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Why does the grocery store place items in certain places?  What is the purpose of a product for an average guy like me if Mark Wahlberg is needed for sales?  I often find myself overwhelmed.  Mark Wahlberg clearly works out all the time.  I simply can’t do that.  While working 45-50 hours a week, spending time with my kids and spouse and attempting to do a few things for myself I simply can’t give more than 4-5 hours a week to dedicated exercise if I want to maintain a balanced life.

Lately, I’ve been reading about nutrient timing.  At first, the science of nutrient timing seemed to click with me.  Nutrient Timing: The Future of Sports Nutrition by John Ivy and Robert Portman present nutrient timing as a staple in every successful exercise program.  But as I dig further I’m realizing nutrition is extremely differentiated between people.  Granted, there are common elements between successful nutrition plans.  But we limit the power of our individual bodies unless we dig deeper into how our body responds to certain foods and nutrients.

The Nutrient Timing Protocol: a universal guide to weight loss by Bradlee W. Crihfield and Dr. Robert Kalapos is a simple introduction to basic understanding of nutrient timing.  One could easily read the title on a plane ride or while riding during a weekend trip.  The focus is on macro nutrients.  Even though vitamins and minerals are mentioned, it is only in passing which I find disappointing.  The glycemic index chart included offers a nice starting point to really consider how carbs might affect the body.  For instance, watermelon is a food that creates a high glycemic response while a coca-cola is a food that creates a medium glycemic response.  This might be surprising, but it’s another reason it is important to consider vitamins and minerals as well as macro nutrient content of foods.

The Nutrient Timing Protocol suggests that we should limit carbohydrates on off days and time carbohydrates post-workout to fill glycogen stores in muscles.  The simplicity of the presentation allows anyone to utilize nutrient timing around exercise to assist weight loss.  I’m still skeptical as Nutrient Timing Protocol: A Universal Guide To Weight Loss suggest to limit carbs.  Even though this makes sense to do on off days, in my experience I need more information about focusing on foods that create satiety and fullness with numerous vitamins and minerals.  I find a focus on foods to eat a lot easier to maintain than a focus on foods to limit.

The book continues by describing the power of dietary fat.  Fats and carbs should never be consumed together.  This may seem logical, but it is a bold claim.  Once again, I’m disappointed as there is no data or research presented to explain what happens when one consumes carbohydrates and fats together.  I find myself eating porridge often for breakfast because they fuel me for a long time throughout the day.  Many recipes instruct one to cook the grain with a fat to help soften the grain and improve taste.  Once again, a focus on vitamins and minerals in high quality whole foods is more important than the strict view of macro-nutrients that Nutrient Timing Protocol: A Universal Guide To Weight Loss.  Cooking oats in coconut milk may have a similar macro nutrient content as cooking oats in butter, but my guess is that the body reacts to the coconut milk version differently.

Although I’m disappointed in Nutrient Timing Protocol: A Universal Guide To Weight Loss, it is a simple introduction to nutrient timing for someone new to the idea.  Understanding when the body is in a catabolic or metabolic state is important and offers simple ways for someone to adjust eating habits based on what state the body is in instead of attempting to limit certain things all the time.  The mind set change is powerful and leaves one feeling ready for the challenge instead of starved from what might taste good.

Nutrient Timing for Peak Performance by Heidi Skolnik and Andrea Chernus demonstrates that there is much more than macro nutrients to consider when learning about nutrient timing.  Numerous systems of the body are explained with sufficient detail while maintaining and understandable style for the layman.  I already go back to pages in this book even though I only finished it a few weeks ago.  Here are some highlights that I find myself rereading often.

Both our anaerobic system and aerobic system uses ATP to produce energy to move our muscles.  The anaerobic system uses glucose to fuel the energy needed to move muscles.  This makes carbohydrate extremely important in high intensity exercise.  The aerobic system uses fat and carbohydrate to produce ATP.  The body can be trained to use fat more efficiently.  It seems to me that timing nutrient consumption so that one is in a fasted state during aerobic exercise is beneficial yet the opposite is true for anaerobic exercise, especially longer high intensity sessions.

Nutrient Timing for Peak Performance does much more than Nutrient Timing Protocol: A Universal Guide To Weight Loss when explaining macro nutrients.  There are numerous types of carbohydrate and the body processes them slightly differently.  While resting, the body conserves glucose and muscle glycogen.  The body saves this store of energy for intense movements.  In my view, this makes rest day nutrition the most important.  But I find myself craving junk foods when I rest.  As I learn more about how my body uses energy, I find it easier to think to myself, “I can’t eat this right now because of the way my body is processing energy, but I can eat it at another time when my body is looking for immediate energy.”  This mindset change from starvation to calculated timing is helping me manage decision fatigue with my food choices.

The most powerful part of Nutrient Timing for Peak Performance lies in the last 3rd of the book.  There are numerous individual scenarios presented with explanation for training goals along with example daily food plans to accomplish nutrition goals.  Carbohydrate loaded foods occur around training and protein is scattered throughout a day.  One of the examples for an athlete striving to consume 2,800 calories a day with 130 grams of protein has the athlete eating no more than 40 grams of protein at a time.  The example food logs are clearly attainable for an average person and not just the extreme athlete hoping to accomplish specific performance goals.

As I continue a journey toward better wellness Nutrient Timing Protocol: A Universal Guide To Weight Loss made me realize that I have never completely understood how my body is processing food and energy.  Although I was looking for more information, this title moved me to think about why I choose to eat certain things at certain times of the day.  A quick analysis has made me realize that I need to eat smaller amounts of protein more often throughout the day.  I often find myself searching for carbohydrate loaded foods in the afternoons, which is why this year I’ve moved my workouts to the afternoons or evenings.  This simple change has helped me put off some binge eating with a mindset of eating to fuel a workout instead.  Along the way I’m seeing results, especially in strength gains.

Nutrient Timing for Peak Performance title is becoming a reference work for me that has so much helpful information that I will continue to return to when needed.  Foods after high intensity workouts are important.  As I’ve increased my consumption of foods with vitamin E and C after these types of workouts muscle soreness has recovered more quickly than the past.  This has allowed me to keep a more regular dedicated exercise schedule which is support my results, especially in strength gains.

As I tackle on my next challenge I plan to reference both titles often.  I find myself searching for carbohydrate loaded foods about 30 minutes before I move to bed for the night.  What is my body telling me?  Is it better to give into those cravings or to up certain nutrient consumption at strategic times in the day?  I think the answer is somewhere in between.  On days I’ve completed a high intensity workout giving in to the craving with high quality foods with a focus on vitamin C, E and regular protein consumption will aide recovery.  On rest days, it will be better to skip the evening craving but perhaps the next morning I eat a carbohydrate and protein based breakfast to ensure proper fuel for the day.  One thing is for sure.  The information in both of these books has given me a lot to consider and explore and I can’t wait to see where it takes me next.