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Eating Round the Clock

Eating Round the Clock
Significant Gains Accrue Like Clockwork
With These Nutrient Timing Strategies

"What to Eat?" and "How Much to Eat?" are always two major concerns in the minds of people who want to get bigger and for those who also want to get smaller.  Meanwhile, the last five years of research have also brought forward a new question to ask: "When to Eat?"

Scientists have reported on a number of occasions that "when" you eat can hold great importance with regard to how your body responds and recovers.  Different athletes eat different things.  For example, highly trained endurance athletes are known for eating boatloads of carbohydrates while strength and power athletes are known for eating boatloads of well...everything, but for the most part their diets are fairly heavy on protein.  Many discussions occur about timing, but many of these discussions focus solely on after exercise, while timing considerations across the entire day are important as well.  The purpose of this article is to break down according to research an ideal day regarding the timing of nutrients.  We're going to assume you work a typical 8-to-4 job (or 9-to-5) and exercise every day after work.  Also, we're not going to get into prescribing exact dietary amounts according to body size, composition, etc. as they would take away from the point of the article, which is to simply discuss timing.

A good day starts with what takes place the night before.  If you are an exercising athlete, the start of a good day has to begin with a good night's sleep.  Most people recognize the importance of sleep for feeling rested and promoting recovery, etc. But more and more scientific data show that lack of sleep can negatively impact blood pressure and development of characteristics associated with diabetes [1].  Upon waking, you must view your night's sleep as a fast and overall a period in which the body is utilizing resources for repair and recovery, while no such resources are being made available to the body.

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The importance of the essential amino acids cannot be overstated and a dose that provides around 6 to 12 grams of the essential amino acids has regularly been shown in research to maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis throughout all parts of the day [2-4].  How you go about getting these amino acids is up to you, but there is really no sense in waiting once you wake up.  Any animal source of protein is considered to be a complete protein source or one that provides all of the necessary essential amino acids, so morning foods like cereal (milk is dairy) or eggs are great considerations.  Combine this with a cup of yogurt, some fresh fruit and a whole-wheat bagel or oatmeal and you are off and running.  If you are in a hurry or wake up too late and need something fast, a high quality whey protein isolate shake like NytroWhey Ultra Elite is a great start, along with a bagel and/or a protein bar.  If even this is too much planning, then have a high-quality amino acid like ProSource's Mega BCAA in your gym bag (you packed your gym bag, right?) which will provide a balanced delivery of all of the essential amino acids.  While an emphasis on amino acids often takes center stage, delivering a good dose of carbohydrates in the form of bagels, toast, English muffins, etc. must be considered to help ensure your muscles have enough glycogen to power you through your workout.


Once you are off and running, regular feeding and delivery of amino acids and carbohydrates are the key consideration.  Research shows that blood amino acid levels stay elevated for around two to three hours after consuming around ten grams of essential amino acids [5].  This is a key factor, particularly for people who want muscle hypertrophy.  A number of factors have to be aligned for this process to occur and it all starts with having available nutrients.  When it comes time for lunch, my best advice is to pack your own.  I know some people say they are too busy, but this is a shoddy excuse.  Get out a notepad to plan your meals and go to the grocery store and get the foods.  Then pack your meals two days at a time.  This is important, particularly when it comes to lunch time.   You'll save money, but more importantly you will know exactly what is going into your body.

And for those of you who think you have fast food or commercial restaurants and their menus all figured out, think again, as most folks are off by around 30% when it comes to predicting their caloric intake [6].  Lunch should contain lean cuts of animal protein or skimmed dairy along with healthy oils, whole grains and some fruits or vegetables.  As afternoon approaches and you start to get excited for your workout, make sure to top off your fuel stores by sipping on a small drink to provide valuable carbohydrates and/or protein, but don't do take in too much so your stomach gets upset.  If you are an endurance athlete or any athlete exercising outside in the heat, optimal fluid should be a concern.  Regular sipping of water or sports drink is recommended and you need to monitor how much your body weight changes before and after each workout.  For every pound lost, consume two cups of fluid [7-9].  For resistance athletes, sipping on a pre-workout drink has become extremely popular as they often provide valuable nutrients such as caffeine, creatine, beta-alanine and amino acids, all ingredients shown to improve many aspects of performance [10] One terrific new entry in the pre-workout performance maximization category is BioQuest's Alpha Fury. This thermodynamic muscle pump catalyst offers beta alanine for enhanced stamina, waxy maize carbs for fuel, and other key co-factors for antioxidant support.


Upon completing your workout, a combination of carbohydrates and amino acids needs to be consumed as soon as possible after a workout and preferably within an hour after the workout [11]. Immediately after your workout is an excellent time to consider a post-workout mass builder like BioQuest's MyoZene, which will shut down catabolism and kickstart the recovery and growth process. These nutrients help to start the recovery process inside your stressed muscle fibers and to replace the valuable glycogen that was burned inside your muscles to fuel your workout.  As you are on your way home, you should be thinking about dinner and again a lean source of protein, whole grains, vegetables and healthy oils should all be considerations to help with recovery, provide a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals and control inflammation.  Finally, many people reserve their casein protein for a nighttime snack and literature supports different digestion rates of casein and whey protein and this may be a prudent recommendation as well [12, 13]. An extended-delivery protein like ProSource's NytroPlex-GF is an ideal source of time-released micellar casein, whey isolate, and egg albumin.

In summary, nutrient timing is about much more than eating right after your workout.  To effectively optimize your bodily environment for growth, you need to constantly be thinking ahead to your next meal and what the day has in store for you.  The more active you are, the more important it becomes.  Certainly, this takes effort and planning, but with a few essentials such as a lunch box, plastic containers and a devoted mind and spirit, you too can make nutrient timing work for you and your exercise goals.


1.    Knutson, K.L. and E. Van Cauter, Associations between sleep loss and increased risk of obesity and diabetes. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 2008. 1129: p. 287-304.
2.    Borsheim, E., K.D. Tipton, S.E. Wolf, and R.R. Wolfe, Essential amino acids and muscle protein recovery from resistance exercise. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab, 2002. 283(4): p. E648-57.
3.    Rasmussen, B.B., K.D. Tipton, S.L. Miller, S.E. Wolf, and R.R. Wolfe, An oral essential amino acid-carbohydrate supplement enhances muscle protein anabolism after resistance exercise. J Appl Physiol, 2000. 88(2): p. 386-92.
4.    Tipton, K.D., A.A. Ferrando, S.M. Phillips, D. Doyle, Jr., and R.R. Wolfe, Postexercise net protein synthesis in human muscle from orally administered amino acids. Am J Physiol, 1999. 276(4 Pt 1): p. E628-34.
5.    Bohe, J., J.F. Low, R.R. Wolfe, and M.J. Rennie, Latency and duration of stimulation of human muscle protein synthesis during continuous infusion of amino acids. J Physiol, 2001. 532(Pt 2): p. 575-9.
6.    Wright, R.A., Nutritional assessment. JAMA, 1980. 244(6): p. 559-60.
7.    Burke, L.M., Nutritional needs for exercise in the heat. Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol, 2001. 128(4): p. 735-48.
8.    Casa, D.J., L.E. Armstrong, S.K. Hillman, S.J. Montain, R.V. Reiff, B.S. Rich, W.O. Roberts, and J.A. Stone, National athletic trainers' association position statement: fluid replacement for athletes. Journal of athletic training, 2000. 35(2): p. 212-24.
9.    Sawka, M.N., L.M. Burke, E.R. Eichner, R.J. Maughan, S.J. Montain, and N.S. Stachenfeld, American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Exercise and fluid replacement. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 2007. 39(2): p. 377-90.
10.    Shelmadine, B., M. Cooke, T. Buford, G. Hudson, L. Redd, B. Leutholtz, and D.S. Willoughby, Effects of 28 days of resistance exercise and consuming a commercially available pre-workout supplement, NO-Shotgun(R), on body composition, muscle strength and mass, markers of satellite cell activation, and clinical safety markers in males. J Int Soc Sports Nutr, 2009. 6: p. 16.
11.    Kerksick, C., T. Harvey, J. Stout, B. Campbell, C. Wilborn, R. Kreider, D. Kalman, T. Ziegenfuss, H. Lopez, J. Landis, J.L. Ivy, and J. Antonio, International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: nutrient timing. J Int Soc Sports Nutr, 2008. 5: p. 17.
12.    Boirie, Y., M. Dangin, P. Gachon, M.P. Vasson, J.L. Maubois, and B. Beaufrere, Slow and fast dietary proteins differently modulate postprandial protein accretion. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 1997. 94(26): p. 14930-5.
13.    Dangin, M., Y. Boirie, C. Garcia-Rodenas, P. Gachon, J. Fauquant, P. Callier, O. Ballevre, and B. Beaufrere, The digestion rate of protein is an independent regulating factor of postprandial protein retention. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab, 2001. 280(2): p. E340-8.