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Getting from the gym to the fridge with more urgency than you have throughout your whole workout? This is probably because of the anabolic window. If you have no idea what we’re talking about, the anabolic window is a concept that refers to a limited time period right after your workout where unless you’re filling your face with a protein bar within 30 minutes of finishing off your last set, you’re going to be missing out on the gains.
To understand why we have to look to science.
After your workout, your glycogen levels are left seriously depleted, which can mean that muscle adaptation becomes a lot harder. Put simply, your muscles are knackered.
Consuming protein and carbohydrates straight after therefore helps to replenish these stores and increase post-exercise insulin, which is important stuff when it comes to preventing muscle protein breakdown.
But what if you can’t get hold of your meal within 30 minutes? Will missing your post-workout meal make all your hard work redundant? Recent studies think not.
So, hold off on the protein shake and let’s see if the anabolic window really matters.
A study in the Journal of the International Society Sports Nutrition not only questioned the importance of this 30-minute window, but they challenged its existence at all!
They concluded that it was less about when you got your carbohydrates and protein and more about ensuring that when you do get it, you get enough.
Of course, for professional athletes, nutrient cycling is an integral part of their training programme, but for the average individual looking at making progress, the anabolic window seems to add an unnecessary extra complication.
Nutrition is hard enough without having to worry about when as well as what. As long as you are fuelling your body and providing it with everything it needs throughout the day, it seems you can be a little more flexible as to when.
It is not that the anabolic window doesn’t matter, but rather it should not be the most crucial factor when beginning a training programme. Get your head around the basics first before mindlessly downing your protein shake.
What is your favourite post workout meal? Let us know in the comments below.