The “anabolic window”, also known as the “metabolic window”, refers to the timeframe after a workout where the body is most able to benefit from consumed protein and amino acids. Many theories exist about the metabolic window. Some gym-goers call it a myth, while others believe in the window wholeheartedly. The anabolic window implies a 30-minute timeframe of optimal space during which the increased blood flow from the previous exercise helps the amino acids and protein reach the muscles in a more effective way. While multiple studies have been conducted into the actual timeframe for the anabolic window, the number is more likely a 2-3 hour window after workouts are finished. Whichever time window you believe in, the truth remains: use it or lose it!
You aren’t going to screw anything up by eating your protein (or mixing a shake) as soon after a workout as possible to make sure you get in the anabolic window. Muscles are broken down during exercise, especially resistance training, and eating protein helps fill in and build muscle mass at the points of the breakdown. This is how muscle mass is built. Even if you are dong light resistance training, you will still move toward getting stronger, even if you don’t have a goal of building large muscle mass. Likewise, you don’t have to take protein shakes or supplements to get stronger, but the process of repairing torn down muscle fibers will take longer. It all depends on your diet. If you eat enough protein and consume foods rich in Omega-3s, you are getting the necessary amino acids and protein. Excess protein consumption is not necessary, and most of the excess is eliminated in the body’s waste.
Keep in mind that you, as a gym-going exerciser, are active. You are going to need more protein than a sedentary individual or an exerciser who rarely gets to the gym or spends small amounts of time there. Your body shifts into an anabolic state after workouts, and this is why the anabolic window has to be used. Exercise raises your metabolism and and helps you continue to burn calories post-workout. Research is clean that within the first few hours of post-workout, this anabolic state is much more elevated. This is your anabolic window. Your muscles are calling for growth. They don’t want to be broken down longer than they have to be, so feed them!
Have you been trying to build muscle mass or get stronger, but seem to be falling short? Try adding some protein soon after a workout and see if you can’t reach some of those goals you’ve set for yourself!