It has long been understood that nutrient intake in and around the time of training can play a big part in performance and recovery, it has even been suggested that nutrient timing is equally important, and if not more so than the total amount of nutrients taken in per day…cue a peer reviewed journal article by the ISSN on Nutrient Timing!
Their most recent publication on Nutrient timing, published January 2013 looks at all the current data on post workout supplementation and tries to draw a conclusion. All of the previous research agrees that a source of Carbs and Protein is vitally important to muscle and glycogen repletion after exercise. What is particularly interesting is that it seems to replenish at a ‘supercompensated’ rate (replenishment above and beyond that of the norm). Correct nutrient loading and timing can favourably affect body composition meaning we lay down more muscle mass in relation to fat, and we maximise training related muscle adaptations.
So is the ‘Anabolic Window’ a buzz word that was started by a few gym rats, or is it backed by science? The answer, it seems, is the latter in that protein and crab ingestion is beneficial to maximising training adaptation, but the anabolic window itself is actually a lot broader than a mere 30mins after training. Research suggests that pre and post workout meals should be consumed no more than 3-4 hours apart, which isn’t too difficult considering an average training session should last between 60-90mins (consume protein and/or protein and carbs approx 30mins to 1 hour before and within 1-1 hour 30mins after). This means that a post exercise anabolic window is one thing, but actually, this so called ‘window’ is actually open wider than the initial 30mins after training, extending into the hour before training too!
What Should You Consume?
Liquid nutrition is the most readily absorbed form of nutrition and is one of the reasons whey protein is so popular in the post-training anabolic window (30-60mins after training). Bear in mind that whey protein shakes are in a relatively pre-digested form so they digest and absorb at a far greater rate than whole food, but whole food is ideal for laying down glycogen (stored Glucose) ready for training and exercise meaning a meal consisting of chicken, basmati or wholegrain rice and mixed veg would make for an ideal pre-workout meal approx 2-3 hours prior to exercise. If a meal isn't practical (if for example you train in the morning) then try to have this the night before, and then consume a protein and carb blend such as XL Nutrition Xtra Protein & Carbs within 30-60mins prior to you training. The act of consuming a whey protein before and after training is called ‘Book ending’, so if you’re not already, give it a try and see the results for yourself!
Aragon, A, A., & Schoenfield, B, J. (2013). Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window? : post-exercise nutrient timing. Journal of the international society of sports nutrition. 10:5