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Post Workout Nutrition – Is the Post Workout Anabolic Window a Myth?

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In this week's article we’ll be discussing post workout nutrition, how important is post workout nutrition? How important is the timing? Is the 30 minute post workout anabolic window just a myth? Let’s find out…

Let’s begin by defining post workout nutrition, which is the first meal you consume directly after resistance training. The “anabolic window” refers to the first 30 minutes directly after your workout. This is not just bro-science. There is research that supports the hypothesis that if you ingest protein and carbs in the minutes after a workout, the glucose and amino acids initiate the shift to an anabolic, or muscle building state. There are some who say if you miss this “30 minute window” you’re basically just wasted your workout.

The purpose of post workout nutrition is to supply your body with the right nutrients to increase muscle protein synthesis and decrease protein breakdown, restore glycogen stores, and enhance recovery. So let’s talk about the role of each macronutrient, protein fat and carbs, in terms of function, importance, and timing, and see if the “anabolic window” is a myth or not.

  1. Protein provides the building blocks to repair and build muscle, it’s the most important macronutrient in your post workout meal. Studies have shown that eating 20-40 grams of protein seems to maximize the body’s ability to recover from weight training. The question is: how fast do you need to consume it to maximize benefits? Well the same year the study came out supporting the anabolic window hypothesis, another meta-analysis came out concluding there was only a “small to moderate effect for protein timing on lean mass gains, and that many of these differences could be explained by total daily protein intake.” Also we know that weight training increases protein synthesis for up to 48 hours after training. So the 30 minute anabolic window myth regarding protein is busted!
  2. Of course consuming carbs post workout will help replenish glycogen stores. There are studies that show an increase in glycogen uptake post exercise but a typical resistance training session has been shown to only reduce muscle glycogen stores by 24-40%. What this means is taking tons of carbs post workout isn’t really necessary because this small amount of glycogen can easily be replenished by moderate carb intake over the next 24-48 hours. Another reason to eat carbs in the anabolic window is that eating carbs will raise insulin levels, raising protein synthesis and suppressing muscle protein breakdown. Which is true, but research has shown that consuming protein itself will raise insulin enough to do the job; to quote the study, “No further beneficial actions of carbohydrates, irrespective of glycemic index, are evident concerning muscle hypertrophy when a protein supplement that maximally stimulates protein synthesis is ingested.” So the 30 minute anabolic window myth regarding post workout, high glycemic index carbs, is busted!
  3. What about fats? According to the anabolic window hypothesis, you want to keep fat low or avoid it altogether in the post workout meal because it slows digestion and may inhibit absorption of protein and carbs. But, while it’s true that fat slows digestion it will not reduce the benefits of your post workout meal. One study researching drinking milk post workout concluded that full fat whole milk was better at increasing muscle protein synthesis than fat free milk. So the 30 minute anabolic window myth regarding limiting or avoiding dietary fat is busted!

In conclusion, there is some merit to nutrient timing, but the strict 30 minute anabolic window myth is busted. My recommendation is that you have a balanced meal as soon as reasonably possible after working out, since not eating after a workout does not offer any benefit, but knowing you don’t have to rush. As long as this meal has 20-40 grams of protein, the rest is personal preference and meeting your daily macronutrient goals.

Now if you work out fasted or it’s been several hours since your pre workout meal, then the timing of your post workout meal and how fast it digests takes on a whole new meaning. In that case I would make sure you get 20-40 grams of fast digesting protein, like whey protein, as soon as possible after training. Carbs are optional but I’d avoid fats in this case.

Like I said earlier, total daily protein intake is much more important than timing of your post workout meal. I can’t stress enough the importance of tracking and monitoring your food intake. If you could use a little help in that area, I want to let you know about a free resource! It comes with an online calorie calculator that tells you how many calories you need to eat each day to lose fat or build muscle. It also comes with the top 5 calorie counting apps, so you can start tracking your food intake and make sure you’re eating right for your goals. And it comes with my Glycemic Index Food Guide, with nutritional recommendations and meal planning ideas to help you make healthy food choices. So if you’re ready to take your fitness to the next level, you can get all three free resources by going clicking the link below.

What does the Bible say about it? Ecclesiastes 2:24 says “And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his work, it is the gift of God.” So after you’ve worked hard in the gym, go ahead and enjoy your post workout meal. It’s all a gift from God – your health, the fact that you can workout, your food, including your post workout meal, so don’t forget to thank God for all His blessings in your life!

Okay that’s it for this week’s article. Thanks for joining me. Don’t forget to pick up my calorie calculator combo, the ultimate free tools to help you succeed on your fitness journey, just visit the link below. That’s all for now, God bless you, and I’ll see you next time.

Free Calorie Calculator Combo: 



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