Formulators are constantly researching where ingredients fall on the exercise timeline. Nutrient timing impacts how brands market their products, and the industry must adapt to ever-changing intake recommendations on various ingredients.
The major timing categories haven’t shifted. They are:
Although certain ingredients fall into one category, there are the diamonds in the rough—ingredients that fall into more than one category. Considering the latest research and expert opinions provides sports nutrition businesses a roadmap allowing them to navigate a shifting industry.
Protein remains a powerhouse in the sports nutrition world. Various forms of protein act at different speeds, and whey stands alone as the fastest. A byproduct of dairy, whey protein contains high levels of leucine, which plays a key part in muscle growth and repair.
“In general, whey is a faster absorbing protein compared to, well, every other type of protein (casein, rice, hemp, soy, etc.),” stated Doug Kalman, R.D., a nutrition researcher and co-founder of International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN). “How whey is obtained may make an impact on its respective physiological effects, however, all wheys are absorbed at relatively the same rate.”
Casein protein, much like whey, is also a byproduct of dairy. Unlike whey protein, casein is a much slower releasing protein. Numerous studies have examined the mechanisms behind casein’s slow nature and where it fits in the nutrient timeline.
One such study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States found that patients had the most beneficial amino acid distribution from casein protein during the period after dinner and before sleep called postprandial.3
Creatine is an amino acid found naturally in both the body’s muscles and the brain, where it directly impacts cellular energy production. Creatine is a bit of a mystery in the sports nutrition industry because there hasn’t been a great deal of research conducted to find out where it fits in the sports nutrition timeline. Existing research on the topic has found only slight differences between taking creatine before versus after exercise.
As the most widely consumed psychoactive drug in the world, caffeine has an impressive amount of research behind its application in sports nutrition. This stimulant can enhance performance in trained athletes when consumed in low-to-moderate dosages, and help sustain maximal endurance exercise.
For sports nutrition formulators, it can be easy to go either lower or higher than the dosage used in studies, thus throwing off the timing effectiveness. Nutrient timing relies heavily on the dosage amount, so consumer education and product transparency will go a long way.
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