Nutrient Timing

by Keith Norris

A great truth is a truth whose opposite is also a truth.

Thomas Mann

I know, I know; the idea of nutrient timing is not exactly Paleo in the most strict sense of the term, and certainly not part of the DeVany-esq, Evolutionary Fitness schema.  If you’re a performance-driven athlete, however (or just an average Joe/Jane who habituates a frequent red-lining in the ol’ workout arena), adequate and well-timed pre and post-workout nutrition is crucial.  Did Grok worry about all of this?  Of course not — or at least we can argue that it was usually not the case that he attempted to manipulate his performance via nutrition thusly.  However, Grok didn’t spend his nights peacefully slumbering on a comfy mattress either, or perform grueling rounds of power snatch/ring muscle-up supersets, avail himself to bloodwork analysis, hormone therapy, or the awesomeness of Joe Rogan podcasts…you get the idea.  It’s the difference between merely surviving, and optimally thriving, my friends; sufficient as opposed to optimal.  Anthropological evidence provides but one tool (albeit a very important tool) within the total “thriving” workshop.  It’s up to each individual then to flesh-out the remainder of  his/her own workshop’s tool cache, and acquire that craftsman’s collection of n=1-derived methods, techniques and specialty tools to be used in creating a personalized expression of phenotypical excellence.

Drs John Ivy and Robert Portman have put together what I consider to be the classic treatise on optimal nutritional timing in their aptly-titled book, Nutrient Timing.  Hat tip to Ken O’Neill, of Trans-Evolutionary Fitness, for tuning me in to John Ivy’s work.  Now my personal pre and post-workout formulations may vary somewhat from the recommendations put forth by Drs Ivy and Portman — mostly due to my belief (outdated?) that the synergy of whole foods trump the conglomeration of individual, deconstructed constituents — but I do follow the spirit of the nutrient timing argument put forth by the good doctors…

that ismost times :)

…and I am more than willing to consider that my gut notion of whole foods’ superiority to “scientifically” reconstituted constituent components is flawed.  It has been my experience, though, that Mother Nature’s intelligence in these matters always prevails.  Of course this simply may be a matter of degree, in which case one must ask if the miniscule gain of constituent recombination is worth the additional hassle and stress.  You can see how this argument can quickly pigtail into the dreaded paralysis-by-analysis vortex.

At any rate, the down-and-dirty on nutrient timing is this: your muscles are uber-primed for nutrient uptake immediately following a bout of strenuous exercise.  The window of opportunity for capitalizing on this phenomena is only open, though, for approximately 2 hours (and more precisely, 45-minutes) post-throwdown.  I won’t get into the nitty-gritty details of why hitting this window is so important from a performance point-of-view (in a nutshell, it has everything to do with optimum recovery), as the book does an excellent job of spelling this out quite precisely.  Also, checkout this, The International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand on nutrient timing.  Long story short, though, what I can tell you is this: throughout my training career I have experimented with various post-workout timing schemes — sometimes of my own doing, and sometimes as a result of circumstances beyond my control.  But in all cases, it has been my experience that hitting the 45-minute post workout window with smartly pinpointed nutrition has resulted in superior recovery results.  And, in my experience, these results have been far superior to the recovery benefits of, for example, post-workout contrast showers/ice baths and the like.  Results, mind you, attained from a practice that is much more practical from a sustainable application standpoint; you might not have the time-luxury, or access to, a post-workout ice soak, sports massage, or what-have-you, but most have the time to put together and down a smartly concocted, post-workout drink.

This needn’t be overly complicated to be effective, either (lowfat chocolate milk anyone?).  And hey, don’t have all the ingredients on-hand every time out?  Don’t sweat it bro, neither do I most times.  I’m notoriously bad about not restocking items until I’m completely out.  Anyway, here’s my simple, post-workout mix:

The T I’m sportin’ here?  Rockin’, huh?  And just one design of many that I have from my friend Kris Murphy’s Manimal Wear.  Check ‘em out, here.

Talkin’ Physical Culture with Angelo Coppola, of Latest in Paleo

And hey, if you haven’t already, please checkout my interview with Angelo — who, by the way, is a true professional in every sense of the word.   Some of what we talked about:

  • Diet & fitness
  • getting started with a fitness routine
  • chronic cardio
  • Efficient Exercise and CrossFit; compare and contrast
  • ARX equipment
  • recoverability rates
  • bodyweight exercises
  • athletic supplementation
  • MovNat vs. HIIT

Pre-exhaust Techniques

One of the many techniques that I employ with my clients, and utilize in my own training, involves the use of pre-exhaust methods prior to moving into heavy, compound movements.  Methods of pre-exaust abound of course, but essentially (and for my purposes) fall into two broad categories — use of isolation exercises to target individual muscle(s) and/or the use of zone training techniques (Jreps, partials, ect.) which allow for significant inroading via the use of lighter weights (read, “easy on the joints”).    Here, for example, is one of my lower-body workouts from last week:

(A1) hip press, utilizing a zone training/Jrep scheme

(A2) Russian leg curls; again, utilizing a zone training/Jrep scheme

(B1) front squats , working up in load from what I could handle in the 7 rep range, on down to a 3-rep grind.

I split the hip presses and leg curls into 2 zones each (high and low), and blitzed each zone to failure using Jrep techniques (essentially employing piston-like, “pumping” repetitions with an eye toward achieving maximum pump and burn in the target musculature).   After 2 rounds of that, my legs were essentially toast.  Then, with those already blistered wheels, I dove into the first of what ended-up being a 5-set battle with front squats.  The beauty of this is that my hips, knees, ankles — along with all the soft tissue support in those areas — were already more than warm, blood-nourished, and ready to go — AND the weight necessary to elicit a full-on, ball-busting effort was, as you might well imagine, reduced.  But, surprisingly though, not by all that much (about 30 lbs off of what I would normally handle in the 3-rep range?).  The result was a total friggin’ lower body throwdown fest without, however, the joint ache (and following day stiffness) usually associated with a heavy compound movement session.   Note that this is much, much more than just effectively “warming-up” prior to delving into the heavy stuff — this is achieving significant (and isolated) muscular inroad prior to even beginning the compound (whole-body, synergistic) movement.   Combining this method of pre-exhaust prior to jumping into an ARX movement is also something I like to employ, and for the same reasons stated above.

And finally…

My Efficient Exercise brother-in-arms has written a masterful piece, here, related to the relationship between training and sport specificity, and the sometimes (oftentimes?) inadvertent, inappropriate, confusing/commingling of these two, distinct endeavors.  And this is more than just mere semantics, or word-play slight -of-hand.  For example, CrossFit is the sport of strength and conditioning, just as Olympic weightlifting is the sport side of all those cool Oly-derrivative (i.e., “power”, etc.) moves.  Know your goals, and train (and specify, if need be) as required.  A timely post, especially with this year’s CrossFit games (which I loved, BTW) fresh in everyone’s mind.

In health,

Keith




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