Anabolic Window: Fact or Fiction?
Fitness enthusiasts around the World claim there to be a magic “anabolic window” after every workout. If you have done any research on optimal muscle building, I am sure somewhere a long the way you read something about maximizing gains by consuming macros within 30 minutes of physical exercise. Fitness enthusiasts swear that drinking protein within 30 min of completing training is a mandatory part of packing on mass… but the big question is how much truth there is to this shared ideology. In this article I will aim to form a conclusion to the validity of the existence of an anabolic window; optimal duration of time after a work out that essential macros should be consumed in order to maximize post work out nutrition.
Eating immediately after a workout is crucial for promoting muscle protein synthesis and glycogen storage. After you lift weights, your muscle fibers are in a damaged state and your glycogen stores (carbohydrate storage accessible for immediate energy) are depleted. However, unless you are training early in the morning on an empty stomach, there is less of an urgency placed on consuming a meal post work out. Consuming a small amount of macros; about 20g of protein, prior to training will provide your muscles with the necessary amino acids needed to keep you fueled up to 2-3 hours post work out. That being said whether your post work out meal is consumed within 30 min after training or after a couple hours, your body is still using the amino acids from your pre-workout meal to stimulate maximal growth and recovery.
On the other hand, if your last meal is consumed hours prior to training, eating immediately after your work out will help reverse the catabolic state in your body and maximize muscle growth. 25-30 grams of protein immediately after training will provide your body with the fuel it needs to maximize muscle growth. Muscle breakdown is real, and post work out nutrition is important to spike insulin levels and slowdown muscle breakdown. This is only the case when training on an empty stomach or if it’s been a few hours since eating prior to training.
Science has evolved over the years and studies have started to incorporate overall daily macro (caloric) intake. Making it debatable whether improvements in strength and muscle size were the results of an increase in caloric intake throughout the rest of the day or the consumption of protein immediately following a work out.
In conclusion, there’s no scientific evidence that proves the effectiveness of consuming macros within 30min of training or evidence that shows ingesting carbs and protein immediately after a workout raises muscle protein synthesis. Consuming a Protein shake with 25-30g of Protein post work out will not hurt muscle growth. Delaying the consumption of post work out nutrition will not hurt growth potential either. In other words, there’s no clear benefit to having a post-workout shake. It may offer slight benefits in some rare cases, but it’s only going to make a significant impact over the long run. You can still gain a substantial amount of strength and size even when waiting to eat post training. Instead of focusing on the “imaginary (anabolic) window” try to eat every few hours so that you are consuming an adequate amount of carbs and protein through out the day to keep your energy levels high in the gym.
Consuming excess calories and lifting consistently are necessary if you want to build muscle as fast as possible at the end of the day, drinking a shake post work out will not make a huge difference. However, if you are looking for a great shake to add to your post-workout routine I recommend Legion Athletics Whey+ with Almond Milk, and a scoop of peanut butter. I drink about two shakes a day, one in the morning, and the other post work out. That being said there are no magical “anabolic” benefits to drinking this shake, I use it as a meal replacement that helps me reach my target macros and reduces recovery time.