In bodybuilding, there is a certain theory (called the anabolic window), where consuming protein within a 30 minute window post workout, in the form of a protein shake, will increase the effectiveness of muscle growth and muscle mass increase because of an increase in muscle protein synthesis.
In this article, we explore this theory, the truth behind it as effective post workout nutrition and give our thoughts on what is the most effective nutrient timing for growth pre and post workout.
What is the anabolic window theory?
The anabolic theory is based on the body’s anabolic (growth) response to resistance training. Whereby, providing nutrients directly after strength training activities, will lead to better utililsation actively within muscle groups and solicit more growth.
There is truth that after strength training, your body is in an anabolic state. This involves a range of cellular processes that facilitate muscle repair and growth. These processes are fuelled by protein and carbs.
According to the anabolic state theory, this anabolic response is a limited time frame of only 30 minutes. It also claims that immediately eating protein and carbs is critical for:
- increasing protein synthesis
- reducing muscle protein breakdown
- replenishing muscle glycogen
Whilst this does seem logical (except the timing) in the rest of this article we’ll explore what truth there is in an actual anabolic window.
Is the anabolic window real?
Well, kind of, but not really. Not in the half an hour timeframe at least.
Whilst it is extremely important to consume an adequate volume of grams of protein on a daily basis, post workout protein is important and nutrient timing at the end of a training session can can assist in muscle growth, the need for this to take place within 30 minutes is overstated.
Research shows, that if you’re training in a fasted state, consumption of protein and the availability of amino acids are more important than for other trainees. For everyone else, this variance is fairly minimal. So, if you do train fasted, there is a much greater significance to post workout nutrition (just for sustenance as much as anything else), but post workout nutrition is absolutely essential.
There is also fairly valid research that this window, could last for a number of hours post workout, where synthesis and absorption capacity are increased, as such, ensuring that you eat well post workout, as one would anyway within a few hours of training, is just as if not more important than any immediate post training timing.
Essentially, the more important element is to consistently hit good nutrient timing and macronutrients with available carb and protein sources through the day, as opposed to focussing on it immediately post workout. However, a little bro science to get nutrients in (for an adherence benefit) never really hurt anyone, did it?
Our thoughts on the anabolic window
According to research, the anabolic window doesn’t exist, but there’s no harm in consuming a post workout meal, the emphasis however should be on consumption when it suits you, except from if you train in a fasted state, where post workout nutrition is more vital and ensuring you get a good volume of carbs and protein into your system is important.