When speaking of nutrition for improving body composition or training performance, it's crucial to realize there's an underlying hierarchy of importance. At the top of the hierarchy is total amount of the macronutrients by the end of the day. Distantly below that is the precise timing of those nutrients. With very few exceptions, athletes and active individuals eat multiple times per day. Thus, the majority of their day is spent in the postprandial (fed) rather than a post-absorptive (fasted) state. The vast majority of nutrient timing studies have been done on overnight-fasted subjects put through glycogen depletion protocols, which obviously limits the applicability of the outcomes. Pre-exercise (and/or during-exercise) nutrient intake often has a lingering carry-over effect into the post-exercise period. Throughout the day, there's a constant overlap of meal digestion & nutrient absorption. For this reason, the effectiveness of nutrient timing does not require a high degree of precision.
The Primary Laws of Nutrient Timing
- The First Law of Nutrient Timing is: hitting your daily macronutrient targets is FAR more important than nutrient timing.
The Second Law of Nutrient Timing is: hitting your daily macronutrient targets is FAR more important than nutrient timing.
Further reading for those interested in gaining an in-depth understanding of this topic:
Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window?
Same paper in PDF: http://www.jissn.com/content/pdf/1550-2783-10-5.pdf
Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation
The effect of protein timing on muscle strength and hypertrophy: a meta-analysis
Need to learn how to figure your macronutrient targets? We have a sticky for that here: