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> Anabolic window – what is it, what to eat up to 2 hours after running, and why?

Anabolic window – what is it, what to eat up to 2 hours after running, and why?

Publish date 04.07.2023

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Anabolic window – what is it, what to eat up to 2 hours after running, and why?

You’ve probably already heard a lot about what you should eat before and after running. However, have you ever heard about the anabolic window? If not, be sure to keep reading to learn how it affects your body and what you should eat. 

Regardless of how you feel after a workout and how intense it was, you can introduce the anabolic window into your diet. See what you gain by eating a protein meal after your workout.

What is the anabolic window? 

During training, glycogen disappears from your muscles, and muscle fibers are damaged. What the damage depends on how intense the training you did was. The body is smart and adapted to such transformations that it can recover and rebuild glycogen. Still, without your help, i.e. a proper diet, especially after a workout, it will be a longer and more difficult process. 

“You’re probably joking, recovery can’t take that long.”

I may surprise you, but full recovery after running a marathon takes up to 7 days or more. That’s why it’s a good idea to choose the right products to speed it up. You’ll be able to enjoy a faster return to full strength. 

Provide your body with the right ingredients to recover.

Why is glycogen so important?

Glycogen is the fuel for your muscles. It’s from you getting your energy during running, and especially endurance workouts. Its low levels can cause a decrease in exercise intensity and problems with concentration. This can be seen especially during long endurance efforts exceeding 90 minutes. It is as a result of glycogen consumption that marathon runners collide with the famous “wall” at the 30th kilometer.

Glycogen is a polysaccharide. During very intense exercise, it breaks down to the simplest form of glucose. That’s why you may feel so tired after a workout. Therefore, to rebuild glucose levels in your body you should consume carbohydrates that rebuild it

How? When carbohydrates are consumed, they are converted into polysaccharides, which

are retained in, among other things, muscles. This is why the recovery process begins quickly after the meal is consumed. It is crucial for an athlete – fast recovery. Now you know that to achieve it you need to consume a carbohydrate meal.

When to eat a carbohydrate meal after training? 

It is believed that such a meal that will help you quickly rebuild glycogen in the body should be consumed not longer than 2 hours after training. This is when glycogen renewal is the fastest. The longer the time after the end of the workout, the slower the recovery will be.

Preparing a meal – when to do it?

As you have just learned, the best and fastest way to rebuild glycogen in your muscles is right after training – max 2h. That’s why it’s worth thinking about preparing your meal before you go out for training. This way you will be able to eat it right after taking a quick shower after running. You take the meal out of the refrigerator, possibly reheat it and you are ready to eat. You can enjoy a delicious meal, but also at this time, the glycogen will be delivered to the body. What’s more, some people are so tired when they return that they don’t even think about preparing a meal.

It is also important to keep in mind that many meals for the anabolic window are simple to prepare. All you need is to have a few ingredients, mix them and the meal is ready. However, we will talk about the meals in more detail later.

Prepare meals before going for a run ot eat them after.

Anabolic window – is it right for you? 

You should take a closer look at this topic if: 

  • your workouts are long and last more than an hour – during this time the glycogen stores in your muscles can rapidly drop. Therefore, you should remember to rebuild it. 
  • you do 2 workouts a day – there are athletes who run in the morning and the evening. This lifestyle requires replenishing glycogen stores. You need to do this for your next workout, so the anabolic window after workout will be helpful so that your muscles have something to draw energy from.
  • you have done intense interval training – your muscles have certainly felt the effects of such training. Therefore, an anabolic window post workout, i.e. a carbohydrate meal, can help with recovery. 
  • you are an amateur and your next workout is scheduled in less than 20h – you will replenish your glycogen stores and rebuild damaged muscle fibers faster. 
  • you ran fast – muscle fibers can be damaged after a fast run. Such a condition means that glycogen does not accumulate as quickly as it should. A proper meal after running will ensure an adequate and faster recovery.

You don’t have to meet all of the above criteria. You only need one to undertake the implementation of the anabolic window after training.

Light and enjoyable training vs anabolic window 

What about the situation when you are not running intensively, but for pleasure? Then it’s also a good idea to eat right after your workout. Such a meal will bring you some really helpful values, such as: 

  • smaller and less painful soreness, 
  • less fatigue after exercise, 
  • better glycogen deposition in your muscles, 
  • a way to reward yourself after a workout you’ve done.

As you can see for yourself, no matter what kind of training you’ve done, you should incorporate an anabolic window after workout into your routine for better recovery after running. The benefits are awesome! 

What should meals consist of?

Carbohydrates, as well as protein. 

Carbohydrates will make your body replenish the glycogen stores in your muscles that you lost during training. As for proteins, when combined with carbohydrates, they speed up glycogen restoration, as well as rebuild and affect muscle growth. Therefore, it is best to eat meals that are a combination of carbohydrates and proteins after training.

Which carbohydrates to choose? With a low or high GI? 

It is believed that high GI carbohydrates further accelerate the process of glycogen replenishment. 

HOWEVER, whether you eat low or high GI carbohydrates, you can be sure that after 24 hours your muscle glycogen levels will be replenished and will be the same

“If this is the case, which carbohydrates are better to choose?” 

It all depends on your workout. If you are not planning another workout a couple of hours later, then you can choose carbohydrates that are slow to assimilate. The same goes for an evening run. When you get back, choose complex carbohydrates that won’t rouse you and you’ll go to bed at a normal hour. 

On the other hand, if you plan to train later and want to speed up the process of glycogen replenishment, choose carbohydrates with a high GI.

Yummy shake after workout will be perfect.

What kind of meals to eat? Some interesting suggestions

  • 2 cereal bars and a glass of skimmed milk, 
  • cottage cheese with nuts, peach and strawberries, 
  • a bowl of assorted nuts (50g) and raisins (60g),
  • sandwich with tuna and light cottage cheese on whole-grain bread, 
  • pasta with tuna and zucchini, 
  • pasta with asparagus, 
  • yogurt with fruits, 
  • smoothie made from yogurt with fruit such as bananas, strawberries, and kiwi.

Hopefully, you now know what the anabolic window post workout is, and that you will be able to incorporate it into your training. Remember to choose the right products and follow the rule to eat up to 2 hours after your workout.

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