Raise your hand if you’ve seen the movie Along Came Polly (I’ve seen it like 60 times – “Raindrops”) … If you haven’t, then please add that as an immediate must. If you have, remember that scene where Reuben (Ben Stiller) goes out on his first date with Polly Prince (Jennifer Aniston) to that spicy ethnic cuisine (Moroccan)? Reuben claims to love ethnic food but in fact has a mild case of IBS. Well that IBS flares up and Reuben is left sprinting to the bathroom… And I’ll just leave that there.
Sounds like a sick movie Dan, but why the vivid visual?! I’m glad you ask. I feel as though the same feeling of panic that Reuben went through at that restaurant is the same type of frantic panic that many of us go through trying to capitalize on that Anabolic Window. You know, because of precious gains! As soon as our workout is done, we’re sprinting to throw down that protein shake. And then speeding home to throw down that expertly balanced meal. All about dem gains!
So there you go, with that said, lets take a little stroll through the mythical world of The Anabolic Window.
30 minutes. A whole 30 minutes! That’s the window of time many of us have been led to believe that we have to shuttle nutrients to our shredded/bulging/growing muscles post workout. May the bodybuilding gods have mercy on your soul should you forget to bring your micronized/ionized/hydrolyzed protein to gulp down post workout. The gain-train will not be making any stops for you.
From the beginner in the gym all the way to the highly seasoned vets, we have heard that school of thought at least once in your Gym-ventures. Well … is this the case?!
Not necessarily. For starters, there is science. Science states that protein synthesis is elevated past normal levels for up to 48 hours – mmmm science is delicious. What this means is that your shredded/bulging/growing muscles are in an environment suitable for making precious gains 48 hours post-workout.
Next point. Similar to how eating smaller meals does not rev up your metabolism, the Anabolic Window will not close after 30 minutes. Countless studies have failed to prove, without a shadow of a doubt, the idea that gains are compromised if there is a short delay in nutrients in the immediate period following a workout. As it stands, recent research is showing a much larger window of 4 – 6 hours. Crazy right?! You can actually just chill out, take a breathe and appreciate the beautiful magic you just made in the gym.
Additionally, The Anabolic Window has been touted to be the unstoppable force to halt muscle breakdown. Obviously, we tear muscle fibers when we perform resistance training. However, supporters of The Anabolic Window claims that this crucial period of time will help minimize or stop completely the breakdown of our hard earned muscles. Well, science rears its head again, and studies have shown that muscle breakdown is actually very slightly raised post-workout. So as long as our Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS) is greater than our Muscle Protein Breakdown (MPB), we should be in a state of muscle growth. And as we learned in the previous paragraph, protein synthesis past normal for up to 48 hours post workout … Win!
*** Disclaimer *** This does not apply to those that lift fasted. Studies do actually show that muscle breakdown is elevated post-workout. So you would be wise to get nutrients in relatively quickly post-workout
So why has this theory prevailed for so long? Well, there’s a number of reasons for sure. For starters, bodybuilders stuck in their way. They either grew up with the theory or have connected with it and they see no other way. And they will stop at nothing to ensure everyone jumps on their ship. (Similar to all those individuals hating on carbs, spot reducing fat or those saying women should train differently than men).
Secondly, groundbreaking research on the matter is new and developing. More and more studies are coming out proving the lack of an Anabolic Window, but it’s still too recent to begin a revolution against it. Lastly, I’ll give an honorable mention to the supplement industry. Why wouldn’t major brands want an Anabolic Window to be true?! Hey bodybuilder, our protein is “scientifically” proven to capitalize on The Anabolic Window. Drink up!
So there you have it folks. A really high level dive into the world of The Anabolic Window. To boil it down to a few key points. Focus on bookending your workouts with a majority of your calories. And if you’re training fasted, put just a little more pep in your step because muscle breakdown could actually happen.
Other than that, don’t be like Reuben! Train your ass off, eat according to your goal and enjoy your hard work! Oh… and get your spinach in too!