Anyone who’s tried to gain any appreciable amount of muscle mass is most likely familiar with the concept of the “anabolic window”. You know, the first 30-or-so minutes following your workout where you sprint to the locker room and inhale that tasty protein shake (tasty being subjective of course).
Why do you do this?
– It’s all about the gains, man! Right?…
Well, what’s been observed from the collection of studies covering this very subject is somewhat conflicting.
While its been widely accepted that in order to gain muscle mass, a protein/carbohydrate supplement should be consumed within the first 30-60minutes following a workout; it turns out it’s not quite that simple…
Current research is conflicting, but shows that rather than focusing primarily on post-workout nutrition/nutrient timing that the duration between pre and post workout nutrition may play much more of a significant role than post-workout nutrition alone. A recent article (1) written by Alan Aragon and Brad Schoenfeld shows us that the timing of your meals surrounding your workout has a much greater impact on gains in muscle mass/protein synthesis. There are some exceptions though.
Here’s what you need to know:
– Consuming a pre-exercise meal/amino acid or protein supplement can be enough if it is ingested within 1-2 hours prior to training
– Minimal-moderate pre-exercise supplementation has been shown to be effective in elevating blood amino acid levels (6g of Essential Amino Acids taken immediately pre-workout elevated blood and muscle amino acid levels by 130% for 2 hours)
– If there is a 3-4 hour gap between your last meal and your workout/training, then consuming a protein supplement before training is recommended to create an anabolic environment
– If you train first thing in the morning/in an overnight fasted state – then consuming a protein/carbohydrate supplement before training is beneficial to create an anabolic environment in the body
– Glycogen replenishment is necessary for athletes who train the same muscle groups twice a day within an 8 hour period
– Consuming a post-workout meal 1-2 hours after training is sufficient as long as the previous meal was consumed 1-2 hours prior to training. There is overlap!
So what’s the take home message from all of this? In a nutshell, as long as you’re eating well and getting enough protein throughout the day, you should be fine. The point here is that you don’t need to obsess over your post workout shake. Instead, pay attention to what really matters – YOUR DIET!
(1) Aragon AA, Schoenfeld BJ. Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window?. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013;10(1):5.
Pick up something heavy.