Anabolic Nutrient Timing Factor – Nutrition for Muscle Growth

The nutrient timing protocol looks at a methodology that involves consuming carbohydrates (and protein) at the best possible times post-training to trigger a continual cascade of beneficial hormones, including insulin.

Insulin is one of the most powerful anabolic hormones present in the human body. When used and timed correctly, it can have an extremely positive effect on the body. However, the opposite is also true.

If insulin is secreted at a time when the body is not ready for it (insulin insensitivity), then it can have detrimental effects. Insulin insensitivity can be described as a time, which the muscles are not primed for glucose uptake and storage.

This is the typical everyday scenario for sedentary individuals that consume too many carbohydrates. If this practice occurs over a prolonged time, individuals can become insulin resistant. When this happens, the target cells, along with the muscles and other tissues, fail to respond to the presence of blood insulin. This condition is related to the pathology of obesity and Type II Diabetes.

The science behind nutrient timing is found within the complex interaction of the muscles, liver, and blood. Additionally, the amount of amino acids present inside these tissues is also a significant factor.

Anabolic Nutrient Timing Factor - Nutrition for Muscle Growth

To maximise a person’s potential for muscle growth, they must first learn how to utilise every opportunity that allows them to promote muscle anabolism.

Keeping The Body in an Anabolic State

The main factor that makes up nutrient timing is the manipulation of insulin and nutrients, which stimulates the pancreas to secrete the powerful hormones required for building muscle.

Suppose a person can introduce and maintain a nutrient timing protocol into their overall training regime. In that case, they will keep their body’s metabolic pathway in an anabolic state.

Anabolic Nutrient Timing Factor - Nutrition for Muscle Growth

Quality protein supplements (such as Whey/Plant-Based Protein) can be used with insulin secretions to ensure the maintenance and rebuilding of lean muscle tissue. Managing the amount of insulin present in the blood is the key to success when applying nutrient timing.

Insulin will be secreted into the bloodstream when the consumed food triggers the need for the secretion of the hormone. Insulin, however, is not released in significant amounts every time that food is consumed. Insulin reacts specifically in response to carbohydrate foods, particularly the ones having a high glycemic index rating.

Insulin Assists the Body in Glycogen Replenishment

Insulin assists the body in glycogen replenishment by transporting nutries into muscle cells. In doing so, insulin assists in keeping the body in a state of anabolism and prevents catabolism.

However, it is important to understand that insulin promotes muscle cell anabolism; it promotes cell anabolism in general. Therefore, if the muscle cells are not ready to take in the nutrients because they are saturated with glycogen or the physiological environment is not right, the body’s adipose (fat) cells will always welcome the addition of stored energy.

There are two aspects of concern when speaking of manipulating insulin secretion. The first aspect lies in knowing how to time the consumption of insulin associated high glycemic carbohydrate-based foods. The second step involves adding protein to the carbohydrates during the advantageous physiological time frame.

Protein consumption provides the body with the right material for optimal muscle growth and recovery. As we know, when muscle cells are depleted from exhaustive resistance training, they require amino acids.

If your blood insulin level is high, insulin will push the protein into the muscle cells. Insulin can drive protein and carbohydrates into muscle tissue, but protein consumption alone will not stimulate appropriate insulin secretion.

To ensure that the protein is used correctly and promotes anabolism, it should be used when blood insulin levels are highest.

Following the guidelines of nutrient timing will enhance the uptake of any protein utilised in post resistance training meals.

Using Protein with Carbohydrates Post-Workout (Post-Workout Meal One)

Consuming the prescribed carbohydrates at the appropriate time mixed with protein creates the optimal anabolic environment. Just as eating protein does not guarantee that the amino acids will be used to repair muscle tissue, consuming carbohydrates is not guaranteed that glycogen levels will be replenished either.

To effectively use the principles of nutrient timing, people must learn to consume their carbohydrates at the correct times following their training to get the blood insulin levels up rather quickly while their metabolic pathway supports anabolism.

To take advantage of this first post-exercise window, a person should have a dose of simple carbohydrates. These carbohydrates should come in the form of a liquid for ease of digestion. A person should be encouraged to consume about 0.5 grams of carbohydrates for every kilogram of their body weight immediately following their training session.

Anabolic Nutrient Timing Factor - Nutrition for Muscle Growth

As we just mentioned, the best type of carbohydrate at this time should come in the form of a liquid. When trying to get blood insulin levels elevated, using a juice containing high sucrose to fructose ratio is preferable.

Orange juice is a good example of a liquid carbohydrate that fit this description.

Sports drinks, which contain a greater-than-10% carbohydrate concentration of sucrose and maltodextrin, effectively elevate blood sugar. Therefore, these drinks are an excellent post-workout choice of carbohydrates, providing the insulin spike required to increase their muscle.


The Nutrient Timing Protocol has two key steps.


  • You have elevated your blood glucose and insulin levels by consuming the previously described carbohydrate drink.
  • We recommend a quality protein source to be ingested.

By adding protein to the carbohydrate drink, we are supplying protein to the muscles by taking advantage of the insulin surge.

Adding Whey Protein or a Plant-Based Protein to the carbohydrate drink creates an optimal anabolic environment. This will ultimately provide the depleted muscle cells with a highly powerful glucose and amino acids mixture. Furthermore, it increases blood insulin resulting in maximal uptake of glucose and protein. The glucose will be transported into the muscle cells and stored inside the muscle as glycogen, readily available for energy.

The protein will stimulate protein synthesis, stopping muscle catabolism and increasing muscle anabolism.

This protein/carbohydrate mixture is considered the first of four post-training meals to be consumed as a part of the overall nutrient timing protocol.

The Second Post-Workout Meal

Following the nutrient timing protocol, the consumption of the second post-training meal should be conducted about 30 minutes following the initial liquid mixture of carbohydrates and protein.

The second meal should be low in fat to speed the stomach emptying and contain easily absorbed carbohydrates and a lean protein source.

Anabolic Nutrient Timing Factor

The second meal is similar to the first meal in macronutrient composition; however, the food choices are slightly different. At this time, the best carbohydrate choices would be something like a baked potato, steamed white rice, cooked oats, or pasta.

The second meal should be in the form of solid food. The second meal could be a grilled chicken/fish with rice or a serving of pasta sauce, made with a lean source of meat, over pasta. Consuming this meal assures that the amino acids from the protein consumed in the first meal will be used for muscle anabolism and not the restoration of blood glucose.

This meal should not be too large in content. Research shows that the anabolic mechanisms of muscles remain accelerated for up to three hours following intense resistance training. After consuming the second meal, you want to feel full but not overly stuffed.

So as a recap of what we have covered so far. You have consumed a post-workout drink and a small meal within a half-hour following training following the nutrient timing protocol. Both meals are kept small but rather powerful in nutrients, which will help avoid intestinal bloating.

Following on from these two ‘meals’, you still have two and a half hours to use your anabolic window of opportunity to maximise your potential for muscle growth.

The Third and Fourth Post Workout Meal.

After consuming the second meal, it is then recommended that you should wait about an hour before consuming the third. You still have to consume two more small solid food meals similar to the second.

Another serving of whey/plant-based protein consumed with a small serve of carbohydrates such as a handful of pasta could also be an effective way to ingest this meal.

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You can be creative and use any combination of protein and carbohydrates for the third meal, but it should be remembered that this meal is small in content. At this stage of the nutrient timing protocol, a person would have consumed three ‘meals’ inside of two hours.

Once again, you need to use your best judgment to decide when to consume this meal, but to be effective, it should be very similar to the third meal and consumed within the last half hour of the anabolic window.

So what we have seen following this nutrient timing protocol is that within a three-hour post-training time frame, you will have consumed four small meals. The initial liquid meal and three food meals should have contained about 40 grams of protein and 20-30 grams of carbohydrates each. Utilising the nutrient timing protocol allows a steady stream of amino acids to be channelled toward the muscle promoting anabolism.

For those wanting to increase their lean muscle mass, the nutrient timing protocol is a great technique and will assist you in making progress.

Snapshot of the Nutrient Timing Protocol

Meal One:

Immediately post-workout (in a purple column )

Whey protein combination with liquid-based carbohydrates

Meal Two:

30 minutes after Meal One

Solid meal of protein and carbohydrates. An example would be grilled chicken and rice

Meal Three:

60 minutes after Meal Two

Either a small solid meal of protein and carbohydrates (similar to meal two) or a liquid-based protein and small serve of carbohydrate (such as a baked potato)

Meal Four:

60-75 minutes after Meal Three

This meal should be the same nutrient combination as meal three. Different food can be used, but it should consist of high protein and quality carbohydrates.

The Other Hours in the Day

There are still 21 hours remaining in the day, and the style of eating that should be followed is drastically different from what occurred in the nutrient timing protocol.

The bulk of the remaining portion of the diet will be built on fibrous vegetables, sources of lean protein and the occasional (not always) healthy fats. Fibrous vegetables and healthy fats will supply the body with the necessary vitamins and minerals to optimise muscle growth. Furthermore, fibrous vegetables elevate the metabolism, providing a sustained energy source to the body assisting in fat loss. They also allow more volume in the diet while providing only a few calories.

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As a side note, fibre also slows down gastric emptying assuring proper utilisation of the protein consumed and promoting satiety. Fibrous vegetables should be a significant component of any healthy diet. The management of blood insulin is a crucial component throughout the remainder of the day. 

Fibrous vegetables have a low glycemic value; therefore, insulin levels are managed efficiently.



Simply put, nutrient timing means being mindful of when to eat rather than just what to eat. Its premise is to support optimal performance during a training session, provide all that is needed for muscle growth, exploit glycogen replenishment after activity, and follow a diet that promotes growth and repair around the clock.
Nutrient timing is based on data supporting variances in hormonal release throughout the day and in response to exercise.

Nutrient timing is a great recommendation for anyone wanting to increase their lean muscle mass.

We are happy to guide you and answer any questions about Anabolic Nutrient timing. Reach out on your member app and we can answer any questions that have come up.

Team Warehouse GYM & Fitness.