Question: How can I use nutrient timing to my advantage?
—Steve G., Austin, TX
Answer: For weight loss, eat meals at consistent, regular intervals to help maintain appetite control and give you more energy throughout the day. Try every three hours. That includes eating breakfast within an hour of waking up. You can avoid binges and cravings by building in healthy snacks between meals. This consistent eating pattern provides better calorie control, too, which can aid weight loss.
To build and maintain muscle, research shows that we need protein distributed throughout the day. Recovery takes place for 24 hours after an intensive strength training session, so having enough protein will ensure you have sufficient amino acids to help the recovery process. About 20 to 30 grams of protein should be included in breakfast.
When trying to build muscle, timing a meal or snack that consists of protein and carbohydrates—in a ratio of 1-to-3—before and after strength training is optimal for recovery. Getting that recovery meal or snack in as soon as possible after the workout will replenish glycogen stores and rebuild and repair muscles. Eat real foods like chocolate milk and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or yogurt and fruit with a handful of nuts.
Kim Larson, R.D.N., C.D., C.H.C., is a nutritionist and media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.