Nutrient Timing for Athletes: Does It Really Matter When We Eat Post-Exercise?

            People have recently started to question the idea of an ‘anabolic window’ post-exercise and whether we really need to eat or have that protein shake after our work-out. But where these opinions fall short is in the interpretations of the current research and literature to an athletic population.

            The idea is that a recent meta-analysis found that our total protein intake over a day is more important than the amount of protein we eat after our workout for building muscle mass, and while this is great information it largely gets mis-interpreted in the media. This is because while total protein intake during the day is more important than the amount we eat during the anabolic window (time after exercise where our ability to absorb nutrients is increased). If we are an athlete why wouldn’t we want to take advantage of this time of increased nutrient absorption? Even if the advantage of eating post-workout is smaller than we originally thought, most sporting events are decided a fraction of a second or a very small percentage, so if we aren’t taking advantage of this window (when our competitors are) then we are sure to fall short in competition. As athletes we must remember that we are in the performance business and not the physique business. While having a low body-fat percentage a key contributor to athletic performance, if we are not fueling our bodies properly than we will not be able to perform no matter how low our body fat percentage is. Also remember that protein does A LOT MORE for our bodies than just build muscle, and helps other bodily tissues recover, repair, and regenerate post-exercise.

            Furthermore, for a lot of our athletes they are partaking in two training sessions on most days (one sport session; one lifting session), so in this scenario is it really practical to post-pone eating after one session and not re-fuel before the next one? Does it ever make sense to not fuel before a session when we are in the performance business? Athletes who fuel better, perform better. Athletes who eat breakfast perform better. Therefore, we don’t usually recommend intermittent fasting to our athletes either. While it is totally possible to train after an overnight fast or a prolonged fast period (cue fasted cardio proponents), if it is going to affect our performance in that workout or training session is the small advantage we might get in body composition going to be worth it? This is like popular ketogenic diets (as we don’t generally recommend these to our athletes), as most studies have found performance isn’t improved with these diets (even though body composition might). This doesn’t make us promoters of high carbohydrate diets, but we do need to refuel the glycogen stores in our muscle that our athletes exhaust with high-intensity exercise bouts, especially following competition. 

Bottom Line: If you are not taking advantage of nutrient timing and the post-exercise window as an athlete you are missing out on important opportunity to fuel, regenerate, and repair your body for optimal performance. For athlete’s there is really no situation where it is a good idea to delaying feeding after exercise no matter what you’ve heard on social media.

Here are some guidelines to help maximize your post-exercise nutrition:

Post-Exercise Maximize Glycogen Re-Synthesis (within 30 min):


ADD PROTEIN! 0.25-0.5g/kg/hr enhances effect; as long as <1.2g/kg/hr

Example (70kg individual) ***individual needs may vary***

  • ~70g CHO/HR ~30g PRO/HR
  • (Large Banana, English Muffin with Jam, Protein Drink)

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The Power Of Protein

What is Protein?

Protein is one of three Macronutrients (carbohydrates and fats being the other two), it is made up of amino acids which are the building blocks for protein. Primarily protein is responsible for our growth and development and is also required for every chemical reaction within our bodies. Along with muscle growth and repair, our body also requires protein to manufacture hormones, antibodies, enzymes, body tissue and it can also be used as a source of energy for the body when glycogen stores are scarce. All of the functions listed above are of course essential for living!

What are Amino Acids?

As mentioned above, amino acids are the building blocks of protein. There are about 22 amino acids, 9 of which are essential and must obtained through our diet. The remaining amino acids are non-essential meaning that our body can actually produce them itself.

Proteins can also be either complete (there is a complete profile of amino acids) or incomplete (missing amino acids or doesn’t have enough amino acids to meet bodies needs). Complete proteins are found in animal proteins such as fish, beef, poultry, eggs, pork, lamb and other game meat. Incomplete proteins are typically found in plant sources such as nuts, seeds and legumes. These incomplete proteins must be eaten with brown rice, wheat or corn to make a complete protein that your body can effectively utilize.

Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s) are a unique type of amino acid and are a staple supplement for athletes of all types as these amino acids is metabolized in the muscle opposed to the liver where all of the other amino acids are metabolized. There have been many studies that show reduced levels of fatigue in athletes who use BCAA’s for both anaerobic and endurance sports. Many bodybuilders and power lifters take BCAA during their workout as it improves recovery during and post workout.

If you are an athlete who is serious about training results, BCAA will help you immensely, as they have an anti-catabolic effect in which prevents muscle breakdown, which intern promotes muscle recovery and growth.

How Much Protein do I need?

The amount of protein that one person needs may vary as it depends on a number of different factors, such as: Body type, personal goals, activity level, size and lifestyle. Here are few equations you can easily use to avoid a deficiency and reach your training goals!

To avoid a protein deficiency your body requires at least .8g of protein/kg of body weight.

Ex – 225/2.2 = 102 kg. Multiply 102 x .8 = 81.6g/day just to avoid a deficiency!

A safer rule of thumb to live by is to try to get 1 g of protein/pound of bodyweight, to ensure proper immune function, metabolism, weight management and optimal performance.

If you are looking to put on muscle your body will require closer to 1.5 g of protein /pound of body weight! The same recommendation of 1.5g of protein/ pound of body weight for a low carb diet is suitable

How Much Protein are YOU Getting?

Now that you know how much protein you are supposed to have, how much are you actually ingesting on a daily basis? For most people this is not as high as one would think.

Chicken Breast – 30g Fish – approx 22-25 g /filet Pork – 22g/chop Eggs – 6 g/egg

Cottage Cheese – 15g/ ½ cup Hard Cheese (parmesan/feta etc) – 10 g / oz – Steak – 42 g/6oz

It is recommended that you get as much protein as possible through natural and organic food sources, as these foods will contain a high profile of micronutrients and your body actually has to use energy to break the food down. Protein supplements are definitely recommended for vegetarians and vegans, as well as athletes and anyone looking to build muscle or put on weight. Having a protein shake after your workout will help get protein to the muscles immediately to aid in the muscle recovery process.

If you are 225 lbs like the person in the example above and you eat three eggs for breakfast (18 g), 2 chicken breasts (60g) for lunch and a steak (42g) for dinner then you are only at a total of 120 g for the day. Say you add a handful of nuts (7-9 g) and a bowl of bean salad (10-14g) as snacks that gets you to around 150. Leaving an additional 75g until your reach the goal of 1 g / lbs of body weight and that is where your protein shake and BCAA come into play. 1 scoop of protein is typically 25g, add 2 scoops of protein to your shake, along with your BCAA and you have met your goal of 225 g of protein/day!

Protein Deficiency

Unlike carbohydrates and fats, our body does not store protein well as it is constantly being used up by our bodies to carry out all of the functions it is responsible for. If you are not getting enough protein you may notice a host of physiological problems occurring within your body such as: increased risk of injury, reduced muscular strength and endurance, weakened immune system, unstable blood sugars levels, weight or hair loss or having difficulty sleeping.

If you have read this article and realize you are not getting as much protein you should be and are actually experiencing some of these symptoms, it could be as easy as eating more protein! Also use your resources such as books or internet to find out how much protein is in a certain food so it will be easier to track your daily intake.

Don’t let a Protein Deficiency keep you from reaching your goals!!!

John Blair

SST Burlington Fat Loss Specialist

How to pack a healthy lunch for your child Part 6!

Be careful of the drinks you pack. It’s tempting to send prepackaged drink boxes, however; they are almost all filled with too much sugar and empty calories. Instead opt for water or milk sent in reusable drink containers. Children need to stay well hydrated for proper concentration, to avoid fatigue and for proper cognitive brain function. Sugary drinks dehydrate and add too many extra empty calories.

His parents stress the importance of recycling

How to pack a healthy lunch for your child Part 5!

Limit unhealthy choices. Bottom line, if you are hungry you will eat what is available. If sugary treats are part of the lunch, children will almost always opt for those first. Filling up on empty calories and passing on the veggies. If the lunch box contains only healthy options, they WILL eat them and develop a taste for nutrient dense healthy foods, keeping them satisfied longer, avoiding the afternoon crash.


How to pack a healthy lunch your child will eat Part 4!

Make it fun. Find ways to make healthy snacks more enjoyable. Fruit or veggies on a stick, cheese cut into shapes with a cookie cutter, celery with cream cheese and raisins (ants on a log), cut sandwiches into shapes. Any way to make it more enjoyable and encourage healthy eating.


How to pack a healthy lunch your child will eat PART 3!

Keep it small. Even the older kids don’t require a 4-course meal packed into their lunch box. We tend to send too much food and wonder why so much comes home with them. Children tend to socialize during lunch and break times. A good rule of thumb is to pack what you would serve them if they were home for lunch, typically it wouldn’t be so large. A healthy lunch and two small snacks seem to do it.


How to pack a healthy lunch for your kids PART 1

How to Pack Healthy Lunches Kids Will Eat

If you are like most parents, the thought of packing another lunch for the kids seems daunting, we get bored or uninspired making them as quickly as they do eating them. Not to mention the disappointment we feel when the entire lunch comes home untouched. What’s a parent to do? No matter how old your kids are the following tips are sure to help keep tummy’s happy all day and parents happy at the end of the day when lunch boxes are returned home empty!

Part 1

Involve your child. When children have a say as to what is going into their lunches they are more likely to eat them. Involve them in every step, grocery shopping, meal preparation and recipe ideas. Search the web together for healthy recipe ideas or visit your local library for cookbooks written for kids, there are many. This will not only provide an excellent opportunity to teach your child about healthy eating & set them on the right path for life, but may also inspire some future chef’s.


Summer Body Part 6- EAT PROTEIN

Pretty simple for fat loss!

protein balls

Consume enough dietary protein. This is something we often neglect, especially women. Aim for one ounce of dietary protein for every kilogram of body weight. Protein should be included at every meal.

Get outside. With the weather improving now is the time to dust off those walking shoes. Get out for a run, brisk or leisure walk knowing that summer is just around the corner!

Eat Fat to lose fat! HOW? Part 5 of 6

Summer body ready thru eating more fat??

Fat loss!


Drink enough water everyday. A good rule of thumb is to try and consume half your body weight in ounces of water every day. Do not wait until you are thirsty, be pro active.  Even a 2 % decrease in bodily water content can trigger many health problems. This is perhaps the easiest thing people can do to improve their well being.

Consume enough good fats. Dietary fat is not the enemy. The body needs healthy fats to lose fat. Be sure to consume healthy fats with every meal. Omega-3 fatty acids, nuts, seeds, avocado, flax seeds, coconut oil, etc.

Get your body SUMMER ready Part 3 of 6


Part 3 of Get your body ready for summer!!  PLAN!


Establish a nutritional plan. Successful weight loss is achieved by being prepared. Plan your meals for the week ahead. Having meals planned and food purchased before meal times is the key to staying on track.

Regular exercise & activity. A regular program of aerobic, strength training and flexibility movement exercises helps reverse insulin sensitivity, increase vitality & reduces the risk of disease & keeps you focused on proper eating habits

meat and nuts