Nutrient Timing. Clock, with energy fulled foods on display

Nutrient Timing For Performance

Nutrient Timing For Performance


Nutrient Timing For Performance, what does it mean and does it matter? Simply, nutrient timing refers to eating certain foods at intentional times, for a desired outcome. Often to increase performance.

In practical terms it might mean that a long distance runner deliberately eats 150g of complex carbohydrates 90 minutes before a 10 mile run. With the intention of having sustained energy throughout. Which would help improve their performing times and optimise their efforts.

Effective nutrient timing requires some understanding about nutrition and why you may eat more precisely. This article will give you some insight about how you might organise your nutrition better to improve performance. For the best results its advisable to work with a nutritional professional or qualified coach. This helps to minimise any issues that may arise. For instance bloating that can be caused by overconsumption or foods high in FODMAPS can massively hinder someones performance. A professional can help you avoid these potential issues. 


Nutrient Timing For Performance

In 2004 Doctors John Ivy & Robert Portman released a book that got nutritionist and fitness professionals very excited. Dr Ivy & Dr Portman introduced the idea of nutrient timing and sighted some game changing studies that would revolutionise the world of professional sport and serious sporting enthusiasts alike. 

A key takeaway here is that the study and findings focused on athletes in particular. Bare this in mind as we will circle back to it soon. 

To summarise the book and relevant details Dr Ivy suggested 7 key terms for nutrient timing. He suggested that these should be considered to promote optimal athletic performance.




Essential for nutrition. These are the “building blocks” to all body tissues and muscle. In total there are 9 key amino acids needed in different quantities to optimise repair and growth in the body.


The construction of molecules from smaller simpler units (building muscle, repairing tissues etc). Anabolic hormones stimulate anabolic process’s. Weight lifting is “anabolic” which means it stimulates muscle growth. 


Deliberately eating larger portions of carbohydrates (often complex types) to build an energy reserve. Often used in longer events like marathon running, cycling etc. 


The opposite of anabolism. If anabolism “builds,” catabolism “breaks down.” Large molecules re broken down into smaller ones in order to release energy. Eg muscle is broken down to fuel activity.


Hormones – Dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine are amongst the main. Neurotransmitters that manage a variety of the central nervous system functions. Including motor control, cognition, emotion, memory processing, and endocrine modulation.


Made by your adrenal glands and released by physical or emotional stress. It predominantly helps regulate your body’s response to physical or emotional stress.


Produced in the pancreas. This hormone helps break down glycogen into smaller, simpler forms (glucose) to use as energy. 


From this Ivy concluded that there be a “anabolic window of opportunity.” Whereby immediately following exercise (30-45 minutes after) your body is optimised to soak up nutrients, energy and aminos from protein. The theory is that following considerable to intense exercise your body breaks down and depletes energy, ramping up metabolism, priming it for fresh nutrition to be consumed and used for repair and energy renewal. Which in turn promotes recovery and progress. It was advised that nutritional substance at this point should be fast acting forms or proteins and carbohydrates. Often consumed in a shake with water. Whey protein isolate, and cream of rice being amongst the most popular sources.    

Like all sciences, nutritional science has progressed since 2004. And theories have expanded some. The “window” is more like a 5m bifold door. Meaning that downing a protein shake with a carb source is less relevant immediately after exercise. You actually have more like 1-3 hours to make sure you get some protein, carbs and fats in. However if your nutrition has been relaxed or you haven eaten adequately it is advisable to get quality protein and carbs in sooner than later following intense physical activity.  

Post Exercise Nutrition Is Vitally Important!

It’s my intention that you digest and learn from this article in its entirety. If though you take nothing else away from it PLEASE remember this bit. Your post workout / performance nutrition is fundamentally essential if you want to progress. 

Think about this. You’ve just flogged yourself in the gym or during an event. Mostly likely with the intention of bettering yourself. Getting stronger, looking fitter, feeling great?  What you do next is the difference between  progression, stagnation or worst case scenario, regression! 

Think about all the people you see in the gym on your team or competitors you face? Do they look like they are progressing. I would say around 1/20 I see in and around the gym look like they are progressing both aesthetically or from a performance stand point. Yet I see them working very hard. So why is visible progression alluding them. One possibility is…. 

Poor POST EXERCISE NUTRITION! It’s likely they’ve got this all wrong. If you can get this right consistently; then progression and results aren’t far off. 

Ok so we’ve highlighted the window of opportunity and established you don’t need to be so precise with timing after a strenuous workout / event. However the content of your next meal is very important. You want to initiate effective recovery so you adapt, grow and progress. Otherwise your not optimising your time when working so hard during exercise.

Studies have found certain nutrient combinations to be optimal to ensure yourecover and grow, enhancing your ability and look for next time. So we’re clear, it doesn’t mean you train hard and eat well once and you’ll be Thor or Wonder Women the next day. I think thats obvious, but train smart and eat smart consistently and things transformation will begin happen. 


After a demanding session like a weights session, long distance cycle or game of rugby (and scything similar), consume a “meal” high in fast acting carbs, high in protein and low in fat! At least 1 hour after the session. This doesn’t need to be after every session. Just ones that you work very hard on, or that last for longer than 90 minutes. We’re aiming for maximal muscle growth, whist limiting / nullifying fat gain. 

Possible meal option (1) – One scope of carb up, one scope whey protein mixed with water (rapid absorption time which is great)

Possible meal option (2) – 250g Egg whites on two slices of white toast no butter.  


Strength and endurance based exercises stimulate muscles, bones tissue etc to adapt, become stronger and grow. Tough exercise can leave us feeling tired and hungry. Both indicating factors that you have depleted your bodies energy stores. For your body to adapt and grow effectively, smart nutrition is essential. 

Quick acting carbs spike insulin, but you need to eat enough of them to initiate the response avoiding too much, which repeated would result in unnecessary fat gain. Insulin is a hormone responsible for transporting glucose and aminos (carbs and proteins) into the muscle cells. This ramps ups glycogen synthesis, tipping protein balance to a positive, which repairs and replenishes new more adapted muscle.


What though would be considered enough carb but not too much that you store the extra as fat. Studies suggest that a recommended carb amount to consume after exercise is between 0.8g and 1.2g per kg of body weight. 80kg person need between 64g & 96g of fast acting carb within one hour after training.

I however suggest the lower end of this scale to avoid gaining fat. stick to 0.8g and that’ll be perfect.


The purpose of protein is to stimulate MPS (muscle protein synthesis). Like carbs you need to consume enough for your body to register a response. The protein source though needs to be of a complete quality, having the correct EAA’s (essential amino acids) and be fast acting in this instance. Whey protein mixed with water is perfect. 

Research highlights that between 20-25g of protein is sufficient to stimulate MPS. More accurately however studies suggest the ratio of between 0.2g and 0.4g of quality protein per 1kg of bodyweight. 80kg person needs between 16g & 32g of protein. 

Unlike carbs I would suggest you aim for the higher range. Stick to 0.4g for best results. Protein isn’t stored like carbs or fats so fat gain is much harder, In fact protein has a higher TEF which can assist fat loss.


Eating fat each day is essential to optimised health, mental functioning, aesthetics and wellness. However eating too much fat immediately (1 / 2 hours) after intense exercise has been shown to hinder the recover and adaptable process. Adding fat slows digestion and absorption, which isn’t what we’re aiming for.

We want to flood the muscle with nutrients as quickly as possible to start the recovery and adaptations of the body. Optimising you’re hard fought time spent working out or exercising. As studies evolve, findings are less conclusive about fat. With some research suggesting it doesn’t men too much difference. Most sports nutritionist agree however that fat intake immediately after should be kept under control. 

Aim for a maximum of between 3g-8g of fat in you post exercise meal. 

In Short: Training Hard + Smart Nutrition = Progress

Your barometer for success are observations like: Increased strength, quicker recovery times, less DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), better endurance, leaner physique, fuller looking muscles, muscle hardness, respiratory improvements, increased confidence, better mood, increased self-esteem etc. 


The priority for anybody irrespective of athletic aspirations and goals is to ensure daily consistent, high quality, adequate and appropriate nutrition and hydration. Eating a high protein diet high in vitamins and minerals will serve as a solid foundation to performance and recovery. 

Nutrient timing can have a small impact on a persons ability to perform their best. However for many eating consistently “well” throughout the day can achieve similar results.

Elite level athletes, serious competitors or people looking to achieve specific goals may benefit from progressing their nutrition and considering some elements of nutrient timing.

If your diet is consistently very good than nutrient timing matter less. Which is why we have included with general advice and specific nutrient timing advice for enhanced performance. Combine the two sets of guidelines for the most optimal results. 

The golden rule when considering nutrient timing is: WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT! Avoid being influenced by your mate who swears eating carbs after 2pm makes them gain weight. It may be the case for them but perhaps not for you. Consider the circadian cycle (sleep wake cycle) for example. How you sleep, when you wake and when you go to bed directly impact hunger cues, satiation levels and more. Many of us have different lifestyles, some of us work late, whilst others work early. This will impact your diet and metabolism.

With guidance and experimentation you can find the right eating habits that will optimise how you feel, perform and look. Individualities are one of the main reasons nutrition can become confusing. With some direction and basic understanding you’ll be better equipped to take full control over you own daily and performance based nutrition. Track your findings and implement what works for you. Coaches and programmes are here to support your progress, we are science lead but also client driven. Which means that scientific findings  whilst facts may not entirely fit your individualities. We can help you explore this better. 

Good Nutrition


Aim to consume a quality lean protein source every 3-4 hours as a general guide. Your daily target should generally be at least 1g per 1lb of body weight (180lbs body weight = 180g protein per day), up to 1.3g per day


At least 20% of your daily calories need to come from healthy fat sources. This is about 0.4g per 1lb of body weight ( 180lb body weight ) = 72g per day. 


Once protein is calculated, fats are set and you understand your daily calorie requirements the remaining calories left, you can allocate to carbs. For example – A 180lb person = 2200 calories per day ( 180g Protein, 72g Fat, 208g Carbs)  


Quite simply drink consistently throughout the day. Aim to drink a minimum of 2-3 litres per day and more if its hot or you’re particularly active 


It’s massively important to get quality sleep. Prioritise your sleep 7-9 hours per day. A lack of sleep impact hormones which result in weight gain, reduce cognition and a physical decline in performance. 


Micronutrients refer to vitamins and minerals. Insufficient amounts of these can have extreme negative implications on your health, wellness and performance. To ensure you get the required amounts aim for a “colourful diet” 7 portions of veg and some fruits. Also perhaps consider a good multivitamin to supplement.

Performance Nutrition

The “Up & At Em”

If an early riser studies suggest eating a larger breakfast, consistent of around 30% protein, 45% carbs and 25% fats will likely give you substantial energy and stimulate MPS (Muscle Protein Synthesis) also preventing needless snacking later on in the day and evening. A recent study sighted this an effective strategy for effective wright loss.

The “Night Owl”

In contrast if you’re a person who naturally burns the midnight oil, a lighter breakfast and back larger dinner higher in calories and macros may be preferable.

A study from 2015 found this eating style when coupled with a good fitness regime was effective at; improving cardiac health, initiating MPS, promoting fat loss, invoking better sleep quality and reducing morning appetite.

Protein Before Exercise

A complete protein source (containing all 9 aminos) should be consumed 1-4 hours before an event. Ideally between 25-50g of protein depending on your size and goals. Consider the source also. 

Protein like chicken & turkey will take longer to break down, eggs require less time with whey isolate being absorbed rapidly. This enables the body to prepare for recovery even during the event itself. Preventing catabolism and promoting anabolism. Important for sustaining progress.

Carb Loading

We have an individual article on this as it entails a few options. This strategy is often used  by athletes competing or training in excess of 90 minutes.

Click here to take you to the associated information. Designed to ensure you have enough preferred fuel for your event.


Calorie cycling is where you consume different amount of calories each day. Usually in a planned routine, but sometimes following occasions or events that crop ups suddenly. Traditional diets restrict a set amount of calories each day until your goal weight is reached. They help 1000’s of people by applying a simple easy to follow and anticipate approach to weight loss. 

“Calorie Cycling,” sometimes called “Calorie Shifting” is a more adaptable and modern approach to a standard weight loss blueprint. For this approach to be successful you will need to understand what weekly calories you should eat per week in relation to your own goals. Eg weight loss, muscle gain etc. Once you have this figure you can divide them across the week how you want to. Often to compliment your lifestyle and activity.

Below you can see two examples of what a diet week might look for someone who is eating 17,500 calories per week (2,500 calories per day). Example 1 is a day on, day off approach which can help people replenish every other day.

Whilst example 2 is a stacked weekend approach. Useful for people who know that on weekends they tend to over indulge. Regardless of the which style you may choose the person will experience the same results over a 4 to 12 week programme. 

In theory you can split your weekly calories how you wish and in conjunction with your lifestyle.

Calorie cycling / calorie shifting example


  1. This style is very adaptable and bespoke to any individual. 
  2. It works nicely around modern living and particularly helps people who are sociable and have busier and quieter spells throughout the week. 
  3. “Days On and Days Off” can help people to break down the challenge of loosing weight into smaller sections. 
  4. Studies have found this style of eating to have high adherence levels. As we know this is a key driver to diet success. 
  5. No food restrictions allows greater access and eating opportunity.
  6. Some research has found that this style of eating can reduce metabolic adaptions.


  1. Some people can find it hard to stay disciplined on days that they can over consume calories. Sometimes going way over their planned calorie intake. This can be disastrous towards your progress.
  2. The relaxed approach can be too much for some people who like a more stringent structured approach. 
  3. Whole foods can be greater excluded due to a more relaxed  approach. To avoid this ensure you have plenty of fresh, wholesome produce your home you can access easily.
  4. As people we tend to favour routines, it helps generate positive momentum for us. Eating in this random yet controlled manner can make it harder for some to establish positive eating habits.  

Like all eating styles and diets, calorie cycling is not a superior strategy to any other. It’s still about energy balance and calories in v calories out. This style certainly has a positive following and there are many attractions to this way of eating. Give it ago to see if it works for you. It may be they way of eating that can transform your body. Furthermore if you want information about how to prioritise your efforts for fat loss, check out this article: “Priorities For Fat Loss.

The Run Down

Ok so nutrient timing is relevant but how important is it for you? Since we are all different, have different goals and abilities, nutrient timing becomes more or less relevant in relation to your personal characterises. Let’s break this down so you can decide how important and effective this may be for you.

For the vast majority of people I’d argue that consistent good nutrition will yield visual and internal health related benefits. Ensuring you hot the daily essentials will see your body fat % come down, lean body mass go up and energy and mood levels optimised. 

Nutrient timing in my opinion is best used for performance purposes and specific goals. That said however, I think everyone following a weight resistance programme or partake in intense exercise should utilise post nutrition strategies. As mentioned above. 

Post Exercise

Within 1 hour after weight training, intense or prolonged exercise, consume the following: A high carb and protein meal combination, low in fat. Something like our Carb Up supplement, mixed with a quality whey protein. This will considerable help recovery and assist progression. Why not get in touch with us for help and support? Click this link to contact one of our coaches who will be happy to assist.

Circadian Cycle Eating 

(Up & At Em & Night Owl). It seems as if there is some benefit to match caloric intake to that of your sleep wake cycle, according to some studies. However, my advice is not to focus too much on this. Rather practice mindful eating. Learn more about your body and natural hunger cues. Pay attention to when your most hungry, what foods satiate you the longest, when you tend to have energy slumps etc. Interpretation of these signals can enhance your ability to stay lean and healthy, without feeling tired or restricted too much. 

Protein Before Sport 

We should all eat a high protein diet. Hundreds of studies find that those who consume adequate protein tend to be leaner and healthier with less healthy related complications. Sport and exercise will break your body down. Muscle is metabolic, which means you want to keep it. The more muscle you have the more calories you can eat without gaining fat (essentially). Protein before exercise will help protein balance stay positive, which will prevent muscle being broken down for energy. 

Carb Loading

Check out our article here for more information. Carb loading can be useful for longer aerobic type events. If you’re a runner, cyclist, football player or anyone involved in high energy events that last longer than 90 minutes, then a carb loading strategy will likely optimising your energy levels.  

Calorie Cycling

Is a eating strategy that can assist weight management and energy demands. Generally you should aim to eat more calories on active days and less on sedentary days. However, bare in mind digestion and absorption times. Depending on the food types and combinations available energy can take hours to be broken down and ready for use. Some studies have founds this approach can help increase positive eating habits long term.