Gaining muscle is important to many people. There are millions who spend hours in the gym working out in order to get a ripped body. Initially, people were content to simply work out and wait for the muscles to build. Diet was rarely associated with gaining muscle or losing weight. Today, things are totally different. There are many theories and myths that try to relate diet with muscle gaining efforts. One popular but erroneous theory is the anabolic window theory.
The anabolic window theory simply suggests that immediately after a workout, it is important to consume proteins and carbohydrates in order to ensure protein muscle growth. According to the theory, if you consume a protein shake not more than two hours after your workout, you will build more muscle than if you fail to consume the protein shake.
The theory is based on two foundations. One is that after working out, the protein muscle fibers in the body are destroyed and that the glycogen stored in the body is depleted. The second basis is that if you consume a protein shake a short while after your workout, you can compensate for the destroyed muscle fibers and replenish your glycogen stores.
It is easy to see the allure of this theory. After all, it makes perfect logical sense. Destroy protein muscle fibers, and then consume plenty of proteins in order to replace the destroyed fibers. Simple, isn’t it? But the truth is far from such simple deductions. Scientific proof does not in any way back up this theory, which goes to show that the theory is really nothing more than a myth. Of course, the first part of the theory is true.
After working out, you will have destroyed plenty of muscle fibers, and your glycogen levels will be lowered. But the bit about consuming protein shakes within a given timeframe in order to pack muscles is not true.
Here are the reasons why the anabolic window theory is not only faulty, but actually false:
There Is No Evidence Of The Anabolic Window
If the anabolic window theory was true, then scientific studies would definitely support it. Unfortunately, this is not the case. According to a scientific research conducted by two of the world’s leading body building nutritionists, post workout nutrition did little to increase muscle protein synthesis. In short, it makes no difference if you consume proteins immediately after your workout. There is nothing to show for it in your lean muscle gain.
The research was conducted on a group of body builders, and there wasn’t that great a change recorded in those who took protein shakes following their workouts as opposed to those who did not. If anything, the research only served to prove that pre-workout nutrition is more beneficial.
It is however important to note that the research was conducted mostly on obese and elderly individuals, which might have affected the outcome. All in all, the study showed that post- workout nutrition did little to contribute to muscle gain.
The Case Is Different For Fasted Training
Studies show that post- workout nutrition might actually be important for those who practice fasted training. Simply defined, fasted training refers to training on an empty stomach, especially early in the morning before having breakfast. Post- workout nutrition in this case is invaluable because it prevents the breakdown of protein muscle.
In order to build muscles, you need to lower the rate of protein muscle breakdown. If you consume simple carbs after fasted training, you will boost insulin levels. Insulin help slows down protein breakdown. Research shows that after fasted training, there are actually high levels of protein breakdown.
This is not the case for ordinary bodybuilding, where the levels of protein breakdown after a workout are very slightly raised. So unless you are engaging in fasted training, you really don’t have to consume carbs or even proteins shortly after your workout in a bid to prevent protein breakdown.
You Don’t Need To Replenish Glycogen Immediately After Working Out
Although it is true that glycogen is greatly used during working out, there is not a single shred of scientific proof that shows that you must replenish the used glycogen within a given time frame. It is easy to understand why the glycogen gets so quickly depleted.
It is after all one of the primary sources of energy during a workout. But that by no means implies that you must replenish it as quickly as you can to induce muscle growth.
The standard rule is that you must replenish your glycogen levels before your next workout, because glycogen is the source of energy for your workout. It matters not whether you replenish the glycogen two, eight or twenty four hours after your workout— the results are the same.
What is the Solution?
In order to build muscle more effectively, it is important to maintain balance. This means that you must always consume a balanced diet at all times, making sure to fulfill the dietary needs of your body.
Ensure that you eat enough proteins, enough fats and enough carbohydrates throughout the day. As long as your diet is balanced and your body is getting all the nutrients it needs, then there is really no need to consume certain nutrients immediately after your workout.
Anabolic Window Conclusion
Now that the anabolic window myth is dispelled, you should not feel pressured to base your nutritional choices on it. There is no scientific proof to back up the theory, and even athletes who tried it did not see any huge difference in their bodybuilding rate. If you want to gain muscle, combine your workout efforts with a solidly balanced diet. That is the only way you will end up getting a ripped body.
The case is however different for those of you who practice fasted training. Research shows that post-workout nutrition is incredibly important for you as it prevents protein muscle breakdown by spiking insulin levels.
It is also important to remember that you should replenish your glycogen levels before your next workout, and not a few minutes after your workout. Post- workout nutrition is not half as effective as pre-workout nutrition. All in all, the anabolic window theory is a rather shaky one, and you would be well- advised not to follow it.