read Nutrient-timing: Time Your Meals to Maximize Your Running Performance

Nutrient-timing: Time Your Meals to Maximize Your Running Performance

Nutrient-timing: Time Your Meals to Maximize Your Running Performance

Most endurance athletes, be it professionals or amateurs, are well-versed about what their ideal diet should be. They know all about calories and macronutrients and make all possible efforts for proper fuelling and recovering from long training runs or races. But they may not be aware of how to time their meals to maximize performance and optimize post-run recovery. This is where the concept of nutrient-timing comes into play.

The theory behind nutrient-timing is quite interesting. It involves eating certain macronutrients in specified quantities at particular times before, during, and after endurance events or key training sessions. Following this practice along with giving careful attention to your diet has a significant effect on health, performance, recovery, and fat loss. 

Stated simply, proponents of proper nutrient-timing claim that it enhances performance, recovery, and muscle tissue repair. So, this can be an important point to consider if you are seeking a competitive edge apart from upgrading your running skills through training

Nutrient-timing is not necessary if you are a regular gym-goer meeting your recovery-related nutritional requirements through the usual diet. Nutrient-timing is something you should consider only if you are an endurance athlete, who has already attained an elevated level of physical fitness and are adhering to a healthy diet that supports your body composition and athletic performance. There is no benefit to nutrient-timing if you have not already mastered your overall caloric and macronutrient intake. 

Also read: How to Calculate Macros for the Perfect Fitness Goal

Additionally, the research surrounding nutrient-timing has been inconclusive and tough to decipher. That said, you may follow some evidence-based guidelines. 

Why nutrient-timing is important

According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), “Nutrient timing incorporates the use of methodical planning and eating of whole foods, fortified foods and dietary supplements. The timing of energy intake and the ratio of certain ingested macronutrients may enhance recovery and tissue repair, augment muscle protein synthesis (MPS), and improve mood states following high-volume or intense exercise.”

Even if you have immense mental toughness, your performance will falter once your glycogen stores are depleted. The importance of having sufficient running nutrients holds true not only for an event day, but also throughout your training regimen. 

Also read: Carb Cycling Diet Plan: A Comprehensive Guide

Here is a tabular representation, taking important aspects into account:

StrategyTimingAmount of carbohydrate
General fuelingOngoing/dailyLight-low intensity, skill-based training: 3g–5g per kg of body weight per day
Moderate intensity, 1 hour of training/day: 5g–7g per kg of body weight per day 1–3 hours of high-intensity training/day: 6g–10g per kg of body weight per day
More than 4-5 hours of very high-intensity training/day: 8g–12g per kg of body weight per day
StrategyTimingAmount of carbohydrate
Brief exerciseActivities lasting less than 45 minutesNot needed
Sustained high-intensity exercise45-75 minutesSmall amounts
Endurance exerciseActivities lasting 1-2.5 hours30g–60g per hour
Ultra-enduranceActivities lasting longer than 2.5-3 hoursUp to 90g per hour
Carbohydrate intake

Protein intake 
Within two hours after the cessation of exercise

The time interval remains the same as carbohydrate intake
1g–1.5g per kg of body weight

0.3g per kg of body weight

Carbohydrate intake

Protein intake
4-6 hours feeding every 15-30 minutes

Every 3-5 hours over multiple meals
1g–1.5g per kg of body weight per hour

0.3g per kg of body weight
Protein intakeBefore bed within 30 minutes of sleep30g–40g

As you see, the importance of nutrient-timing is considerable and can play an important role in your running performance. So if you are training, fuel youself with major nutrients as explained above to make some positive changes. 

1. Thomas DT, Erdman KA, Burke LM. American College of Sports Medicine Joint Position Statement. Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2016; 48: 543–68.
2. Ivy JL, Goforth HW Jr, Damon BM, et al. Early postexercise muscle glycogen recovery is enhanced with a carbohydrate-protein supplement. J Appl Physiol 2002; 93: 1337–44.
3. Kerksick CM, Wilborn CD, Roberts, MD, et al. ISSN exercise & sport nutrition review update: Research & recommendations. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2018;15: 38.
4. Muth, ND. Sports Nutrition for Health Professionals. Philadelphia: FA Davis, 2015.
5. Rodriguez NR, Di Marco NM, Langley S. American College of Sports Medicine position stand: Nutrition and athletic performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2009, 41: 709–31.