Post Workout Protein and the Anabolic Window

I remember it so well. Every time I would pack my gym bag before heading off for a workout, I would always be sure to include my post workout protein shake.  It would be ready mixed in my shaker bottle, ready to be slammed back as soon as I finished the session.  And on the odd occasion when I forgot to pack my protein shake, I would be horrified!

I would hurry home as fast as I could, to quickly get my protein down as fast as possible.  My eyes would be on my watch, as I raced the clock to consume my post workout protein shake within 45 minutes of finishing my workout.  Because if I didn’t get my protein in time, that gruelling workout I had just put myself through would be a total waste.  It would result in no muscle gain if I didn’t have protein within the 45-minute post workout anabolic window!  Little did I know that I had nothing to panic about!

The 45-minute post workout anabolic window

It used to be treated as gospel that in order to maximise muscle gains, you have to consume protein within 45 minutes of completing a resistance training workout.  This time frame is known as the “anabolic window”.  We now know that the “anabolic window” isn’t anywhere near as small, or as important, as we first thought.

Yes, post workout protein can help your muscles recover and grow.  And logically, since we know that protein is used by the body for growth and repair, it sounds like it makes sense to fuel your body with nutrients after having broken your muscle tissue down through hard training.  But still, this 45-minute period of panic isn’t the drastic affair we first believed.

It’s all about total daily protein intake

A meta-analysis by Schoenfeld et al considered23 high-quality studies on protein timing.  They concluded that the total amount of protein consumed each day was a lot more important for muscle growth, as opposed to “when” that protein was consumed.

The anabolic effects of protein last 5 – 6 hours

There is evidence to show that the muscle building effects of ingested protein actually last for 5 to 6 hours.  

Let’s put this into a real-life scenario.  

You have lunch (which includes a healthy serving of protein) at 1pm.  Work finishes at 5pm and get to the gym for 5.30pm, to workout for an hour.  You finish your workout at 6.30pm.  In this case, it would make sense to have a post workout protein shake, since it would have been 5 and half hours since your last protein intake.

Post Workout Protein

But, let’s look at another example.

You wake up, slam down a protein shake, and head straight to the gym for an early morning workout before work.  Say you have your protein shake at 7am, get to the gym for 7.30am, and finish training at 8.30am.  There would be no need to necessarily have a post workout protein shake immediately. You could simply wait up until lunch at 1pm, which is 6 hours after your morning pre-workout protein shake (as long as your lunch includes a healthy dose of protein).

Protein shakes aren’t necessary

Note that protein shakes are certainly not necessary either, they simply can act as a convenient means of meeting your protein requirements.

And off course, how frequently you consume protein throughout the day is entirely up to you.  Whether you have just 3 meals, or decide to have 6 meals, it is your choice.  As long as you go no longer than 6 hours without ingesting protein, your body will still have protein “in your system” to build muscle!  Just focus mainly on getting enough protein in total over the course of each day. Don’t fuss over “having” to necessarily take in protein immediately after working out.

How much protein do I need each day?

Research suggests that, if you are looking to build muscle and you are regularly resistance training, you should aim for at least 1.6 to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight each day.  So basically, aim for 1g of protein per 1lb of bodyweight each day minimum.  It still seems to be unclear what the upper limit for daily protein intake is.  But we do know that there is no proven harm in taking in “extra” protein.

post workout protein

The take home message

  • Focus on consuming “enough” protein in total, over the course of each day.
  • Aim for at least 1g of protein per 1lb of bodyweight each day in total.  But more protein than this is fine too.
  • Protein will continue to have anabolic (muscle building) effect for 5 – 6 hours after consuming it.
  • Having protein immediately after working out, i.e. the 45-minute anabolic window, is not necessary.
Post Workout Protein

References

International society of sports nutrition position stand: diets and body composition
Alan A. Aragon, Brad J. Schoenfeld,Robert Wildman, Susan Kleiner, Trisha VanDusseldorp, Lem Taylor, Conrad P. Earnest, Paul J. Arciero, Colin Wilborn, Douglas S. Kalman, Jeffrey R. Stout, Darryn S. Willoughby, Bill Campbell, Shawn M. Arent, Laurent Bannock, Abbie E. Smith-Ryan and Jose Antonio
Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition201714:16
https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0174-y
©  The Author(s). 2017Received: 25 May 2017Accepted: 30 May 2017Published: 14 June 2017

Lou Schuler and Alan Aragon, “The Lean Muscle Diet: a customized workout plan – eat the food your love to build the body you want and keep it for life”, Men’s Health, Rodale Inc.(2014).

de Souza R, Bray G, Carey V, Hall K, LeBoff M, Loria C, et al. Effects of 4 weight-loss diets differing in fat, protein, and carbohydrate on fat mass, lean mass, visceral adipose tissue, and hepatic fat: results from the POUNDS LOST trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;95(3):614–25.

Antonio J, Peacock C, Ellerbroek A, Fromhoff B, Silver T. The effects of consuming a high protein diet (4.4 g/kg/d) on body composition in resistance-trained individuals. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2014;11:19. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-11-19.

Antonio J, Ellerbroek A, Silver T, Orris S, Scheiner M, Gonzalez A, et al. A high protein diet (3.4 g/kg/d) combined with a heavy resistance training program improves body composition in healthy trained men and women–a follow-up investigation. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015;12:39.

Antonio J, Ellerbroek A, Silver T, Vargas L, Peacock C. The effects of a high protein diet on indices of health and body composition–a crossover trial in resistance-trained men. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2016;13:3. doi:10.1186/s12970-016-0114-2.

Antonio J, Ellerbroek A, Silver T, Vargas L, Tamayo A, Buehn R, et al. A high protein diet has no harmful effects: a one-year crossover study in resistance-trained males. J Nutr Metab. 2016;2016:9104792. doi:10.1155/2016/9104792.

The effect of protein timing on muscle strength and hypertrophy: a meta-analysis
Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition201310:53
https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-10-53
©  Schoenfeld et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2013
Received:22 September 2013,Accepted:20 November 2013

3 Minute Protein Cake

Make a protein cake in just 3 minutes? Sounds good, right!

It’s soft and spongy and delicious, and really low in calories!

Ingredients

The ingredients I use are:

Whey Protein (any flavour) 1-2 scoops
Baking Powder 1/2 – 1 teaspoon
Xanthan Gum 1 teaspoon
Stevia (optional)

Instructions

Place ingredients in a large microwave-safe mixing bowl.

Slowly stir in a little bit of water to get a thick paste. You won’t need much water. Keep adding just a little water at a time (you don’t want it to be runny!)

Microwave for 2 – 3 minutes until the mixture forms a spongy protein cake. Just a word of warning – you might want to microwave for a minute at a time, and keep checking the consistency of the cake after each minute. You don’t want to overcook it or it will go dry.

Nutrition

Depending on the type of whey protein you use, and how many scoops you put in, your nutritional values will vary. But I know for me, using 2 scoops, it came to:

Calories 197
Carbs 3g
Fat 3g
Protein 40g

protein cake

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Feta Cheese Chicken Breast

These taste great! Chicken Breast sliced length ways with Gherkin and Feta Cheese in the middle! Cook for about an hour. Season with paprika, parsley, sugar-free ketchup, and mustard…or your own choice of herbs and spices!

Serves 2 people.

Just a quick video here! I had these with mixed vegetables on the side, and lentils. But you could have them with rice or couscous or whatever else you fancied!

Also note that I opted for reduced-fat Feta Cheese to lower the calorie content. The condiments and herbs and spices I used were super low calorie too!

Nutritional Info

Per Feta Cheese Chicken Breast:
Calories = 214 cals
Protein = 30g
Carbs = 6g
Fats = 8g

Traps Training

Big traps are cool! In fact I’d say having big traps is freakin awesome! Abs are obviously cool too. But the problem is that unless you walk around all day without a shirt on, nobody will even know you have that coveted six pack!

But a big pair of traps on the other hand, are noticeable with or without a shirt on! Even while wearing a long sleeve shirt! I don’t think any other body part can get the same admiration and attention even while covered up!

Trapezius

By “traps”, I am of course referring to the trapezius muscle, that is visible on top of the shoulders, tying in the shoulders to the neck. In my opinion it gives the impression of a powerful strong physique!

traps

How to train your traps

The traps are hit INDIRECTLY through exercises like deadlifts and rows. And to an extent presses, pull ups, and pull downs. They are also used in back squats.

But to isolate and hit the traps DIRECTLY, this is best done through shrugging movements.

Monkey Shrugs

My favourite direct traps isolation exercise right now is “Monkey Shrugs”. This is demonstrated in the video at the top of the page. I find these are done best using dumbbells, where you shrug hard and hold the squeeze at the top, while simultaneous bending the elbows and raising the upper arms upwards. You will have to use a lighter weight than you would for standard dumbbell shrugs. But I find the contraction and trapezius activation from this exercise to be superior to anything else!

The end of the “Bro Split”?

The “bro split”

The “bro split”.  The typical “one body part per day” training schedule that maybe 99% of gym “bros” are following.

I’d say that it is also what most professional bodybuilders are following too. However, while the “bro split” might be popular, it doesn’t mean it is therefore “the best” training routine for you to follow.

And keep in mind that professional bodybuilders, like all professional athletes, are in the genetically gifted tiny minority of the population.  You could argue that it wouldn’t matter what routine the professionals followed.  They would grow anyway!

bro split

But is it “optimal”?

While the one body part a day routine is highly popular, it would seem that if your goal is to have bigger muscles, and in as short a time frame as possible, then you might want to reconsider your split.

Just to clarify that we’re on the same page here, what I’m saying is that blasting each body part just once a week is probably NOT optimal for muscle growth. Yes, it does clearly “work”.  But there are “better” ways to go about doing it.

bro split

A typical routine

As it stands, most gym-goers will follow a training routine that goes something like this:

Monday – Chest (of course!  International Chest Day!) and Triceps

Tuesday – Legs

Wednesday – Off

Thursday – Shoulders

Friday – Back and Biceps

Saturday and Sunday – Off

So, each body part only gets trained directly once per week.

(Note: I am aware that body parts often get trained again “indirectly” through the week.  E.g. shoulder training will probably still involve using your triceps and maybe your chest.  But that’s the point here).

Therefore, each body part gets a whole six days to recover after each workout. But ask yourself, does each body part really need six days before it’s ready to train again?

bro split

Recovery time

The answer to the previous question is normally “no”.  But often, the answer might be: “it depends”.

If for example, you absolutely annihilate your legs in a workout.  And do so with many many hard sets to failure.  Then yes.  Your legs may very well need a full six days before you stop walking funny!

But another question is do you really need to be destroying your legs like that in a session just to simulate growth?  And think about it.  More opportunities across the week to stimulate growth, equals more opportunities for your legs to grow bigger!  So, they will grow over a shorter period of time!

For example, if you trained every week in a year:

1 x Leg sessions per week = 52 opportunities to grow in a year

2 x Leg sessions per week = 104 opportunities to grow in a year

3 x Leg sessions per week = 156 opportunities to grow in a year!

Train body parts more often

If you were to train each body part twice a week, three times a week, or maybe even four times a week, that’s a lot more opportunities for growth!  Anything more than four times a week may be overkill. But then again there are powerlifting routines and Olympic weightlifting routines that incorporate very high training frequencies.  Some of these programs can involve training the same “lifts” / body parts six times a week, and sometimes multiple times a day too!

Tapering the number of sets

Of course, to be able to train “more often”, it means that training “volume” and “intensity” have to be adjusted to cater for this.  Which means that marathon sets per workout have to stop. So, you then need to ask yourself how many sets are really necessary to stimulate growth?  And how much of your current workouts are just “fluff” or “overkill”? And how much time do you “really” need to recover from training?

The research

Let’s look at some of the research here.  Disclaimer: all research has its limitations, but this is what we at present assume to be true…

Muscle Protein Synthesis

Firstly, it seems that an increase in muscle protein synthesis (as a result of resistance training) only lasts between about 24 hours to 48 hours.  Though for those “new” to resistance training, it can be up to 72 hours.

Cuthbertson DJ, et al (2006) Anabolic signaling and protein synthesis in human skeletal muscle after dynamic shortening or lengthening exercise. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 290(4):E731–8.

Miller BF, et al (2005) Coordinated collagen and muscle protein synthesis in human patella tendon and quadriceps muscle after exercise. J Physiol 567(Pt3):1021–33.

Phillips SM, et al (1997) Mixed muscle protein synthesis and breakdown after resistance exercise in humans. The American Journal of Physiology273(1Pt1):E99–107.

Tang JE, et al (2008) Resistance training alters the response of fed state mixed muscle protein synthesis in young men. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol294(1):R172–8.

More sessions per week are better than just one

Next, we see that if training for size and strength, when total training volume is matched (i.e. number of reps / sets), three sessions per week are better than one a week.  And training twice a day is better than once a day.

Hakkinen K, Kallinen M (1994) Distribution of strength training volume into one or two daily sessions and neuromuscular adaptations in female athletes. Electromyogr Clin Neurophysiol 34(2):117–24.

Three to four working sets is adequate

We also see that just three to four working sets per body part per workout appear to be “enough” to stimulate muscle growth – showing that marathon sessions aren’t necessary!

Henneman E (1957) Relation between size of neurons and their susceptibility to discharge. Science 126(3287):1345–7.

Mitchell CJ, et al (2012) Resistance exercise load does not determine training-mediated hypertrophic gains in young men. Journal of applied physiology113(1):71–7.

Staples AW, et al (2011) Carbohydrate does not augment exercise-induced protein accretion versus protein alone. Med Sci Sports Exerc 43(7):1154–61.

Takarada Y, et al (2005) Rapid increase in plasma growth hormone after low-intensity resistance exercise with vascular occlusion. J Appl Physiol (1985)88(1):61–5.

bro split

The take-home message

So, the take home message here would be to train each body part once every two days or so, and for three to four working sets at a time.  You could divide these working sets over several exercises if you wanted.

E.g. Four working sets for Chest in a single workout could be:

1 x set of Bench Press to failure

2 x sets of Machine Chest Press to failure

1 x set of Flat Dumbbell Flyes to failure

Or you could just use one exercise if you preferred.

E.g. Four working sets for Chest in a single workout could be:

4 x sets of Incline Bench Press to failure

Other factors

You would still have to consider other factors like:

CNS fatigue

Mental fatigue

Wear and tear on your body’s connective tissue (ligaments, tendons)

Getting adequate sleep and nutrition

Controlling stress levels

And how to go about balancing your life with your gym schedule!  E.g. although twice a day training might be superior, for 99% of us it just isn’t practical!

bro split

The optimal training routine doesn’t exist

There are probably numerous ways for you to implement everything I have outlined into altering your training split.  And to be frank, there is no “one size fits all routine” that will be best for everyone!

In fact, if you preferred, you could continue to follow a “bro split”, training each body part just once a day. And you probably will still end up with the same results had trained differently.  It’ll simply take longer, that’s all.

An example

But just to give you an example of how you could train for faster muscle gain, one way could look like this:

Monday:

Chest – 4 sets

Shoulders – 4 sets

Back – 4 sets

Legs – 4 sets

Arms – 4 sets

Wednesday:

Chest – 4 sets

Shoulders – 4 sets

Back – 4 sets

Legs – 4 sets

Arms – 4 sets

Friday:

Chest – 4 sets

Shoulders – 4 sets

Back – 4 sets

Legs – 4 sets

Arms – 4 sets

TOTAL ACROSS THE WEEK = 12 sets per body part

Another example

Or another example could look like this:

Monday:

Chest – 4 sets

Back – 4 sets

Arms – 4 sets

Tuesday:

Legs – 4 sets

Shoulders – 4 sets

Wednesday:

Chest – 4 sets

Back – 4 sets

Arms – 4 sets

Thursday:

Legs – 4 sets

Shoulders – 4 sets

Friday:

Chest – 4 sets

Back – 4 sets

Arms – 4 sets

Saturday:

Legs – 4 sets

Shoulders – 4 sets

TOTAL ACROSS THE WEEK = 12 sets per body part

bro split

Conclusion

As I said previously, there are probably numerous different ways of splitting up your routine.  You just have to find what suits you best.  Also, it comes down to what you enjoy the most too!  If you don’t enjoy it, you probably won’t stick to it!  And just to reiterate again, just about ALL training splits will produce results if you train hard enough, rest enough, and if your nutrition is on point.  It’s just that for some splits, the results may take longer than for others.

Brain Gainz Christmas Advent Calendar Day 11

BRAIN GAINZ Christmas Advent Calendar Day 11

Xmas is a time for treats!

Here’s the good news – you can go ahead and have them!

But if you do, make sure you eat less (or skip completely) your food at another point in the day to make up for it!

See the video!

Myself and Jake Weekes of Leaner Stronger are bringing you a special Christmas series of Brain Gainz over the Christmas period.

For each day leading up to Christmas Day, we will be bringing you tips on how to have a great Christmas and still stay lean, fit and healthy!

Brain Gainz Xmas Day 11

And if you haven’t done so already, be sure to download my ebook:

A Fun Christmas WITHOUT the Weight Gain!

Download your FREE copy of my ebook!

Brain Gainz Christmas Advent Calendar Day 7

BRAIN GAINZ Christmas Advent Calendar Day 7

Simple advice here, guys!

When Frank the Tank is trying to get you to have another 12 beers, be smart and just say “no”.

Whether its booze, cake, or anything else, say “no” when you’ve had enough!

See the video!

 

Myself and Jake Weekes of Leaner Stronger are bringing you a special Christmas series of Brain Gainz over the Christmas period.

For each day leading up to Christmas Day, we will be bringing you tips on how to have a great Christmas and still stay lean, fit and healthy!

Brain Gainz Xmas Day 7

And if you haven’t done so already, be sure to download my ebook:

A Fun Christmas WITHOUT the Weight Gain!

Download your FREE copy of my ebook!

Brain Gainz Christmas Advent Calendar Day 6

BRAIN GAINZ Christmas Advent Calendar Day 6

It has all been very negative so far, but we DO want you to still enjoy Xmas and have fun!
And yes you can, and without sacrificing your health and fitness.
See the video!

 

Myself and Jake Weekes of Leaner Stronger are bringing you a special Christmas series of Brain Gainz over the Christmas period.

For each day leading up to Christmas Day, we will be bringing you tips on how to have a great Christmas and still stay lean, fit and healthy!

Brain Gainz Xmas Day 6

And if you haven’t done so already, be sure to download my ebook:

A Fun Christmas WITHOUT the Weight Gain!

Download your FREE copy of my ebook!

Brain Gainz Christmas Advent Calendar Day 5

BRAIN GAINZ Christmas Advent Calendar Day 5

OK guys, this one is short and sweet and very much to the point!
And of course as always, me and Jake Weekes maintain our professionalism at all times
See the video!

 

Myself and Jake Weekes of Leaner Stronger are bringing you a special Christmas series of Brain Gainz over the Christmas period.

For each day leading up to Christmas Day, we will be bringing you tips on how to have a great Christmas and still stay lean, fit and healthy!

Brain Gainz Xmas Day 5

And if you haven’t done so already, be sure to download my ebook:

A Fun Christmas WITHOUT the Weight Gain!

Download your FREE copy of my ebook!

Time Management, Planning, and Weekly Schedule

Time Management, Planning, and Weekly Schedule

“I have no time to exercise, and no time to eat healthily”

This is the excuse I hear so many times from people who think they just can’t fit any exercise or healthy eating into their busy schedule.
Let me show you how in most cases, even for the busiest of people, this is NOT true!  There are “hidden” time slots during the day that you might not realise at first glance!
So, with a little bit of planning and organisation, you CAN fit exercise and healthy eating into your busy life after all!
See the video!
time management
time management