Back when I first started lifting, I was convinced that if I didn’t have some kind of potent protein shake and enough chicken to feed a small village within 30 minutes after my training, I was going to be in a catabolic death spiral and all of my training would be for naught.
I would risk road rage confrontations, running over slow pedestrians, and anything else that got in my way of me meeting the much hyped “anabolic window”.
I was a slave to immediate post training nutrition.
I blame my paranoia on reading magazines like Muscular Development and trying to educate myself through sites like Bodybuilding.com. And of course, I bought it hook, line, and sinker and spent a fortune on post training protein powders and other worthless supplements, just like they want you to do.
But what’s the true story? Is there, in fact, a period of time post training that protein and nutrient shuttling to your muscles is increased?
Does the anabolic window really exist?
Long story made short, the answer is no.
Despite the perpetuated myth from bro-science plagiarists across the planet, there is no conclusive scientific evidence to support a limited anabolic window post training.
What the Studies Show
A number of studies over the past few years disprove any notion of an anabolic window.
One such study measured the differences in body composition from people who gorged protein immediately post workout versus those who spread their protein intake out over the course of the day (both groups consumed the same amounts over a 24 hour period). The study revealed no demonstrable differences in lean body mass between the two groups.
From a carbohydrate perspective, another study showed that there was no difference in glycogen reserves over a 24 hour period between two groups, one of which consumed carbs immediately post training and another group who waited several hours before any intake.
Study after study of both protein and carbohydrate intake call the perpetuation of an anabolic window into question.
How You Should Be Thinking
Science will also definitively tell you that your “anabolic” hormones are elevated for up to 24 hours (or more) post training.
What this really means is that there is no anabolic window and that if you’re training hard 3-4 days per week, and recovering properly with enough sleep and nutrition, you’re going to be walking around in an anabolic state a lot of the time.
Looking at your body in a 24 hour cycle (and the actual proven science), it quickly becomes apparent that post workout nutrition is no more important than daily overall nutrition and meeting your daily requirements.
Throw the “within 30 minutes of training” garbage out the window. Get the concept of an anabolic window out of your psyche.
Is immediate post training nutrition bad? Of course not, but it should be thought of in reference to your overall daily macronutrients and a way to make sure you’re meeting your daily requirements.
There is one possible exception to this rule. If you are training early morning, or training in a fasted state, post workout nutrition is necessary. It would be advisable to have some post training nutrition to regulate insulin levels and combat muscle breakdown.
While I mentioned the science is inconclusive, some skeptics may think the door isn’t closed on the anabolic window myth. But if study after study can’t prove the benefits of being a slave to your blender and tupperware, it’s probably safe to say you can breathe easy if you miss a shake or two…