For athletes, when you eat may be nearly as important as what you eat. Nutrient timing is a popular concept among athletes and fitness gurus and refers to the timing of meals and supplements in relation to workouts. By strategically eating certain things at certain times, top athletes and fitness competitors can gain an edge over their competition.
Nutrient timing strategies will be different from athlete to athlete, depending on their goals. Here is a breakdown of how Isagenix products and nutrient timing can be a competitive advantage for different types of athletes:
Bodybuilders and fitness competitors strive to build large, well-defined muscle groups that are in optimal proportion to one another. Gains in strength and muscle mass result from the rebuilding of muscle that is torn and damaged during intense workouts, and the body needs protein for this to happen. Because blood flow to the muscles increases during training, the best time for eating protein is as close to the end of a workout as possible—known as the “protein window” (1). Bodybuilders should look to consume around 30-40 grams of protein within 30 minutes of finishing a workout.
Remember, not all protein sources are created equal. IsaLean Pro is the ideal post-workout protein source for many reasons. Not only does it contain the perfect amount of protein at 35 grams, but it supplies whey protein, which is digested and absorbed more quickly than other sources (2). Whey’s amino acids rapidly enter the blood and reach the muscles so that they can initiate growth and recovery right away. In addition, the carbohydrate in IsaLean Pro will work with the protein to stimulate an increase in levels of insulin. Extra insulin after exercise encourages storage of simple sugars in the form of glycogen that will fuel activity for the next weight-training session.
Even though the post-workout period is the best time for getting protein to the muscles to fuel growth, protein should be eaten throughout the day as well. Protein is used for many other things aside from just mending and building muscle, including being a major structural component in all cells in the body and necessary for the formation of red blood cells. When protein is needed by the body between meals, it’s taken from muscle, which can result in muscle loss. To avoid this, consume high-protein meals throughout the day such as IsaLean and IsaPro shakes.
Using antioxidant supplements to help speed muscle recovery is another favorite strategy used by bodybuilders. By consuming products rich in antioxidants before a workout and directly after, they can give their bodies the best chance to fight the free radicals created by exercise-induced stress. Ageless Actives is a great product for supplying the body with antioxidants such as resveratrol and CoQ10. CoQ10, in particular, has been shown in studies to reduce oxidative stress caused by exercise, which can help speed muscle recovery. The form of CoQ10 used in Ageless Actives is ideal because it’s eight times more absorbable than the dry powdered forms used in most other antioxidant supplements.
High-Intensity Athletes (Football Player, Sprinter, etc.)
High-intensity athletes are similar to bodybuilders in that they aim to build strength. But unlike bodybuilders, who are more interested in proportion and appearance, high-intensity athletes are trying to become more powerful so that they can improve quickness, agility, and technique.
Like bodybuilders, high-intensity athletes need to maximize muscle growth and recovery. They should make use of the 30-minute “protein window” in addition to eating three-to-four high-protein meals and snacks throughout the day. To help speed muscle recovery after training sessions, high-intensity athletes will also want to use an antioxidant supplement such as Ageless Actives before and after they exercise.
What differs between the strategies of high-intensity athletes and bodybuilders has to do with carbohydrates. Both need simple sugars after their workouts to spike insulin for replacing glycogen stores for later activity (3). However, high-intensity athletes tend to place a higher priority on eating more complex carbohydrates, because short bouts (usually taking place over a period of less than 30 seconds) of explosive exercise are their main focus. The body mostly draws on carbohydrates during these repeated, explosive bouts. Bodybuilders, on the other hand, will use glycogen stores to lift weights, but their cardio sessions are more fueled by fat because they often tend to be more slow and sustained. So, for high-intensity athletes such as sprinters and football players, there is a much higher reliance on carbohydrates to fuel nearly everything they do, making it especially important for them to use carbohydrate timing as a strategy to improve athletic performance.
Endurance Athletes (Swimmer, Runner, Cyclist, etc.)
The goals of endurance athletes are different than that of bodybuilders or high-intensity athletes. Cyclists and marathon runners, for example, expect to improve performance by increasing stamina. Traditionally, endurance athletes have not placed the same degree of emphasis on protein intake and timing as other types of athletes, because of their concern that too much muscle will be gained causing them to be heavier and less efficient at their sport. Unfortunately, this view has been harmful to endurance athletes of the past because protein does so much more than just stimulate muscle growth. Repetitive movements and long strenuous training sessions are hard on the bodies of endurance athletes. By ingesting optimal amounts of protein and strategically using the concept of protein timing to enhance performance, endurance athletes can benefit from faster and more efficient recovery of muscles allowing them to have more frequent and higher quality training sessions.
Unlike bodybuilders and high intensity athletes, endurance athletes rely on carbohydrate timing as a strategy for delaying fatigue and improving performance. Endurance athletes use both carbohydrate and fat to fuel their activity, but since they are often moving for hours at a time without a break, their glycogen stores will eventually become depleted.
To increase the amount of glycogen stored in their muscle, endurance athletes often do something called “carbohydrate loading.” Carbohydrate loading involves trying to maximize glycogen stores by eating a large amount of carbohydrate in the days leading up to an endurance race, and by also taking advantage of the 30 minute-post workout window to rebuild lost glycogen.
Another advantage of consuming carbohydrate during and after training is that the stress hormone cortisol will be reduced, which helps prevent excessive suppression of the immune system that can occur as a result of prolonged and strenuous exercise (4,5). IsaLean Shake makes for a great meal replacement for endurance athletes. But instead of the two scoops as typically recommended, endurance athletes should use three scoops for about 36 grams of protein and 36 grams of carbohydrate. In addition, they should supplement with antioxidants to manage oxidative stress and support the immune system.
The Recreational Athlete
Because recreational athletes only work out one or two times a week, their bodies aren’t prepared to cope with the physical consequences of hard exercise. They are at increased risk of suffering from muscle soreness, damage from oxidative stress, and longer recovery times because they have not adapted defenses to deal with these things. It may seem that because they are not exercising as often as other types of athletes, their needs would not be as high. This is not true. Like other athletes, they should consume carbohydrate and protein in the 30-minute post exercise window. Particular attention should be placed on antioxidant consumption to help prime their defenses to hasten muscle recovery.
Nutrition is a critical aspect of any athlete’s training regimen. This fact continues to be recognized among college teams and even professional sports, who are now including nutritionists and dietitians on their staff. Athletes must receive quality nutrition to perform optimally and prevent injury. Nutrient timing in combination with high-quality products that Isagenix has to offer is a sure way for competitive athletes can to be at the top of their games.
- Phillips SM et al. The role of milk- and soy-based protein in support of muscle protein synthesis and muscle protein accretion in young and elderly persons. J Am Coll Nutr. 2009 Aug;28(4):343-54.
- Hulmi JJ et al. Effect of protein/essential amino acids and resistance training on skeletal muscle hypertrophy: A case for whey protein. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2010 Jun 17;7:51.
- Acheson KJ et al. Protein choices targeting thermogenesis and metabolism. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Mar;93(3):525-34. Epub 2011 Jan 12.
- Champagne CD, Houser DS, Costa DP, Crocker DE. The effects of handling and anesthetic agents on the stress response and carbohydrate metabolism in northern elephant seals. PLoS One 2012;7:e38442.
- Betts JA, Stokes KA, Toone RJ, Williams C. Growth Hormone Responses to Consecutive Exercise Bouts with Ingestion of Carbohydrate plus Protein. Int J Sports Physiol Perform 2012.