Part II: Nutrient Timing – Manipulating Nutrients for More Efficient Muscle Growth

Published on Author MFLADMIN

The first phase of the Nutrient Timing System is the Energy Phase and it is the period of time right before and during exercise. Here you consume a carbohydrate-rich drink with some protein before and/orduring exercise as your muscles need glycogen to power you through the strenuous workout and carbohydrates are stored in the muscles as glycogen. Having this energy available at the muscular level will allow you to perform at a higher rate and prevent low muscle glycogen which leads to muscle fatigue. The demand of exercise is met by what you consume right before, or during, the workout, so it is important to consume the fuel you need for this stress. Also, consuming a carb-protein mix can stimulate protein synthesis post-exercise which makes the recovery process more efficient.

As a guideline, for a 165 pound male a mix of 30-40 grams of carbohydrate (in the form of maltodextrin powder) with 10-20 grams of protein(whey protein powder) is a good starting point. After using that as a general starting point you can adjust your carb intake based on how your workout goes and how your body tolerates carbohydrates.

Secondly we have the critical Anabolic Phase which is immediately after your workout and extends to within 2 hours from that point – but in the first 30-45 minutes after your workout it is imperative that you feed your muscles. Here it is crucial that you take advantage of your muscles’ sensitivity to insulin (meaning -increased glucose uptake, transport of amino acids is higher and protein synthesis is high). Immediately after your workout you have to understand that your body is in a catabolic (breaking down) state and fueling it right away with fast digesting (high glycemic) carbs and protein will flip the switch to prime it for growth (anabolic). A proper high carb-protein drink will initiate the glycogen storage in muscles and anabolic hormones will be primed for muscle repair (growth).

Without providing the proper nutrients and within the window provided, your body is actually still in a catabolic state of breaking down muscles even though your workout is over! Triggering your body to switch from acatabolic phase to an anabolic one prevents further muscle breakdown and keys the phase where growth and repair take place. If you do not provide some high glycemic carbs and protein right away your body will still eventually enter the recovery phase, but doing so as early as possible triggers growth sooner and prevents more (unnecessary) muscle breakdown.

This is the phase where you can really adjust your carb-protein intake a lot. Start with the guideline noted in the Energy Phase but bump your protein intake up to 25-40 grams and carbohydrates to anywhere from 3 to 4 times your protein consumption (yes, up to 100 grams or more). It may seem like a lot but your muscles will thank you, again you can play around with these numbers based on your body, metabolism, size, body re-composition goals (gain muscle or lose fat) and body fat percentage (lower body fat = more carbs can be consumed without ill effect). Whey protein powder, carbohydrates in plain powder form (maltodextrin) and glutamine are the basis of the first post-workout meal (shake). The amount of carbs that you can tolerate at this time depends on the intensity of yourworkout, how long your workout lasted, what you ate before/during exercise,your body fat % , etc. so feel free to play with these macronutrient ratios.

Consuming a mix of protein, carbs (eg. healthy grains) and healthy fat in your first “real” meal a few hours after your workout tops off the Anabolic Phase. The carb-to-protein ration can be around 1:1 here.

Finally the Growth Phase is the time a few hours (roughly 3-4) after exercise and extends for the rest of your day. While consuming large quantities of fast digesting carbohydrates highlighted the Energy and Anabolic Phases, now we have sufficiently fed our body the carbohydrates necessary for glycogen stores to be filled and can start eating real food. During this phase your muscles are being repaired, growing and recovering which requires protein more so than carbohydrates so the previous guide of 4:1 ratio of carbs:protein now reverses to 4:1 in favor of protein:carbs.

Carbohydrates are reduced in this phase (ie. the rest of the day) because the window of opportunity with respect to using insulin sensitivity to our advantage (nutrient uptake) is gone. Eating too many carbs when your insulin sensitivity returns to “normal” translates to carbs being stored as fat because your muscles have already been filled with glycogen previously when it was optimal to do so. Getting roughly 25% of your calories from carbohydrates is a good guideline for this ‘remainder of the day’ phase and your focus should be on slower digesting proteins and healthy fats.

In summary, while high glycemic carbs and fast digesting proteins are the foundation of the Energy and Anabolic Phases, the carbs are basically discarded in the Growth Phase and the proteins are exchanged for slower digesting meats. It is similar to eating Atkins style for most of the day, but hammering specific types and quantities of carbs and protein into your muscles immediately before/during exercise and right afterwards.