What is a carbohydrate window?
A carbohydrate window is a conditional period after the end of a strength training, during which the athlete’s muscles are most sensitive to the absorption of nutrients (primarily proteins and fast carbohydrates). It is believed that the energy from the carbohydrate cocktail consumed at that time is spent mainly on muscle recovery and growth, and not on fat gain at all.
It is believed that the duration of the carbohydrate window is from 30-45 minutes after the end of low-intensity strength training to 2-4 hours after an active circular or HIIT training¹. In addition, the use of fast carbohydrates immediately before the start of physical training is also beneficial for muscle growth and is included in the concept of metabolic window².
To close the carbohydrate window after strength training, about 15-25 g of sports protein and 10-12 g of fast carbohydrates are needed. This will help lower the level of cortisol, stop the processes of muscle breakdown and start the processes of their growth. At the same time, the maximum amount of fast carbohydrates after exercise, guaranteeing an increase in body weight without excessive fat growth, is 30-40 g.
// How many proteins and carbohydrates do you need after training:
- 10-12 g fast carbohydrates
- 15-25 g whey protein
Gainer: a source of fast carbohydrates
Gainer is a carbohydrate-protein shake, a mixture of whey protein, fast carbohydrates, creatine and vitamins. The use of such a cocktail to close the carbohydrate window causes an increase in body weight - however, both muscle and fat reserves grow. That is why it is recommended to take a gainer only to ectomorphs prone to thinness, experiencing problems with muscle growth.
When training for muscle relief (that is, for drying) or during any training for fat burning, the gainer is strongly not recommended. In most cases, to stop the catabolic processes, a portion of whey protein and a small enough amount of simple carbohydrates (about 10 g) in the form of maltodextrin , a small fruit or 100 ml of juice are enough.
Fast carbs after exercise
After training, the level of glucose (and insulin) in the athlete’s blood is minimal - the body is in the "waste" mode, and not in the "set" mode. Glucose intake is the fastest way to close the carbohydrate window and stop the catabolic processes of muscle breakdown (i.e., lowering the level of cortisol³) - and switching to the energy reserve mode (i.e., increasing insulin).
Note that the body needs fast carbohydrates with a high glycemic index - otherwise the absorption of nutrients will drag on for several hours, negating all the benefits of a carbohydrate window. At the same time, the use of fast carbohydrates often plays a much more important role in accelerating muscle growth processes than taking whey protein.
How many carbohydrates do you need?
The minimum dose of carbohydrate intake to close the carbohydrate window is a figure of 0.15 g per kg of body weight³ - that is, about 10-12 g for an athlete weighing 75 kg. This amount is enough to stop catabolic processes and increase insulin levels. If your goal is to gain weight as quickly as possible, increase the number to 30-40 g.
It is also important that the next meal after strength training should include a lot of the right carbohydrates, vegetables and various cereals - a total of at least 100-150 g of carbohydrates. This is extremely important for replenishing the glycogen spent during training (that is, the energy stored in the muscles and which is the main source of energy for their work).
Proteins after strength training
Although it is traditionally believed that the more protein an athlete consumes, the faster his muscles grow, this opinion is refuted by recent scientific studies. Scientists say that excessive consumption of sports protein not only reduces the percentage and speed of its absorption, but can even lead to a drop in testosterone levels (due to lack of fat in the diet).
To close the carbohydrate window after strength training, an athlete needs about 15-25 g of whey protein, which completely covers the energy requirements of muscles for recovery¹. However, a much more important role for muscle growth is played by total protein intake during the day - but even in this case, only 1.5-2.5 g of protein for each kg of dry body weight is enough. Read more about BZHU for gaining mass .
Amino Acids BCAA
Another secret to increasing the effectiveness of strength training (especially when performing the basic weight program ) is to take the essential BCAA amino acids. In most cases, it is a dosage of 3-5 g for every 30 minutes of intense exercise. Amino acids are dissolved in water and consumed directly during training, and not just during the carbohydrate window.
The reason for using BCAA amino acids is that they stop various catabolic processes in the body, reduce the feeling of fatigue and, ultimately, improve strength performance. In addition, creatine is an important supplement to accelerate muscle growth - add about 3-5 g of creatine to a protein shake and consume it immediately after training.
Carbohydrate window: truth or myth?
The first reason why the carbohydrate window can be considered a myth is the lack of unequivocal recommendations about its duration. Modern research suggests that the carbohydrate window does not last at all 30-45 minutes after training, as previously thought, but at least 2-4 hours. In this case, the period of active assimilation of nutrients by the body can last even more than a day.
The role is also played by the fact that the sufficient intake of proteins and carbohydrates before strength training (including creatine ) is often much more important than the use of the same nutrients after exercise. In other words, if you come to the gym hungry, this minimizes the effect of power loads - regardless of whether you subsequently close the carbohydrate window according to the rules or not.
Carbohydrate and HGH
The second point of criticism of the carbohydrate window is based on the fact that the use of a carbohydrate shake immediately after training increases insulin levels, which, in turn, negatively affects the level of growth hormone responsible for muscle growth and fat burning 4 . In this case, the intake of pure BCAA amino acids will stop the catabolic processes, however, without a drop in the level of growth hormone.
Although there is no unequivocal opinion on this issue, in professional sports literature the “carbohydrate window” is replaced by the concept of “metabolic window”, which implies the use of a carbohydrate cocktail before training and BCAA after it. In this case, the athlete receives energy for training and does not reduce the aforementioned growth hormone.
To close the carbohydrate window after strength training, about 15-25 g of whey protein and 10-12 g of fast carbohydrates are needed. This will help lower the level of cortisol, stop the processes of muscle breakdown and start the processes of their growth. The maximum amount of fast carbohydrates after exercise, guaranteeing an increase in body weight without excessive fat growth, is 30-40 g.
- Cortisol and physical exercise, source
- Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window ?, source
- Coingestion of carbohydrate with protein does not further augment postexercise muscle protein synthesis, source
- Are you ruining your gains by eating carbs straight after workout ?, source