Do You Actually Have An Anabolic Window?

We've all heard of the phrase 'window of opportunity.' That is what the anabolic window is based on — the premise that nutrients can be maximized for a specific window of time. According to Healthline, the anabolic window lasts for 30 minutes after training and is the best time to consume protein and carbohydrates. It is also referred to as the metabolic window or protein window.

The anabolic window is also a concept of nutrient timing. NCBI tells us that consuming the accurate ratio of nutrients before, during, and after an exercise session can help repair damaged muscle and aid in depleted energy reserves. Literally speaking, we all have 30 minutes of time after a workout that is referred to as the anabolic window. 

But does what we consume during this time actually affect our recovery and future performance? As it turns out, there is not much scientific evidence to prove that what you eat during the anabolic window will help rebuild muscle or help with future exercise any more than if you consumed the same nutrients outside of the 30-minute window.

There has been conflicting research about how long the anabolic window actually is

There is conflicting evidence to the idea that you need to eat a post-workout snack right away to get the best results. VeryWell Fit also notes there has been some research concluding the anabolic window can last up to 24 hours. An analysis shown via Healthline reveals 43 different studies concluded there was no strong link between consuming a protein shake post-workout to muscle growth and strength. Another study done in 2017 suggested that the "window of opportunity" for protein is much wider than believed.

How to Beast also weighs in saying this belief of an "anabolic window" became so widely popular because it relies on simple logic but lacks proven science to back up claims. They go on to say that replenishing diminished glycogen storage (a type of stored carbohydrate in the muscles) through nutrients right after a workout isn't as important as making sure glycogen storage is full pre-workout.

Perhaps we are asking the wrong question

Dr. Jose Antonio, CEO of the International Society Sports Nutrition, shares on YouTube an interesting view on the widely believed assumption of the extra benefits of eating shortly after a workout. He believes that wondering if there is an anabolic window is the wrong way to look at it. He says, "The question that needs to be asked is this, what value or benefit is there to not eating? What value or benefit is there to not consuming protein post-workout? The answer to that is none. There's absolutely no value to that. The pragmatic answer to that is when you are done training, whether it's lifting whether it is cardio, get that 20 to 40 gram shake immediately post-workout because there is a possible benefit to it, and no drawback to it." 

Antonio makes a good point. There may not be enough evidence showing the extra benefits of consuming your post-workout snack within 30 minutes after you're done exercising, but there is no downside, either. So go ahead and enjoy a snack after your sweat session when you feel it's best needed.