The 'Window of Gainz', the 'Anabolic Window’ the 'Window of Opportunity’ (always the window?!)... You have probably all heard these phrases in context of the magical timeframe post-workout in which you have to consume the ideal post-workout meal or shake otherwise you miss out on all your training gains!
Supposedly, the Window of Gainz is a period of time after your training session when your body and muscles are particularly primed to accept food and shuttle it towards conversion into lean muscle mass. Bro-science traditionally puts this window somewhere between thirty minutes to two hours after your workout.
So, is this window really there? Before we discuss this time-limited, post-workout window for meal and supplementation, you should know there is a BIGGER, BETTER window! Actually, it’s so much more than a window…It’s the GATEWAY TO GAINZ!
What’s even better, it’s free!
You have access to it every single day.
It’s 100% legal (no 'roids here!)
You can have as much of it as you want.
You can definitely have too little, but you can never have too much!
Sound too good to be true? What’s the catch? What is the Gateway to Gainz?!?!
Yawn! Not another one preaching me on sleep! We get it!
…but do you? Do you actually get it?
If I told you that if you floss your teeth everyday for five minutes, in one week you would increase your deadlift by 5kg, the following week you would add another 5kg, and in a month's time you would also drop a waist size, you would have already left your seat and be over the sink shining those gnashers up real good.
Obviously flossing your teeth does not get you these results (you should still floss of course), but getting enough good quality sleep can produce something similar! So when we tell you to get more sleep you should be attacking it with the same zeal.
I cannot emphasise enough just how important sleep is to your general physical and mental health. Good sleep is one of the most important elements of health maintenance, as well as athletic performance and improvement, and it tops the list before nutrition and training even enter the picture.
Sleep needs are going to vary based on the individual, but most people will get the utmost benefit from sleeping 7 to 10 hours per night.
Sleep is your body's recovery time and many amazing things happen when you are catching your ZZZZZs:
- Decrease in blood pressure
- Heart/breathing rate slows
- Muscles relax and blood supply to muscles increases, which promotes tissue growth and repair
- Important hormones are released, in particular growth hormone and testosterone. Both are essential for muscle growth and development.
Many studies have shown the negative effects of sleep deprivation, and by deprivation we are talking getting 4-6 hours of sleep a night. Yup! If that’s you then you are sleep deprived!…..
4-6 hours of sleep has been shown to:
- Reduce energy levels and stamina by 15-40%
- Increase the level of the stress hormone cortisol, which can lead to muscle loss, increased fat storage, loss of bone mass, depression, hypertension, insulin resistance (the cells in the body lose the ability to accept insulin), and lower growth hormone and testosterone production
- Impair glucose tolerance. Without sleep, the central nervous system becomes more active, something that inhibits the pancreas from producing adequate insulin, the hormone the body needs to digest glucose.
- Increase carb cravings. This is due to the fact that sleep deprivation negatively affects the production of a hormone called Leptin. This hormone is responsible for telling the body when it is full. However, with decreased production of this hormone, your body will crave calories (especially in the forms of high reward foods aka sugar!) even though its requirements have been met.
Sleep is the original ‘Window of Gainz’ and this one lasts a whole lot longer than 30 minutes!
Getting adequate sleep will lead to fat loss, muscle gain, performance improvements, better energy, basically all the results you seek from your post-workout shake. The only difference is that sleep is free, and it works a whole lot better! Nothing you do will compensate for lack of sleep, NOTHING! No magical pill or protein shake will un-do the havoc caused by sleep deprivation.
For a more in-depth article on the importance of sleep I suggest you read this CrossFit Journal article, 'Sleeping for Performance'.
In part 2 of 'The Window of GAINZ!’ we will look at whether a post-workout window does actually exist, and if so how should we take the maximum advantage of this.