The Metabolic Window: What to Eat After Training

The anabolic window that people talked about for years has finally been thrown away. However, there is a period of time after training, during which the body processes carbohydrates better. Read on to find out more!
The Metabolic Window: What to Eat After Training

Last update: 04 February, 2021

These days, people are starting to abandon the classic idea of the metabolic window. However, there are certain foods that can help you recover if you eat them immediately after training. In turn, this can have a positive impact on your performance and reduce the risk of injury.

Before going any further, it’s worth reiterating that if you perform any kind of regular physical exercise, you need to take care of your diet too. Getting the right nutrition can help you make big strides in your progress as well as improving your body composition.

The metabolic window: myth or reality?

Up until a few years ago, many people believed that the body was more able to absorb proteins immediately after exercising and that this would lead to more efficient hypertrophy.

However, recent studies reject this, such as this one from 2018. And it has been shown that protein supplements work exactly the same regardless of whether you consume them before or after exercise.

But there does seem to be a window of time after intense training when the body tries to recover the lost glycogen. In other words, the body is trying to refill energy stores in the liver and muscles.

In particular, a study published in Sports Medicine claims that in sports such as soccer, it’s important to consume carbohydrates both before and after playing.

Providing your body with a short sugar boost after exercise can help replenish hepatic and muscular glycogen and lead to a better recovery overall.

So, what should I eat after training?

A man doing bicep curls.

After any exercise that consumes glycogen, it’s important to eat foods that contain plenty of carbohydrates.

Initially, for example, you could drink a protein shake with simple sugars. It’s been shown that consuming about 0.7 oz of high-value proteins can help maximize your glycogen stores.

An hour or two after exercising, it’s a good idea to eat a more complete meal to get the right nutrients to reduce inflammation. This means including animal proteins and unsaturated fats.

At this point, antioxidants are also key. This is because they neutralize free radicals at the muscular level and will lead to a better overall recovery.

Finally, it’s important not to forget carbohydrates, although you should go for complex carbohydrates. This way, you’ll be sure to maintain your blood sugar levels and avoid putting your pancreas under strain.

What to eat after training: sources of carbohydrates

Even though your shake contains simple sugars, in all your meals throughout the day, you need to prioritize foods that contain complex carbohydrates.

The best choices are root vegetables and legumes, although be careful with the latter as they can cause gas. You should also avoid refined flours and pasta, as they can cause a spike in blood sugar levels.

A range of foods containing complex carbohydrates.

One food that sort of sits halfway between these extremes is rice. It isn’t as good for you as root vegetables, but it’s not as bad for you as flour. So, feel free to include rice in your diet as well.

The metabolic window – the time to eat carbohydrates

As you’ve seen, the concept of the anabolic or metabolic window has been discarded. However, it’s accepted that there’s a period after exercise when the body can more easily convert carbohydrates into glycogen. So, what you eat after training is still important.

As a result, it’s important to consume carbohydrates as part of a complete meal after your training routine for a better recovery and to replenish your energy stores.

As well as all this, make sure you get enough fats and antioxidants to control inflammation and neutralize free radicals. This way, you’ll avoid negative impacts on your health in the long term.

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  • Schoenfeld BJ., Aragon AA., Is there a postworkout anabolic window of opportunity for nutrient consumption? Clearing up controversies. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther, 2018. 48 (12): 911-914.
  • Silva JR., Brito J., Akenhead R., Nassis GP., The transition period in soccer: a window of opportunity. Sports Med, 2016. 46 (3): 305-13.