Anabolic Period

Anabolic Period

Written by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.


If you're looking to maximize your muscle building potential, understanding the concept of the anabolic window is crucial.

This guide will provide you with all the information you need to know about the anabolic window, including what it is, how it works, and how to make the most of it to enhance your muscle growth and recovery.

Understanding the Anabolic Window and its Importance

The anabolic window refers to the period of time immediately following a workout when your body is primed for muscle growth and repair.

During this window, it os often said that your muscles are more receptive to nutrients, particularly protein, which is essential for muscle building.

By consuming the right nutrients within this timeframe, you can potentially optimize your muscle building potential and enhance your recovery.

However, the theory may not always stand up during practice, read on to learn more.

Timing Your Post-Workout Nutrition

It is considered that you should consume a combination of protein and carbohydrates within 30 minutes to an hour after your workout.

This is when your muscles are supposedly most receptive to nutrients and can quickly absorb and utilize them for repair and growth, as per this body of research.

Aim for a protein source that is easily digestible, such as whey protein, and pair it with a high-quality carbohydrate source, such as fruit or whole grains.

This will replenish glycogen stores and provide the necessary building blocks for muscle repair. 

Nutrient Timing Revealed - Is There a Post-Exercise Anabolic Window?

Nutrient timing refers to the practice of strategically consuming specific nutrients - typically protein and carbohydrates - before, during, and after training sessions in order to optimize performance, recovery and adaptation.

The theory behind it is that intense resistance training workouts deplete a considerable amount of fuel while damaging muscle tissue.

When this occurs protein ingestion should be targeted specifically so as to stimulate muscle protein synthesis and move your body from catabolic state into an anabolic state. However, does it matter when you consume these nutrients as much as just consuming enough?


Some gym-goers know it's essential to consume carbohydrates around your workout in order to optimize results. This practice, known as carb timing, aims at optimizing muscle repair.

The anabolic window theory holds that to optimize muscle protein synthesis (MPS), which drives muscle rebuilding and growth, you must consume a meal rich in carbohydrates and protein within an hour after training.

Exercising depletes glycogen stores while breaking down protein structures; eating protein and carbs shortly after exercising will prevent further breakdown, stimulating protein synthesis.

Studies have proven this, with one body f research suggesting that timing is more important than the amount of utrients, yet in practice it's much more complex. Most positive results can be attributed to differences in total protein consumption rather than post-workout carb consumption alone.

Maximizing muscle recovery is no simple matter; it really depends on the overall protein and calorie intake as well as intensity and duration of physical exercise. Timing carbs for your workout and recovery is one approach, while there may also be better solutions available to you.

Carb timing can be used in various ways depending on fitness goals and training focuses.

For instance, depending on when an event or competition takes place, you might carb load in the days leading up to it to enhance muscle glycogen stores, or you could carb cycle by gradually increasing or decreasing carb consumption throughout a day, week, or month.

As another option, simply eating a meal consisting of both protein and carbohydrates after every workout should provide sufficient recovery from MPS and support recovery.

Overall, consistently increasing protein intake (0.8-2.0 grams per kilogram of bodyweight) along with progressive overload in training will have more of an impactful result than worrying about exact timing for carbs.

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When it comes to optimizing muscle repair and recovery, some research states that timing protein consumption is one of the key elements.

Though some may dismiss its significance and claim they can just consume as much as possible all at once without consequence, research does not support such claims.

An "anabolic window" refers to a specific time after exercise in which protein consumption should be optimized in order to maximize muscle recovery.

This theory stems from intense exercise depleting glycogen stores and breaking down muscle tissue; replenishing them as soon as possible after training can increase rates of muscle protein synthesis, driving growth.

Studies have concluded that protein timing does have some bearing on recovery and muscle gains, yet their conclusions can often be inconsistent and conflicting as outlined in this 2013 review.

For instance, Hoffman and colleagues found that taking in protein immediately post-workout enhanced muscle protein synthesis; yet at other times they discovered no difference when they consumed the same amount either pre or post workout.

Another problem with some studies was their failure to take into account all aspects of an individual's diet, rather than simply looking at post-training consumption of protein and carbs.

Such studies often focus on this post-workout consumption without accounting for overall dietary needs or meal frequency - potentially clouding results as it could simply be that overall higher protein consumption drove improvements in strength and muscle hypertrophy.

There's also the question of whether or not the anabolic window is truly as narrow as often implied. A 2017 study concluded that eating protein both pre- and immediate post-workout produced similar muscle adaptations.

Therefore, increasing overall protein consumption rather than worrying too much about specific meals or supplements after workouts is key for optimizing anabolism.

Simply put, while intense exercise may deplete glycogen stores and break down muscle tissue, the idea that there's only an hour after workouts during which to consume protein to maximize muscle gains is not fully supported by research.

You could still achieve success from increasing total daily protein consumption rather than timing individual protein supplements perfectly.

As already mentioned, an active person should ingest approximately 0.8-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. 


Nutrient timing refers to manipulating nutritional intake before, during, and after exercise sessions to maximize performance and recovery (Schoenfeld & Aragon, 2013).

According to anabolic window theory, eating a meal rich in carbohydrates and protein within an hour after resistance training promotes muscle protein synthesis while filling glycogen stores and increasing hypertrophy.

However, there is no evidence to prove that eating protein immediately following exercise increases muscle protein synthesis. A review conducted by Alan Aragon and Brad Schoenfeld showed no clear link between consumption of protein after resistance training and maximum muscle gain.

Some studies have demonstrated that eating protein soon after resistance training leads to greater increases in strength gains than consuming it at other times, but these studies were small and only showed slight benefits; furthermore, their effect was only temporary.

Their results do not apply in real world situations where nutrition timing will make an impactful difference in strength or body composition.

Other studies have also demonstrated that eating protein and carbs together does not lead to greater muscle adaptations than when taken separately, suggesting that any narrow anabolic window after workouts is inaccurate and it might be more effective to consume protein pre-training or have a larger meal post workout.

Although the anabolic window may no longer be as important, it still plays a part in protein synthesis for those training while fasted.

Consuming approximately 25 g of protein immediately post workout will help promote muscle protein synthesis while simultaneously decreasing proteolysis; but don't stress about eating within this window if you don't plan to train while fasted! It is more important that overall you consume sufficient quantities of protein.

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