Meal Schedule, Muscle Development and Sports Performance

Nutrition is still full of myths. But sports training is not an understatement either. So you can imagine what happens when we unite both spheres and talk about sports nutrition: a jumble of beliefs and legends.

Meal Schedule, Bodybuilding and Sports Performance


A few weeks ago, the International Society of Sports Nutrition published its position on a popular topic of sports nutrition, the influence on sports performance and muscle development of the timing and composition of meals and their synchronization with exercise (nutrient timing). The document is entitled "International society of sports nutrition position stand: nutrient timing (2017)" and for those who prefer a shortened version, these are its conclusions translated into Spanish:

1. Endogenous glycogen reserves are maximized by following a high-carbohydrate diet (8-12 g of carbohydrate per kg body weight per day); these reserves are depleted primarily by high exercise volume.

  • If rapid glycogen recharge (<4 hours) is required, the following strategies should be considered:
  • Carbohydrate intake (1.2 g / kg / h) with preference for sources with high glycaemic index (> 70)
  • Adding caffeine (3-8 mg/kg)
  • Combine carbohydrates (0.8 g / kg / h) with protein (0.2-0.4 g / kg / h).

3. Prolonged (> 60 min) high intensity (> 70% VO2max) exercise challenges energy supply and fluid regulation, so carbohydrates should be consumed at a rate of ~ 30-60 g of carbohydrate / h at 6-8% (180-360 ml) every 10-15 min throughout the exercise, particularly in those exercise sessions that go beyond 70 min. When carbohydrate supply is inadequate, the addition of protein can help increase performance, improve muscle damage, promote euglycemia and facilitate glycogen re-synthesis.

4. Carbohydrate intake throughout strength exercise (e.g., 3-6 series of 8-12 maximum repetitions using multiple exercises targeting all major muscle groups) has been shown to promote euglycemia and increase glycogen stores. Consuming carbohydrates alone or in combination with protein during strength exercise increases muscle glycogen stores, improves muscle damage and facilitates greater training adaptations, both short and long term.

5. Achieving total daily protein intake should be considered important, preferably with evenly spaced feeding (approximately every 3-4 hours during the day), .

6.Ingestion of essential amino acids (EAA, approximately 10 g), either in free form or as part of a protein bolus of approximately 20-40 g, has been shown to stimulate muscle protein synthesis (MPS).

7. Pre- and post-exercise nutritional interventions (carbohydrates + protein or protein alone) can work as an effective strategy to support increased strength and improved body composition. However, the size and timing of a preexercise meal can affect the need for protein feeding after exercise.

8. Post-exercise (up to 2 hours after completion) intake of high-quality protein sources stimulates muscle protein synthesis (MPS).

9. In a scenario without exercise, changing the frequency of meals has shown little impact on weight loss and body composition, and there is some evidence that the frequency of meals can favorably improve appetite and satiety. More research is needed to determine the influence of combining an exercise programme with changes in meal frequency on weight loss and body composition; preliminary research indicates potential benefit

10. Intake of a 20-40 g protein dose (0.25-0.40 g/kg body mass/dose) from a high-quality source every three to four hours appears to affect the rate of muscle protein synthesis more favourably than other dietary patterns and is associated with better body composition and performance results.

11. Consuming casein (~ 30-40 g) before sleep can increase muscle synthesis and metabolic rate throughout the night without influencing lipolysis.

The document is freely accessible, so if you are interested in the subject, I encourage you to read it in its entirety.

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On the other hand, I would remind you that you do not need to spend money on supplements, shakes and pills to comply with these recommendations, you can also follow them (I would say even healthier) by simply planning your diet properly.

In addition, these are conclusions on which experts have found evidence of some strength, so I would forget any other statements or advice we may have heard regarding meal times, sports performance and bodybuilding. They probably don't have enough evidence behind it.
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