a guideline passed from trainer to client since the beginning of time. You know, “speeds up metabolism” and what have you.
As it turns out, 5 small meals or 2 big meals may elicit the same response depending on the person.
Again, it comes down the personal preference (and awareness), as focusing more on the right foods in the right amounts may matter most.


So When Does Nutrient Timing Matter?
For most people concerned with improving their nutrition and feeling better, when they eat may not be as important as it would be for a physique competitor or professional athlete.
Rather, placing the emphasis on nutritional awareness, as being cognizant of what and how much you’re eating throughout the day, as well as why (bored? sad? stressed?) will have the greatest impact on long-term results.