ARE YOU MAXIMIZING YOUR POST WORKOUT MUSCLE GAINS?
Is there REALLY a 30 minute Anabolic Window and is my workout pointless if I forget my protein shake once my workout is over? Some people say yes and some people say no – So who’s right? Well, instead of listening to gym bros talk nonsense how about we do some research and put this myth to bed?
Before we get to the question at hand though, we first need to answer another question. How is muscle actually built? The truth is that the process of muscle-building is the result of the following equation:
Muscle Mass = Total Protein Synthesis – Total Protein Breakdown
In simple terms, protein synthesis is when amino acids are bound together, triggering a genetic response to build more muscle mass and protein synthesis is usually elevated after a high protein meal and after your workouts.
Protein breakdown, on the other hand, is when amino acids are leeched off your skeletal muscles and this can happen either because you’re in a state of catabolism (not getting enough calories) or because you just worked out. Remember when you are training you are literally breaking down your muscles (to a degree).
These two processes, protein synthesis and protein breakdown, are constantly in effect and the NET result between the two, determines your muscle building results. If the total protein synthesis is greater than the breakdown, your muscle mass is bound to be increased.
Now with this in mind it would seem that the easiest way to combat protein breakdown would be to focus on increasing protein synthesis. This is because, for the most part, protein breakdown only becomes an issue if you’re in a calorie deficit or training fasted. But even then, supplementing with BCAA’s throughout the day and around your workout can help eliminate the problem or at least minimize it as much as possible.
So if we are going to focus on protein synthesis for muscle growth then we need to know when it is elevated the most and the answer is when a new stimulus is introduced. This new stimulus can either be in the form of an intense workout or a high-protein meal. Now let’s take a closer look at both.
Elevated Protein Synthesis from Training
Exercise induced protein synthesis elevation occurs every time you work out a specific muscle. So let’s say you are training chest today. The protein synthesis for that particular muscle will be increased, according to research, for 24 – 36 hours after your workout. In fact, the peak levels of the protein synthesis will be at around 24 hours and then it slowly fades away. Now if you’re a genetic freak it might carry on for 48 hours, but that’s extremely rare.
So what this basically means is that as long as you’re constantly consuming enough protein and are in a calorie surplus every single day, you’re already taking advantage of the “Anabolic Window” which at this point should seem to you more like a huge bay window as opposed to a small basement one that most gym bros would try to have you believe.
So the next time someone tries to tell you that you are losing your gains you can inform them that a protein shake immediately after your workout is no different than having a high protein meal 2 – 3 hours after, as long as your total macros and calories are on point and if you need help figuring out your macros.
HOWEVER, now that you’re armed with this new information you might now be starting to realize why training each body part two times a week is more optimal for muscle growth than bro-splits. You can still train and see results with bro-splits, but full body workout programs like Push, Pull, Legs allow you to target every muscle group twice a week which means that as soon as your elevated levels of protein synthesis start to die off, 36 hours after your workout, you’re immediately boosting it right back up. This way there is an elevated level of protein synthesis throughout the entire week and a constant cycle of TRAIN, EAT, & BUILD MUSCLE.
Now if you are currently doing bro-splits and are training each muscle group once a week this simply means you’re building up each muscle only for the first 36 hours of training it for that particular week, even if you’re sore for multiple days. But this does NOT mean you’re not going to eventually grow. It just means obviously that your gains won’t be as fast as someone training multiple body parts twice a week.
When it comes to protein synthesis is that everything I just told you only applies to NATURAL LIFTERS. Steroid users will experience elevated protein synthesis for up to a week after a workout, therefore they’re constantly building muscle all week long. So, if you’re current taking training advice from a steroid user and you’re wondering why you’re not seeing the same kind of gains doing their bro-splits, now you know why.
Elevated Protein Synthesis from A High Protein Meal
The second way to increase muscle protein synthesis is by eating a high protein meal. This time though, research clearly shows that protein synthesis is elevated for up to 3 hours after your meal and then it fades away. So, I’m sure now you’re wondering, “What if keep eating protein all day? Does this mean I’ll have increased protein synthesis all day?” Well unfortunately, the answer is no. This only happens when your body is depleted from energy and nutrients, which is when you wake up because you are in a fasted state. Now a case could also be made that your body is craving nutrients after a workout so the introduced stimulus of a high protein meal would increase protein synthesis after a workout and I agree with that.
But this window has nothing to do with specific timing. It doesn’t matter WHEN you have your next meal after a workout. As long as you have it, and as long as your body is energy depleted, your protein synthesis will be elevated for about 3 – 4 hours.
So let’s summarize. Consuming a protein shake within a 30 minute window after your workouts will absolutely give you no added benefit as opposed to waiting until you get home to prepare a meal. Science clearly shows that as long as you’re in a caloric surplus and you’re having enough protein to build muscle, you WILL build muscle regardless of nutrient timing.
Aside from that, as a matter of convenience, it might be a smart idea to have your protein shake after your workout, and then have a high-protein, high-carb meal 2 – 3 hours later, as a means of maximizing the amount of protein and calories you’re getting every day. I take SYNTHA-6 ISOLATE after my workouts because it contains whey and casein protein and has a good amount of protein & carbs. Then once I get home I like to prepare a hot meal of chicken, asparagus, beans and sweet potatoes.
Be sure to train all your muscle groups at least two times a week to provide a constant stimulus for growth and don’t worry too much about timing your meals.
I hope you learned something new from this article, and if you have any questions or if you want to suggest future topics, be sure to leave your comments down in the comment section below!