Timing your Meals

Updated: Jan 24

There is 'the right time' for everything. Right time to go to bed, right time to train, right time to ask her to marry you, right time to work, right time to play, right time to ask dad for money and the right time to eat. Let's talk about the latter - the right time to eat.

Focusing on timing of meals and snacks for active individuals.

I could write a few chapters on the right time to eat, but I have to fit it into a blog post short enough for the non-reader to actually read. Here is a meal timeline for an individual who trains once per day. We will discuss timing of certain macronutrients to optimise physical performance. Let's go.

Three main meals per day: The perfect plate. Load your breakfast, lunch and dinner with complex, low GI carbs for sustainable energy. Main meals are there to ensure a constant supply of energy during the day. Add lean protein, portion as big as your palm. Lastly, colour your plate with fruit and veg to provide vitamins and minerals.

Protein: Your body can only absorb and digest a certain amount of protein per day. Having ALL your protein at dinner is not the way to go. Break your protein up into meals and snacks. Aim to have between 10g and 20g of protein per meal/snack depending on the amount you need.

Carbohydrates: We've heard many stories concerning GI (glycemic index). According to a publication by the Sports Dieticians Australia, manipulating GI can affect your performance. Focus on having low GI carbohydrates as part of your main meals. For workout snacks, have medium to high GI foods. It has been shown to result in higher muscle glycogen storage (energy stores).

Pre-workout snack: A quick bite before your workout is proven to increase carbohydrate (energy) availability. Have approximately 15g of carbohydrates 30 minutes before you training session (as said - medium to high GI for rapid release).

During workout: For workouts longer than 60 minutes, have a small amount of carbohydrates every 15 - 20 minutes. Energy gels, sports drinks, a small banana, energellies, orange slices. Our bodies oxidise glucose at a rate of 60g/hour. Study the label of your products and try to have 60g per hour, breaking it up in 15 minute periods.

Post-workout: According to me, Shelly Meltzer (RD) from BokSmart and the American Council on Exercise, post-workout nutrition is one of the most important phenomena in all of sports nutrition. Post-workout nutrition highlights PROTEIN and CARBOHYDRATES within 30 minutes of your session.

PROTEIN: When you exercise (especially when performing strength training), small tears form in your muscles. For hypertrophy (building muscle) and repairing damaged muscle tissue, it is extremely important to consume protein to fill up those tears. Imagine a crack in your wall. You need some good quality Polyfilla to fill that crack, allow to dry and get your wall strong and solid again.

CARBOHYDRATES: Restore your energy reserves. Have a high carbohydrate food source with your protein. The recommended ratio is 3g - 4g of carbohydrate per 1g of protein.

Post-workout snack ideas:

See our infographic for snack ideas, containing approximately 15g of protein and 60g of carbohydrates.

Bedtime: A milky drink (glass of milo, yogurt drink or similar) is a good snack to have before going to bed. It is mainly recommended for athletes who engage in muscle building exercises to boost their protein intake. Have a snack with at least 10g of protein, just to push your intake to the edge.

Fluid: Lastly, and not to be forgotten, water. Water is extremely important to lubricate your muscles, regulate your body temperature and help with the excretion of toxins. Aim to have 200ml of water every hour. When you train, replenish with at least 500ml of water after your session.

For a detailed plan to fit your needs, schedule and performance goals, contact sports bodies for a full body assessment and meal plan development.


By Yvonne van Zyl

Nutritional Therapist

Sports Bodies Nutrition

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