Anabolic Window after Workout: Not a complete Myth
How many of you stay adamant about grabbing your post workout meal immediately after the workout? Oh! I really need to rush for that protein shake or my gains will be wasted. Don`t you fall in the same category? And why not, this is what you have been taught and you are following it from a long time now. So, whether is it a debunked theory or is there any good in eating within the anabolic window after workout?
The Anabolic Window after workout is certainly hyped and doesn`t work in a fashion as a lot of fitness gurus tell you. There is going to be no magic gains by just having a post workout meal within the 30 minutes after workout. But however there are some cases where anabolic window does make sense and is not a complete myth.
What is Anabolic Window?
An anabolic window is an imaginary window which supposedly exists for only 30 minutes after the workout. You are required to have your post workout meal within this anabolic window or you are going to waste your gains. Have your post workout meal within anabolic window to get an edge in terms of muscle gain and recovery.
This notion sounds so valid that most people in fitness industry are duped with this bro science. Consuming a right mix of fast digesting protein and simple carbohydrates do have benefits for your recovery and muscle gain.
But hardly there is any science that proves the efficacy of immediately grabbing the post workout meal. Now you may think if there is no such science behind this theory, why people are going crazy after the anabolic window?
Why so much hype about Anabolic Window?
There are lots of myths that have been prevailing in our fitness industry. No wonder why the Anabolic Window myth is also one among them. Our Supplement industry is very good in tricking the consumers. It is a no brainer that you believe taking your post workout shake immediately after workout will provide you faster muscle gains.
It is certain that your muscle fibres get damaged and your glycogen stores become empty after an intense workout. But this doesn’t mean that eating the post workout meal just after workout will start muscle building process immediately and accelerate your muscle growth.
However if you just see it on the face value, anyone can fall for this fallacy. Your muscle glycogen stores are empty and muscle tissues are damaged. So drinking a fast acting protein shake and having high GI carbohydrates like dextrose will provide purported benefits of anabolic window.
This hardly has any evidence and real science behind this. Our bodies don’t function this way and it is no more than just a bro science. You will not experience any additional benefit of consuming within anabolic window in normal circumstances. However, if your training is beyond normal circumstances, eating within anabolic window somehow provides benefits.
So, what are the special circumstances where consuming within anabolic window will provide benefits?
· Fasted Cardio:
If you train in fasted state, consuming post workout meal within 30 minutes after workout makes sense. When you train in fasted state, the rate at which muscle protein breakdown occur is relatively very high. It even surpasses the rate at which muscle protein synthesis occur which means you are losing muscle.
The muscle protein breakdown is the breakdown of the amino acids in your muscle tissues. And, the muscle protein synthesis is the repair and regeneration of the muscle tissues. If the rate of muscle protein breakdown surpasses the rate of muscle protein synthesis, you start to lose muscle.
It is known that protein intake and little bit of carbohydrates immediately after post workout in fasted state can reduce muscle protein breakdown rate by 50%. So, if you are training in fasted state; you should consume post workout meal immediately or within the anabolic window. It can prevent your muscle loss and increase muscle protein synthesis. (Read: Is there any benefit of training in a Fasted State?)
· Training Empty Stomach:
The post workout meal after training on an empty stomach is very crucial within the anabolic window. If you haven’t eaten from 5-6 hours and training on empty stomach, your body will have more stress. And, this stress will lead to release of the Cortisol hormone.
The Cortisol hormone creates a catabolic environment where your body will breakdown protein from muscles to produce energy. This will then lead to muscle loss and you will have a hard time to recover from the workout.
Grabbing a post workout meal immediately within anabolic window can prevent the catabolism. In this case, a good whey protein shake post workout within anabolic window can spare you from the muscle loss and assist in a quick recovery.
· Doing Excessive Cardio:
If you are a fan of doing excessive cardio, you are putting a lot of stress on your body and quickly depleting its glycogen stores. And if you have lots of stress and depleted glycogen store, your body will have hard time to recover and quickly turns to catabolism.
Our body can store lots of glycogen and is very hard to get it empty with the workout. It is believed that our body can store up to 2000 calories worth of glucose as glycogen. But some of the endurance athletes go way far with the aerobic exercise that they nearly empty their glycogen stores.
Not having a post workout meal within anabolic window in this case, you are losing out on good results. Also, you are at a risk of muscle soreness, increase fatigue and even worst like low blood sugar levels. So, the endurance athletes who indulge in such long workouts and empty their glycogen reserves should eat within anabolic window.
Only these are some extreme cases, where grabbing a post workout meal immediately within anabolic window makes sense. Other than these cases, there is nothing such as anabolic window exists and neither can it give any additional benefits.
Some Facts to Burst Anabolic Window Myth
- Post Workout meal is a crucial meal where recovery and muscle gain is concerned. But on the grounds of anabolic window, there is no difference in the rate of protein synthesis when post workout meal is consumed within 1 hour or within 3 hours .
- The rate at which muscle breakdown occurs after a bout of resistance training is not so high that you have to fear the breakdown of muscle. There is no such hurry that you need to grab your post workout meal within anabolic window.
- The anabolic window myth persists due to a major belief that you immediately need to replenish your depleted glycogen stores after the workout. But on the contrary, the actual need to refill the glycogen store is before your next workout and not immediately.
How to Plan Post Workout Meal if there is no Anabolic Window?
True, there is hardly any importance of anabolic window when you are training within normal circumstances. But that doesn’t mean you can ditch your post workout meal and daily nutrition. The importance of post workout meal and your daily nutrition remains same. It`s just the timing (Anabolic Window) that has no relevance.
In order to maximize your muscle gain and enable recovery, you have to put attention to your post workout meal and your daily nutrition. Your post workout meal should consist of right balance of carbohydrates and proteins. A 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to proteins is the well balanced fusion to enhance muscle growth and aim for recovery. (Read: The Complete Guide to Post Workout Nutrition)
Furthermore, to take complete benefits out of your workout; you need to take care of your daily nutrition. Your daily nutrition should consist of complete macro nutrients as per your daily calorie needs. It is only after a solid macro nutrient planning that you can build a good overall physique. You will hardly see any results if you are not eating according to your daily calorie requirement even you put attention to post workout meal. (Read: How to plan your Calorie Intake?)
The Bottom Line
The Anabolic Window has hardly any importance in serving the purported benefits. There is no magical window which exists for 30 minutes after the workout. And, it is only in the case where your training is beyond normal circumstances, the anabolic window holds some value. For all the normal cases of training, putting close attention on your daily nutrition will reap the required results.
- D. J. Weinert, “Nutrition and muscle protein synthesis: a descriptive review,”
- C. M. M. I. S. L. F. M. Parkin JA, “Muscle glycogen storage following prolonged exercise: effect of timing of ingestion of high glycemic index food,”
- A. P. S. K. R. M. Kumar V, “Human muscle protein synthesis and breakdown during and after exercise,”