The Best Time to Eat Carbs for Fat Loss, Muscle Building, and Strength
A highly requested topic that I get asked about A LOT is nutrient timing-- AKA what to eat and when to eat it. I know that there are TONS of conflicting sources of information on this, but it CAN BE a lot simpler than most people realize!
Spoiler alert: there IS an optimal time to eat copious amounts of bread
There are tons of variables and lots of leeeetle tiny details when it comes to nutrition, but basically, your priorities should look like this:
- Total calorie intake
- Macronutrient intake
- Micronutrient intake
- Nutrient timing & meal frequency
So as you see, you should prioritize 3 OTHER things before you start really honing down on your nutrient timing.
But let's say you have those first 3 somewhat nailed down and you're ready to level up your nutrition game....
Here are my MAIN tips for maximizing your food:
(broken up by desired effect)
Maximizing training performance
- Eat the bulk of your carbs in the meals around your workouts. Good rule of thumb is 20-30% of your daily intake in each meal! ¹
- Sandwich your training with at least 20g high-quality protein on either side. Shoot for no more than 3-4 hours apart with your training in the middle! ²
- Avoid large amounts of fat around your workouts. Fats slow digestion and therefore nutrient uptake!
Maximizing fat loss
- Eat the bulk of your carbs in the meals around your workouts. Yes, again. Your body will best utilize those carbs peri-workout! ¹
- Don't be afraid of eating "carbs after dark". Doing so can actually have a positive effect on your fat burning hormones! ³
- Try eating a high protein, moderate fat, low carb breakfast. This helps some people control their blood sugar and cravings better throughout the day! ³
Maximizing muscle gain
- Eat the bulk of your carbs in the meals around your workouts. ¹ Are you noticing a trend yet?
- Choose fast-digesting carbohydrate sources for optimal muscle repair. ¹
- Consume quality protein at regular intervals throughout the day. This maximizes muscle protein synthesis (MPS)! ²
If that seems confusing, or like a lot of different "rules", don't sweat it! Step 1 is to work on optimizing the meals around your workouts, and then you can experiment with the other suggestions once you've gotten that down.
So there ya have it-- nutrient timing made simple!
- Ivy J. Exercise Physiology and Metabolism Laboratory, Department of Kinesiology and Health Education at The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
- Mamerow M M, Mettler JA, English KL, Casperson SL, et al. Dietary Protein Distribution Positively Influences 24-h Muscle Protein Synthesis in Healthy Adults. The Journal of Nutrition. 2014
- Sofer S, Eliraz A, Kaplan S, Voet H, Fink G, Kima T, Madar Z. Greater weight loss and hormonal changes after 6 months diet with carbohydrates eaten mostly at dinner. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2011 Oct;19(10):2006-14.