Nutrient timing is a highly effective approach to losing fat. By only eating carbohydrates at certain times, you can maximize your fat loss.
Why It Works
Nutrient timing is effective because it works in conjunction with your body’s natural hormones. At certain times during the day your muscles are more receptive at absorbing carbohydrates. During these time periods, your insulin sensitivity is at its highest. This means that it will take less insulin to store the glucose that is produced from carbohydrates. How does this help you lose fat?
When your insulin is elevated, your body is unable to mobilize fatty acids. Insulin is a very powerful storage hormone. It takes the glucose in your bloodstream and shuttles it to the cells that need it. If your muscles and liver are full of glycogen, they will not be able to store any additional glucose. During this scenario, insulin takes this glucose, converts it to fat, and stores it in various places on your body so that it can be used later.
If our goal is to keep insulin low throughout the day, we want to be very mindful of when we eat our carbohydrates. Carbohydrates have the biggest influence on your insulin levels, followed by protein, and then by fats – which have very little effect on insulin levels. It makes sense to focus on carbohydrate intake for nutrient timing.
Timing Your Carb Intake
If you can limit your carbohydrates so that you are only eating them during the time periods when your insulin sensitivity is at its highest, you will make your goal of losing fat a whole lot easier. When are these time periods?
- Your first meal of the day - After a night of not eating, your insulin sensitivity is higher than normal. This is because your body has been using the glucose in your blood and the glycogen stored in your liver to maintain body functions throughout the night. Upon waking, your body’s stores of glycogen are lower – resulting in a lower amount of insulin needed to store the carbohydrates you’re about to eat.
- Your pre-workout meal - Most people don’t think of insulin sensitivity being high just before your workout. And really, it isn’t. However, during exercise, your insulin response is muted. Your pre-workout meal is a great time to get in some carbohydrates and some much needed energy for your workout.
- Your post-workout meal - Your post-workout meal is the time when your insulin sensitivity is at its highest, and it’s a great time to implement nutrient timing principles. While you work out, your muscles use glycogen to fuel your exercise. So much so, that after your workout, your muscles just soak up the glucose in your blood. Your muscles are so starved for glucose that they are able to take the carbohydrates you eat and convert it into glycogen without any real need for insulin.
Knowing that these 3 time periods are preferred for carbohydrate intake, we can then start to formulate a diet plan. Depending on your carbohydrate demand and your goals, I would prioritize my carbohydrate intake like this:
- Carbs post-workout only
- Carbs post-workout and first meal of the day
- Carbs pre and post-workout, and the first meal of the day
Eat the majority of your carbohydrates post workout. This meal should consist of protein and carbohydrates and very little fat. The remaining carb-less meals should consist of protein, healthy fats, and veggies. Planning your meals this way enables you to get all the benefits from the 3 macronutrients (fat, carbs, and protein).
It also puts you in a prime metabolic state to mobilize fatty acids. Nutrient timing is your answer to successful fat loss. By eating your carbohydrates at specific times of the day, you enable your body to remain in a fat burning state for a longer period of time.