No carbs at night. Or eating late at night for that matter.
No healthy fat post workout. Only protein and carbs.
Protein shake 30 minutes post workout or else!!
Eat 6 small meals per day instead of 3 large meals.
I worked out at 8pm and go to bed at 10pm. Should I eat a meal or drink a shake after my workout still?
Which of those are true and which are false? With so much information out there, it can be hard to decipher what nutrition tips are worthy of implementing into your lifestyle change. The main question here being, does meal timing matter? If so, when?
First take a look at this pyramid. This simple diagram will answer that question.
I didn’t just pluck this from the internet and say “this works!.” I live this daily. That is how I know it works.
Let’s break down this pyramid in relation to weight or fat loss goals:
- Your total calorie intake on a daily and weekly basis is the biggest determinant of your ability to lose scale weight….hopefully that is fat weight and not muscle.
- Second most important, even though this goes hand in hand with calories, is your macro nutrient intake. This is your intake of protein, carbs and fat. These are the nutrients that make up your total calorie intake. If you track your macros you are also tracking your calories. So, you can definitely lose scale weight by eating less calories, but if you want to look leaner, more muscular and more fit you also need to track your macros, AKA eat more protein.
- Micro-nutrients are the vitamins and minerals that you get from foods (or supplements). This is important because these nutrients become co factors to your ability to burn fat and be healthier. Meaning, the cleaner and healthier you eat the more micro-nutrients you ingest. The more vitamins and minerals you take in the more efficient your body is at running properly and burning fat. You can lose weight to some extent eating only processed foods, but besides feeling like shit, you will be lacking the necessary vitamins and minerals needed for your body to function at 100% to burn fat.
- Meal timing. Here it is. 4th on the list, but still important. I will get to this below.
- Supplements. Smallest part of the pyramid for a reason. This might make up the last 2-5% of your progress. Get the first 4 pieces of the pyramid down pat before spending hundreds of dollars on supplements.
So, meal timing. This is another aspect of weight loss that I say “simply depends.”
Here is how I approach meal timing with my clients. It all depends on each client’s individual lifestyle and schedule.
Some clients are so busy at work they can’t get healthy snacks in. For clients like this, 3 larger (still healthy) meals work better, as long as they stay within their calories and macros for the day.
Some clients do better eating every 2-3 hours, but this doesn’t help their metabolism any more. They simply eat more often. I tend to recommend this so it is easier for clients to hit their daily protein goal. This can also help some people avoid binging at dinner because they haven’t taken in a calorie in 14 hours.
Some clients do better eating a large carb meal 2 hours before a workout and some do better eating only a small snack 30 minutes before.
Some clients do well with fasting until noon a few days a week, others crash and burn and need breakfast.
Some clients sleep better having a protein shake or healthy snack before bed. Others turn that healthy snack into ice cream before bed, so we generally avoid eating after dinner.
Overall, here are my most important guidelines for meal timing:
- Find a meal/snack schedule that fits your lifestyle and allows you to stay within your calorie and macro goals for the day. Remember, calories and macros are always most important, not what time you eat those calories. You could eat all 1500 calories for your day in one sitting and be totally fine…though this probably isn’t practical and I wouldn’t recommend this often.
- Stack your carb intake around your workouts if you can. Meaning, eat the majority of your fruit, starches, pasta, bread etc before and after your workouts for energy and to take advantage of your insulin spike.
- Don’t eat a meal loaded with healthy fat before or after a workout in most cases. Keep calories around workouts to carbs and protein. Your body uses carbs and protein better for fuel than fat.
- Typically, eat less carbs at night to avoid mindless over eating on the couch. This means eating more of your carbs early in the day at work or after your AM workout, when you don’t have a full kitchen of food 10 feet away. Again, this works well for some and not for others.
- Get some sort of protein in within in an hour after your workouts. This is where protein shakes come in very handy. Timing doesn’t need to be exact though.
- A protein source 30-60 minutes before a workout can also help with gaining muscle. This is important for everyone.
- Eating a quality protein source every 2-3 hours is something I usually recommend for most people, especially women. It is typically easier to eat 20-30g of protein a sitting instead of 50-60g of protein. So, usually spread it out over the entire day.
- If you workout before bed your calorie intake around that meal depends on what you have eaten the rest of the day leading up to your workout. If you have already hit your calorie goal for the day….you probably shouldn’t eat again after your workout. This isn’t ideal for muscle recovery though. So, my advice is to plan a bit better and leave some carbs and protein in your day to eat after your workout. Even if it is right before bed that is totally fine!
Meal timing all comes down to experimenting with what works best for your current lifestyle and schedule so you can eat the correct amount food for the day and continue to see progress. This takes some time, so don’t expect to be perfect right away.