Q: I’ve read that you are a proponent of “timing” the macronutrients to help bring about a certain physiological effect within the body, depending on when you work out and what the specific goal is at the time. Very simply, how do you time your cardio, training and carbs when looking to cut vs. adding size?
A: Yes, without a doubt I believe that a calorie is not just a calorie, and that each specific food, as well as how you time the foods, will ignite a specific and somewhat controllable hormonal cascade within the body. I also believe that this is a major factor in getting the desired effect from your overall program. While your question creates the temptation to write a 20-page essay on the subject, I will contain myself to just answering your question.
When I’m in a phase in which the main goal is to support lean mass gains, I tend to skip morning cardio and instead go straight to my first meal, which will contain a significant amount of carbs (along with protein and a little fat). I believe that’s necessary in order to bring the body out of a catabolic state immediately and set it back on a path of anabolism.
When dropping bodyfat is of the highest priority, however, I will perform fasted cardio—with some branched-chain amino acids and glutamine in my system—in the a.m. and follow that up with a meal of only protein and fats. It will not be until about two hours later, at my second meal, that I will have carbs. The thought is to allow cortisol to remain elevated for a longer period, as it is extremely catabolic to fat cells as well as muscle.
I always do my weight training in the early evening after my third or fourth meal, regardless of my training phase. When I’m adding muscle, I will normally do a short cardio session right after my workout and then demolish a good portion of carbs along with protein (usually whey and casein) as soon as my heart rate returns to normal.
When it’s time to get shredded, I take in whey protein shortly after completing my last repetition and then wait about 60 minutes before having a solid protein-and-carb meal. I feel that it allows the fat-burning effect of training to continue for a longer period while also keeping natural growth hormone levels elevated, both of which should help me get ripped somewhat more efficiently.