The important role of post-workout nutrition isn’t ground-breaking stuff. Refuelling with the right nutrients – predominantly proteins and carbohydrates – will help increase muscle protein synthesis (growth), restore glycogen stores and enhance recovery. But is it really a disaster if you don’t have time to stuff down your pre-prepared chicken and rice within 30 minutes of your workout?
Although many people within the fitness community swear by the metabolic window theory - where the intake of protein and carbohydrates during the 30-minute period after exercise is said to help increase muscle mass – there’s really no need to panic, as failing to do so doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be waving goodbye to all your hard work…
However, there are a few things we need to consider when looking at the significance of when you consume your post-workout shake or meal:
Your Pre-Workout Meal
Eating a decent serving of protein (20g) before your workout can significantly increase the delivery of amino acids to your muscles, for up to 2-3 hours post-workout*. This means that if you know you’ll be rushing out of your workout and straight to your desk, you might want to consider a small pre-workout meal to fuel up beforehand, to maximise muscle growth and recovery time, thanks to the protein and carbohydrates still in your system.
If you won’t have time to fit in your workout within 4 hours of your last meal (for example, if you’re training fasted in the morning), consuming 20-30g of protein post-workout becomes much more crucial. So, if you’ll be too busy to eat, this is where a handy Whey or Vegan Protein shake can come in - protein powder is designed to be an easy and quick way to get protein into your system and broken down. Mixing it with water is the quickest way to get it to your muscles
What Are Your Goals?
If you’re an elite athlete or someone taking their training or fitness goals very seriously, then a protein shake, followed by a nutritious post-workout meal, could potentially give you a helping hand when it comes to muscle gain and recovery as it will be the quickest way to refuel your fatigued muscles and help them to start the process of repairing.
But for the average person, you don’t need to panic about the ‘anabolic window’, and you can take your time and enjoy that shake rather than chugging it back mid-shower! Focus on making sure you’ve consumed enough protein throughout the day, and enough carbohydrates to give you the energy your body needs before and after your workout – this has been shown to be much more important than worrying about a special window of time for consumption. However, if you train fasted, making sure to get in some good quality nutrients post-workout (ideally within 30-45 minutes) could be very beneficial to your muscle growth and recovery.
*Source: Aragon, Alan Albert, and Brad Jon Schoenfeld. “Nutrient Timing Revisited: Is There a Post-exercise Anabolic Window?” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. BioMed Central, 29 Jan. 2013. Web. 26 Feb. 2016.