Learning what to eat is one thing - understanding when to eat is another. Learn about the benefits of carb control and macro timing below.

Meal timing

What it means: Carb control and macronutrient timing is a nutritional method that looks at the physiological impact of carbohydrates, fat and protein consumed over an individual’s day. With specific direction, carb controlled diets can help us eliminate refined, processed and high-sugar carbs in exchange for quality fuel, timed to best suit our metabolisms.

Good For: Fat loss

Why: This approach is an option for those struggling to restrict themselves to conventional dieting and calorie restriction. Carb control/macro timing ensures you are honouring your body’s need for certain nutrients but timing your intake so it is the most beneficial for your workouts. Nutritionist Tracie Hyam Connor (tracietalkshealth.com.au), says complex carbohydrates should be consumed before energy expenditure (exercise) or after sleep (fasting). “Our bodies require carbs for sustained energy. Simple carbs will also be beneficial before exercise to boost energy levels and can assist with the recovery post–workout.  This is a general rule of thumb, but carb requirements do differ with each person.  Lower carb diets for weight loss have been proven successful, primarily because of the less energy consumed when carbs are cut,” says Hyam Connor.

How to do it: Sylvia North, New Zealand registered dietitian and integrative nutritionist says to first track your usual diet for several days, then incorporate specific ranges for carbs, protein and fats – ensuring to honour your individual needs. “A low carb controlled approach for fat loss may be anywhere between 50 to 100 grams of total carbohydrates per day,” says North. “For timing, I often suggest eating closer to the high end (70 to 100g) on training days and lower on sedentary days.  Generally, it can be better to choose higher carb foods later in the day as your recovery fuel as opposed to first thing in the morning. If the goal is for fat loss, reserving carbs until after training allows for greater fat burn during the day.”


Ideal Food Plan:

North’s suggested carb-control food plan:

Breakfast: smoothie: one handful of non-starchy vegetables (e.g. spinach, broccoli, zucchini), one handful of low-sugar seasonal fruit (e.g. kiwi, berries, lemon, lime), one scoop of natural protein powder and one serving of fat such as 1/3-1/2 avocado, 1-2 tbsp linseed oil or 1-2 tbsp of nut butter.

Lunch: salad: one big handful of leafy salad, one handful of non-starchy stir-fry or roast vegetables (capsicum, zucchini, broccoli, green beans), meatballs (100g meat), 1-2 tbsp of olive-oil-based dressing or homemade dip (e.g. hummus).

Dinner: family roast chicken: 60-100g of roasted starchy vegetables such as potato, carrot, kumara, beetroot, onions, parsnip, or pumpkin,  1-2 cups of non-starchy vegetables such as steamed silverbeet, broccoli, zucchini, cauliflower with salt, olive or avocado oil or butter for fats, one chicken leg (100g meat), skin on or off. If skin off, add 1-2 tsp of olive oil/avocado oil/butter to steamed greens.

NEXT: Learn more about meal timing tricks and when to eat pre and post workout here.