So you’ve probably heard that muscles aren’t built in the gym but instead at rest. The workout itself only provides the stimulus for growth i.e. the tearing of the muscle fibers. How well you rest, determined upon your nutrition, will make the difference in how big and how quickly these muscle fibers repair. In this article I will outline 2 particular muscle windows to be aware of, and most importantly how to maximize them via your diet and lifestyle habits.
This is arguably the most important window. Your muscles are glycogen depleted and your fibres torn. Your body is craving fast acting carbohydrates and a fast-acting protein source to restart the rebuilding
process ASAP. Despite this potentially being an anabolic/muscle building window, if not careful this could quite easily turn into a catabolic/muscle wasting opportunity. This is because, after you train intensely, cortisol levels will shoot through the roof (temporarily). Although temporary, cortisol is a powerful stress hormone that’s role is to destroy muscle tissue and store body fat. How do we lower cortisol and give our bodies the best nutrients to provoke the best rebuilding process?
A lot of people supplement with whey protein, but not everyone knows why. Whey protein in terms of absorption is lightning fast. After your workout, where time is of the essence – this quick absorption rate is ideal.
A study (1) has concluded that combining whey with casein protein elicits a higher protein synthesis value than from just taking whey protein alone. Casein protein is the opposite to whey protein in terms of rate of absorption, and takes a very long time for the body to fully absorb.
With cortisol levels sky-high after your war of a workout, vitamin C would be a very shrewd addition to your supplement stack. A study has shown that supplementing with 1000mg or 1g of vitamin C can significantly reduce cortisol levels (2). High cortisol can also reduce testosterone levels. Testosterone is one of the most powerful muscle building hormones in the body, thus the need to reduce cortisol should be your first priority. Testosterone is basically what most steroids are based on. But the difference is, in our bodies we will have a natural T level range and when taking steroids your T will be raised to abnormally high levels, also causing a host of unwanted side effects.
2. Night Time
In order to build muscle our muscles, we should consistently be in a positive nitrogen balance throughout the day to maximize protein synthesis. Because of this, many people eat as many as 6-8 meals a day, with a good serving of protein in each. If you would like to know how much protein you need, check out my post – “how much protein to build muscle?”. However, with this rule, many forget that we won’t be eating every couple of hours during our sleep. So, if you would like to keep protein synthesis elevated during sleep you have 2 options. One is to continue getting up every few hours in your sleep – which some bodybuilders actually do (Crazy I know!). The other is to be smart with your nutrition before you go to sleep.
We mentioned casein protein before and how it is extremely slow absorbing. It can actually take up to 7 hours for it to be fully absorbed. This is perfect before sleep to keep a constant supply of protein and amino acids to your muscles. Cottage cheese is particularly high in casein protein, thus this would be a suited meal before you hit the sack. Alternatively you can invest in a casein protein powder. These are usually quite
pleasant tasting and if you get a chocolate flavoured one, can turn out like a thick pudding. To find out which casein supplement I recommend for its profile and taste, check out my post “Top 3 Protein Shakes on the Market“.
To slow down the absorption of casein even further, add some fats to your casein meal. Fats when combined with any protein, slows down the absorption. Thus, they should be avoided straight after your workout, but be consumed before you go to sleep. Some healthy fats you can add to your casein are: flaxseed, olive oil or peanut butter. These fat sources are high in unsaturated fats (the good, healthy kind!).
So there you have it! You now know exactly how to eat, during the 2 anabolic windows in the day, for bigger muscles. Pretty cool or what?
(1) Tipton KD, Elliott TA, Cree MG, Wolf SE, Sanford AP, Wolfe RR. Ingestion of casein and whey proteins result in muscle anabolism after resistance exercise.Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004 Dec;36(12):2073-81. PubMed PMID: 15570142.
(2) Joseph Marsit, et. al. Effects of Ascorbic Acid on Serum Cortisol and the Testosterone: Cortisol Ratio in Junior Elite Weightlifters. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 12: 179-184, 1998.
Erny Peibst is the founder of WorldsFittest.net, a popular fitness blog that gives free advice on how to transform your body with unique nutrition and supplement recommendations.