ExerciseNutrition The Science Behind Nutrient Timing

nutrient timing

Get ready to wind the gears of knowledge as we delve into another insightful analysis of the scientific evidence behind nutrient timing for hypertrophy and strength.

Picture this: after hitting a plateau in training, you’ve reached out to fellow gym-goers who drop hints that missing your post-workout protein shakes might be throwing off your muscle growth and strength gains. But does science back this claim, or is it just a timely tale? Get ready to wind the gears of knowledge as we delve into the scientific evidence behind nutrient timing for hypertrophy and strength.

The Science

Research conducted by Hoffman et al. (2009) wanted to explore protein timing in individuals who resistance train. After ten weeks of training and timed protein supplementation, the researchers split participants into two protein intake groups to determine which group would be stronger and have more muscle. The groups were split into two different protein consumption timings: “morning and evening” and “pre-and post-workout.” The results of this study suggest that in the context of trained individuals, timed protein consumption does not cause differing amounts of strength and hypertrophy gains so long as total daily protein consumed is consistent.

With similar groupings as the previous authors and considering calorie-restricted eating or “diets” and protein timing. Research conducted by Crib and Hayes (2006) found that in trained bodybuilders placed in different protein timing strategies during a caloric deficit, there were significant increases in lean mass in those who ingested protein before and after workouts. There were also greater increases in the back squat and bench press strength for the pre/post group (interestingly, though, not deadlift). Therefore, when it comes to bodybuilders during a diet, paying more attention to protein consumption before and/or after a workout might be more beneficial.

Finally, the third study for consideration is a study by Esmarck and colleagues (2001). Unlike the previous two studies, these authors wanted to determine how specific protein timing had to be in older populations. To do so, they had older individuals exercise and consume protein immediately or 2 hours after completion. The findings suggest that although both groups increase strength similarly, older individuals who consume protein immediately after a workout see greater increases in lean body mass and specifically the quads.

My Thoughts in Layman’s Terms

If, after reading The Science, you still need clarification about how much attention you should give to nutrient timing, you’re not alone! Experts in the field, such as Ivy and Schoenfeld (2014), are right there with you. They suggest that there needs to be more and better-controlled studies to answer this question with a higher degree of certainty.

I want to point out some additional thoughts about the last study discussed.

The Esmarck et al. (2001) paper administered only 10g of protein for each condition. Most literature that I have come across in older populations suggests that older individuals who are sedentary require higher amounts of protein and specifically the amino acid leucine to stimulate muscle protein synthesis fully.

To me, this suggests that the administered protein was not enough. I tried looking up the protein supplement to see if it contained a higher dosage of leucine with no success, so it could but it’s not likely.

The population in this instance were also untrained which explains why both groups saw marked growth in a majority of parameters. Mechanistically, I could see a potential rationale that older populations have a quicker return to baseline from upregulation of muscle building pathways than their younger counterparts, but this is 100% just me speculating at this point.

Here’s what we know from the studies examined, we can conclude that protein plays a crucial role in achieving strength and hypertrophy goals. However, the timing of protein intake remains less conclusive. Most individuals don’t need to be overly specific about consuming protein immediately after workouts unless they are older individuals are at risk of muscle wasting. In which case, a conversation with a registered dietician would be important.

TL; DR (“Too Long; Didn’t Read”)

You don’t need to sit on the gym floor eating your meal to prevent a loss of gains, as the cover image might lead you to believe.

  1. In most cases, nutrient timing refers to protein timing in discussions.
  2. Protein timing could be important, but you do not have to rush and consume protein immediately after your workout to take advantage of an “anabolic window.”
  3. Ensure you consume sufficient protein daily (around 1.6g/kg body weight).
  4. Spread your protein intake throughout the day with servings scheduled before or after your workout (3-6 times daily).



Cribb P, & Hayes A. Effects of supplement timing and resistance exercise on skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006 Nov;38(11):1918-25. doi: 10.1249/01.mss.0000233790.08788.3e.

Esmarck B, Andersen J, Olsen S, et al. Timing of postexercise protein intake is important for muscle hypertrophy with resistance training in elderly humans. J Physiol. 2001 Aug 15;535(Pt 1):301-11. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7793.2001.00301.x.

Hoffman J, Ratamess N, Tranchina C, et al. Effect of protein-supplement timing on strength, power, and body-composition changes in resistance-trained men, Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2009 Apr;19(2):172-85. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.19.2.172.

Ivy J, & Schoenfeld B. The timing of postexercise protein ingestion is/is not important. Strength Cond J. 2014 Dec;36(6):51-55. | doi: 10.1519/SSC.0000000000000108.

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