Written by: Esteban Alexander – Elite Shredded Academy Trainer

Once you are done working out it is good to take carbs to replenish the glycogen lost during workouts. Looking at my story while I was young I used to train in our home and it was totally a waste of time. I would frequently do some press ups and curls. I would rush home upstairs and make myself a protein shake consisting

  • 1 scoop of chocolate protein
  • 1 cup of dairy milk
  • Few cubes of ice
  • Peanut butter
  • Banana
  • Honey (not really important)
  • Frosted Flakes

My shake surpassed 100 grams of sugar and it is shocking. I didn’t become heavier. For sure I remained skinny and I didn’t add any muscles. 130 pounds realistically is not a good bulk. You can testify this.

20 years down the line now am looking at the science of post-workout nutrition which has changed dramatically. It is also funny to note that despite the change a lot people’s behaviour hasn’t changed though. Many still believe that you have to take a shake in an hour’s time after working out. There is a belief that after working out you lose a lot of carbs which need to be replaced immediately.

Is there an “anabolic window” after your workout? That is the question Aragon and Brad Schoenfeld asked in a thorough review of the research published on post work out meals and their benefits. I knew about this paper going way back then and it was a big motivation for us launching the Muscle Lab.

I spoke with some of my friends on post workout nutrition and what you should really be eating and when after you finish training.

Why we thought nutrient timing was important

My study was quite a big deal but it probably needs more attention in the mainstream. At times I wonder why we thought that timing was important and what benefits did we believe one would get by eating within the anabolic window.

The wisdom behind was that there was a quickly closing anabolic window of opportunity after the training. The origin of this research was from the 1980s showing that a delay in carbohydrates consumption leads to less glycogen absorption in the few hours after the bout. Fast acting carbs ingested immediately became the popular mantra.

Subsequent research showed that complete glycogen resynthesis occurred the same day after depletion as long as the carbs were matched. For athletes who have to deal with glycogen-depleted muscles, the quick-carbie tactic works out well for them. The research included protein and amino acids to the peri-workout period and found some beneficial effects on muscle protein synthesis. The research also shared similar limitations as the carb research because it only looked at the short term and only examined effects in over-night fasted subjects.

That is how the anabolic window gained momentum. It, however, ran into several snags as long-term trials investigating trimming effects on its strengths failed to consistently give out the promise seen in short term studies.

Knowledge about post-workout nutrient timing

What did we find out from our study?

We first performed an analysis of the effects of protein timing their strength and hypertrophy were compared without adjusting for any confounding issues. The results showed that timing has no effect on strength but a negligible effect was found for hypertrophy.

This made us believe that we had confirmed the presence of a narrow “anabolic window of opportunity”. We proceeded to perform a statistical regression analysis where we analyzed different variables to see if they affected the outcome. The analysis showed that the quantity of protein consumed explained virtually all the variance in results.

Majority of the studies did not match protein intake between groups. The experimental groups consumed more proteins in comparison to the controls. Thus the average protein consumption in the control groups were below the necessary needed to maximize protein synthesis associated with resistance training.

Out of our research, it’s only a few studies that actually seemed to match the intake. From our subanalysis of this data no effects were found on protein timing. Well, this may be because we did not get sufficient data for the analysis.

The post workout meal urgency

Let’s ask ourselves a question. Is the timing as important as we thought? How this was thought carried forward for so long?

Well, timing is still important, but the strong urgency of timing implied by the earlier research has not been upheld. Short term responses provide interesting clues and hypotheses, it’s the chronic adaptations that matter. The chronic trials have however failed to strongly support the idea that muscular adaptations are compromised if one doesn’t take the proteins immediately after the workout.

Recent research has also failed to show an enhancement of the anabolic response to training when carbohydrate is taken with sufficient protein, compared to protein alone. One of the reasons as to why people have still held on to the mantra is because human beings are in naturally resistant to changes especially when they are preaching them and using them as a way of earning income.

As for scientists they are never hesitant about changing their belief on something as long as research has been done and proven otherwise. For most people this is not the case even the educated ones they will still continue holding on to their belief. Another reason for the perpetuation of the old research is that the tide sghi8fting research is relatively new and prone to changes in the future.

New rules of nutrient timing

From the new research, is there any benefit to timing meals around workouts?

Timing nutrition around workout plan is a good idea because it improves performance and also is good a recovery point. Our analysis did not detect any humongous benefit of timing protein intake within the workout plan either before or after.

Some of the important takeaway that someone who trains can take in to help achieve their goals are; you don’t necessarily need to ingest a protein shake after your work out. You can wait for some time to do what you need to do and then consume your nutrients.

Let’s say you have 4 to 6 hours in your work out plan. If you take your meal some a few hours before your work out that means that you will have to wait longer after your workout so as to take your nutrients. However, there is nothing wrong with taking your nutrients immediately after your workout because from our recent research it only has a small significance to intake your nutrients immediately after.