You have probably heard the term ‘anabolic window’ getting thrown about among bodybuilders, fitness enthusiasts and ‘bros’. Anabolic window refers to the time after training when your body is particularly prone to absorb food and shuttle it towards lean muscle mass. ‘Bro-science’ traditionally estimates it lasts somewhere between thirty minutes and two hours after your workout. A recent study from the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition examined this phenomenon based on 23 previous studies on protein intake and timing. The outcome is quite surprising.
The study review discovered that the timing of consuming the protein mattered little if not at all. What did matter was the total protein intake as it alone seemed to cause most of the differences in results. According to some more findings – the anabolic window, if it exists, can last anywhere from 4 to 6 hours after training as opposed to the tight 30 -120 minutes we were previously led to believe. Ok, so we don’t need to run home right after the last rep to stuff our faces with food. Catabolism is not as sneaky as we previously believed and as long as you have a balanced nutrition plan, your gains will not be wasted as fast as you think.
Studies vs. Bro-science
The average subject of the studies reviewed ate 1.66 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. For a 200-lb man, this equals around 150g of protein per day. That is in line with recommendations for strength training athletes from most current research but contradicts what we were previously told about consuming 1 gram of protein per 1 pound of bodyweight.
Don’t ditch your post-workout shake just yet! The limitations of the study were that most subjects were inexperienced athletes. Their needs can’t and don’t reflect those of experienced lifters. The study also didn’t take into consideration carbs, which are extremely important in making gains.
The main conclusion I take from this study is that total protein intake is crucial to athletic performance. Secondly, studies are just an indication rather than a definite truth for everyone. Our bodies, lifestyles and training methods are so different, that no single study or even a combination of many can reflect real life. So rely on your intuition. Check what you see in the mirror and how you feel. Listen to your body. Make changes when needed. At the end of the day you are your best own study subject.
If you would like independent help and advice when it comes to optimising your post workout window of opportunity then please feel free to contact me in regards to personalised coaching, and really maximising the results you obtain from your training and nutrition efforts. Contact Jim Benskin for coaching.