The ‘Anabolic Window’ is a thing many gym goers fear. After exercise if you miss this special window of time, will you lose all your gains? We explain what exactly it is, if it really exists and the science behind it.
What is the ‘Anabolic Window’?
This is the period of time, following a workout, in which you should consume protein to help your muscles recover.
Your body is in an Anabolic state when it is repairing muscles, and Catabolic when it is breaking them down. When you lift weights, your muscles are in a Catabolic state as they are breaking down energy and tearing muscle fibres. This is perfectly natural, but potentially dangerous to remain in this state for an excessive time.
Why is it essential to ingest Protein in this time?
Ultimately, the faster you can bring your body out of the Catabolic state and into the Anabolic state, the better and faster your recovery will be. Protein contains Amino Acids which are the building blocks of cells, and vital for muscle recovery. The faster you can supply your body with the nutrients it needs to recover, the faster it can recover.
I’ve heard the Anabolic Window lasts 30 mins – is this true?
No. There is no legitimate scientific evidence to show that there is a 30 minute window in which you must consume protein.
What is the time frame then?
Studies (1, 2, 3) show that Amino Acid uptake rate is 2x the resting level following a workout. This remains for up to 2 hours where upon it quickly returns to the normal level. Ultimately this means that in the 2 hours following a workout your body can turn Protein into Amino Acids, and begin repairing the muscle tissue, at twice the normal rate.
What does this mean?
Your body can naturally only process about 20-30 grams of Protein in ‘one sitting’ or about 2-3 hours. This then, in simple terms, means that your body is processing Protein into useful Amino Acids much faster. So you can have more than this guideline, or another 20-30 grams in the following 1-2 hours and it not be wasted.
So to optimise recovery get that protein in as soon as you can after your workout, but don’t worry if you can’t, you have 2 hours to do so.