You see a lot of coaches talking about the anabolic window. The idea that there is a window immediately after training where you should try to eat a high protein, high carb meal to promote growth and replenish energy stores.

Some say it is essential to capitalise on it, others say it's a myth.

The thinking behind why the anabolic window may work is that immediately after a session in which metabolic demands have been heightened, cells are more capable of absorbing substrates such as glucose.

The cell surface is not fixed, it is made up of molecules bound together by chemical bonds and this allows it to be responsive to the internal environment of the cell. When we exercise, the increase in energy output leads to a greater concentration of metabolites which can signal the movement of channel-like structures to the cells surface through a process called translocation, increasing the ability to absorb substrates. Because the level of metabolites remains high for a period after we stop exercising these transporters remain in place on the cell surface membrane, suggesting that we will have an increased capacity for uptake of proteins and carbohydrates in this window of time.

The other suggestion is that, due to this increased rate of absorption through metabolically signalled translocation, high sugar foods consumed within this period will have a smaller insulinogenic effect as rises in blood sugar will be dampened by the increased rate of absorption of trained muscle tissue.

Recently, scientific evidence has suggested that consuming food within this anabolic window doesn't lead to any significant difference in the rate of growth, repair or replenishment, particularly when looking at the difference over a 24/48 hour period, supporting the argument that the anabolic window is a myth. However, the relative importance of the anabolic window seems to be positively correlated with training frequency. In other words, the more frequently you want to train, the more important it is to capitalise on this window. This is particularly true of athletes who may train twice in a given day, as the need to replenish energy stores quickly is heightened to allow them to hit the required intensity in both sessions.

What does this mean for you? The most important thing is still to ensure your diet as a whole gives you everything you need to support your exercise and your life. Meal timing is a tool you can play with and becomes increasingly important, the more frequently you train or the more strenuous your lifestyle. I personally try to eat something high in protein and carbohydrate within 'the anabolic window' by timing training around mealtimes or having a shake after a workout but don't panic if this doesn't work for you and make sure you prioritise getting your nutrition right as a whole over having a protein shake post-training.

Posted in Nutrition on Apr 02, 2021