The existence of an anabolic window in terms of protein intake has already been ruled out. However, the attention has now shifted towards other nutrients. We tell you which ones.
The anabolic window is a relatively new concept that assumed the existence of a “moment of opportunity” after training for protein synthesis.
The truth is that recent research casts doubt on the existence of such a window, especially as far as protein intake is concerned. Nevertheless, it is important to provide essential nutrients after exercise to support recovery efforts.
Does the anabolic window really exist?
According to several studies and research, the effects on muscle tissue with protein intake before and after exercise are identical.
This confirms that there really is no such thing as an anabolic window in terms of consuming these nutrients.
What is really decisive is to reach the daily requirements to stimulate endogenous protein synthesis.
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From this point on, both recovery and tissue hypertrophy will occur optimally, positively affecting an athlete’s performance.
However, at least 50% of the proteins administered during the day must be of high biological value.
This avoids deficits in essential amino acids that could harm muscle function. Therefore, it can be stated that the concept of the anabolic window doesn’t really exist.
The glycogen replenishment window
Carbohydrates are essential macronutrients for performance. However, although the timing of protein intake is not relevant, it is important to consume a good portion of carbohydrates after strenuous exercise.
High-intensity physical activity (like CrossFit) depletes glycogen reserves. If you return to sport with your glycogen reserves half full, you will experience a more rapid feeling of fatigue.
For this reason, it is essential to achieve optimal replenishment so that the body is prepared for the next day’s exercise. In this regard, the timing of carbohydrate intake is decisive.
Moreover, it has been shown that the filling of glycogen stores is more efficient if sugars are administered together with 20 grams of protein of high biological value.
This is evidenced by research published in Nutrition Research. For this reason, a proper recovery supplement must always contain both nutrients and vitamins, and minerals.
How to approach the diet knowing that there is no anabolic window?
Once the anabolic window concept is ruled out, some doubts arise about approaching the correct dietary pattern.
The optimum is to ensure that necessary carbohydrates are ingested before exercise. A protein ration should always accompany these since amino acids will attenuate muscle protein destruction during exercise.
When the session is over, it is important to administer sugars again, in this case, simple sugars, to achieve efficient glycogen replenishment.
Also, there should be plenty of protein in the rest of the meals to meet the daily requirements properly. The needs of this nutrient may vary depending on the athlete and the exercise performed.
About 2 grams of protein per kg of body weight per day is usually satisfactory. This will ensure optimal recovery and reduce the risk of injury.
The anabolic window, an old myth
As you have seen, the anabolic window is not considered an important factor in sports nutrition today.
After intense exercise, there is an increased need for carbohydrate intake, but not with a hypertrophy-promoting function, as was once believed with protein.
If your goal is to stimulate muscle gains, the real determining factor will be to plan the dietary pattern and the training session correctly.
From a nutritional standpoint, it will be necessary to increase protein and caloric intake. Supplements that support tissue function, such as creatine, can also be included.
As far as your training sessions, it is important to work with considerable weights in an optimal repetition range.
This generates mechanical tension that stimulates muscle growth, along with metabolic stress capable of generating hormonal adaptations.
Nutrient intake after workout
When performing resistance training while fasting, it would be highly recommended to include a nutritional intervention right after training.
Preferably combining both protein and carbohydrates to promote muscle protein synthesis and reduce proteolysis in such a way that you move from a catalytic state to an anabolic one.
In this way, you will revert any risk of protein degradation and greater wear due to the fasting situation in a period of reconstruction and recovery of the exercise performed.
Why is it that when a pre-workout meal is taken, this strategy is not just as effective? Because when a meal rich in protein and carbohydrates is eaten 1-2 hours before training, the duration of digestion can serve as both a pre-training and post-training intake because digestion and absorption can last until after the end of training.
In fact, it has been observed that a low intake of essential amino acids (6g) just before training produced an increase in amino acid levels in blood and muscle of approximately 130%. Remaining elevated up to 2 hours after exercise.
Considering data from different studies, it can be seen how even low intakes (6g of essential amino acids or 20g of whey protein) just before exercise may provide amino acids in the post-workout period.
It may seem sufficient to take the next meal is even 2 hours later. However, when the last pre-workout meal is 4-6 hours earlier, a nutritional intervention should be considered more immediately after training if the goal is to maintain or increase muscle mass.
Anabolic window: Conclusion
It seems that the anabolic window is not as important as previously thought, especially when the pre-training intake is close to training (about 1-2 hours before) and with a good intake of carbohydrates and proteins, adequate to the exercise and objectives of each athlete.
If the last intake is 3-4 hours before training, then nutritional intervention becomes more important.
Almost immediately (approximately within the first hour after finishing) with a contribution of at least 25g of protein to revert the catabolic state and improve recovery and muscle growth.