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What to eat after a workout?

Updated: Mar 5, 2019

This is a very controversial topic lately, with one group giving a lot of importance to post workout anabolic window where if you do not consume a quick digesting protein shake immediately post workout, you will not grow. The other group went to the other extreme, claiming that anabolic window does not exist, and that total daily protein intake is what matters. If you consume enough protein throughout the day, meal timing does not matter at all.

While I am glad that the era of drinking protein shakes mixed with dextrose in the changing room right after your workout is over, I still have a problem with the new ''anabolic window does not exist'' approach simply because it is not true. It does exist and we will see how we can take the most advantage out of it to maximize our muscle growth.

The anabolic window

The anabolic window can be defined as a period of time with an elevated muscle protein synthesis. You can think of this as a period of time where energy intake and protein maximizes muscle growth.

Anabolic window duration depends on the training level of each individual. Untrained individuals have an anabolic window that can last up to 72 hours, which makes nutrient timing practically irrelevant. Just consuming equal amount of protein, preferably 0.4 g / kg of body weight, in every meal is sufficient for optimal muscle growth.

This however changes very quickly with trained individuals as the body adapts to strength training and post workout muscle damage decreases. As a result, muscle protein synthesis duration rate decreases as well. In trained individuals, MPS may still be elevated 29 hours after the training session, but peak MPS occurs much earlier. For the comparison, see the graph below.