Sunday, October 1, 2017

The post-workout anabolic window to consume protein is not real

(Article taken from

Ask The Science Chick: Is The Anabolic Window Real?

Our science editor, Krissy Kendall, PhD, CISSN, weighs in on the anabolic window, fiber's impact on weight loss, and artificial sweeteners.

Krissy Kendall, PhD
July 18, 2016 • 7 min read

Q. Does The Post-Workout "Anabolic Window" Even Exist, And What Supplements Can I Take To Take To Optimize Pre- And Post-Workout Nutrition?

Ah, the anabolic window—easily one of my favorite windows, and easily one of the most hotly debated topics in sports nutrition over the last several years.

I admit that when I was in grad school, I used to preach the importance of consuming adequate amounts of carbs and protein within 45 minutes of finishing a workout. "Miss the anabolic window, and you might as well kiss your gains goodbye!" I'd tell people.

Jump forward five years, and my point of view has an extent. While I still think it's important to fuel your body post-workout, I no longer believe you somehow miss out on an opportunity for growth if you don't eat immediately after your last set.

Why the change of heart? For one, research methods have drastically improved, and we're armed with better information. Early studies often used subjects in a fasted state to look at the effects of nutrient timing on changes in body composition, strength, and muscle size. Because fasting itself will put your body in a catabolic state, eating immediately after a workout is crucial for promoting muscle protein synthesis and glycogen storage.

But unless you train at 5 a.m. on an empty stomach, there's less urgency when it comes to consuming your post-workout meal. Eating as few as 20 grams of protein as part of your pre-workout meal can significantly elevate the delivery of amino acids to your muscles for up to 2-3 hours post-workout.[1] So even if you delay your post-workout meal for a couple hours, your body is still using the amino acids from your pre-workout meal to stimulate maximal growth and recovery.

If you start your training session more than four hours after your last meal, you definitely want to consume 25-30 grams of protein immediately after your workout to help reverse the catabolic state in your body and maximize muscle growth. On the other hand, consuming a small pre-workout meal before you train can delay the timing of your next meal, which might come in handy if you have to rush to a meeting, quickly get ready for work, or run a few errands.

Another issue with some of the older studies is the lack of dietary control. Several early studies controlled only for protein and carb intake immediately before and after training, paying little attention to what was being consumed the rest of the day. This muddies the water, making it unclear whether improvements in strength and muscle size were the result of protein timing or an increase in protein and/or carbohydrate intake throughout the rest of the day.

If your goal is maximizing rates of muscle gain, current findings support the broad objective of meeting total dailyprotein and carbohydrate needs (assuming you're not training in a fasted state).[2-4]

It certainly doesn't hurt to throw back a protein shake immediately after your workout, but you can still gain a substantial amount of strength and size even when delaying post-workout nutrition. Rather than focusing on this imaginary window of special growth, plan your meals so that you consume 25-30 grams of protein every few hours, and consume adequate amounts of carbs throughout the day to keep your energy levels high in the gym.

As for additional supplements that may enhance your pre- and post-workout nutrition, creatine, BCAAs, and citrulline malate can all be added to either your pre- or post-workout drink to enhance muscle strength, size, and recovery.

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