Closing the Anabolic Window? Food for thought
Chances are if you have been paying at least the slightest bit of attention to the intricacies surrounding muscle growth, you have probably heard of what’s known as “The Anabolic Window”. This is a point in time just after you have completed your workout when your body is supposedly primed for nutrient uptake due to the diminished state in which you have put your body in. Much of the knowledge surrounding the Anabolic Windows dictates that this very opportune time for feeding lasts approximately thirty to forty minutes post workout and if not taken advantage of, your body will start breaking down muscle protein for energy. Should this happen, all your efforts would be for nothing and atrophy will quickly set in. It is for this reason, many bodybuilders and trainers alike have put a lot of emphasis on their nutrient timing during this phase in the process and some have even gorged themselves with an influx of calories in the hopes that they could give their body more than it needs (just to be on the safe side) before the window closes. But is this absolutely necessary for optimal growth or are we creating a scenario detrimental to our gains?
This article is purely speculative in nature and should serve only the purpose of sparking your own interest into the necessity of the timing of your post workout nutrition.
For those of us who have been around the gym block for quite some time, we’ve seen just about everything there is to see when it comes to optimal nutrition. For years we were told that the most important meal of a bodybuilder’s day was the post workout meal; and this probably still holds true. We read the stories about the past greats pounding away for hours on end then heading over to the local grill house for a hearty serving of meat and potatoes. We saw their photos, saw their success and promptly followed suit. Then along came nutrition supplements such as protein powders, and we were told that the body needs something in which it can quickly digest, such as a liquid meal, so that’s what we did and no one ever left home without their shaker cup filled with their favorite protein shake. Perhaps, you may have even thrown in some other ingredients in that shake hoping that this liquid meal would send all that was good in your supplements racing towards starving muscles. Then there were those of us who took the “more is always better” approach, thought that because we were told that after a workout our body was in a state of starvation that we could just eat anything and everything in sight and nothing would happen other than growth, we completely annihilated every buffet we could get in line at. But were we helping or hurting our chances at improving? Was the Anabolic Window a real thing? Or were we simply putting ourselves in a state of metabolic stress?
The Human Sponge
Growing up and learning about nutrition in your health classes at school, you were probably always told that the most important meal of the day was breakfast. You were given clear instruction that as soon as you could upon waking up, to get some food into your body. This would help energize your day, feed starving muscles that hadn’t had any nutrition all night as you slept, give your brain the energy you would require to carry out your daily tasks at school and work and keep you from wasting away. Basically according to this definition you were to consider yourself a human sponge at this point in your day. Much the same has been said about the post workout environment your body is experiencing internally. You’ve trained as hard as you could possibly train and your body is completely depleted of all nutrients needed for growth. So, I guess then it’s time to eat and eat big to replace all that was lost and to give yourself a little extra to spur on hypertrophy, right? Well, what if you are overweight with excess body fat and need to lean up some, or what if you are getting ready to step on a bodybuilding stage? Would it be that terrible if you waited a little longer to have your first meal of the day or surpassed the thirty to forty five minute Anabolic Window that supposedly exists? Maybe, maybe not and the only way you would know is to go against conventional wisdom and try it out for yourself. There’s a good chance your body doesn’t need the nutrition when you have been told it does and probably not in the quantity you think either.
Introducing Intra-workout meals
This brings me to our current state of nutrient timing and the invasion of the intra-workout meal. This is almost always in the form of a drink or a shake that you would sip on for the duration of your workout. By following current rules surrounding the intra-workout shake, you would have some type of fast acting carbohydrate, along with a fast acting source of protein or an amino acid complex formula. The idea behind it is to never let your body get into a depleted state by continuously feeding it. Why wait an hour or more to feed your damaged muscles when you can instantly give them what they need as soon as the set is over with? This makes sense and with the constant flow of nutrients you are always keeping your body anabolic and never allowing for it to enter a state of deprivation or depletion which we all know is counterproductive to the whole process. So this then brings me to the question of whether or not, using the intra-workout meal method, does the anabolic window still exist? Or have we completely shut it by focusing on intra-workout nutrition? Is there a need any more to eat something as soon as you possibly can post workout if you have been “eating” all along?
It just got personal
Speaking from personal experience I have tried all of the above mentioned avenues for muscular growth. After years and years of experimentation, here is what I have found to work best for me (I’m hoping here I could possibly help some of you out there who are at a loss for gains even though you have been following everything you have been told to do to no avail). First and foremost, completely gorging and pigging out post workout did nothing but make me fat, mess with my energy levels and throw off my appetite for the rest of the day. Secondly, relying on only a shake post workout to fulfill my energy requirements left me hungry and depleted. Waking up in the morning, training in a fasted state and skipping breakfast (not really skipping but delaying for a significant period of time) has improved body composition and has kept me much leaner while maintaining overall strength. If training in the morning was not an option, then utilizing an intra-workout shake later in the evening and then not eating again for another hour plus has also kept body fat levels in check. And finally, by ignoring the 30-45 minute “Anabolic Window” of opportunity and going against everything I had ever believed in, the physique I have been chasing for all these years seems to finally becoming easier to achieve and maintain.
Let me be clear here, there is probably a ton of science out there to support or debunk much of what I have written about in this article and by no means am I claiming to have discovered the answer. I am however a firm believer in if it works, then do it.
Just like a sheep being herded and guided by the shepherd, I followed the rules set forth for being huge and ripped and believed that physique greatness was on the horizon. It wasn’t until the gains I sought never really came to fruition that things started to change and unorthodox methods became a mainstay.
Sometimes you just have to go against the grain to find what works for you, and in the grand scheme of things, that’s all that really matters, isn’t it?
Author: Dana Bushell
AST Sports Science sponsored athlete/writer, ENDEVR Brand Ambassador, Sponsored by Schiek Sports Inc., SKECHERS Brand Ambassador.
Online training: http://customtrainingpro.weebly.com