With all of the information and supplements in the fitness and wellness industry, it can be very overwhelming trying to decide what the best pre-, intra-, and post-workout supplementation is based on your specific goals.
In this blog we will focus on intra-workout supplementation and answer the following commonly asked questions:
• What are they?
• Why are they important?
• When to take them?
• Who should take them?
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What Are Intra-Workout Supplements?
Intra-workout supplements are just that — dietary supplements intended to supplement your macro nutrition and training regimen. Many of the ingredients are similar to those found in pre-workout supplements but are intended to be used during your workout to improve performance. Common ingredients such as amino acids, micronutrients, creatine, carbohydrates (glucose), and others are often paired together for specific goals.
Why Are Intra-Workout Supplements Important?
Intra-workout supplementation is important because it can help increase athletic performance by fueling different processes in the body. For example, the addition of creatine monohydrate and glucose can quickly replenish ATP stores to increase muscular performance and strength. Amino acids like Betaine and Beta-Alanine can be combined for improved muscle hydration and to buffer lactic acid to help you train harder for longer.
Nootropics and B-complex vitamins can increase mental awareness, focus, and natural energy production. Caffeine and aminos such as L-Carnitine may help increase fat metabolism and inhibit fat storage. And although more commonly found in pre-workout supplements, other aminos and vitamins such as Arginine, Agmatine Sulfate, and Citrulline can increase blood flow, muscle pumps, and improve anti-fatigue and recovery.
Most people are familiar with Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs), but some of the most important intra-workout amino acids for muscle growth are Essential Amino Acids (EAA's) which mimic the exact amino acid profile of muscle tissue when stacked in optimal ratios. These include:
Other great additions to any pre-/intra-workout supplementation are antioxidants (i.e., Vitamin C, Vitamin E) and electrolytes (i.e., Magnesium, Potassium, Sodium) to help boost cellular recovery and optimize hydration balance. Common forms of glucose with different assimilation rates and muscle glycogen potential are Dexanhydrous Glucose, Fructose, Dextrose, Cluster Dextrin, and sugar.
When Should You Take Intra-Workout Supplements?
Depending on the goal, there can certainly be some overlap with your pre- and intra-workout timing. If you are using separate pre- and intra-workout supplements, it is best to take your pre-workout around 30 minutes before heading to the gym and sip your intra-workout during your workout.
However, if you are in an endurance sport like cycling, boxing, running, swimming, etc. you may want to consider using it as a peri-workout supplement by sipping it before/during/after your workout. Keep in mind your macronutrition (or whole food meals) should be consumed 60-90 minutes before and 30-60 minutes after your workout for optimal performance and recovery.
Who Should Take Intra-Workout Supplements?
Intra-workout supplements can be a great addition to anyone looking to optimize their performance, look better, and feel better. If you have any intolerance to commonly used amino acids and vitamins, or if you have pre-existing medical issues (or are taking any medications) always consult with your physician first.
What’s the Best Intra-Workout for Me?
Finding the best intra-workout supplementation for your specific goals can vary widely, but here are some general guidelines.
• Strength/Muscular Development Goals:
Commonly used pre-/intra-workout supplements include EAA's, creatine, glucose, electrolytes, Agmatine, Alpha GPC, L-Norvaline, Arginine, Citrulline, Beta Alanine, caffeine, Betaine, Theacrine
• Muscular Endurance Sports Goals:
Electrolytes, creatine, glucose (dextrose, etc.), Betaine, Beta Alanine, Vitamin C, BCAAs, B-Complex Vitamins, other aminos (i.e., L-Taurine, L-Tyrosine, L-Glutamine, etc.)
For additional information and recommendations on macro and micronutrition reference Section 3, chapters 7-8 of the NASM’s Physique & Bodybuilding Coach (PBC) course.