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Food Timing: The Secret to Looking Your Best without Going Hungry Featured

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ahh_cardioThe goal for anyone wishing to optimize muscle building and minimize the storage of excess calories as body fat is to eat as perfectly as possible so that the body is provided a steady stream of nutrients, and so that blood sugar levels also remain steady. One of the most important ways to accomplish this goal besides eating high quality, low fat foods is to eat small multiple meals (every 2 to 3 hours). Those who want to look their vey best already are in the know that by eating at least six evenly spaced meals throughout the day, you can provide your body with the steady stream of nutrients it needs while minimizing extra calories that causes weight gain.

Protein Type/Protein Timing

Since protein can not be stored in any real amounts for hungry muscles to draw upon when in need protein timing is key. The body needs to get good quality protein every 2 to 3 hours if you are a bodybuilder.  If you are not a bodybuilder, your body still needs protein for many other functions in the body as well (hair, skin and nails all use protein by the way).

Maintaining a positive nitrogen balance will prevent the body from dipping into its own muscle tissue (catabolism) to get nutrients it needs (like protein). This is why it is important to eat five to six protein-containing meals per day (one about every two to three hours) each containing around 30-40-grams of protein, to maintain a positive nitrogen balance (which occurs from the breakdown of amino acids).

Keeping Blood Sugar Levels Stable

Eating small evenly spaced meals keeps insulin levels stable, a requirement for proper fat metabolism and proper growth. Eating this way is also easier on the digestive system and it is also more efficient. Studies have shown that eating frequent smaller meals will raise the metabolic rate, burn more calories and result in less body fat storage.

Types of Protein and When to Use Them

The rate of digestion of protein has important effects on protein balance within the body. The balance between protein synthesis and protein breakdown determines muscle gain.

Protein is generally characterized as "fast digesting" or "slow digesting". Therefore to optimize muscle syntheses however, competitive bodybuilders need to take protein timing one step further. In this sense protein timing also includes eating the "right" protein at the right time. What does this mean? 
Nutrition is a highly individual issue. No single diet will work for everyone.

Although adjustments should be made to each personalized diet to account for the differences in metabolism and body type there are common approaches that work reasonable well to a majority of people. The following is a simplified approach that can serve as a starting point. 

Protein Consumption Upon Waking

When waking up in the morning, your body has essentially been through a "fast" since most people sleep for approximately 6 to 8 hours a day. When the body is deprived of food for 6 to 8 hours the body starts to use stored energy sources. In order to keep blood sugar constant and to fuel the brain and other tissues during sleep.

The body does this by slowly sending nutrients out from the liver, fat cells, and muscle cells. Because the body can use stored glycogen for energy (if you have eaten properly to maximize glycogen storage there is only minimal body cell destruction (because of the body's inability to store amino acids).  Because of this limitation the best thing you can do for your body is to consume a relatively quick digesting protein source upon waking.

A whey protein or protein hydrolysate shake would be your best bet to raise blood amino acid profiles quickly since these mixes will take only 20 minutes before almost all of what you have consumed are coursing through your veins and somewhere between 20-40 minutes for the level of amino acids in your blood to reach its high point.   This can then be followed up with normal breakfast meal consisting of a high quality low fat protein food source and some low glycemic carbohydrates.

Protein Consumption During The Day

Since, throughout the day, your goal should be to eat small, dense meals every few hours; the need for "special" proteins is limited. My preference is the consumption of high quality low fat protein food sources and some low glycemic carbohydrates or a good protein mix. If you are unable to eat a good meal every two hours consuming a good whey/casein/milk protein isolate/concentrate blend can be a good compromise due to the combination of fast proteins and slow proteins. 

Protein Consumption Immediately Before Training

If you have been eating small multiple meals throughout the day than there would be no need for "special" proteins from non food sources. However, if you have missed a meal and you plan on training within 60 minutes than a quick digesting fast protein such as a whey protein hydrolysate fortified carbs, glutamine and branched-chain amino acids.  

Consuming a liquid meal containing protein and carbohydrates one-hour before training can increase insulin (an anabolic hormone, which increases the uptake of amino acids and glucose into the muscle). Branched-chain amino acids stimulate of protein synthesis.

By incorporating extra Baca’s which are consumed during the workout your complete proteins can be used for recovery. If extra Branch-chain amino acids are not consumed the body will consume them from the complete proteins making the rest of the protein incomplete and unusable for growth (wasted).

Consuming a liquid meal containing protein and carbohydrates one-hour before training can increase insulin (an anabolic hormone, which increases the uptake of amino acids and glucose into the muscle).

Protein Consumption Immediately After Training

The meal immediately following your training is probably THE most important meal of the day (don't listen to others that will tell you breakfast is). The post work out meal is extremely important because this is the time where the body is especially receptive for nutrient uptake. Blood amino levels and blood insulin levels are typically lower.        

Because blood amino acids levels are lower this is an important time to consume a quick digesting fast protein such as whey protein hydrolysates to ensure that the body maintains a positive nitrogen balance and anabolic state. Hydrolyzed proteins have a higher Biological Value score than concentrates or other protein preparations which typically means better utilization of protein in the body.  Higher Biological Value proteins may also increase the release of IGF-1 which can stimulate muscle growth. The extreme hunger of the cells and the fast-acting properties of whey will make sure you use the best window for recovery to the fullest. If not, the body will hunt the stored reserves of nutrients and when on a diet for example that will cause them to rob other muscle-tissue of glutamine.  

A minimal amount of rapidly digesting, high glycemic index carbohydrates (i.e. maltodextrin and dextrose) should also be consumed with the post workout whey protein meal, so that the total uptake of protein and glycogen storage can be maximized.

Note: The incorporation of high glycemic index carbohydrates with this post training meal stimulates large and rapid increases in the anabolic hormone insulin and also stimulates glycogen synthesis.  Consuming creatine and glutamine can also aid in post work out recovery. This meal should also contain minimal fat as fat slows digestion and nutrient delivery. This meal should be consumed within 60 minutes of your weight training. 

Protein Consumption After Training But Before Last Meal

My preference is the consumption of high quality low fat protein food source (like chicken breast, Turkey breast, etc.)  and some low glycemic carbohydrates (such as fibrous vegetables, brown rice, etc.). Consuming a whole food protein meal can also suppress the rate of muscle breakdown by starting a slow release of amino acids through your system. This meal should also include carbohydrate to stimulate the release of insulin. Insulin is also the hormone that governs protein synthesis rate. By elevating the release of insulin the rate of muscle breakdown can be slowed.  

Protein Consumption Immediately Before Bed

Eating close to bedtime is often considered taboo by most. People believe that this promotes fat storage. My personal belief is if you desire to maintain muscle mass, eating immediately prior to retiring is essential to prevent the body from using all of its stored energy during the night.  Because you will not have another meal for at least 6 hours this meal should include a slow protein, which release nutrients over several hours.

Carb Timing

The two most important meals are post training and breakfast, in that order. These are ideal times to carb load (for a 200-pound bodybuilder, that means 90-100 g of carbs at breakfast; it helps restock liver and muscle glycogen stores and promotes protein synthesis. This time-release plan will prevent catabolism (muscle wasting) and minimize the risk that your carbs will be converted to body fat.

Starts your Day with Carbs (Conditional)

Besides the post training meal; breakfast is the other golden time to ingest carbs, because blood sugar and muscle glycogen levels are low from your overnight fast. Your body must replenish these levels before stimulating the fat storing machinery in the body.

Consume Natural High Glycemic Index Foods at the Right Time

Foods high on the Glycemic index do not need to be totally eliminated, however their intake should be controlled. Natural high glycemic foods can be beneficial. Fruits for example contain any beneficial nutrients and fiber so, the key is moderation. By eating small portions of fruits, on occasion, you can get the beneficial nutrients and fiber while minimizing the potential negatives associated with high fructose consumption.

Remember managing carbohydrate intake will provide many benefits, such as reducing the risk of heart attacks, decrease stored body fat, and reduce the risk of cells becoming insulin resistant. Part of successfully managing carbohydrate intake is understanding food timing, as well as understanding what foods can negatively impact your endocrine system if eaten excessively. Understanding how the Glycemic index works is also key to successfully managing blood insulin levels. 

Eat Simple Carbs IMMEDIATELY after Training

Fast-acting carbs (those with a high Glycemic index) will spike insulin levels, minimize the chance of muscle catabolism and can stimulate an increase in metabolism. This post training meal shouldbe consumed within 30 minutes and no later than one hour of the end of a workout.

The meal should be comprised of approximately .75 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight (150 grams for a 200 pound male), with 50% (75 grams) of the carbs derived from easy-to-break-down high-glycemic sources such as white rice, Cream of Wheat cereal, mash potatoes fruit, etc. Non fibrous, soft-textured carbs high-glycemic carbs are digested rapidly which results in a quick insulin response that help to drive amino acids--the building blocks of mass--into muscle tissue and promote anabolism. Note: During pre-contest time consider cutting this amount down to approximately half to 75% of this rate. 

Eat the Majority of Carbs After Training

Eat a smaller carb meal to fuel your training. It should be small enough that you are carb depleted for your cardio session so you can burn fat. Your biggest carb meal should be at your post training meal, since it will have less chance of being stored as fat because your body will be using them to replenish depleted glycogen levels from the training and cardio session. Approximately 25% of your daily carbs should be eaten at this meal. For a 200-pound man, this should amount to approximately 150 grams of carbs (During pre contest time this amount will decrease proportionality with the decrease in overall calories and total grams of carbs ingested). 

Avoid Carbs After Hours

Unless you are blessed with a super fast metabolism, you should forget about eating baked potatoes late at night. Late night carbs interfere with the release of growth hormone and promote fat storage while you sleep.

About the Author Jeff Behar

Jeff BeharJeff Behar, MS, MBA is a former natural bodybuilding champion, well sought after personal; trainer and author with over 30 years of experience in the health, fitness, and bodybuilding fields. He regularly writes for several magazines about top health, fitness, disease prevention, diet, nutrition, natural healing, and anti aging issues that are being discussed today. He has authored over 1000 articles regarding health, fitness, nutrition, weight loss, and is the author of the best selling Ebook, Top 100 Superfoods - 100 Healthiest Foods on the Planet.

Jeff Behar is also the founder of www.MuscleMagFitness.com, www.MyBesthealthPortal.com , and www.MyBesthealthPortal.net, three very popular health and wellness information websites and social networking communities.

Last modified on Friday, 27 July 2012 11:51
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