January 2, 2019

Falsehoods of Fitness: The Anabolic Window (Episode 4)

In this episode of Falsehoods of Fitness, we discuss the myth that meal timing and exercise timing must be closely coordinated in some way to promote gains. Unfortunately the first 30 seconds or so is missing because the main recording camera malfunctioned.

Full Transcript

…limitations and recommending tightening up the window that you eat in. Now that is a real window, whereas the anabolic window is not a real thing.

A lot of these people did P90X, or some other program, where they believed that you exercise, and then if you eat something right after you exercise, it becomes muscle. So, we’re going to talk about that today and I’m going to answer some questions that are more specific towards this. We kind of go outside of the scope of that afterward, but I really want to stay focused on meal timing. It is definitely the theme of what we have in the X3 programming for nutrition.

Also, keep in mind, the reason I designed that program the way I did was to keep it really user friendly. Like 90% of the people who look at that, they go, “Okay, I can probably take sugar out of my diet,” or, “Okay, I can stop drinking Coca-Cola. “It’s not going to kill me “to not go with Coca-Cola anymore.” So, there’s different levels of aggression when it comes to choosing your nutrition program.

For example when it comes to meal time, which is what we’re talking about today, you can have one meal a day and get all your nutrition rammed into that one meal. That’s kind of hard, you’re eating a lot in a very short period of time, especially if you’re trying to gain muscle. When you do that sort of thing, that makes for a rough 24 hour period. Especially if you’re not ketogenic, you’re not fat adapted. That’s a miserable day if you go 24 hours with no food.

Now, if you are fat adapted, it’s a pretty easy day, but, again, these are different levels of aggression. And I will be dealing more in the next, probably, four to six months on nutrition because I realized there is so much crap information out there. I hesitate to even call it nutritional advice because that denotes some implication of health, however science can’t even really decide if eating meat will kill you, or if it will make you like super fantastic and live for longer, or if it doesn’t matter.

So, there is absolutely conflicting evidence. I almost say to somebody when they say, “Well, let me tell you about my health observations on nurtition,” I go, “I’m going to stop you right there,” because health and nutrition—you can’t really give a health recommendation based on a lot of the nutrition information that’s out there. Because there’s so much conflicting info, there’s so much bias. And there are companies that make products that are processed, usually, simple carbohydrates, and they’re hell bent on proving that those things are healthy. That’s where most of nutrition research funding comes from. So, you got to keep all that stuff in mind.

The anabolic window

Now, back to the main topic, which is the anabolic window.

You will walk into just about any gym and, aside from the smell of sweat and mildew, you will probably notice, the second thing you notice, other than the smell, is the fact that there’s a lot of guys walking around looking like they’re holding like a baby bottle with like a nipple on top of it. It’s some sort of mixing cup for some sort of protein drink, because they got to get their nutrition right in that anabolic window.

What’s so funny about that is since 2013, a couple chaps I’ve met published a literature review. They looked at 85 different studies: nutrient timing. I wrote 85 there to remind myself to mention there were 85 different studies considered in this.

Is there a post exercise anabolic window? And these are two guys, two PhDs, Alan Aragon and Brad Schofield—I think I met them at the American College of Sports Medicine Annual Congress. So, they considered all of these different papers who looked at having a high carbohydrate after your workout versus no meal after your workout, a high protein meal after your workout, really refined sports nutrition drinks right after your workout, and then comparing that to control groups, who basically just had the same kind of nutrition they’ve always had, or even fasted, and then ate at towards the end of the day.

So, guess what happened? Nothing. Everybody pretty much grew the same amount of muscle no matter what they did. Now, what they don’t really have a lot of data on is muscle gains with multi-day fasting. And I think the reason there’s not enough literature on that is because people are typically doing multi-day fasting are either going after cancer, or they’re going after really, really aggressive body fat loss, so those are kind of conflicting goals.

It’s not like somebody who’s morbidly obese is like, “Well, I don’t want to lose my pectoral mass.” They need to lose a lot of fat mass because it’s contributing to their short life, potentially. So, just not a lot of data on that, though there are a couple indicators that show that you can definitely protect muscle with the proper engagement, as we’ve talked about, through stabilization firing and loading of the body.

So, you can go on a multi-day fast without losing any mass at all. But, also doesn’t matter when you have your next meal after you work out. If you want to exercise in the morning and then you’re dong the one meal a day thing, and then your one meal is at 8:00 at night, you’re doing most of your growth when you’re sleeping anyway. So as long as you keep engaging the muscle, even just lightly, your body is really not in the phase that protein synthesis is going hard.

And for the most part the protein synthesis that needs to be going during the day is happening. And of course ATP, collagen, and the creatine phosphate get replaced on a need basis, almost no matter what’s there.

Even if you have zero calories available to metabolize, that’s when you immediately go into a ketogenic state, and you start using ketones and gluconeogenesis to produce the glucoses required—the glucose and insulin combination, which then penetrate into the muscle cell and become those fuels that need to be replaced. So, it’s going to happen no matter what.

Are you sugar adapted?

So, that means you’re losing body fat while that’s going on and you’re refueling muscle, no problem. And anything where you say like, “Oh, I’m hyperglycemic,” or, “My hands get shaky,” or, “I don’t feel good,” or skip those meals in which your like, “Oh I think I need nutrition,"—it’s ‘cause your insulin sensitivity is awful and you’re just totally sugar adapted. And that’s not going to help you going long term.

Do I need to be fat adapted?

Another thing, which I know will be one of the first questions that we get, so I’ll just head that off right now, is: am I going to need to be fat adapted? No, but, if you really want to focus on rapid fat loss, that just means you’re only option, if you’re not fat adapted, is caloric restriction, such as eating smaller meals, maybe throughout the day.

I think that’s a tougher road to go. It works. We’re starting to simplify things, like carbohydrates make you fat instead of calories, calories don’t make you fat, well that’s also too simple, both are a little bit too simple.


You should be afraid of insulin, insulin is one of the most powerful hormones in the body, however. It’s only powerful when you have a very tiny amount of it. When you have a lot of it what was powerful becomes, basically, toxic. So, that’s just something to keep in mind. And another thing, another one of my rants, which I won’t go in now, is there’s no such thing as a bad hormone. Cortisol exists for a reason, insulin exists for a reason, and they’re powerful if you trigger them in the proper way.

Optimize Your Health Through Science

Sign up for our newsletter to get a regular dose of science-backed tips, tricks, biohacks, and more.

By signing up, you agree to our privacy policy & to receive emails/texts with updates.