When it came to gaining muscle, the 45-minute anabolic window was thought to be the deciding factor for successful muscle gain. The concept was pretty clear- gorge on enough carbs and protein within 45 minutes of finishing a workout or kiss your gains goodbye. This theory has however been debunked and recent research shows that it’s not the macros that you consume that could make or break your workout but is in fact how much water you gulp down. In other words, post-workout hydration plays a major role in helping you retain the muscle mass that you have gained.
As a part of a research project conducted by the Journal of Applied Physiology, seven resistance trained men in their 20’s were asked to perform identical workouts in three different states of hydration. During the first workout, they were adequately hydrated, drinking the necessary amount of water for their bodyweight. For the second week of training, the men were asked to cut down their water intake by 2.5 percent of their bodyweight and in the third week they were dehydrated by 5 percent.
The sole purpose of the study was to not look at the larger and more obvious symptoms of dehydration, such as constipation, cramping, fatigue, etc. Instead, the researchers wanted analyze the catabolic and anabolic mechanisms of the body. They found that inadequate hydration after a workout “strongly increased cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine- which are the primary stress hormones.”
When the stress-levels of the body escalate, it reacts by releasing hormones into the system. In the case of vigorous exercise, the stress can come from dehydration, causing the core temperature of your body to rise. The body reacts by releasing cortisol, whose primary function is to break down muscle tissue to access energy provided at a cellular level. Throughout your entire workout, your body goes from a state of catabolism,where it produces cortisol to break down tissue, to a state of anabolism where the muscles are rebuild.
If the amount of muscle that is broken down is more than the amount you build in an anabolic state, then obviously you will not see any visible muscle gain. To stabilize your body’s stress levels and keep your temperatures in check, hydration is key. If you drink enough water during and after your workout, you will be able to significantly balance your stress levels and retain necessary muscle mass. If your aim is to gain muscle, then you need to stay focused on reducing the amount of catabolic bodies, and move from the catabolic state to the anabolic state rather quickly to start building muscle. The only way you can manage to accomplish this is by working out in a fully hydrated state.