The post-workout period is often considered to be the most critical part of nutrient timing. Just how much refueling is needed immediately post-workout and what makes or breaks your results?
The anabolic window (also known as the metabolic window) is a strength training term (aka the BROcabulary) for the 30-minutes (give or take) period after exercise. During this time your body is able to refuel energy (from glycogen from carbs) and repair and build protein in our muscles at a faster rate than usual. Or so we think. This is a shift the body makes from a catabolic state to an anabolic one.
What Happens When We Workout
Our body breaks down carbs into glucose (sugar) and it is used throughout our body and is stored in our muscles and liver as glycogen. Our body stores this glycogen as energy for when we need. Protein in our body breaks down into amino acids and it is used to build muscles.
Studies have shown that we need to fuel our body after an intense workout. Obviously! Fueling our body with protein and carbs immediately after your sweat has been the longtime standard in the strength training world. It’s of no surprise that our body uses up the fuel we digest during a workout. Recently this long time BROscience has been researched to see how the “window” can vary among people.
Recently, there have been a lot more research studies on the timing of protein and carbs around your workout, not just after your workout. One study from Science and Medicine In Sports and Exercise found that consuming protein, glucose, and creatine before and after working out gained more muscle and strength compared to those who took protein, glucose, and creatine morning and at night. So timing when and what you eat can improve your body composition and strength.
So the anabolic window is REAL, but it doesn’t mean you need to run to your nearest supplement store and get protein powder or aminos. This doesn’t mean you have to set a 30-minute timer to eat either.
If you eat protein before you hit the gym that will fuel your body through your post-workout anabolic window. Protein consumed before an exercise can keep the supply available in our blood for even two or more hours after the workout. which means you’ve already hit your anabolic window goals.
What Does This Mean For You?
So what does this mean to you? The anabolic window varies based on when you at last, what you ate, how long will you workout, what will the intensity be, and what are your fitness goals.
If you eat protein and glycogen before you hit the gym that will fuel your body through your post-workout anabolic window. Protein consumed before an exercise can keep the supply available in our blood for even two or more hours after the workout. This is currently what I do, mainly to give me the power I want to lift heavy!
If you plan on eating before your workout Pamela Nisevich-Bede, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., owner of Swim, Bike, Run, Eat! Nutrition. Says that you should consume about 200 calories of both protein and carbs for an hour or so of training. If you are going to only do 30 minutes of training keep your snack lighter and take out the carbs.
If you haven’t eaten for three or more hours before you go to the gym you will want to eat during that anabolic window time. It’ll be more important for you to refuel on glycogen and protein.
The most important time to refuel your body after your workout is if you workout first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. You will want to make sure you have food or a protein shake handy within that 30 minute time period so you can prevent muscle breakdown and real hangryness! Make sure your breakfast contains enough protein and glycogen (carbs).
Anabolic Window Conclusion
Like anything else in the fitness industry you need to take all of this information and figure out how it works with what YOU do and what YOUR goals are. There is a lot of information out there but my philosophy on it all, if you are eating healthy, getting enough sleep, drinking water, and putting in the work you’ll see the results.
I recently changed up my workout schedule and I’ll be hitting the gym first thing in the morning. I’m more worried about being hungry more (if I’m eating earlier) and the strength I’ll have in the gym (if I haven’t eaten much). So we’ll see how this new summer schedule goes, stay tuned on Instagram to find out!