One of the first tips you learn in the gym is the importance of post workout nutrition. However, we’re now armed with better information about the anabolic window and what to eat after a workout. The post workout anabolic window is thought to be so important because of protein synthesis (anabolic) and protein breakdown (catabolic), two processes that are constantly occurring within your muscles. The more protein synthesis and the less protein breakdown that occurs within your muscles, the more it will grow. And it’s what happens to these two processes after we workout where the anabolic window comes into the picture.
After a workout, the longer you go without eating an adequate post-workout after your workout, the more your protein breakdown rates will continue to increase, eventually reaching the point where they exceed your protein synthesis rates and hence create a catabolic state. To prevent this, you can simply ingest a protein-rich post-workout meal or shake, as this has been shown to not only prevent muscle breakdown from increasing, but it also increases your protein synthesis levels to a far greater degree.
And when carbs are consumed shortly post-workout, you experience a supercompensation of glycogen replenishment in your muscles. This would all lead to more growth and better recovery, and is why we’ve been led to believe in the importance of hitting that anabolic window after every workout. But there are a few flaws in the above argument. First, this theory was based on the findings of fasted training. Second, protein breakdown no longer becomes a concern when you ingest an adequate pre-workout meal. And lastly, as long as you eat enough carbs throughout the day, your body eventually fills its glycogen stores back up regardless of whether you had them within your post-workout meal.
That said, when diving deeper into the research, it’s clear that it focused mostly on untrained individuals. And post-workout nutrition timing and the anabolic window may become increasingly important as you gain more training experience.
Here’s a brief summary of how all of this research regarding the post workout anabolic window applies to you:
1. If you’re training fasted first thing in the morning, OR if you’re about to workout and haven’t eaten a protein-rich meal in the past 2-4 hours, you should aim to get at least 20g of ideally whey protein in within an hour after your workout to prevent any potential muscle breakdown. Additional carbs can be added to this but is mainly beneficial if you’re training again later that day.
2. If you’ve had a protein-rich meal shortly before your workout, as long as you ingest a protein-rich meal within a few hours post-workout, that will be sufficient to promote muscle recovery/protein synthesis and prevent any potential muscle breakdown.
3. If you’re seeking to maximize growth and are past the “newbie” stage, ingesting at least 20g of protein (e.g. Whey) shortly post-workout is recommended as it may provide a slight benefit for growth and strength.
4. Total daily protein intake is most important! Focus on nailing that down first before worrying about protein timing.
Even if at the end of the day it provides just a slight benefit, it’s the little details like your protein timing that can all add up and end up making a significant difference in the rate of gains that you’re making. And for a step-by-step program that optimizes all of these little variables for you, by showing you exactly how to work out and when and what to eat every week in order to build muscle as efficiently as possible with science, then simply take the analysis quiz below to discover which specific program is best for your body and where it’s currently at:
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