By Coach Miles
In our last post, we began our topic on nutrient timing and how to plan your macros. With Protein as we saw, the timing of this macro was not as important as its frequency. Today with Carbohydrates you’ll see that this is the exact opposite with this macro nutrient.
Meal Frequency: When it comes to carbs, meal frequency is much less significant. It is the timing of this nutrient that is key!
Carbohydrate Timing to Activity: The timing of carb intake to activity can be quite detailed and comprehensive. To keep it simple we will talk about the five distinct windows of activity where you are to ingest your carbohydrates.
2. Intra (During) Training
4. Post-Post Training
5. All other times
Let’s review each of these five distinct times and how it affect you with your carb ingestion and absorption.
The pre-training meal, and particularly the carbohydrate it provides, helps to top-off glycogen stores, supplies blood glucose for muscle contraction as well as nervous system activity, and is also anti-catabolic in the earlier phases in a workout. So, a pre-workout meal containing carbohydrates can top off glycogen stores to a small extent, and allow for better exercise performance. Ingestion of a carbohydrate at pre-workout will also help in the prevention of muscle loss during the training itself. As the intensity of your workout increases so does the ratio of carbs to protein at which you should consume prior. Take a look at this data below which shows the appropriate ratio of carb to protein.
Pre-training meal – Carb: Protein Ratios
-Light Workouts – 1:1
-Moderate Workouts – 1.5:1
-Hard Workouts – 2:1
The timing of consumption of the pre-workout meal ranges between 1 and 3 hours before the training session itself. This depends on the fat and fiber content of the food, as well as the glycemic index of the carb consumed.
2) Intra (During) Training
The benefits of intra-training consumption are very similar to the benefits of pre-training consumption. Intra-training consumption of carbs (particularly) and protein results in a high use of blood glucose for fueling activity (and thus a possible sparing of glycogen, which can be substantial during a fat loss phase). As the intensity of your workout increases so does the ratio of carbs to protein at which you should consume prior. Take a look at this data below which shows the appropriate ratio of carb to protein.
-Intra-training – Carb: Protein Ratios
-Light Workouts – 2:1
-Moderate Workouts – 3:1
-Hard Workouts – 4:1
The timing of the intra-workout shake is rather straightforward. The intra-workout shake consumption must commence at the onset of the exercise, and be finished during or right after the workout is over. It must be noted that the benefits of the intra-workout shake are likely maximized with an easy and fast digesting protein and carbohydrate source, as well as minimal fat and fiber since delays in digestion would turn this shake into a post-workout shake and negate any intra-workout benefits. While the advantages of the intra-training shake are meaningful for hard and possibly moderate workouts, their beneficial effects on light workouts are very negligible. To give you the best example of an intra workout shake would be Gatorade, Power-aid, BCAA’s powder shake, etc. Anything like that is sufficient in an amount of carbs to help keep you fueled during your workout.
3) Post-Training (Carb: Protein Ratios)
The practice of consuming a post-workout shake high in carbohydrates and moderate in protein is as old as time itself. The importance of this training includes anti-catabolism, glycogen repletion, and the activation of anabolic machinery. For various workout types, the recommended post-workout ratio of carbs to protein is similar than for the intra-workout meal. But this time a full meal-size of protein is used, as the next meal won’t be for several hours and the demand and ability to absorb carbohydrates is now considerably higher than it was during the training itself. Take a look at this data below which shows the appropriate ratio of carb to protein.
Light Workouts – 2:1
Moderate Workouts – 3:1
Hard Workouts – 4:1
It is in your best interest to consume the post-workout meal/shake as soon after activity as realistically possible. Having consumed the recommended pre- and during- nutrition can allow a small window of perhaps as long as 30-60 minutes before this needs to be done. Because timing is of the essence, high levels of fat, fiber, and slow-digesting carbs and proteins should be avoided. A fast-digesting protein like whey and a high-GI carb is a good starting recommendation.
4) Post-Post Training (Carb: Protein Ratios)
Training, especially hard training, has been shown to keep glucose uptake of the trained muscles meaningfully enhanced for up to 6 hours after the training process. Thus, to further maximize the benefits of the post-workout meal, the next meal (2-4 hours later) should follow similar guidelines.
Light Workouts 2:1
Moderate Workouts 3:1
Hard Workouts 4:1
5) All Other Times
Taking a look at the numbers of carbs that are recommended for consumption in the workout window (pre, intra, post, post-post), we’re not left with much carbohydrate to consume for the other meals of the training day. That is, once we’ve adequately addressed our workout window needs, most of our daily carbs have already been consumed and consuming much more carbs than that can take us way over our recommended daily carb amounts, thus violating the principle of macro nutrient values. So, however many grams of carbs are left in your daily macro allotment you are to split the up through any and all remaining meals that are not surrounding your workout.