Dr. Meaghan Datema, ND

Nutrient timing

How to make your food work for you!

Many people workout so that they can eat the food that they want, what they don’t know is that if they plan it out properly, they can make those foods work for them and fuel their workouts. This can be accomplished through nutrient timing. Nutrient timing involves timing meals and snacks (and guilty pleasures) at specific points throughout your day in order to maximize their benefits. This usually involves timing your snacks around your workouts.

What is Nutrient Timing?

It involves eating specific foods and nutrients at specific times throughout your day. Researchers have found that consuming particular foods before, during and after your workouts can improve body composition. Which nutrients are we talking about? Primarily the macronutrients, however, your vitamins and minerals can also play a role here. What are macronutrients? It is a component of your food that your body needs in large quantities in order to survive. There are 3 macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches, and fibres that are found in your food. Proteins are the essential building blocks for your muscles as well as all of your other tissues. Fats are nutrients that fuel your body and are integral to all of your cells. 

Benefits of Nutrient Timing

Restores muscle glycogen after exercise

Glycogen is the storage form of sugar in your muscles. During exercise, your muscles will first use up your muscle glycogen and then look for other sources of energy to fuel it’s workout. After exercise your glycogen stores will naturally be depleted and your muscles are looking for ways to replenish those stores in preparation for another bout of exercise. This is when you want to be consuming the majority of your daily carbohydrates. Your muscles are better at absorbing carbohydrates right after exercise because they are actively “looking” for more carbohydrates to fill their glycogen stores. This means that with a higher percentage of the carbohydrates going into the muscle there will be less going to other areas including your fat cells!

Maximizes muscle growth

Eating both carbohydrates and protein after your workout will give the body all the building blocks that it needs to build muscles and prevent the natural post-exercise muscle breakdown. What research has found is that there is an “anabolic window” after a workout where protein and muscle synthesis occurs most rapidly (anabolic refers to the building of muscle or protein). This window occurs immediately after a workout until about 2 hours after the workout. The post-workout snack should contain about 40g of carbohydrate and 20g of protein. I have listed some of my favourite post-workout snacks below! 

Promoting recovery

In addition to eating a protein-rich snack or meal after a workout, eating another protein-rich snack before bed is key. This snack will help promote muscle recovery while you sleep. It will also improve muscle growth and strength as well as increasing your metabolic rate (the rate at which your body burns calories). This snack should contain 20-30g of protein with minimal carbohydrates and fat. My favourite late night snack is my high protein hot chocolate (click the picture on the right for the recipe)!

Post workout snacks

Here are some of my favourite post workout snacks that meet the 40g of carbohydrates and 20g of protein.

  • Oatmeal with 1 scoop of protein powder (find my pumpkin oatmeal recipe here)
  • Sweet potato with a chicken breast
  • Donut with a protein shake 🙂 

If you found this information helpful please share it with a friend. If you want to learn more about how you can incorporate these tips into your life, book an appointment with me through the link below to go over these and more!

Yours in health,

grimsby naturopath
  1. Aragon AA, Schoenfeld BJ. Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window?. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013;10(1):5.
  2. Kerksick CM, Arent S, Schoenfeld BJ, et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: nutrient timing. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017;14:33.


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