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The 30 Minute Anabolic Window and do Women benefit from taking Whey Protein Supplements

In this blog, we are going to be talking about the anabolic window and will protein supplements make women big and bulky. To see the video version of this blog, click HERE

The Anabolic Window
So you get your workout in. Felt like you really pushed yourself and feel great after it. Now the real race begins. Getting to the gym back and filling up the protein shaker because you do not want to waste your workout. You need protein and you need it now before that anabolic window shuts and you’ve wasted a damn good workout

Or do you?

How quickly do you need to get your protein in after working out? Is there such thing as an anabolic window? And if you don’t post up about training on Facebook, are you really working out? A video looking over my shoulder of me checking into Facebook? Wait, that’s not it. If you do not get your protein in inside 30 minutes of your workout, are you really working out or was that just a waste of time? 

Where did this idea come from? Well, basically, when we train, we are breaking down our muscles. We are actually damaging our cells. And we need protein, which acts like building blocks, after our workout to help form new building blocks and aid in our recovery. So we get stronger. Now if we are breaking down our muscles while training and we need protein for recovery, then we need to get that into the muscles fast. Hence the anabolic window, changing our body from a catabolic state into an anabolic state before wasting away and the time runs out.
Well, that’s not exactly true. Our bodies are a lot smarter than that. Research has shown that we can we can stimulate muscle protein synthesis by consuming 25-35g of protein in our meals. (Symons et al. 2009b; Phillips et al. 2012; Volpi et al. 2013.) So, unless we are training on an empty stomach, there’s no need to be rushing for protein 30-45 minutes after training, worrying about wasting your workout. The average person doesn’t need to eat every 2-3 hours and 6 meals a day. I did say average. It’s not practical either. 3 meals a day and a higher protein intake in those meals will suffice. Increasing our protein, combined with exercise can also help us use weight and maintain, if not increase, lean body mass.

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Women & Protein Supplements
If people use it to add muscle and size, does it benefit women who want to just “tone up” and who are afraid to be big and “bulky”? There is a tendency to focus mainly on men for whey supplements for this reason and women for fat loss. That’s just general advertising. 

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Wayne Campbell, professor of nutrition science and senior author on the study on the effect of whey protein supplementation on body composition changes in women says that "Whey protein supplementation, when combined with physical activity, is shown to be an effective strategy to achieve a leaner body composition in men, but notably, females are underrepresented in this line of research. Sixty-eight percent of studies in the most-cited whey protein supplementation review included only males and we wanted to focus on what this means for women,".

The study on the effect of whey protein supplementation on body composition changes in women concluded that there is a slight improvement in lean mass without influencing fat mass. And it definitely will not make women bulky. But this also involves a reduction in energy intake. Simply adding protein shakes to what you consume now on a weekly basis may not help you if your goal is weight loss. But we still want to get enough protein in if we are training. So how do we manage that balance?

Newer research suggests it should be between 1.2 and 1.6g of protein per KG bodyweight, as opposed to the RDA of 0.8g. It’s completely dependant on the individual and their goals.

 Are Protein Supplements a waste of money? 
Ideally, if you can get that amount of protein in your meals each day, are protein supplements unnecessary? The key word there is “ideally”. “Ideally”, having 6 meals a day seemed great. Just not practical. And the same with getting adequate amounts of protein in each meal to hit our daily requirements. A great practical tip that I heard from Strength & Conditioning Coach, Joe DeFranco, video of Joe D, was how to use protein for our supplement needs while also helping to control the overall amount of calories we consume. Instead of rushing to get that protein shake in. If we delay until mealtime, we can have the protein shake right before our meal. Doing this will make us less hungry for our main meal and therefore a decrease in calories consumed. If toning up is our goal, that is. And if you’re looking to put on muscle and size, have it after the meal for extra calories when it is easier to consume a protein shake over maybe more chicken. This was backed up by a recent study which suggested that consuming protein shakes between meals rather than snacking on them will lead to better weight control and reduce fat mass.

One practical reason to have a protein shake after our workout, that doesn’t involve trying to squeeze in our protein without “wasting a workout” is to prevent us from making bad decisions. If you know that it is going to be a while after the workout where you will get to eat a meal then get the protein shake in. For example, if you train early morning before work and it’s realistically going to be lunchtime before you get a meal, then a protein shake might tie you over rather than the unhealthy options you may face in the morning in work or the temptation to stop on your way into work and pick up a chicken fillet roll, with no mayo of course. Not for health benefits, it’s the devil's sauce and it ruins good chicken.

If you are going to eat a chicken fillet roll, don't ruin it with adding mayo!

If you are going to eat a chicken fillet roll, don't ruin it with adding mayo!

So stop worrying about the anabolic window. Be more concerned about the quality of your workouts. But plan and be realistic about your meals and protein sources as well.