Coach G’s Nutrition Corner: The Fabled “Anabolic Window”
By Garrett Rolsma
The Fabled “Anabolic Window”
If you have been strength training, you have most likely heard the term “Anabolic Window”. Today I am going to discuss this in more detail and help you best utilize your nutrition. To start, the term anabolic is derived from “anabolism”, which means to create complex molecules from simpler units. In other words, it means to create new tissue from what we eat and/or drink. Think of it this way, you eat food, you break down your muscle tissue through resistance training, you eat food, then your body uses anabolic pathways to repair and grow your muscle tissue. As a result, you get bigger and stronger. Now enter the term, “Anabolic Window”. This term refers to the time immediately after your workout where your muscles are looking for nutrients to begin the rebuilding process. From my years of research, the prime anabolic window after intense strength training is 30-45 minutes. After about 45 minutes, our body shifts away from anabolism and you could potentially see diminished benefits from your workout and nutrition. This does not mean that after 45 minutes you should just not eat because you get nothing out of it, all it means is that you should be proactive and prepare a post workout meal or snack that will best utilize your muscle building timeframe.
To best rebuild your muscle a mixture of protein and simple carbohydrates is optimal. This is where the protein shake phenomenon has grown. Go to any gym and you will see tons of people shaking their protein shakers and downing what they believe is the best thing for their muscle, protein! Yes, protein is extremely important, but without carbohydrates, our bodies are not able to utilize all that muscle building goodness. Now without getting too “sciency”, I will expand further. In healthy bodies we need glucose in our blood stream to promote the release of insulin. Being an anabolic hormone, insulin is responsible, among many jobs, for helping refuel “depleted” muscle cells. When we have insulin in our blood, along with other important building blocks, our muscles are filling back up with energy and preparing for the next bout of exercise. The balance of energy depletion through exercise and the refueling through proper nutrition is very complex. That is why muscle gain and weight (fat) loss is so difficult, your body needs the perfect environment for the job!
What to look for in a post workout meal? Great question! Ok, forget the science, aim to consume 13-15 grams of protein with 40-50 grams of quick digesting simple carbohydrates within 45 minutes of finishing your workout. A protein shake with fresh fruit like banana, apple, blueberries, or other simple carbohydrate rich foods like white bread or rice will do great. Experiment with different foods and see what your GI system tolerates. It can often be difficult to eat right after an intense workout, so liquid shakes are a great alternative.
In closing, plan your post workout nutrition before you head to the gym. If you think ahead, you will be setting yourself up for a better workout, and even better results. Every body is different and it will take some time to find what is optimal for you. Now is the time to fine tune those foods around your workout to really see your hard work pay off.