You’ve all heard (or received) the advice that you must eat within a half hour of working out or your muscles will shrivel up and die #byegainz. Fearing the worst, you dutifully sprint from the gym floor to your protein shake and chug it down before hitting the shower. You let out a satisfied sigh of relief and smile knowing you beat the clock and conquered that pesky little anabolic window.
Sound familiar? I laugh because I can remember myself in a similar situation back when I first started lifting. Luckily, we don’t have to be quite as anal with our post-workout nutrient timing. It’s important, sure, but you’ve got more than a half hour to drink your protein shake (or whatever else you plan on having for your post-workout meal).
What’s the anabolic “window of opportunity”?
For those of you not familiar with the “anabolic window”, it’s defined as a period of time after working out when protein synthesis (the process of building muscle) is at its peak, thus making nutrient timing more important than other periods throughout the day.
Those who believe they must down a protein shake immediately after working out are attempting to rebuild damaged muscle tissue & restore depleted glycogen levels, thus preventing the body from going into a catabolic state.
But, is it really that important to have protein and carbohydrates immediately following your training session?
To answer that I’d like to show you some of the latest research from Alan Aragon and Brad Schoenfeld- two leading experts in the world of bodybuilding nutrition.
Alan and Brad conducted a thorough meta-analysis study looking at what all published research had concluded regarding post-workout nutrient timing and benefits. What they found may surprise you.
According to Alan Aragon & Brad Schoenfeld, this anabolic window is more like four to six hours, not thirty minutes (1).
While it doesn’t hurt to eat immediately following a workout, doing so isn’t necessary.
What’s most important when it comes to post-workout nutrient timing?
One factor that can make timing more important is the timing of your pre-workout meal. If you plan on working out in a fasted state or if it has been a long time since your last meal, consuming an immediate post-workout meal becomes more beneficial.
What’s more important though is not the exact amount of carbs and protein consumed post-workout but your overall consumption throughout the day. This is good news from a convenience perspective and especially for those who are used to toting around six Tupperware filled with their meals for the day.
What’s the key takeaway?
Unless you’re an elite endurance athlete, don’t feel like you need to rush home and down a shake or meal immediately following your workout. Focus on consuming an adequate amount of protein throughout the day and your muscle-building efforts won’t be thwarted.
Of course, there is nothing bad about eating immediately after your training session (it’s just not necessary).
Bottom line – do whatever is more convenient for you.
Personally, I usually eat 1-2 hours after working out, but this is just personal preference. Consume your pre and post-workout meals within 4-6 hours of each other and you’ll be fine (2).
Now go build those sexy muscles.