OK, so i had a thought today and i want to ask you guys your opinion. It may be a little hard to explain so please bear with me!
I am a skinny guy eating primally and trying to gain lean muscle mass. I feel my diet is pretty good and i am pretty heavy on the protein. My question is based around the idea of - are there optimal times to eat lots of food compared to other times when it is less important? i.e. should i stock up on protein heavy foods a certain time before working out so that my body has an immediate store of protein to start repairing muscle tissues? how long is the window of opportunity after working out where i can eat more protein and the body will be using it to construct muscle?
i guess i need to know, how long does nutritional protein stay in the body for once digested?
the reason i ask this is because i seem to be eating a hell of a lot of food - all the time - this can be expensive - so i am wondering is there certain times during the week when i should pile the food in and then other times where it is not as necessary?
I didn't raise my hand.
Here's an article from Livestrong that says research indicates taking in protein 1 hour before and 1 hour after a workout promotes muscle gain.  Here's the paper that the quote is probably referencing.  You're probably better off reading the Livestrong article's summary.
 The Best Time To Take Protein To Build Muscles | LIVESTRONG.COM
Protein intake can occur before, during or after a workout session. Research generally supports the notion that protein supplementation is most efficient the closer it is to the workout, according to exercise scientist Jay Hoffman. Your body is at its greatest need for protein about one hour before a workout and one hour afterward. Protein ingestion within an hour before or after a resistance training session has been shown to significantly increase the cross-sectional area of muscle fibers
It appears that a whole protein and carbo-
hydrate supplement should be con-
sumed immediately after or within an
hour of an exercise session. Whey pro-
tein may provide the greater immedi-
ate increase in the rate of protein syn-
thesis. However, a combination of
whey and casein protein may be an ef-
fective supplement that will generate
immediate and prolonged elevations
in protein synthesis rates. Amino
acids are also effective in increasing
muscle protein synthesis but appear to
be more effective when consumed im-
mediately before, rather than after,
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That is a link to an article that address the question. Not that I am advocating intermittent fasting for the poster, but that meal timing and all the other gimmicks really are not that useful for the average person. In fact, there are new studies that indicate working out fasted and fasting after the workout for up to 12 hours significantly increases human grown hormone, helping put on more muscle. So, which are you going to believe? If you read through the Lean Saloon blog, Johnny makes some great recommendations based on his experience.
I used to worry about making sure to get 1 gram protein for each pound of lean bodyweight, eat protein before my workout, post workout, etc. Now, I just eat when I am ready to eat, even though I may have done my workout 6-7 hours prior.
Follow the money and understand the motivation behind those recommendations of timing your food intake. The food industry and supplement companies want you to eat and eat constantly. Skipping meals, fasting, and eating less in general hurts their bottom line.
Find what works for you. You can test which method works best for you. If eating before and after your workouts produces the best results based on your tape measurements, then stick with it. Otherwise, don't stress about it and eat whenever you are hungry.
Good points john. But if you're working out fasted and fasting afterward, when do you eat!?! Hehe. I know you said you personally eat whenever, but I mean theoretically if you're going for the benefits stated. Anyway.
I've been following Leangains pretty closely for the past several months so I eat as soon as I get home from the gym and shower, usually about 45 minutes post-workout. I also eat higher calories in general on workout days and drop them a good bit lower on rest days. It's been working pretty good for me.
And, I am not saying Leangains approach is bad, and keep it up if it works for you. My point is that it is highly unlikely there is any appreciable benefit to eating 30 minutes after your workout versus any other time. So, why stress over meal timing? However, you are right, you have to eat sometime. So, if you are hungry when you get home, then you should eat.
Let’s look at the evidence. It would appear that from the first humans forward people have been able to put on significant muscle mass (most males would love to have a body like many 2500 year old Greek statues) without having to ingest X (whatever the current fad is) within X amount of time (whatever the current “experts” are saying). This therefore suggests that muscle growth occurs over a time period exceeding “post workout”. In fact, I thought the “experts” say sleep is necessary for muscle recovery and rebuilding? Optimal meal timing probably does help, but the real question is whether optimal timing makes a significant difference. In other words, is it worth the hassle and cost? My opinion is no, as I don’t make my living from bodybuilding (which would be the only way I could justify such constant inconvenience).
My only concern is that I'm starting to plateau and that I'm going to have to start employing "gimmicky" tricks to breakthrough.
A plateau with your lifts might mean you need to change your rep scheme, the type of lifts you are doing, or the weight. We all hit those from time to time. Check out some periodization suggestions, which can really work if you use them correctly. I try to change my routine every eight weeks. I might do high volume lighter weight for fatigue and to add size for a few months, then I will switch to low volume but very heavy weight for strength gains.