The 'Golden Hour': Fact or Fiction

If you’ve ever lined-up at the juice bar of your local gym to get your protein packed post-workout smoothie or shake, you’re likely familiar with the concept of the ‘golden hour’. Among the prevailing workout wisdom, the 'golden hour' is one of the more persuasive tidbits of advice that continues to circulate.

What is the ‘Golden Hour’?

In the context of exercise, the 'golden hour' refers to the hour after you do a resistance-based workout when you are supposed to eat to maximize muscle gains and minimize muscle loss. It’s also called the anabolic window.

The logic behind this practice is that we have no more than 60 minutes (some even say 30) after our sweat sessions to consume nutrient dense combinations of healthy carbs and protein to trigger glycogen restoration (glycogen being what your muscles use for energy) and protein synthesis (the process of muscle building).

Good refuelling food choices include options like:

  • hummus and carrot sticks
  • peanut butter and apple slices
  • Greek yogurt and berries

(Get more more post-workout meal and snacks ideas here.)

Sounds pretty simple, right?

Well, it turns out it’s also pretty wrong.

While the anabolic window does exist, but it isn’t open for merely a matter of minutes: it’s a matter of hours. In fact, research has shown it is open for to 6 hours. Common knowledge, it seems, was founded in imperfect scientific evidence. The controlled studies were not that controlled, and they failed to account for what and when people ate (or didn’t eat) the rest of the day.

For example, it seems the ‘golden hour’ really only accounted for people who were working out in a fasted state. That obviously does not apply to everyone.

What this wider window means for you.

A wider anabolic window means that as long as you eat within six hours post-exercise, your window of opportunity to get the max gains from your workout is still open.

Granted, not many people will wait that long to eat, but that’s not the point. The point is you don’t have to powerback a $10 protein shake or ‘nutritional’ bar with questionable contents: you are afforded more time to make better, calmer, cost effective food choices. In a world awash with strict, die-hard diet rules, this more accomodating anabolic window is a welcome breath of fresh air.

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