Many people struggle to build muscle and get stronger. Fortunately the diagnosis is often easy – they need to eat more, or better yet, eat smarter! In my time as a nutritionist I've been hard pressed to find a person who's eating enough but isn't growing.

The trend of late has been for strength coaches and trainers such as Chad Waterbury and Christian Thibaudeau to push the recovery and adaptive limits of natural bodybuilders and weight lifters. This makes proper nutrition and eating enough calories more and more important.

But packing on the calories at the wrong times of day can be detrimental to your success because the powers of insulin can work against you by laying down slabs of fat instead of slabs of muscle. This is why timing is so important.

The three key times for maximizing muscle growth are:

1 – Upon Waking

This is the only time of day that you're in a truly fasted state. Your glycogen stores are low as they were used up during the night, and your body's cortisol levels are naturally higher. To combat this, protein, carbohydrates, and a little fat are needed right way! Unfortunately, many people are on the run in the mornings and have trouble consuming enough calories. Try this 800+ calorie blender bomb:

  • 1 Cup rolled oats
  • 1 Scoop Vanilla Metabolic Drive® Protein
  • 1 medium diced apple
  • 0.5oz pecans
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. Splenda
  • 2 Cups water
  • 4 Ice Cubes

Blend this up, pour it into a huge glass, and drink it as you get ready in the morning or on your way to work. This meal is full of low impact carbs, quality fast and slow digesting protein, fiber, and healthy fats.

2 – During and Following a Workout

This is the time of day when your body is primed for taking in nutrients. The combination of simple carbohydrates and amino acids (e.g. Plazma™) will cause rapid glycogen resynthesis, glucose and amino acid uptake into muscles, protein synthesis, and fat loss (yes, research shows you can consume simple sugars at this time and still have increased fat oxidation.

3 – Before Bed

At bedtime you're getting ready to embark on an 8 hour fast. Fortunately this isn't as bad as it sounds because you need this down time to repair muscle damage and rebuild for growth.

Taking ZMA® is a great start to your pre-bed ritual as the magnesium will help improve your sleep quality and if you're deficient, the zinc will allow for optimal Testosterone levels. Take your ZMA 45 minutes before hitting the sack. Thirty minutes later, consume 40-60 grams of slow release protein, casein (e.g. Metabolic Drive and/or cottage cheese), with the addition of some healthy fats (e.g. peanuts butter, cashews, or almonds). The combination of these two food types will allow for extremely slow gastric emptying and thus prolonged digestion. Prolonging digestion insures a steady stream of amino acids throughout the night to maximize protein synthesis and muscle growth.

Don't settle for not achieving your lean body mass goals. Apply these nutrient timing strategies and you'll be throwing away your dress shirts with the 15-inch necks in no time.