Fitness

Your Guide to The Anabolic Window

You’ve spent a couple of hours smashing out a super intense workout. You’ve slayed legs day, the endorphins are kicking in and you’re feeling pretty damn good about your session. Girl, you’ve put in all the hard work, now it’s time to lock in those gains with this guide to the anabolic window.

We all know protein post-workout is key to building muscle, but there’s a whole lot more science to it than that. With the right know-how, you can optimize your muscle growth and repair for maximum gains and minimal muscle soreness. That means you’ll feel stronger and be back in the gym sooner.

As soon as you start taking protein to build muscle, there’s no doubt you will have heard of something called the anabolic window. It’s long been considered the key to maximizing gains, however recent research might prove otherwise.

Read on to find out when you should be taking your protein to get the most out of your muscle growth.

Key takeaways

Before we get started, here’s exactly what you need to know:

  • Spacing your protein doses throughout the day and hitting your total intake is the most effective way to heighten muscle protein synthesis
  • Consuming protein immediately after a workout has no impact on your ability to build muscle
  • Eating carbs immediately after exercise does not impact your glycogen stores

In this guide, we’ll give you all the most up-to-date information on the anabolic window, so you can get the most out of every workout.

Let’s get down to the science.

clock on a plate indicating the anabolic window

What is the anabolic window?

The anabolic window has long been considered the key to ensuring gains after a workout. It’s defined as a period of time, usually 30-60 minutes, after you’ve finished working out. Apparently, this is when your body’s anabolic processes are firing on all cylinders.

During this window, it’s considered essential that you consume protein, to increase protein synthesis. The idea is, by doing this your body can repair itself more quickly and efficiently after the strain of a workout, and you get maximum muscle gains.

For a long time, the general consensus has been, if you miss the window, you can kiss muscle gains goodbye.

However, these days, science is saying something different.

 

Is the anabolic window real?

To be blunt, no. The anabolic window isn’t real.

Don’t get us wrong, there’s no harm in taking a protein shake after you work out, but it definitely isn’t a game changer in terms of growing muscle.

There is actually no evidence showing a relationship between eating carbs and protein immediately after a workout and raising your rate of protein synthesis[1].

With that in mind, you really shouldn’t be saving the majority of your protein for right after your workout. You body can only process so much protein at once, so you’re much better off spreading your consumption throughout the day to achieve a high total.

There’s no secret trick or perfect timing that will send your progress through the roof. The anabolic window isn’t real.

 

a bowl of oats with apple and blueberries

What about carbs?

Another element of the anabolic window is focussed in on carbs. Specifically, replenishing your glycogen stores as quickly as possible. It turns out, you might not need to get in there immediately at all.

A study has shown that consuming carbs directly after a workout has no impact on your glycogen levels [2]. The research examined muscle biopsies 2 hours, 8 hours and even 24 hours after exercise and discovered the glycogen levels were all exactly the same.

All you need to do, is make sure you’re getting enough carbohydrates in your daily diet to keep your glycogen at a good level.

 

How should I plan my nutrition to gain muscle?

The key with protein is to simply ensure you’re getting enough. By consistently feeding your body with protein throughout the day you will benefit from the muscle growth you’re looking for, and timing doesn’t appear to have an affect [3].

By enjoying a carb and protein-based snack before you head to the gym, you can fuel your body enough to get in a good workout, and keep your protein synthesis at a good level [4].

 

a scoop of white protein powder 

How much protein do I need to gain muscle?

If you want to gain muscle, you need to ensure you’re taking on sufficient amounts throughout the day. To achieve this, you should be taking between 1.4-2.0g of protein per kg of body weight [5]. If you’re working hard and looking to boost muscle, you’ll be at the higher end of that spectrum. Anyone looking to maintain muscle mass would be in the bottom to middle end of this range.

For example, a 70kg girl who works out and is looking to build mass would eat around 140g of protein every day.

This protein should be eaten regularly throughout the day, ideally at three hours intervals [6] is the recommended way to make the encourage muscle repair after a workout. Science shows a regularly spaced intake of 20-40g of protein throughout the day is the most effective way to raise your muscle protein synthesis.

Follow these rules and girl, your workouts will convert into the gains you dream of.

 

Fasted training and post-workout nutrition

If you’re into fasted training, things change slightly in terms of post-workout nutrition. Eating in this way puts you in a catabolic state where your body might be breaking down your muscle protein into smaller amino acids for energy.

Science says that, if you work out in a fasted state (basically, before you’ve had breakfast), muscle protein breakdown is very high [7]. That means it’s essential you get carbs and protein into your body to slow down that process and take your body out of the catabolic state. If you don’t, your gains really could be at risk.

 

The final word

It turns out, girl, that there is no magical properties to the anabolic window. In fact, the science shows timing doesn’t make a difference unless you’re working out in a fasting state.

The overall takeaway is, to get results you should be spreading your protein and carb intake throughout the day. As long as you’re consuming a sufficient amount of both macros, you’re in a good position to make all the gains you dream of.

 

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