There is bro lore aplenty about how to be a bodybuilder. Most of it is holdovers from the 1970’s and before, but a lot of the modern bro lore sounds like science and is a pseudo scientific way to market young people. The concept is that the reason the IFBB pros today are so much bigger than before is training, supplementation, and nutrition have been refined and improved upon in the past 50 years. Obviously it has but some of it is just marketing to sell people crap.
Shit Load of Shakes
One the most inconvenient things about bodybuilding is you have to have a pre-workout meal, then a pre workout drink, then an early workout shake, then a late workout shake, then a post workout shake, then a post workout meal. So a workout ends up absorbing 5 hours of your day assuming you’re not also doing cardio or posing or tanning or sitting in the sauna to get some water out. I myself have 2,000 calories surrounding my workout and im CUTTING!!
You might be thinking: “I’m a bodybuilder and I don’t do that . Todd’s cray”. Yes, yes I am. But just because I’m crazy doesn’t mean I’m wrong. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.
What is the the Anabolic Window?
This is the amount of time post workout where you can consume certain nutrients to optimize the following:
- Glycogen resynthesis
- Impair muscle catabolism
- Increase muscle synthesis
In january 2013 a review and meta analysis with INTELLIGENT interpretation was posted on the NCBI database. For those of you who don’t know; forums are like the Jersey Shore of the scientific community. Any real scientist uses actual experimental data to make decisions about what to put in their body. Forums are for stuff so new and cutting edge it hasn’t been studied, and off label uses for non-bodybuilding drugs like breast cancer meds for having thinner skin etc.
I will summarize this meta analysis here and address the 3 supposed benefits of forcing food down in the anabolic window.
#1 Glycogen Resynthesis
My favorite part of this document was how they detailed how much glycogen is used up with different training modalities.
1 set of 10 bicep curls = -12% glycogen
3 sets = -24%
3 sets of 12 leg extensions=-26.1%
and 6 sets = 38%
These glycogen stores are in the type 2 fibers and its no surprise that the type 1 fibers aren’t involved at this rep range nor contribute to glycogen usage.
So it makes sense if you’re doing 20-30 sets per bodypart you’re going to deplete glycogen down to near zero.
Glycogen levels in the muscle determine how the muscle responds to training; the more glycogen, the more muscle will be grown from lifting. The less glycogen, the more likely the muscle will activate the AMPK pathway and use muscle for fuel. So you don’t need to completely exhaust your muscle before losing muscle.
Two interesting caveats:
1) Its the PRE exercise glycogen level which determines the muscles responds. The more full, the more muscle growth. The less full, less muscle growth. This means it doesn’t matter what you drink while your training what matters is what you had yesterday.
2) If you do high weights and low volume then the glycogen level is irrelevant.
The researches couldn’t put this together but its real easy: If you’re dieting and low carb your glycogen will be low and you’re more likely to burn muscle with high volume. Use low volume and high weights to continue to grow muscle even in a low carb state. In the off season when mass building eat lots of carbs and do high volume for the pump and grow method.
As your Glycogen levels decrease as your training GLUT 4 transporters relocate from inside the cell to the surface of the cell. These are the “doors” that carbs, amino acids, creatine, and a few other things use to get into the cell and start the recovery and growth process. SO it makes sense as you use up the carbs in the Type 2 fibers then the cell adapts to allow more carbs to enter. For this reason its believed that if you consume carbohydrates within the first 2 hours after training you will store MORE Glycogen than if you wait two hours. This is true, you load the muscle faster, but by 8 hours post workout the muscle has the same level of glycogen regardless of if you had them right after lifting or 2 hours later. This is assuming of course the same amount of carbs are consumed, that the time you eat them MAKES NO DIFFERENCE unless you’re hitting the same body part in 8 hours. Most of us wait 4 to 7 days which is plenty of time to recuperate glycogen supplies. “In scenarios of higher volume and frequency of resistance training, incomplete resynthesis of pre-training glycogen levels would not be a concern aside from the far-fetched scenario where exhaustive training bouts of the same muscles occur after recovery intervals shorter than 24 hours.”
Protein + Carbohydrates does result in a faster glycogen storage process, but thats due to the increase in insulin; protein + carbohydrates is a greater insulin response than either alone, and of course fat decreases the insulin response. Fox et. al., Exercise Physiology Professor at THE University of Michigan and the father of modern cardio found that even adding fat to the carbs and making the person wait more than 2 hours STILL had no impact on glycogen synthesis at the 24 hour mark. In other words 300 carbs is 300 carbs as long as you pound them before you sleep when you have them and with what makes no difference from a GLYCOGEN RESYNTHESIS PERSPECTIVE. The effects of this cocktail on muscle synthesis is an entirely different matter….
Read more Anabolic Window Fact or Fiction Continued in part 2!
Nothing in this article or on this site should be considered medical advice or as an endorsement to violate any law of the country in which you reside. The information given is for fun and entertainment purposes only. All claims are 100% dependent upon proper diet and exercise. Please consult a medical practitioner prior to any diet and exercise program.