Anabolic Window Posted on 30 Mar 23:02 , 0 comments

10982131_1137833959566195_7541276380256067006_nBy Todd Lee M.D.


Bro Lore

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 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 one workout ends up absorbing 5 hours of your day assuming you're not also doing cardio, posing,tanning or sitting in the sauna to get some water out.  I myself, have 2,000 calories surrounding my workout and I’m 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.

anabolic window3

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. for example off label uses non-bodybuilding drugs like breast cancer meds for having thinner skin.

I will summarize this meta analysis here and address the 3 supposed benefits of forcing food down in the anabolic window.

Glycogen Resynthesis

My favorite part of this document was how they detailed how much glycogen is used up during 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 it’s no surprise that the Type 1 fibers aren't involved at this rep range nor contribute to glycogen usage.

It makes sense that 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.  You don't need to completely exhaust your muscle before losing muscle.

Two interesting caveats: Its the PRE-exercise glycogen level which determines the muscles response. The fuller the muscle, the more muscle growth and vice versa, the less full, less muscle growth. This means it doesn't matter what you drink while you’re training, what matters is what you had yesterday.

The other is if you do high weights and low volume then the glycogen level is irrelevant.

The researchers 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 a lot of carbs and do high volume for the pump and grow method.

As your glycogen levels decrease, 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 that the cell adapts to allow more carbs to enter.  For this reason it’s 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 do 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. Assuming of course that the same amount of carbs are consumed, so the time you eat them MAKES NO DIFFERENCE unless you're hitting the same body part within 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 do result in a faster glycogen storage process but that’s due to the increase in insulin.  Protein and carbohydrates have a greater insulin response than either one alone. 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 has 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.

Muscle breakdown and formation

If muscle destruction is greater than muscle growth you will lose muscle. One reason why people pound a protein or a protein + carb shake post workout is to stop muscle death and start muscle growth.  Turns out it’s the insulin which causes the muscle destruction to stop, not the nutrients directly. Even stranger: the shakes aren't necessary unless you trained fasted.  It seems that even a regular mixed meal causes a huge increase in insulin within 30 minutes and this lasts for 4 hours.  That means if you get a bean burrito at Taco bell at 3 pm, even if you lift at 5 pm and don't finish til 7 you still have 1 MORE HOUR of coverage before you could possibly lose muscle.

I know for a fact my workouts use up WAY more calories than those test subjects and I will disprove this data with my own experiences later, but for now I want to give you an unbiased summary first, before I shoot it full of holes.  The idea is that insulin only needs to be 4 times above baseline to prevent muscle wasting while training.   That unless you’re training fasted, you’re not going to need a post workout shake, just a meal 3-6 hours after your pre workout meal depending on the size of your pre workout meal.  In this example, the meal was 75 g carbs, 37g protein, and 17g fat.  Thats a sub from Jimmy John’s with no extra crap like mayo or cheese.

45 g of whey protein caused insulin levels to be high after 40 minutes. It stayed elevated enough to stimulate muscle growth for 2 hours, so drinking JUST WHEY when you wake up means you can go to the gym, kill it and you still have 20 minutes to have another shake or meal.

Take home point is that no carbs are needed to stop muscle damage and protein, even pre workout, is enough. It is ideal to have high glycogen stores unless you're lifting low reps and high weight (Dave Palumbo diet system, Dorian Yates style lifting).


anabolic wondowBasically, you do not need a post workout shake within the anabolic window to replenish glycogen or to stop muscle death, assuming you had a meal before the gym or even a shake.  I know, thats opposite of what you thought. But your education did come from ads for protein powder in magazines didn't it? I know in school we’re taught that no supplements are needed: just blood, sweat and tears.

Now when it comes to MUSCLE GROWTH it's a different matter….

Swole Shakes!

Were interested in growing muscle otherwise we wouldn't lift weights.  There is a ton of conflicting data about if muscle is actually grown from consuming protein, carbs, protein + carbs  post or pre workout.  Now, first consider there is no good mechanism of determining if muscle was grown. Next, none of these are long term studies done on men who know what they are doing. At the very best we get “recreational bodybuilders” whose max bench is less than teenage girls’ I have trained.

What has been determined is that muscle synthesis is amplified my lifting weights. Lifting weights while having extra amino acids in your blood causes even more muscle growth. For a guy who has been lifting for decades, to gain more mass is almost impossible and no study is done on the population who actually care about this stuff, US!

The data on this stuff is so bad that even when a scientist tried to recreate the experimental results he couldn't, that the results were opposite for no apparent reason.  I have included a table at the bottom and a link here so you can see how horrible the data is.  (

The only study done that shows a real result is the one which is most similar to what I do.  This study took 23 “recreational” bodybuilders (recreational bodybuilding would be like recreational spaceship repair) and gave them 40g whey, 43g carbs, and 7 g creatine before and after lifting. The group with the shakes made lean mass gains and they gained Type 2 fibers.  A similar study done without carbs failed to show a difference. Please keep in mind there is no quality control on the training or the diets these “bodybuilders” eat, it’s just 1 shake! They aren't given Todd Lee diets or anything structured.

Time To Lay Waste!

Ok, lets keep it real.  All this talk about % of 1RM and 20g whey and 40g carbs is silly. There is no mention of calories.  IF you're burning more calories in a workout than YOU EAT IN A DAY then news flash, brain trust: you’re going to burn muscle.  Once you tear through your glycogen and according to this before it’s even depleted, you’re burning muscle.  How can you tell? Ammonia.

All over the internet there is discussions about how marathon runners smell like ammonia because they are burning amino acids for fuel. This is pretty obvious, AMINO acid has an AMINO group. When the liver cleaves off this AMINO group you get a carbohydrate and ammonia. The carbohydrate is used for fuel and the ammonia is sweated out.  This ammonia smells like, you guessed it, ammonia! If you smell like ammonia, you're burning protein. If this happens, you obviously depleted your glycogen stores and may be burning muscle so the solution is increase your carb intake.

What does a marathon runner have to do with building muscle? Nothing. But when I lift, if I'm not extremely careful I smell like ammonia, BAD!  This would imply either I went into the workout with pre-depleted glycogen stores or that I burn so many calories, my glycogen stores are drastically taxed with each and every workout and I have to use protein for fuel.  I eat about 350 g protein and 375 g carbs and 100 g fat a day WHILE CUTTING.  Double the fat and carbs and that’s my bulking macros.  In the past I have tried to eat 300 and 300 but not have pre, mid or post workout shakes and I smelled like ammonia. I have learned that branch chains does not stop it, dextrose (simple sugar) does not stop it and whole protein does not stop it. I have to eat ½ cup almonds 1 hour before, drink 30g whey isolate and 25 g dextrose during my warm up, another shake mid workout, another one post workout AND 100g of sugar from raisins post workout or else I will bleed out ammonia during the workout AND the next.

Where am I going with this? I consume 2000 calories per workout; any less, I lose muscle ON THE SPOT and you can forget about GROWING muscle like this.  How can any of what they say to be true if each and every workout I do is more taxing than a 2 hour run (burn up to 1500 calories).

Either they are wrong, or they grossly underestimate the calories a non-recreational (real) bodybuilder does burn. Perhaps testing “recreational” bodybuilders is not an indication of what will happen with a competitive bodybuilder…

I took all these factors into account when I designed my products and taking them as directed take advantage of these hormone responses to get you the greatest results.

Make sure to get some HERE!!!!


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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.