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Have you heard about nutrient timing? Either from a fitness guru on Instagram or one of your friends who is always the first to try any of the latest and greatest health trends. The term sounds so legitimate and the way this term has been thrown around in the “fitness industry”, you probably feel like you need to know more about it.

So, let’s dive in shall we? What is nutrient timing? Is it necessary to eat at a certain time? And will it have an actual effect on your body?

Let’s take a look at the facts and fibs that surround this topic!

What is nutrient timing? 

Simply put, nutrient timing involves eating foods at strategic times in order to achieve certain outcomes. It’s supposedly very important for muscle growth, sports performance and fat loss. If you’ve ever run for a scoop of peanut butter before a workout or panicked if you forgot to have your protein shake right after a workout – that is nutrient timing. 

It surrounds the idea that your body will develop better or secure better results if you eat at certain times of the day and when it is more optimal. This way of eating has been used by bodybuilders and fitness competitors for up to 50 years now and many studies have been conducted on it. 

One of the world’s leading researchers in carbohydrate timing, Dr John Ivy, has published many studies showing its potential benefits. In 2004, he published a book called Nutrient Timing: The Future of Sports Nutrition. This is just one of the many researchers who believe nutrient timing is key!

But like with anything, there are some doubts about the studies, for example: 

  1. Short-term blood markers: Many of the studies only measure short-term blood markers, which often fail to measure up with long-term benefits. Have a look at this article on the matter.
  2. Ultra-endurance athletes: Many of the studies follow extreme endurance athletes, which do not necessarily represent the average everyday person. 

For these reasons, the findings in much of the research that supports nutrient timing may not apply to everyone.

Latest and greatest health trends

When should you be eating your meals?

We don’t mean just eating morning, noon and night.

Nutrient timing extends further than just eating before or after a workout. You probably have that one work colleague who is always going on about a new “health” trend. We guarantee that some point you’ve heard, “you shouldn’t eat carbs after 6 pm” or “you should eat more in the morning and less in the evening”.

Many people think that the reason you gain more weight if you eat late at night is that you have less opportunity to burn off those calories, but this is a very basic view. It’s often assumed that our bodies shut down when we sleep, but that’s not true. Our bodies work throughout the night while our minds rest.

BUT evidence suggests that more energy is used to process a meal when it’s eaten in the morning, compared to later in the day, so you do burn slightly more calories if you eat earlier. However, it’s still unclear how much of a difference this would make to your overall body weight. 

This means that it may be a better idea to consume higher quantities of food earlier in the day and focus on consuming nutrient-dense foods later in the evening. For some healthy recipe ideas, take a look at this article

So, what do we make of this?

Here’s the bottom-line, research isn’t always perfect or conclusive. There may be some accurate points of measure in these studies but there may be a few fibs along the way too.

We’ve come to understand that nutrient timing isn’t particularly important for most people trying to look and feel better. It may be more beneficial to those whose careers are centred around working out but so many really smart and hard-working people are getting lost in the finer points of nutrient timing.

Focusing on timing your meals while consistently missing out on sleep, or vegetables or other (slightly more important) health and lifestyle factors is more of detriment to your body. The other factors will yield you far more results in a healthy lifestyle in the long run than merely focusing on the timing of your meals. 

A healthy lifestyle is a holistic approach with many factors to consider, if this is something you’re concerned about or if you need more information, we’d be happy to help!

Gemma Oberholzer

About Gemma Oberholzer

I guess you can say I'm a serial self-improver. Since I was a kid I can remember being weirdly thrilled at the idea of learning something new and figuring out how to use that new found knowledge to better myself. This perpetual learn-grow itch eventually lead me to the field of Health and Wellness and it's here I've been, fascinated for the last 8 years of my study and work life. From Human Life Scientist and learning the mechanics of physiology and intricacies of metabolic biochemistry, to Food and Nutrition Scientist where I deepened my understanding of diet and it's key role in human performance and health. Geared with this comprehensive education and better appreciation for human health, I've since been able to practically apply this in my career through the fields of research, product development, brand management and marketing. In 2018, I was finally able to bring all these learnings together and so my passion project, WellBe&Co, was born. WellBe&Co is a personal and corporate wellness company specializing in easy-to-implement, lifestyle-focused nutrition, training and health solutions. It's here that I've gained invaluable insights into the human-side of the health and wellness industry in a way that has enabled me to provide relevant content and value-adding services to individuals and companies alike and live out our mission to build communities that know better and grow together through better health.

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