The 45 Minute Window of Opportunity

Time and time again we hear of people going to the gym for excessively long periods of time and starving themselves in order to achieve their health and fitness goals faster. Whether the goal be to lose weight, gain muscle or increase overall fitness it seems like too many people are believing myths and doing it wrong. We all see the gym junkies in their tight singlets rushing to their pint sized protein shakes after a heavy session of mostly gossiping, flexing and loud, obnoxious grunting. But what many people do not realise is that rushing to refuel your body within “The Muscle Recovery Window” has longer effects on your muscles than your workout itself. The Muscle Recovery Window lasts 45 minutes after a workout, Pacific Health describes it as the time when muscles are restored, repaired and regenerated.

Alan Aragon states that the post-exercise period is widely considered the most critical part of nutrient timing (even more so than your normal daily food intake). It is not only elite athletes and muscle builders that can see results by optimizing this “window of opportunity” the “forgotten trainers” including young females, yummy mummy’s, masters athletes and middle-aged men also can produce dramatic improvements in body composition using this approach. A calorie deficit (calories in vs calories out) is an important tool in losing weight however refuelling your body after a tough session leads to a speedier recovery, more energy and an increase in overall fat-free mass. Article 1.1

A low carbohydrate and high protein diet has gained lots of positive publicity within the last decade with the increased popularity low carbohydrate high protein diets. Recent research studies have found that foods with high fat or protein actually slow the digestive process, ultimately negatively impacting on optimal muscle recovery.

Carbohydrates have been in the press for all the wrong reasons lately and have gotten themselves a bad name. Many believe that by excluding carbohydrates from their diet a reduction in weight will result. What many people don’t realise is that carbohydrates play a HUGE part in recovery. Carbohydrates are stored in the muscles as glycogen which is a fuel we use for energy during exercise, therefore after a workout we need to replenish these stores. If you don’t do this within “The Muscle Recovery Window” you are missing out on enhancing muscle repair and growth.

Adding protein to a carbohydrate meal post-workout is said to give this process a further boost and replenish your glycogen stores even faster. Scientific research has found that a carbohydrate to protein ratio of 4:1 has resulted in restoration of energy reserves, the rebuilding of damaged tissue which results in overall enhancement of both body composition and exercise performance. I know this is now starting to sound difficult but if you look at the table below of my post-workout snack suggestions you will see it is easier than you think.

Post-Workout Snacks
1 Cup Low Fat Chocolate Milk Fruit Smoothie
Omelette with Veggies + Avocado Grilled Chicken & Veggies
Protein Shake Apple with Peanut Butter
Tuna on Rice Thins Whole Wheat Bagel with Peanut Butter

Everyone drools over Peanut butter, that gooey goodness that melts in your mouth…. and many assume that because it tastes so good it couldn’t possibly be good for you too. Research shows that 2 Tablespoons of Peanut Butter post workout has the perfect carb:protein ratio as it contains 6gs of carbs and 8gs of protein add it to a bagel or even an apple and wallah!

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Personally, as much as I would love a peanut butter bagel after a workout the thought of stomaching whole foods makes me queasy. Many people are scared away from protein powders and shakes as it is stereotyped to only be for gym junkies looking to bulk up. A liquid snack is extremely beneficial for everyone as it is absorbed faster, reaches the muscles earlier whilst rehydrating the body at the same time. There is an infinite range of protein powders, shakes and bars on the market which are often very costly but this is not the only way to go.

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You may think that I am lying again when I suggested 1 cup of Low Fat Chocolate Milk in my Post-Workout Snacks table but I wasn’t kidding! Low fat chocolate milk is a natural source of protein, it has the correct 4:1 Carb:Protein ratio and contains calcium, magnesium, sodium and electrolytes to help replenish lost glycogen and sweat. The added element of calcium helps to build and maintain strong bones and reduces the risk of stress factors.

Some of the most common health and fitness misconceptions are that you shouldn’t eat after the gym, carbohydrates make you gain weight and that protein shakes are only for gym junkies wanting to bulk up. By refuelling and replenishing your body with protein and carbohydrates within 45 minutes of exercise you will be able to achieve your goals don’t waste this precious opportunity. Don’t waste this “Window of Opportunity”.

Originally published –

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