Anabolic Window

Based on the concept that your muscles post exercise require maximal exposure to certain nutrients, commonly directed around protein and carbohydrates. These nutrients are required to be consumed within a certain window of “insert given time allocation”. Failure to consume these in adequate dosing means your gains and session has been minimally as effective.

So why do people have this ideology?
It is fundamentally created around the fact that your muscle cells are more sensitive to nutrients post workout due to the ‘damage’ inflicted during that session. By consuming a quality intake of food will help boost the speed of your recovery. Makes reasonable sense.
It is a known fact that post training your cells are ABSOLUTELY more susceptible for absorption of nutrients. But we are talking about a harder gym session, not just your daily walk.

So without going too far into the physiology behind things, how relevant is this information and how are you actually going to use it?  Once again this always depends on the individual much like nutrition does, it depends, context is key! But I’m going to address this to who I would assume are mostly lifters or performance based athletes reading this. 

There are a few factors to take into consideration whether or not you really even need to worry about this “Anabolic Window”.

Firstly;  what is your training style? Are you training for hypertrophy, sports performance or maximal strength. How often are you training? is it just the once a day or is it multiple sessions like a bodybuilder or fighter? This will impact where your source of post training nutrients will come from. Another thing to point out here is the muscle types you are training and frequency, for the most part you would be hitting each muscle group on average 2-3 a week.

For example; if you squatted heavier on Monday, odds have it you probably aren’t going to do heavy deadlifts the following day. More like 48-72 hours later you’re going to hit these muscle groups harder again. But if you are a bodybuilder or fighter who hit a heavy leg session in the morning and are due to back that up with more lighter leg work that evening the approach you take to this timing and food source is much more important.

So what’s the difference between protein or carb sources?
As stated in the example above, if you are hitting multiple sessions a day it’s super important that we have an emphasis on resynthesizing muscle glycogen stores. This would be achieved through intra workout carbs or something higher in carbs immediately post workout in order for you to optimally recover before addressing your next workout that day. This should generally come from lower fibre, and high glycemic index foods for faster absorption rate.

Protein coming into this equation is equally as important. It’s not necessarily going to make an impact your glycogen stores, rather help with muscle repair and spikes in protein synthesis throughout the day. Plus it just makes some of the meals post workout a little tastier having more variety of food to choose from, like meat and rice type option.

Now for someone who is just hitting one heavier hypertrophy or strength based session and not immediately training that day again or even within 24 hours, there really is no emphasis on hitting a high dose of carbs post or intra workout. I would actually recommend something pre workout to help facilitate the effort required to perform, but there is no real need to replenish muscle glycogen as you typically won’t be hitting those same muscle group again until at least 48 hours later in which case you should have already adequately restored your glycogen levels and be well recovered. The same thing here applies to protein, so long as you are consumed enough protein throughout the day and within the 24 hours following it doesn’t matter as much.

So though we have stated above it doesn’t matter as much, it doesn’t mean it helps to wait either. This is where the management of your daily routine needs to come into consideration.

What time of the day are you training?

Are you the sort of person who needs to get their workouts done first thing in the morning (I personally don’t advise it due to longer time between meals) in which case you may not want to train on a full stomach? In this situation it may be better suited for you to have a protein and carb based meal immediately to follow that.


Are you training later in the evening when you have already consumed a quality intake of protein over the course of the day, you may be better suited to have a structure of pre or intra workout carbs to help perform the remainder of the session. At the end of it all, if your not particularly hungry immediately post workout it doesn’t hurt to wait an hour and in fact avoid feeling digestively sick the benefits here may be ideal, if it means you can carry on with a solid appetite and get in your total calories consistently for the day. 


But if your stomach allows it and so does your daily routine, than I don’t see any rational to wait and get in a quality dose of carbs and protein surrounding your workout. I hope I haven’t confused you all too much, but as stated before it really does depend on the individual, your training style and lifestyle.

We can go into a wide variety of scenarios like someone who is training for fat loss, a bodybuilder in harder phase of prep or even a marathon runner after a big long days event. At the end of it all the science has proven that the validity behind this principle does work, so how are you going to interpret that to your goals and application?

Don’t have tunnel vision and stay too zoomed in on these particular sciences rather look at the improvements in your overall perspective, have intent behind applying these particular guidelines and ensure they are the right protocols for you.

Now to top all of this off I want to emphasis that none of this really matters too much if you aren’t eating the total daily calories required for your particular goals. Everyone is conflicted in messages of complexity and looking into the timing of meals and types of meals rather than addressing the overall foundation of getting the right amount of calories in for you.


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