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Nutrient Timing & Bodybuilding

A Bodybuilder cannot build a great physique with poor nutrition. Getting the benefit from your workouts comes down to nutrient timing. If you miss the window of opportunity to supplement your muscles, your energy levels, strength, recovery and muscle growth will be compromised. To get the full benefit of your training, diet, and supplementation programme, you need to consume the right ingredients at the right time. In order to get the most out of your training, you will want to increase nutrient delivery to the muscles, minimise damage to the working muscles and put yourself in a better position to recover faster once you have finished training.1, 2

Pre-Training Supplements

Consume a pre-workout supplement 30-45 minutes before training. Pre-training supplements generally contain arginine as its main nitric oxide delivery mechanism, which cause the nitric oxide reaction to produce the ‘pump.’ Supplements in this category containing creatine may enhance this.

Intra-Training (During) Supplements

This is a new category of supplementation, designed to tap into a bodybuilder's muscle while you train to boost glycogen and essential amino acid super compensation, ATP (your body's source for quick explosive energy) regeneration, protein synthesis, strength, the working capacity of muscle tissue and recovery. Products of this type containing carbohydrates stacked with branched-chain and essential amino acids show initial muscle growth (protein synthesis), via insulin promotion, and glycogen/amino acid super compensation.

Muscles require a rapid supply of energy during a resistance workout. This requires the utilisation of large numbers of ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate), used by your muscle cells as the first source of energy.3,4 By increasing your ATP, you increase your muscle strength.5 Only enough ATP is stored in the muscle for a few seconds of effort, therefore it has to be continuously replenished. Primary sources for rapid depletion of ATP during exercise are Creatine Phosphate (CP) and muscle glycogen. The opposing actions of insulin and cortisol affect the degree of muscle damage and glycogen depletion. WIthout nutritional supplementation, insulin levels decline and cortisol rises.

High glycemic carbohydrates are perceived as a bad nutritional choice because they cause insulin spikes and subsequent blood sugar crashes. Fatigue, hunger and overeating can result. However their powerful effect on insulin also makes high-glycemic sugars valuable during and immediately after exercise. They provide energy, and through their action on insulin, help reduce cortisol levels. These benefits are best when combined in the proper ratio with protein. Carbohydrates drive the use of fat for energy.6 A key ingredient of intra-workout supplements is Beta-Alanine. Beta-alanine increases the concentration of carnosine in muscles. Since carnosine is a buffering agent, having more means the muscles are able to perform more work before getting fatigued.

Post-Workout Supplements

Supplementing Within 45 minutes of a Workout

These supplements include amino acids, minerals and key electrolytes that rapidly absorb to refuel muscle cells, maximise ATP stores and saturate your growing muscles. Creatine blends are also included to increase creatine transport, uptake and effectiveness, leading to accelerated muscle recovery. Glutamine, the most anti-catabolic amino acid is also useful at this time. It promotes protein and glycogen synthesis, muscle tissue repair, and growth. High glycaemic carbohydrates, protein and certain amino acids need to be present in the right blend, which is easiest through formulating a specific liquid blend, or using a commercially available blend that addresses this. Wholefoods can be inconvenient and not provide the right amount of a given nutrient.7 At this crucial stage, the consumption of a Whey Protein Isolate supplement is vital. 8

Supplements Within 4 Hours of a Workout

A high protein snack is recommended for this stage. This enables you to stimulate protein synthesis by raising amino acid levels in your bloodstream between meals, which slows protein degradation.

Supplements 16-18 Hours Post-Workout

During this period insulin levels decline, but sustained protein synthesis will be assisted through a proper diet and a carbohydrate/protein snacks between meals.

Role of Macronutrients in Nutrient Timing

Carbohydrate supplementation during exercise not only helps extend endurance, and limits suppression of the immune system reducing muscle damage. Intense resistance training has demonstrated decreases in muscle glycogen stores. Restricted carbohydrate intake, means you could be training on carb-depleted muscles. Weight training with low muscle glycogen levels means weak muscles. Carbohydrate intake at the right time results in more effective muscle glycogen accumulation, better recovery and a more potent muscle growth. A carbohydrate supplement consumed immediately before, or after weight training directly affects the hormonal response.9

Protein is the basic structural material of all tissue cells, not just muscle cells, and has many essential roles in the body. Skeletal muscle is composed of 65% protein. A Hydrolysed Whey Protein (WPI) is a protein supplement that is designed to enter the blood stream quickly and will be of more assistance immediately after training. Whey Protein Concentrate and Casein proteins are absorbed more slowly and provide benefits at other times. When blood amino acid levels drop, muscle protein synthesis rates diminish. Each protein source possesses different absorption rates that control entry of amino acids into the blood stream.10

Fat consumption is beneficial in promoting testosterone production which is a potent anabolic hormone capable of promoting muscle protein synthesis. However, excess fat consumption will lead to high calorie intake which puts you at risk of putting on mass as fat. While essential fatty acids are important, timing the fat intake at the 2hr post workout meal mark may be best to ensure that the fat is used beneficially without being stored. Having fat immediately post workout with your carbohydrate/protein mix will lower the GI of that meal meaning slower recovery of glycogen.

Supplements Relevant to Nutrient Timing

Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) - Leucine, Isoleucine & Valine

Are used at an increased rate during training for energy, generated by muscle protein breakdown. BCAAs serve as precursors for the synthesis of glutamine, and glutamine stores decline as well. During prolonged stressful exercise, glutamine stores can almost be completely depleted. Consuming protein during your workout will limit muscle protein degradation. Protein works synergistically with carbohydrate to increase blood insulin levels. Protein extends exercise endurance and increases protein synthesis after exercise. Whey protein is rapidly absorbed and contains all the essential amino acids, as well as a high percentage of leucine and glutamine, two amino acids that are used extensively during sustained strenuous exercise.11

  • L-leucine in abundant supply delivered to muscle after training enhances the stimulation of protein synthesis from intense weight lifting.
  • Creatine cycling is an effective way to use creatine, particularly if you want to train beyond a training plateau. The best gains occur when muscle creatine concentrations are high. Creatine monohydrate, or a creatine formula, provides a direct anti-catabolic (muscle sparing) effect.12,13
  • The amount of Glutamine within muscle influences the rate of protein synthesis and maintenance of a positive nitrogen balance (thus muscle growth). Glutamine is the most potent substrate at increasing muscle cell volume.14,15

Planning Nutrient Timing

The hours surrounding an intense workout are a unique ‘window of opportunity, a time when the presence of certain nutrients could assist the muscle-building, fat-loss response from exercise. Increased muscle mass comes from a cycle of muscle stimulations, muscle breakdown and muscle rebuilding. Training without appropriate supplementation results in a more prolonged recovery and a weaker training response. Supplementing with proven effective supplements at the right time, will help you achieve an optimal nutritional regimen for muscle growth.16

Liquid meals are palatable and digestible, especially immediately after intense exercise, when most people find eating solid food difficult. Supplemental intervention is crucial at this time to enlarge the muscle, and recover from exercise. Liquid supplements are easy to consume and are nutritionally dense, providing all the nutrition you need at the most vital times. Structurally simple formulas of these supplements may assist with ease of digestion.17

1 Nutrient Timing by John Ivy, Ph.D., and Robert Portman, Ph.D., p. 38
2 Ibid, p. 90
3 Ibid, p. 43
4 Ibid, p. 8
5 Macrobolic Nutrition – Priming your Body to Build Muscle and Burn Fat Gerard Dente with Kevin J. Hopkins, p. 36
6 Nutrient Timing by John Ivy, Ph.D., and Robert Portman, Ph.D., p. 132
7 Ibid p. 47
8 The Anabolic Nutrient Timing Factor Update: A step by step guide on what to eat and how to supplement to speed fat loss and maximize muscle gains By Paul Cribb Ph.D. CSCS.
9 Research Proven Strategies For Maximum Muscle Mass By Paul Cribb Ph.D. CSCS
10 The Anabolic Nutrient Timing Factor Update: A step by step guide on what to eat and how to supplement to speed fat loss and maximize muscle gains! By Paul Cribb Ph.D. CSCS.
11 Nutrient Timing by John Ivy, Ph.D., and Robert Portman, Ph.D., p. 76
12 Carbohydrate Timing – How to Time Your Carbohydrate Intake For Maximum Muscle-Growth, Maximum Fat-Loss, and Maximum Workout Performance By Paul Cribb Ph.D. CSCS.
13 Timing is key for muscle mass supplements, suggests study, By Stephen Daniells,
14 Carbohydrate Timing – How to Time Your Carbohydrate Intake For Maximum Muscle-Growth, Maximum Fat-Loss, and Maximum Workout Performance By Paul Cribb Ph.D. CSCS.
15 Research Proven Strategies For Maximum Muscle Mass By Paul Cribb Ph.D. CSCS
16 Nutrient Timing by John Ivy, Ph.D., and Robert Portman, Ph.D., p. 136
17 Ibid, p. 85

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