The Post-Workout Glycogen Window

When you are doing hard work in the gym your body will deplete its muscular glycogen stores.

But what the heck is glycogen?

Well, what sounds like a fancy, complicated word is simply the storage form of carbohydrates. It is the primary energy substance your muscle cells use for physical activity. During exercise, your body burns glycogen first and then fat after that. If glycogen levels are low you will have trouble doing strenuous physical work like lifting heavy weights or doing a hard cardio workout.Low glycogen levels are also the reason why you might feel drained and without energy when you substantially reduce carb intake during a diet.


So after a hard workout it’s important to consume some quality carbs to replenish those muscle cells. This will improve your recovery and therefore your ability to train hard again. Even if you’re on fat loss diet and are currently restricting your overall intake of carbs it’s important to keep this in mind because your body always needs some carbs for metabolic reasons.

A Window Of 45 Minutes

Studies have found that there is a window of about 45 minutes right after finishing your workout during which you can restore your glycogen tanks most efficiently. If you miss this window of opportunity there is a chance your glycogen levels won’t be restored fully.

There is much more to this topic if you start digging deeper into the details of spiked insulin production in relation to the amount of carbohydrates and protein consumed at the same time and the effect this has on glycogen storage. But those details can be unnecessarily confusing to the average trainee.

You will do fine if you simply remember to consume about 40 or 50 g of quality carbsright after your workout.

Two Easy Solutions

There are two easy ways to do this. You don’t need to eat a complete meal.

1.Drink one quart (1 liter) of skim or low-fat milk within about 45 minutes after finishing your workout.

This will provide your body with 35 g of protein and about 45 g of quality carbs. If you want some extra protein, simply mix a few scoops of protein powder into the milk.

Handsome muscular bodybuilder posing and keeping arms outstretched. Muscular and fit young bodybuilder posing raising his hands on black background.

2. Eat a protein bar.

These little snacks contain quite a bit of protein (anything from 20 g to even 50 g per bar). But what many peope don’t know is that they also contain a lot of sugar. Too many protein bars in between meals can make you fat, but after a really hard workout they can make for excellent little carb-loading tools. A good alternative to that can be granola bars, if you prefer these.

And about two hours after a hard workout, it’s a good time to have a hearty, tasty meal to really kickstart your recovery. You’ve earned it!

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