I know you have probably heard the phrase “Timing is everything” or “I was at the right place, at the right time.” And, if you are like me, you check your watch or phone consistently to keep track of time. Why? Because, timing is everything! Our society revolves around time: work at 8 a.m., lunch at 12:00 p.m., dinner at 6:00, etc. Just like our daily routine revolves around time, our bodies revolve around meal timing. Whether you are looking to lose weight, perform at your best or build muscle, meal timing is important!
For weight loss, it is important to eat a meal or a small snack every 3-4 hours. This is important because eating consistently throughout the day helps increase our metabolism, meaning we burn more calories. On the flip side, skipping meals or waiting too long to eat can cause our metabolism to decrease and go into “hibernation.” Unless you are a bear waiting for spring, you don’t want that to happen! An example of a healthy meal for weight loss would be 4oz. grilled pork tenderloin, 1 small baked potato, 1 cup green beans and a dinner roll. A healthy snack would include a banana with 1 Tbsp. peanut butter.
Meal timing is also important for daily exercise, as well as athletic performance in sports or other athletic events. For athletes, it is important to get adequate calories, carbohydrates, protein, iron, calcium and fluid, and the timing of these nutrients is also important.
The chart below details the recommended amount of nutrients per day based on your weight and exercise intensity.
|Exercise Intensity||Length of Duration||Carbs per kg of body weight per day*|
|High||Endurance Exercise, 1-3 hr/d||6-10g/kg/d|
|Very High||Extreme 4-5h/d||8-12g/kg/d|
|20-35% of total intake|
*To determine your body weight in kilograms (kg), divide your weight in pounds by 2.2. For example if you weigh 150 pounds: 150/2.2 = 68.1 kg
Timing of Nutrients:
Before: Prior to exercise, it is important to consume carbohydrates such as a small banana to fuel your exercise.
During: If you are exercising longer than 60 minutes, it is recommended to consume 30-60g carbohydrate per hour. Or if exercise lasts longer than 2.5 hours, 90g carbohydrate is recommended.
Post: Consume both carbohydrates and protein immediately after exercising. Both of these nutrients are important for promoting muscle recovery and building muscle.
And, do not forget about fluid! Staying hydrated is vital for achieving the athletic performance results you want. Consume water throughout the day and, if you are exercising greater than 60 minutes, consume a sports beverage with electrolytes.
Meal timing for muscle building is similar to meal timing for athletic performance. It is also important to consume carbohydrates prior to exercising and carbohydrates and protein immediately post exercise to promote muscle growth. Eating every 3-4 hours can help you consume all the proper nutrients. Some good sources of protein and carbohydrates include:
- Legumes (beans)
- Peanut butter on toast or English muffin
- Eggs with toast or English muffin
- Low-fat cottage cheese
So remember, timing is everything; carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats all make up a healthy diet for weight loss, athletic performance and muscle building. Also, adequate calorie intake can help prevent muscle mass loss. Just don’t pack on the cookies and greasy burgers!
(2016). “Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance.”Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116(3), 501-528.