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The science behind nutrient timing suggests that it is key to successfully achieving your health, fitness and performance goals. As the name suggests, this concept is about consuming specific food types at a time when your body has the best ability to utilize the nutrients. In other words, what you eat and when you eat can have a big impact on both fat loss and muscle building. In this week’s article find out why post workout carbohydrates is so important!

The Anabolic Phase: The 30-45 Minute Optimal Window

The anabolic phase is a critical phase of nutrient timing occurring within 30-45 minutes post-exercise. During this time muscle cells are particularly sensitive to insulin, making it necessary to ingest the proper nutrients in order to make gains in muscle strength. Ingesting the same nutrients 2 – 4 hours post-exercise will not have the same effect. Moreover, during this time the anabolic hormones begin working to repair the muscle and decrease its inflammation caused during training. A carbohydrate snack consumed within 45 minutes post-exercise has numerous benefits as the muscle cells can pick up glucose quickly during this period.

Eating After Exercise

First of all, it is very important to consume carbohydrate within 30 minutes post-exercise to help restore glycogen. According to research, consuming 0.3-0.6 grams of carbohydrate for each pound of body weight within two hours of endurance exercise is essential to building adequate glycogen stores for continued training. If you miss this “window” and wait longer than two hours to eat there will be 50 percent less glycogen stored in muscle. The reason for this is that carbohydrate consumption stimulates insulin production, which in turn aids the production of muscle glycogen. However, at some point the effect of carbohydrate on glycogen storage reaches a plateau.

Building Muscle? The Secret To Maximising The Effect of Protein

Prolonged and high-intensity exercise causes muscle breakdown, so repairing this damage is important. Protein in your post-exercise snack will provide the amino-acids the body needs to start repairing any damage to the muscles from the exercise session and encourage the muscle rebuilding process. According to the International Society for Sports Nutrition, in order to maximise the effect of protein it should be consumed with carbohydrate. This has been proven to have better results than simply consuming protein supplements. So, you can maximise your results simply by ensuring any food you eat after training contains both carbs and protein.

Carbohydrate Plus Protein Speeds Recovery

Research also shows that combining protein with carbohydrate within thirty minutes of exercise nearly doubles the insulin response, which results in more stored glycogen. The optimal carbohydrate to protein ratio for this effect is 4:1 (four grams of carbohydrate for every one gram of protein). Eating more protein than that, however, has a negative impact because it slows rehydration and glycogen replenishment. According to some studies, athletes who refuelled with carbohydrate and protein had 100 percent greater muscle glycogen stores than those who only ate carbohydrate. In addition, insulin was also highest in those who consumed a carbohydrate and protein drink.


If you are looking for the best way to refuel your body after endurance exercise, a 3:1 (or 4:1) combination of carbohydrate and protein seems to be the best choice. It should contain approximately 15 g of protein and 45 g of carbohydrate. While solid foods can work just as well as a supplement, a supplement may be easier to digest making it easier to get the right ratio within that 30 minute window of opportunity.

By Kleio Bathrellou
Associate Nutritionist

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