Nutrient timing for muscle growth

By Marwan / July 1, 2014

If I had to pick a question that I get asked more than any other out of the top of my head (apart from supplements) that question would be “what do I eat to get muscular”? Most people think that when you are trying to gain muscle that you can eat anything in sight as it doesn’t matter when you are gaining muscle.

Well I got news for you my friend because it actually it does.  It matters when you eat, and what you eat.

Let me explain

Your thyroid glands, the T3 and T4 are the ones responsible for regulating your metabolism.  Simply put when you get lots of calories in the production goes up, when you don’t get many calories in the production goes down. But as with anything the body will eventully adapt and become stale.  That is why you change your workout every 4-6 weeks because the body starts to adapt and so the workouts will become less effective.

Eating in excess of your caloric needs each day is unnecessary and you might well find that you are putting on weight in the wrong areas.   In essence they are outsmarting their bodies.

War is not won by effort alone, it is won by strategy.

Buildidng muscles or losing fat is all about optimising your hormone levels and certain foods release certain hormones.

Protein will stimulate the release of the hormone Glucagon.

Carbohydrates will stimulate the release of the hormone Insulin

Fats will stimulate the release of the hormone Testosterone.

So what is nutrient timing?

To put it simply it is the science of eating certain nutrients at certain times.  By nutrients I mean Carbohydrates, Protein and Fats.

There are three critical workout windows as you see in the figure below…

The Energy Phase – Occurs 1-2 hours before the workout.  Aim for fast digesting proteins such as Egg Whites and White Fish.  I train in the mornings so I tend to avoid any foods with dietary fats as they take a long time to digest, and it feels uncomfortable training with food waiting to be digested.   When there is a presence of fats in the blood stream and carbohydrates together it can lead to fat storage.

During my workout and after I sip on a carbohydrate drink with BCAA to spike my insulin in order to combat cortizol and start my recovery.  Having carbohydrates during the workout (when insulin sensitivity is at it’s highest) enables me to reduce the number of carbs later on in the day.

Working out is a catabolic process, you break down your muscle tissues, and break down nutrients such as protein etc.. for muscle repair hence the importance of eating quality fast digesting proteins before your workout.

The Anabolic Phase – occurs after your workout.  This is the time when your insulin sensitivity is at it’s highest (during training and immediately after training), your muscles are like a “sponge” they are able to absorb a high amount of nutrients with minimum spillage into fat storage.  Your biggest meal should be after your workout.

Aim to eat plenty of proteins such as white fish, chicken breasts and slow digesting carbohydrates such as quinoa.  Quinoa is a super food because of it’s high content of proteins.  It contains ALL the essential amino acids, and 18 amino acids in total.

The aim of this phase is to replenish your glycogen stores and minimise protein breakdown and start the process of rebuilding your muscles.

You should not be eating fats during this phase as they will take time to digest before being available in your blood for your muscles to absorb which would delay your recovery.

The Growth Phase – This is the phase for the rest of the day.  This is when your body starts to shift from a catabolic process to an anabolic one.  Your insulin sensitivity begins to wane so we say goodbye to Carbs and hello to Fats and Protein.

As I mentioned above Fats play an important role in muscle growth because they release certain hormones other nutrients do not.  Fats will not make you fat, not if you eat good Fats such as full eggs, avocados, olive oil, nuts etc..

For the rest of the day, eat whole meals every 3-4 hours which contain Proteins and Fats.  One food that I eat before bed is Cottage Cheese.  It contains Cassein which is slower in absorption, it is very light and takes around 7 hours to digest, fueling your muscles with protein while you are asleep!


About the author


Hi, my name is Marwan and I set up this site to help skinny guys and girls just like you to end their frustrations and have the body of their dreams. I believe there are no limitations to what mankind can achieve.