The Anabolic Window: Everything You Need To Know

Taking 40 g of casein before bed increases endogenous protein synthesis and prevents loss of muscle mass. In this article we'll tell you everything you need to know.
The Anabolic Window: Everything You Need To Know

Last update: 22 August, 2020

The anabolic window is a concept that refers to a better assimilation of nutrients after exercise. According to classic physiology manuals, after putting your muscles to work a temporary space opens up where your body takes advantage of your food more.

This effect can increase muscle protein synthesis, tissue recovery, and lean gains. However, despite everything, researchers today question the existence of an anabolic window. They’ve studied the effects of protein administration before and after exercise on muscle protein synthesis. The results seem to indicate that there’s no significant difference between the two methods.

Let’s take a closer look at what this means.

An anabolic window may exist before sleeping

Recently, scientists published a study in The Journal of Nutrition that purported to investigate the effects of pre-sleep casein administration on muscle function.

For this, they chose a group of individuals with an average age of 70. They compared the effects of the intake of 40 g of casein with the contribution of 20 g of the protein enriched with leucine. The results showed that the highest doses of protein administered before sleep improve muscle protein synthesis. This brings with it a reduction in the loss of lean tissue in elderly individuals.

Therefore, the study suggests that the classic anabolic window could exist, but in a different time interval than people previously believed. In this way, consuming protein before sleep may improve muscle building.

However, no notable differences were found between protein intake before and after training, as long as the nitrogen balance for the day was positive.

Man sleeping, there could be an anabolic window before sleeping.
In recent studies, researchers determined that muscle protein synthesis improved with a dose of protein before sleeping.

You might also be interested in: 10 Facts About Sleep That You Should Know

Glycogen replacement is essential

Whether or not there’s an anabolic window after exercising, what’s evident is the need to restore glycogen deposits after an anaerobic workout.

An article published in the journal Nutrients found that the most effective way to restore glycogen deposits is to combine a carbohydrate supplement with a portion of protein.

Therefore, this could be a useful strategy when it comes to reducing the risk of muscle injury in future training. Also, taking extra leucine could be useful to help reduce muscle pain in times of high competitive stress.

Ergogenic aids that improve tissue construction

Several supplements can improve protein synthesis when you take them after exercise. Indeed, you can increase your recovery after exercise, as well as muscular adaptations.

Two specific cases are creatine and HMB. Both substances have been proven to improve athletes’ maximum strength, as well as their body composition. Therefore, healthily consuming these supplements can contribute to muscle gain and loss of fat tissue.

However, the reduction in fat may be caused by an increase in metabolic expenditure derived from increased muscle mass, not a direct effect of the substance on tissue or metabolism.

Protein shakes next to protein powder, best consumed during an anabolic window.
Research has shown that some supplements have positive results for athletes since taking them after training contributes to muscle recovery.

The anabolic window: It’s better at night

Current scientific trends cast doubt on the classic concept of the anabolic window after sports practice. However, the latest tests suggest the possibility that there is a period where your body assimilates nutrients better.

This time interval may occur before sleeping. This means that ingesting a slowly absorbed protein could be an effective strategy to maximize muscle gains and reduce tissue catabolism.

No matter what, you should take these supplements within the framework of a varied diet with balanced protein intake. It’s important to cover your body’s protein needs so that you can maintain or improve your body composition apart from just taking a supplement at a certain time of day.

On the other hand, we recommend you exercise regularly. This will stimulate muscle fibers, which will lead to their growth by increasing endogenous protein synthesis.

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  • Kouw IW., Holwerda AM., Trommelen J., Kramer IF., et al., Protein ingestion before sleep increases overnight muscle protein synthesis rates in healthy older men: a randomized controlled trial. J Nutr, 2017. 147: 2252-2261.
  • Alghannam AF., Gonzalez JT., Betts JA., Restoration of muscle glycogen and functional capacity: role of post exercise carbohydrate and protein co ingestion. Nutrients, 2018.