Post Workout Nutrition: The Window Of Opportunity

Chad Shaw
Written By: Chad Shaw
July 15th, 2011
Updated: June 13th, 2020
Categories: Articles Nutrition
59K Reads
Chad Shaw addresses the topic of post-workout nutrition and makes the case that pre-workout nutrition might be of more importance for muscle growth.

Post workout nutritionThroughout the 25 years I've been bodybuilding, there is one theory regarding muscle growth that has struck fear into the hearts of bodybuilders, and anyone else who goes to the gym and puts forth lots of gut wrenching effort pumping iron in order to build muscle. This long standing theory printed in countless bodybuilding publications suggests that the moment your workout ends there is a critical 45 minute "window of opportunity" that opens up. This leaves you exactly 45 minutes to consume a hefty dose of protein to replenish the body with essential amino acids in order to produce any muscle growth from your brutal workout.

From the first time I heard of this theory I was little suspicious. Just the whole notion that the second you complete the last repetition of your workout, your body instantly begins a 45 minute count-down that you have to consume lots of protein before the porthole to muscle growth slams shut. Sort of like how Cinderella had to be home by the exact second the clock stuck midnight, or else her stage coach would turn into a pumpkin, and she would turn back into a wench. You see, two very similar fairy tales!

Looking back it makes me laugh when I think about some of the ridiculous antics guys at the gym pull so that they wouldn't be denied muscle growth in that 45 minute window of opportunity. Some guys would finish their workouts and go flying out of the gym parking lot like Flash, hop in their cars, take off, and drive frantically, running red lights, maybe running a few people off the road, just to get home to eat.

Then I would see other guys sprint to the locker room at the end of a workout and pull a can of tuna fish out of their gym bag, pop it open and start inhaling like a Tiger Shark! That always made for a pleasant smell in the locker room!

As for myself, I didn't pay much attention to this theory because it didn't make sense to me. There were some times I would get home and eat right after a workout, but other times I would have a few things to go do before I could get home eat, and sometimes 2 hours or more would elapse before I had a chance to eat. Either way, it never seemed to make much of a difference in my strength and muscle gains.

Finally I read a publication regarding this post workout window of opportunity from a respectable source that made a lot of sense to me! The author of this article was none other than Jeff Everson. For those who aren't familiar with Jeff, he was former national collegiate Olympic lifting champion, winner of 5 USA national bodybuilding titles, and also the one who trained the famous Cory Everson to help her earn 6 Ms. Olympia titles. In other words, Jeff knows a thing or two about building muscle!

In a nutshell, what Jeff explained in this article is that the meal you consume before training is more important than the meal you consume after training. Besides usable carb energy, as in other sports, he argued that the so called post training metabolic "window of opportunity" was taken out of context since proteins entering the mouth are not instantized to potential nutrients at the level of liver deanimation and transanimation, or into the flux of muscle fiber cellular metabolism.

In other words, the nutrients you consume a couple hours before your workout are actually the ones that are falling into this "window of opportunity" during and after training. It takes significant time in order for protein and complex carbohydrates to go through the whole digestive process that is necessary to replenish usable amino acids and glycogen to your muscles.

Bodybuilder eating

This isn't to say that taking branched chain amino acids and or creatine before and after workouts is a bad idea. These particular amino acids undergo a much more simple route of absorption so they can effectively be utilized by your muscles within minutes versus the hours it would take to digest a whole food meal.

Recovery and muscle growth is a 24-7 deal! The body will slowly break down proteins you consume into the essential amino acids that it needs to facilitate growth and repair, little by little, over a long duration of time. There is no such thing as instant muscle recovery or instant muscle growth no matter how many nutrients you take in before or after a workout. There are supplements like branched chain amino acids and creatine that I believe may help speed the process along, but all in all, building muscle naturally takes time and you need be patient.

So now you can save yourself lots of stress! All is not lost if your unable to consume a meal within 45 minutes upon the completion of your workout. Even missing a meal here or there will not hinder your efforts to gain muscle.

The body is very resourceful, so should you miss an occasional meal, your body will simply make up for it by absorbing and utilizing more of the nutrients the next time you eat. As I mentioned before, muscle recovery and growth is full-time operation your body is running 24 hours a day and 7 days per week.

Posted on: Sun, 05/18/2014 - 12:32

Dear Esteemed Colleague,

I thank you for your interesting article on the nutritional window of opportunity (or rather, its fallacy). In reality, such a window DOES exist. It's not predicated on a clock or timer as we know it, but rather on a complex myriad of physiologic, metabolic, and hormonal processes which occur in the immediate post-workout period.
As I'm sure you (and of course Mr. & Mrs. Everson) are aware, these processes, as is true of all biologic processes, start off slowly from a baseline, reach a maximum, then return to that baseline, thus creating a "window of opportunity" for optimal interaction with other processes. For example, if one consumes sugar, their insulin level spikes, and that sugar is then able to be utilized by muscle. If no insulin is available, then the sugar is NOT utilized by the muscle.
So, you see, there is a true window.
I suggest carrying your research a bit deeper, beyond anecdotal accounts of revered yet passé bodybuilders. Their knowledge base worked in the '70's, '80's & early '90's, but we've absolutely EXPLODED in research and knowledge in the SCIENCE of fitness and bodybuilding. It's all out there, and free for the taking.
And in the end, after you've done your in-depth due-dilligence, and written your well- researched article, shouldn't it be that revered bodybuilders (past, present & future) as well as novices, and fitness aficionados are quoting YOU instead of the other way around?

Posted on: Wed, 11/27/2013 - 11:36

i am doing work out since last 4 years.
My tranier advise me take amino tablet.
should i take amino table.if yes please suggest brand and quantity.
please suggest.


Stevie P
Posted on: Wed, 10/24/2012 - 10:48

for those newbies to body building you will no doubt have listened to endless theories from armchair bodybuilder at the gym,read endless contradictory articles on what works and what doesn't and worst of all spent endless amount of money on useless wonder suppliments. for sure and no doubt post workout suppliments are a must, but don't panic you probabaly have a good 2 hours, obviously what you consume pre workout is important and very obviously the sooner the better post workout. stick to the basics if you need to use suppliments instead of good food and remember this is exactly what thye are - suppliments, they are to suppliment your diet because you are not average Joe you are subjecting your body to intense stress. So heres the facts, post workout, fast complex carb such as waxy maize starch (30g) whey protein (20g), BCAA's, ALA (100mg) chromium(100mg),biotin(100mg),Vit-C (1000mg),zinc/magnesium(100mg)HMB (2500mg),creatine (500mg),lecithin(1250mg). The first 3 on the list are the most important if funds are low but all this will help.

Posted on: Sun, 01/08/2012 - 09:50

whole milk is gud after workout?

Andrew Chappell
Posted on: Tue, 12/20/2011 - 08:28

I think you've completely ignored the effects that postworkout nutrition has on cellular signalling pathways and there ability to promote anabolism and negate catabolism. Oh and way to mention the increased catabolism in reduced ability to synthesis protein following a workout. If I wan't to make mediocre gains in the gym I'll be sure to follow this advice.

Posted on: Thu, 07/21/2011 - 12:31


This is Maddy.

I started going to Gym 2 years back but for the last 9-10 months I didnt go to gym due to some family problem.

Now I am goint to start again. If you could let me know what should be my workout plan. I have also bought 'WHEY PROTEIN ISOLATE'. When do I need to take this and what would be my diet plan.

Thanks in advance.


Posted on: Wed, 07/20/2011 - 20:01

Thanks for the info. You mentioned pre-workout meals being more important. I wake up, drink a protein supplement and workout. I'll then east breakfast and go on about my day. Is there anything else us first-thing-in-the-morning exercisers can do?

Posted on: Wed, 07/20/2011 - 12:09

"It takes significant time in order for protein and complex carbohydrates to go through the whole digestive process that is necessary to replenish usable amino acids and glycogen to your muscles."
So what is your thought on post-workout simple carbs ? ;)