Meal Timing: Set Your Watch To More Growth!

Brad Borland
Written By: Brad Borland
October 26th, 2010
Updated: June 13th, 2020
Categories: Articles Nutrition
86.1K Reads
Natural bodybuilder Brad Borland helps you to maximize your muscle gains by leaning what to eat, and when to eat it.

Wake up and drink your whey.Many of you are consistent with your muscle building practices. Your training is on point, your supplement program is sound and you eat all of the right foods including good amounts of protein, complex carbs and healthy fats. But what if you could be better? What if you could tweak your diet to make even more significant gains?

Enter meal timing. Meal timing is the practice of taking in specific macronutrients at specific times regarding training, goals and time of day. Many trainers and nutritionists recommend the standard practice of ingesting a certain amount of proteins, carbs and fats throughout the course of the day. Recent research has shown that manipulating certain nutrients and their amounts can significantly increase gains in strength and size and burn body fat.

Whey Early

Immediately upon waking the body has just undergone a six to eight hour fast void of muscle building blocks of protein. Protein should be the first thing on your mind after such a hiatus. Fast digesting whey protein is the perfect fix to set your body into a positive amino balance once again and will hold off catabolism until you can get those eggs cooked! Take around 20-30 grams of whey first thing in the morning.

Another wise move is to take in a good amount of complex carbs in the morning to help refuel your glycogen stores for the day ahead. This will not only give you energy for your training later in the day, but will also stoke your metabolism to switch into high gear helping you to turn on that fat-burning furnace. Anywhere between 40 -60 grams of a complex carb source such as oatmeal or Ezekiel cereal are great choices.

Mid-Day Slump

Another time to keep a close eye on is the mid/late morning blood-sugar crash. Many of us at jobs tend to forget our important muscle building meals during hectic times of day that we neglect our guidelines to keep us on track. A great (and quick) solution is to pop a protein shake and some healthy fats. This can easily be accomplished with a quick shake of whey and water and around one ounce of nuts such as almonds. Not only will this feed your muscles with the much needed protein boost (not to mention convenient), but will also provide healthy fats to keep blood-sugar levels steady until your next solid meal.

Pre-Workout Loading

One of the most critical times to actually start the recovery process after a training session is before you ever step into the gym. Saturating your muscles with protein prior to training can actually provide not only energy for the grueling session to come but can also provide key amino acids to muscles because they will be readily available for recovery. This will give you an advantage regarding performance and rebuilding for your next intense training bout. Try 30-40 grams of whey protein.

In addition to quality protein you must also consider complex carbs prior to training. Carbs are a must if you want to make any substantial gains at all. Not only will they provide a steady flow of energy, they will also spare protein to be used as energy. 40-60 grams of a quality carb source should be taken with whey protein 30 minutes to an hour prior to lifting. Good sources include oatmeal, 100% whole grain bread, rice or a medium sized apple.

After a brutal training session the body is starving for nutrients.

Post-Workout Punch

We all know by now that post-workout nutrition is of utmost importance for muscle/strength gain. This crucial time has a limited window of opportunity, so it behooves the trainer to take full advantage of this important meal. After a brutal training session the body is starving for nutrients. This “window” which only lasts around an hour or less is the perfect time to down a whey protein shake to shuttle in amino acids as fast as possible to ramp up the recovery process. 40 grams of whey will do the trick.

Another key nutrient at this time is simple carbs. Simple carbs taken with your whey protein will raise insulin levels to help shuttle in more nutrients directly into the muscle. Even though higher insulin levels are related to fat gain, you won’t have to worry about that during your post-workout meal. The higher insulin levels are key in regulating hormone levels and nutrient absorption. Take in around 40-80 grams of simple carbs such as Gatorade depending on your goals.

Take advantage of these times to maximize gains and minimize muscle breakdown. These are just a few simple guidelines to try on your quest to a more muscular and leaner physique.

Meal Timing Q&A With Brad Borland

After a post-workout meal of whey and simple carbs, should I wait several hours before eating my next whole foods meal?

After consuming your post-workout meal of simple carbs and a quality whey protein, you need to consume a whole food meal within an hour to an hour and a half after training. Your muscles are screaming for nutrients after training so the post-workout meal will quickly be processed and absorbed. Not only does training increase protein synthesis, but the consumption of a fast-acting protein such as whey will also.

This will set into motion a series of metabolic events that makes it ideal to have a solid meal shortly after full of whole protein sources such as chicken, fish, turkey, or meat and complex carbs such as potatoes, rice or whole grain pasta. Taking advantage of this time will ensure you are on the right track to more muscle growth.

Is there any benefit to eating protein right before bed, or will the calories just be turned into fat?

Consuming protein prior to calling it a night can have a significant impact on your quest for a better physique. After realizing that you are about to enter into an eight or so hour fast (sleep), you can begin to see the importance protein has on long-term muscle feeding. The trick is to choose a slow releasing protein source such as casein powder or a whole food source such as low fat cottage cheese, Greek yogurt or whole eggs.

These foods have slow digestibility and will keep amino acids within the bloodstream longer throughout the night as opposed to whey which is quickly digested. The small amount of fat will also aid in the slow absorption and help regulate key muscle building hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone. And don't worry about gaining fat at night. As long as you keep your carb level low to moderate and are training with enough intensity, fat gain shouldn't be a problem.

If you do morning cardio apart from your weight lifting, should you use the same post-workout approach for eating?

Yes and no. First, if your goal is to lose body fat and are trying to keep your hard-earned muscle then taking 20-30 grams of whey protein along with no more than 30 grams of fast digesting carbs should do the trick. You are not burning up your glycogen stores as you would after an intense resistance training session so large amount of carbs aren’t necessarily needed.

Second, you can also “play around” with this number as you progress as some trainers are more carb sensitive than others and burn fat at different rates. The key is to keep a close eye on your progress in relation to your carb consumption.

Should I eat the same way on my off days?

It all depends on your ultimate goal - is it to gain mass or lean up? If you are in a mass gaining phase (especially if you are a hard-gainer) then yes, off days should be treated like training days. Your body needs a steady supply of muscle building protein along with generous amounts of carbs to keep your body in the anabolic environment in order to grow. If your goal is to lean up while maintaining muscle mass then cut carbs slightly on your off days.

This is not to say to cut out carbs to a detrimental level. This can be accomplished simply by cutting down on your pre-workout carbs meal and cutting out completely your post-workout simple carb meal. This will have a significant impact on your total caloric intake over the entire day. If you feel you still need to cut carbs even further, then other good times to cut carbs are before bed and evening time meals.

Posted on: Fri, 02/12/2016 - 17:57

Hello evry one , please i need your help guys , i work for long hours , i never have time to cook , so i decide to do a simple idea ,
i cook a soup of a looooot of things ... this is the things i do on it ;...
Artichaud + Broccoli Cabbage + Carrot + Cauliflower + eggplant + Onion +Sweet Potato + Zucchini + Spinach + Leek + parsley + Whit Turnip+Yellow Turnip + Purple one

and then i take peace of meet or chiken or turkey or kidney or liver or sardine ( source of protein )

and some rise or pasta

the question is this soupe good to drink ??
2 time perday , Morning and evening or Morning and night ...

please answer me i need your infos ...
Thanks you M&S

Posted on: Wed, 10/01/2014 - 10:18

I wake up at 4:20am do a boot camp workout at 5-6am, should I drink my whey protein with water and still eat breakfast a couple hours after ?

Posted on: Sun, 05/04/2014 - 19:39

While I agree with most here - this IS a good article, I must suggest that a more realistic-looking picture be added. The one I see has goofy looking photoshopping (strangely tanned abs, but not neck and head?). Perhaps someone more knowledgeable about REAL abdominal structure would be worth employing.
Just sayin'

Posted on: Mon, 12/02/2013 - 08:07

Hello steve

My goal is to build muscle and attain a lean physique.I workout in the evening after work and my meal plan is as follows:
1) 6am- early morning whey with a banana and an whole egg a while later and a flax seed oil capsule.
2) 9am - an orange with some nuts like cashew, almonds , peanuts and walnuts(.5 to .75 ounce in total)
3) 11am - 2 egg white omlette with a slice of whole wheat bread.
4) around 1-1.30 pm - lunch consisting of salad, yoghurt, whole wheat bread, lentil soup, some vegetables and either of (chick peas, kidney beans, green gram or cottage cheese).
5) 4-4.30 pm - an orange with the remaining 0.5 ounce of nuts
6) around 6.30pm - an apple and a whey protein shake as a pre- workout meal.hit the gym around 7.15 to 7.30 pm and workout for 1 to 1.25 hrs.
7) around 8.45 -9pm :post-workout protein shake with simple carb like banana.
8) 9.30pm : post-workout meal containing whole wheat bread or multigrain steam cake with either of chicken or tofu or beans preparation.a multivitamin capsule at bedtime.

What do you suggest about this diet?
On non training days, the preworkout apple n post workout banana is taken out. Awaiting your feedback as to whether this diet in inline with my goal. I workout 5 days a week tue to thursday then sat and sunday.

Posted on: Tue, 11/26/2013 - 06:59

What is the use of a protein shake first thing in the morning when protein cannot be used as an energy source?

Posted on: Mon, 06/10/2013 - 02:38

I am a slim guy and need to gain muscles and weight need your help ..

Posted on: Mon, 02/25/2013 - 17:08

I'll like to ask if eating salmon before bed is ok. it has 20.5g of protein and 7.6g of fat

Posted on: Sun, 02/24/2013 - 08:46

Is eating salmon before bed okay? It has 8.2g of fat and 20.5g of protein

Posted on: Mon, 12/10/2012 - 08:06

I Do Skipping in the morning and workout in the evening is there some mass building meals to gain muscle leavnig supplements?

Steve H
Posted on: Fri, 07/20/2012 - 06:51

Hi Brad. Great read, thanks. I also work night shifts and my day consists of, go to bed at 07:00 and up at 01:00 and have BCAA and whey. 13:30 porridge. 14:30 normally tuna sandwichs or eggs with something. pre workout is creatine with water, apple and bannana. post workout whey shake and BCAA. 18:30 another meal, something like chciken rice and veg. After this im at work and dont really have time to eat much except my break which is usually around midnight.

What should i be eating during this time and how much? should i also eat something else when i get home before bed like cottage cheese? Or shoud i be eating more during the day?
I train a 5 day split with heavy weight and 3 days light cardio (20mins)after my weights. Im 27 5'10", always been skinny no matter what i eat, 154 pounds and would like to bulk up a little.

Thanks for your hard work

Posted on: Sat, 07/14/2012 - 05:43

I work night time, wake up around 3 or 4 PM go to job. I go to gym around 2 am & go to bed around 5pm, any suggestion for me or I should follow the same routine?

Posted on: Sun, 01/29/2012 - 13:17

What natural foods could I use as a substitute for whey protein?


Posted on: Tue, 01/31/2012 - 12:58

Hi Brandon,

Wow, the list is endless. If you are looking for something quick digesting like whey (for say a pre and/or post workout meal) then try egg whites, lean chicken, lean fish, skim milk or low fat or fat free cottage cheese.


Posted on: Tue, 08/23/2011 - 23:22

I love your articles. I can actually understand what you are saying!!! LOL I have been trying to get a good quick tone muscle workout with no success. I have written down your workout for 3 days and I am gonna start it this week. My biggest problem is that I dont eat lunch. I always eat breakfast, decaf with wheat bagle n light cream cheese. Lunch usually not hungry. Dinner is not that bad, but is i want seconds I do it. I normally dont eat dinner pass 7 p.m. My metabolism is slow. I am hypothyroid, have hyperhydrosis n face n head..even though i dont think i have that. I think is my metabolism that is all screwed up, lol so it sounds like i am gloomed not to have a good metabolism. I thought my thyroid was under control, or so i was told by my doctors, but i just found out that my tsh level is below normal, my t3 and t4 results are close to the high end of the normal range......soooo....i am going to the endo doctor tomorrow...and hopefully see what is going on. However, i want to workout, eat healthy and see what happens. any suggestions? have you ran into anyone with all these symptons? thanks.

Posted on: Wed, 08/24/2011 - 17:00

Hi Anna,

No, I have not run into anyone with these symptoms. Please get checked out by your doctor and heed their advice. Let me know how it goes and then we can go from there.


Posted on: Fri, 04/22/2011 - 10:09

Is there a specific brand that would be good for the morning protein

Posted on: Fri, 04/22/2011 - 10:55

I like a variety of brands, but lately I've liked MRM Metabolic Whey for the protein enzymes.


Posted on: Sat, 04/09/2011 - 14:36

I am 24 years old 6 foot tall and 139lbs
I am trying to gain weight, what ever I eat my weight stay still. recently I started use protein gainer, is there any diet to help me gain wight (muscle not fat) fast ?

Posted on: Mon, 04/11/2011 - 12:31

Hi saj,

Please refer to more of my articles and my athlete profile for more info on nutrition. Also, I will be writing more about diets soon, so stay tuned to M&S for more.

Is there a specific question about gaining weight you had?


Posted on: Tue, 04/05/2011 - 10:35

Can I ask, after doing weights and cardio in the evening (say 930pm), i usually have a post training shake. can you recommend a whole food substitute. Can you telle me what would be the best carbs, protein and fat source to take in and in what dosages. thanks

Posted on: Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:16

Hi James,

Generally, taking in some complex carbs, lean protein and healthy fats would be the way to go that late in the evening. Assuming that your goals are to pack on some lean muscle, I would go with around 40 grams of protein (fish, chicken or turkey), 80 or so grams of a complex carb (rice, vegetables) and a healthy fat (avocado in a salad, 1 oz. of nuts).

I hope this answers your question.


Posted on: Mon, 04/04/2011 - 21:12

What is a good whey protein that would be good to take upon wakng up

Posted on: Fri, 04/08/2011 - 13:17

Hi Chris,

Are you talking about brand? I go with MRM. I like the protein enzymes it has included.


Posted on: Thu, 03/10/2011 - 17:35

Hi Steve,
If your trying to gain muscle and keep fat to a minimum or constant (if possible) then why do you have to eat like 500 calories a day more? do they not get stored as fat or is gaining fat part a by-product of gaining muscle? thanks

Posted on: Fri, 02/11/2011 - 04:32

Hi Brad,

I'm struggling to put together a solid diet programme which would consist of 6 meals a day every 3 hours as my job allows me to do so. I'm 24 and my weight is 189lbs and im looking to gain mass and take me up to the 200+lbs mark. I am currently on a weight training programme which does involve compound lifts. I know the basics of which foods I need to be eating but for some reason im really struggling with any creative ideas of putting pen to paper for a diet programme. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Posted on: Fri, 02/11/2011 - 10:10

Hi Gavin,

Check out:

I know this article is a fat loss/muscle gain plan, but you can get an idea of how a basic diet plan can look like. Look it over and let me know your thoughts.


Posted on: Thu, 02/10/2011 - 07:32


I am trying to put together a diet plan to help me bulk up and gain muscle and size. When using the calorie tool it recommends I intake 3,065 per day. I have looked around in so many of the forums on this site and I read I should add a extra 500 calories on top of that which takes it to 3,565. I have done the maths with regards to how much grams of protein,carbs and fat I need per meal(6 a day) which works out as follows: 45g Protein, 75g Carbs and 16g of fat. I am currently taking a whey protein shake called Nutrisport 90+ protein upon waking and before sleeping and usually before a workout which delivers 45.83g of protein, 3.6g of carbs and 1.48g of fats per shake. I am really struggling on how to fit in food around my protein shake? Any advice or help would be greatly appreciated.

Posted on: Thu, 02/10/2011 - 09:50

Hi Gavin,

What exactly is your challenge. Is it types of food, amounts, timing or just don't have creative ideas?

I would love to help, but just need a little more detail.


Posted on: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 12:38

Hey Brad,
Great article - good stuff.
I work out at 5am, 5x a week, M-F. What do you recommend that I do to get some good macro's in and how do I go about my day from there?

Posted on: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 13:16

Hi David,

What is your current eating plan? What exactly are you looking to change?


Posted on: Tue, 01/18/2011 - 09:19

Thanks David. Let me know if you need any more help.

Posted on: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 21:16

Hey Brad,
Thanks very much for taking your time on this - I do need to add some healthy fats - I'm fighting the 'old way' that say stay away from fat...but I am working that in. Veggies are a layup but hard to keep up with and I'm working that as well. As far as the fish, I can eat tuna from a can but was never brought up on seafood - so, again, working that in as well :)

Thanks again - I'll be keeping up on your writings - btw, GREAT article on the 10 Bodypart Training Series.
Keep up the great work and thanks again!

Posted on: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 14:44

Thanks Brad!!!
Gaine Muscle :)

44 yo, 5'11'' - 222lbs down from a nasty beer-laden fatty 255 from last March. Used to play college rugby, baseball and have done several sprint triathlons. Now the Muscle Beach mentality has me :)

Up at 345am: Whey/oat shake with creatine, glutamine and AA-KG
Pre workout: Jack3d or Pre Surge
Gym, 5x a week, 5am: Heavy weight training - Cardio one day
Post Workout: Isolate/Dextrose...glutamine, creatine
Breakfast: 9 egg whites, 1 egg...Oatmeal
Mid-Morning: same eggs and oats or sweet pots from above, or can of tuna and 1 cup of brown rice or two breasts of chicken with brown rice or W/W pasta.
Lunch - Mid-Day, Dinner the same as above along with a scoop of whey somewhere in the middle...
Scoop of Casein before bed - then some ZMA...
That's about every day – Sunday I cheat and hit a buffet with my family for brunch but I try and constrain myself somewhat…Who doesn’t love bacon? :)

Can you help?

Thanks again Brad!!

Posted on: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 15:50


Yes, who doesn't love bacon! One thing I see missing from your plan is healthy fat sources such as avocado, nuts, more whole eggs and oils (such as olive and fatty fish). These will not only give you energy, but will also help keep testosterone levels in check. By lowering carbs and adding a few healthy fats, you will be on your way to a leaner physique.

Try a few more whole eggs at the mid morning meal. Or if eggs aren't on the menu, try 1-2 oz. of almonds or walnuts with chicken and rice.

Another important factor to consider is variety. Try taking in different sources of protein such as fish (such as salmon and tilapia), lean beef and lean turkey. eggs can get a bit redundant and choosing from a variety will ensure you are getting the whole spectrum of amino acids.

If you decide to cut carbs and add in a few fats, I highly recommend consuming more veggies such as broccoli, spinach, salads and other varieties. This will not only help you feel fuller while on lower carbs, it can also help protein digestion.

I hope this helps!


Posted on: Sun, 12/12/2010 - 13:32

I have been working out for acouple years now but really due to collegiate sports. I have been out of sports for about 2-3 yrs. I have finally got a grip on how to do my cardo and lifting for max fat loss. Now I am trying to get my diet right. I would just like some advice or an example plan on how to plan my diet out if my morning training with be at 5 am and my cardo will be mid day at lunch 12. I work out 4 times a week and cardo is switch of HIT for about 20 min and 30-45 min of low intense cardo. Wed, Sat , Sun will all be free days. My free meal is set for either Sat or Friday at dinner

Posted on: Tue, 12/14/2010 - 10:05

Hi Nate,

Please check out some of these articles on my site:

What are your specific physique goals?

Posted on: Mon, 11/29/2010 - 05:43


after my 1 week i've pass from 198lbs to 206lbs. Should I lower the calories? I think a gain of 8lbs in 1 week is way too much?

thanks for your help !

Posted on: Thu, 12/02/2010 - 13:50

Yes, 8 lbs. is a bit much. Are you eating a lot of calories? Has your diet changed in the past week or two? After your 1 week? What exactly does that mean?

Posted on: Fri, 12/03/2010 - 19:52

I should have been more specific...I started a bulking per the BMR calculator on this site I should be eating 3287 cal to right now my diet is 3650 cal. I have a perfect ratio of 50% carb 30$ prot and 20% healthy fat.

I am 6'4, 23 years old, 205 lbs waist is 33'
I've started my bulk at 198 lbs.

Posted on: Sun, 11/21/2010 - 12:55

Thanks for all of the great questions and comments!

Posted on: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 09:28


When you say add 300 calories per day you mean 300 calories on the overall. Meaning if Im at 3200 i should go for 3500 and stay on 3500...or put 300 calories more on each day so if I start 3200, go to 3500 the next day, 3800 the day after etc..


Posted on: Mon, 11/22/2010 - 13:17

Hi Charles, Yes 300 per day and stay there for a significant amount of time until you see any results. Adjust from there. So, if you were taking in 3200 go to 3500 and stay there for around 3-4 weeks.

Posted on: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 23:10

Hi Steve,

I plan on starting the 2 year program. I woke up at 5ham with a protein shake + glutamine + apple , then pre-workout (5h30am) I take creatine mixed with dextrose, go to the gym at 6am sipping on BCAA, take my post work-out shake (whey + glutamine + creatine + dextrose) and then eat a complete meal at 7h30. By the end of the day i turn around 3400-3500 cal and 289g of proteins. I am 6'4" 195lbs fat% around 12%. I am pretty confident about the training, but unsure about the diet..i red almost all the articles on the site and still unsure if I eat engouh or too much. With what I described what do you think?

thanks again

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 08:35

Hi Charles,

On paper your diet looks good. I recommend keeping a close eye on the scale. you want to gain about 1-2 pounds per month during your first year, give or take. If you are gaining 4+ pounds per month, back off the calories by about 200-300 per day and see what happens. If you aren't gaining any weight, add about 300 calories per day.

It will take some time to learn your body, but this method will help.

After your first year of training your goal should be about 1 pound per month max.

Posted on: Mon, 11/15/2010 - 19:10

I workout at 5:30am in the mornings and would like to know if I should be eating something (like having a protein shake)before I workout.
Currently, I have been taking jack3d for energy.
My goal is to gain 10-15lbs. of muscle so im confused on how to schedule my diet since I workout so early in the mornings.

Can you help me?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 11/15/2010 - 19:22

Hi Isao,

At minimum you should be having a whey shake first thing upon waking up. I would also recommend sipping on BCAAs during training, using a product like Scivation Xtend.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 08:02

Hi Isao,

You don't have to stop taking Jack3d. Jack3d is a pre-workout, and Scivation Xtend is BCAAs, glutamine and more.

Posted on: Mon, 11/15/2010 - 21:41

Hi Steve,
Thanks but should I stop taking jack3d and start taking Scivation Xtend?

Posted on: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 13:21

Thank you very much for your help.

Posted on: Wed, 11/03/2010 - 02:01

Excellent article Brad.

I will definitely have some almonds during my 10:00 meal, along with my usual turkey+cheese sandwich (with whole grain bread of course).

I am hitting the gym at about 15:30 -finishing my work at 15:00- so I would like to here your suggestion for a quick snack during that quarter of an hour. I usually have an apple and a chocolate milk.