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Nutrition Timing for Maximizing Performance and Recovery

Evidence-Based Nutrition to Maximize Your Performance

It has long been known that diet can have a major impact on exercise performance as well as training adaptation. However, it has become increasingly evident that when one eats can be just as important as what one eats.

While the type of exercise will dictate the training response of the body, the type of nutrients and when they are consumed will significantly affect the quality of an exercise session, rate of recovery, and magnitude of training adaptation. In essence, appropriate nutrition timing and supplementation can maximize your performance gains by improving the quality of your exercise sessions, rate of recovery, and training adaptation.

Nutrient timing can be divided into 3 phases: the energy phase, the anabolic phase, and the adaptation phase.

1. Energy Phase (Pre-, Peri-workout)

The energy phase is divided into two time periods: pre-exercise and during exercise.

The pre-exercisenutrition period is important for making sure that your body has enough fuel to perform throughout your entire training session. It takes place 4 hours or less before exercise, and is designed to maximize muscle glycogen stores. Multiple studies have demonstrated that ingesting a meal containing 150 to 200 g of carbohydrate 4 hours before exercise can increase muscle glycogen stores and improve exercise performance. 1-6

During exercise, it is believed that ingesting multiple carbohydrate forms (eg., dextrose, fructose, maltodextrin) optimizes how your body burns during a training session when compared to a single carbohydrate source.7 Furthermore, the efficacy of supplementation during exercise can be enhanced by adding a moderate amount of protein.

Researchers measured the time to exhaustion during cycling exercise in trained cyclists that consumed either a carbohydrate-only (6%) beverage, or a mixed carbohydrate-protein (3% carbohydrate/1.2% protein) beverage. Supplementation was provided every 20 minutes during the exercise. The authors found that the mixed carbohydrate-protein beverage resulted in a 28.7% greater time to exhaustion compared to the carbohydrate-only beverage.8

In addition to improved performance, carbohydrate/protein supplementation during exercise has been shown to attenuate muscle damage by lowering plasma levels of plasma creatine kinase, as well as muscle soreness ratings 24 hours post-exercise when compared to a carbohydrate-only supplement.9-14

2. Anabolic Phase (Post-workout)

Immediately after an intense training session the body is in a catabolic state – muscle and liver glycogen levels are reduced or depleted, substrate availability is low, muscle protein breakdown is elevated, blood insulin is low, and cortisol and other catabolic hormones are elevated. Muscle tissue is very responsive to nutrition and supplementation after a workout, and eating the right types and amounts of nutrients will shift your body towards an anabolic state and maximize recovery.

Timing is crucial for post-exercise supplementation, as post-exercise muscle glycogen synthesis occurs almost immediately after carbohydrate is consumed. Previous studies demonstrated that delaying supplementation for 2 hours reduces the rates of muscle glucose uptake and glycogen synthesis by 50% or more;15,16 and the longer post-exercise nutrient supplementation is delayed, the longer the catabolic state prevails, leading to increased inflammation, muscle damage, and soreness.17

Most research studies clearly support acute supplementation soon after exercise for optimal stimulation of protein synthesis, enhancing training adaptation, and reducing indicators of muscle damage and soreness.18-22, 17 A combination of carbohydrate and either protein or essential amino acids (EAA) have been shown to be particularly effective. In one particular study, cyclists were provided with a carbohydrate/protein supplement immediately or 3 hours after performing a 1-hour moderate intensity exercise bout. The group supplemented immediately after demonstrated 12% higher whole body protein synthesis and 300% higher leg muscle protein synthesis than when the supplement was delayed. Furthermore, a positive protein balance was only reached when supplementation occurred immediately after exercise, than when delayed.16

3. Recovery Phase (Adaptation)

This period occurs 4 to 6 hours after the initial post-exercise supplementation, and emphasizes on maintaining high levels of muscle glycogen storage and protein synthesis to keep up with your body’s recovery.15, 23, 24 During this period, the amount of carbohydrate and protein consumed do not need to be as high to aid the recovery process – regular daily meals and snacks are sufficient enough to optimize a positive protein balance. Even a low-calorie protein snack before bedtime can be an effective way to optimize recovery.

Here is an example of possible nutrient timing with workouts, supplements, and meals for 3 different daily training schedules:

  Daily Workout Schedules 
Source: Ivy, JL, Ferguson-Stegall LM (2013). Nutrient timing: the means to improved exercise performance, recovery, and training adaptation. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine 8: 246-259.
Time of Day AM WorkoutPM Workout2x/day Workout
7:00 AMBreakfastBreakfastBreakfast
8:00 AM
9:00 AMWorkoutWorkout
10:00 AMPost-workout supp.Post-workout supp.
11:00 AM
12:00 PMLunchLunchLunch
1:00 PM
2:00 PM
3:00 PMCarb:Protein SnackCarb:Protein Snack
4:00 PMWorkout
5:00 PMWorkoutPost-workout supp.
6:00 PMDinnerPost-workout supp.
7:00 PM
8:00 PMBedtime SnackDinner
9:00 PM
10:00 PMBedtime SnackBedtime Snack
 

Learn about the Athlete Management Program

Evidence-based therapies to help you perform at your best.

 

References

  1. Sherman W, Peden M, Wright D. Carbohydrate feedings 1 h before exercise improves cycling performance. Am J Clin Nutr. 1991;54:866-870.
  2. Coyle EF, Coggan AR, Hemmert MK, Lowe RC, Walters TJ. Substrate usage during prolonged exercise following a preexercise meal. J Appl Physiol. 1985;59:429-433.
  3. Francescato M, Puntel I. Does a preexercise carbohydrate feeding improve a 20-km cross-country ski performance? J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2006;46:248-256.
  4. Gleeson M, Maughan R, Greenhaff P. Comparison of the effects of pre-exercise feeding of glucose, glycerol and placebo on endurance and fuel homeostasis in man. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol. 1986;55:645-653.
  5. Karamanolis I, Tokmakidis S. Effects of carbohydrate ingestion 15 min before exercise on endurance running capacity. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2008;33:441-449.
  6. Okano G, Takeda H, Morita I, Katoh M, Mu Z, Miyake S. Effect of pre-exercise fructose ingestion on endurance performance in fed men. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1988;20:105-109.
  7. Jentjens RL, Achten J, Jeukendrup AE. High oxidation rates from combined carbohydrates ingested during exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004;36:1551-1558.
  8. Ferguson-Stegall L, McCleave EL, Ding Z, et al. The effect of a low carbohydrate beverage with added protein on cycling endurance performance in trained athletes. J Strength Cond Res. 2010;24:2577-2586.
  9. Ferguson-Stegall L, McCleave EL, Ding Z, et al. The effect of a low carbohydrate beverage with added protein on cycling endurance performance in trained athletes. J Strength Cond Res. 2010;24:2577-2586.
  10. Ivy JL, Res PT, Sprague RC, Widzer MO. Effect of a carbohydrate-protein supplement on endurance performance during exercise of varying intensity. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2003;13:382-395.
  11. McCleave E, Ferguson-Stegall L, Ding Z, et al. A low carbohydrate-protein supplement improves endurance performance in female athletes. J Strength Cond Res. 2011;25:879-888.
  12. Saunders M, Kane M, Todd K. Effects of a carbohydrate-protein beverage on cycling endurance and muscle damage. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004;36:1233-1238.
  13. Saunders MJ, Luden ND, Herrick JE. Consumption of an oral carbohydrateprotein gel improves cycling endurance and prevents postexercise muscle damage. J Strength Cond Res. 2007;21:678-684.
  14. Saunders MJ, Moore RW, Kies AK, Luden ND, Pratt CA. Carbohydrate and protein hydrolysate coingestions improvement of late-exercise time-trial performance. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2009;19:136-149.
  15. Ivy JL, Katz AL, Cutler CL, Sherman WM, Coyle EF. Muscle glycogen synthesis after exercise: effect of time of carbohydrate ingestion. J Appl Physiol. 1988;64:1480-1485.
  16. Levenhagen DK, Gresham JD, Carlson MG, Maron DJ, Borel MJ, Flakoll PJ. Postexercise nutrient intake timing in humans is critical to recovery of leg glucose and protein homeostasis. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2001;280:E982-E993.
  17. Clarkson PM, Hubal MJ. Exercise-induced muscle damage in humans. Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2002;81(suppl 11):S52-S69.
  18. Ivy JL, Goforth HW, Damon BD, McCauley TR, Parsons EC, Price TB. Early postexercise muscle glycogen recovery is enhanced with a carbohydrate–protein supplement. J Appl Physiol. 2002;93:1337-1344.
  19. Berardi JM, Price TB, Noreen EE, Lemon PW. Postexercise muscle glycogen recovery enhanced with a carbohydrateprotein supplement. Med Sci Sport Exerc. 2006;38:1106-1113.
  20. Morifuji M, Kanda A, Koga J, Kawanaka K, Higuchi M. Post-exercise carbohydrate plus whey protein hydrolysates supplementation increases skeletal muscle glycogen level in rats. Amino Acids. 2010;38:1109-1115.
  21. Ruby BC, Gaskill SE, Slivka D, Harger SG. The addition of fenugreek extract (Trigonella foenum-graecum) to glucose feeding increases muscle glycogen resynthesis after exercise. Amino Acids. 2004;28:71-76.
  22. Zawadzki KM, Yaspelkis BB, Ivy JL. Carbohydrate-protein complex increases the rate of muscle glycogen storage after exercise. J Appl Physiol. 1992;72:1854-1859.
  23. Ivy JL, Lee MC, Brozinick JT, Reed MJ. Muscle glycogen storage after different amounts of carbohydrate ingestion. J Appl Physiol. 1988;65:2018-2023.
  24. Blom PCS, Høstmark AT, Vaage O, Kardel KR, Mæhlum S. Effect of different postexercise sugar diets on the rate of muscle glycogen synthesis. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1987;19:491-496.

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