NASM CNC Chapter 12: Nutrient timing

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    Chapter Goals:

    • Discuss the timing of nutrients.
    • Find out the strategies used for nutrient timing for performance objectives such as endurance and strength.
    • Find out the strategies for timing nutrients to enhance or alter body composition.
    • Know the key myths and any hot topics that relate to timing nutrients.
    • Talk about the role the timing nutrient intake plays in the overall strategy of nutrition.

    Nutrient Timing Introduction

    This is a hot topic for all fitness professionals and other academicians. The working definition that is used for nutrient timing is “the temporal positioning of nutrients throughout the day or relative to the bout of exercise for the maximization of performance or body composition.

    Overview of Metabolism


    This is the body’s main source of fuel and this determines the quality of the energy or the work capacity. They are broken down to glucose in order to be used by the body for eating, moving, breathing, and simply thinking. The brain may be only 2% of total weight, but it uses 20% of glucose for the body.


    This is found in carbs and plays a role in how fast we digest food, and thus how fast we use energy. It is made of plant parts, and it does not get digested or absorbed. 


    The main thought when it comes to physical activity is protein. This comes from many sources and does more than just repair and build muscle. The proteins are constructed of amino acids and they are needed for things such as repair and building muscle, being the building blocks of our bones, muscle, skin, cartilage, and the making of enzymes and hormones alike. The recommendations for this macronutrient is going to be 10 – 35% of total energy intake.


    Fat is a more concentrated source of energy for an athlete since it is more than double the provided calories of carbs and protein. We see about 9 calories per gram here. Fatty acids are the most endogenous energy in the body due to the amount stored. Fat also plays vital roles in the absorption of nutrients, the regulation of hormones, our heart health, the regulation of blood pressure, protection against impacts to vital organs, and also a role in the health of our skin and hair. The vitamins A, D, E, and K are all in need of fat to actually be used by our bodies. Fat gives us the feeling of being full quicker. We also store fat in muscles for access when training. 

    Timing of Nutrients

    Nutrition is a priority for athletic populations. This is because we need to give our body sufficient levels of energy, repair our worked muscles, regulate all of our hormones, and combat bodily fatigue. Each macronutrient has a role that it fills a little better than the other, but technically they share the same use as energy. The body’s last choice for energy use is protein since it serves many more critical functions.

    The body usually stores 90 – 120minutes worth of energy for endurance exercise. As the demand of exercise is placed onto the body, the muscle glycogen that has been stored is depleted continuously. When people say they’ve hit the wall, this means that they have used up the stores and the body needs to use other forms of energy. The stores of energy in the body are as follows:

    • ATP – PC is stored in muscles and only has 5 calories worth of energy ready to go.
    • The carb energy source sees 80 calories of energy in the blood glucose, 400 in the liver glycogen stores, and 1500 in the muscle glycogen stores. 
    • For fat as the energy source, we have 7 calories of energy held in our serum free fatty acids, 75 in our serum triglycerides, 2,500 in our muscle triglycerides, and then more than 80,000 in our stored adipose tissues around the body.
    • The last macronutrient is the protein, and here we store around 30,000 calories for use if the need gets there.

    Nutrient Timing Applications: Endurance vs. Strength-Based Activity

    Carbs and fats are going to be the main substrates for use during endurance events. The intensity of the activity will determine how much is contributed by each. For the moderate and high intensity work, we will see the use of carbs as the main fuel source, making it so that the muscle and liver glycogen is most important. For the long and slower endurance activities, we see the use of fats more so.

    Endurance Exercise

    The number of carbs used by endurance athletes will depend on their size, their gender, the training program they follow, and their specific sport of choice. It is normal to have a bit of a struggle to reach the daily calories needs of an endurance athlete. Carbs are absolutely critical, and we see manipulation of these stores more so for events having to do with endurance in the use of carb loading techniques. This will be talked about later, but it is essentially the maximization of glycogen sores through the loading of or unloading of carbs on certain days prior to an event. 

    Resistance Exercise

    The main goal for strength athletes is going to be having the calories they need for the daily activity they are doing, and essentially build and repair their muscles in time for the next session. Resistance exercise is well known to stimulate the muscle protein synthesis, which can be further stimulated by protein ingestion in particular times. Actual muscle hypertrophy cannot happen without having a properly designed resistance training program. The timing of the nutrients is only one small part, but If done properly, we can maximize our results. 

    Myths and Hot Topics

    Nutrition will always have a lot of information that is right and wrong out there. 

    Is it Possible to Build Muscle and Lose Fat Simultaneously?

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    A lot of people have always stated that any weight loss will see the loss in both fat and muscle at the same time, and most of that coming from the lean tissue. More recently, however, we have found that notion challenged. It is possible to gain lean muscle mass and lose fat at the same time when we look at what we are taking into our bodies. The use of protein timing and the proper amounts will allow us to achieve this goal. When eating double the USDA recommendations for protein, we see that people were able to lose fat and build muscle at the same time. there was not a significant difference past this double amount. 

    The time it takes carbohydrates to digest is 1 – 2 hours. For proteins it is up to 3 – 4 hours, and then for fat it can be upwards of 6 hours. 

    Carbohydrate Periodization

    This involves the manipulation of intake day to day or possibly even a per meal basis. The scenarios that are used are one of four. There is fasted training, recover low, sleep low/train low, and twice a day training. 

    Anabolic Window

    This is a reference to the amount of time after exercise where nutrients like protein and carbs can maximize the amount of growth and replenishment that occurs in the body. 

    The window is usually seen as 30 – 45 minutes following cessation of exercise, and up to 1 – 2 hours for the optimization of protein synthesis. 

    Breakfast – The Most Important Meal of the Day?

    This word broken down literally means that you are breaking your fast, with the act of sleeping being that fasting time. Breakfast plays many important roles for the body. When take, it tells the body to expect glucose throughout the day and puts you in a much better state. When skipped, it puts the body in a state of not expecting those glucose molecules coming in, and thus a more negative state. When we have breakfast, we see improvements occur in performance, behavior, cognition, and concentration. It also helps us to achieve the appropriate micro and macronutrient goals throughout the day.

    NASM CNC Chapter 12: Nutrient timing 1
    NASM CNC Chapter 12: Nutrient timing 2
    NASM CNC Chapter 12: Nutrient timing 3

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