Intra-Workout Supplementation & Is It For You?

It used to be all about post-workout, it was then about pre-workout, and now it’s all about during or intra- workout nutrition and supplementation.Each individual area or workout supplementation has its own guidelines about what’s most effective, research proven and suggested timings to take supplements, but of these intra-workout nutrition seems to be the most recent trend, and therefore very little research and guidance is out there on why you should do it – and what’s best for you to take during this key time of the day.

If you’re not considering your intra-workout nutrition when trying to build lean muscle mass then you could be missing out.

What happens during a muscle building workout?

During your typical muscle hypertrophy training session your body will be in a negative net protein balance. This means that as the synthesis of new proteins grinds to a halt, protein breakdown increases. The longer your workouts the more of a negative net protein balance your body will be in, hence why excessively long training sessions can be counterproductive!

When you’ve finished your workout, muscle protein synthesis will eventually increase, and as muscle breakdown slowly reduces, a positive nitrogen balance is created. Simply put, this is where new proteins are formed and muscle growth occurs.

Remember – you don’t grow in the gym, growth occurs when you’re resting and recovering!


So we’ve established that during the workout it’s a key time; its where you’ll see an increase in breakdown of proteins, and a decrease in new proteins being formed.

Logic would tell you that if you could both reduce the amount of protein that’s broken down during a workout, and increase the rate in which new proteins are formed during the recovery phase after the workout (because remember it’s almost impossible for new proteins to be formed during); greater recovery and lean muscle growth will be achieved at rest.

Supplying your body with the amino acids that it needs around these key times is vital in helping to increase muscle protein synthesis as well as decrease protein breakdown. Because of this, a higher net protein balance can be achieved, and help to promote gains in lean muscle mass, strength and muscle recovery.

Numerous research has shown that adequate Essential Amino Acid (EAA) and Branched Chain Amino Acid (BCAA) intake in the during- and post-workout “window” is vital for optimising muscle protein synthesis, protein breakdown, creating a positive net protein balance, repairing damaged muscle tissue, and stimulating training adaptations.

In particular, the BCAA Leucine has been shown independently of any other amino acids to activate key biochemical mechanisms associate with muscle growth during the post-workout “window”. Interestingly, it may also have a muscle sparing effect when consumed just before and during a training session.

In truth nobody really knows out of the BCAA’s, EAA’s or just consuming Leucine whether one is better than the other, so a supplement that combines all of these could be the best option to take during your workouts, to ensure the body is getting exactly what it needs.


If you think of BCAAs, EAAs and Leucine as the most important ingredients to consider during your workout, then the next level of ingredients would be those that provide energy quickly, as well as electrolytes that replace those lost during gruelling training sessions.

It’s not within the scope of this article to go in to the effectiveness of different energy boosting supplements, however here are a few quick tips and things that you may want to consider:

If choosing to use carbs and they fit within your daily macros, look for products that contain glucose, dextrose or fast acting carbohydrates and include these within your intra-workout supplement regime.

Carbohydrates can “turn-off” the fat burning switch when consumed during your workouts, so don’t use them if you don’t need to. Look for an intra-workout supplement that contains very little carbohydrates if fat burning is your goal.

Caffeine is a very good choice around your workouts. Just consider how sensitive you are to caffeine however, while for some they feel no difference, others feel they can train harder with as little as 100mg of caffeine.

Look for extra ingredients such as Sodium, Potassium, Chloride and Bicarbonate, that help to important electrolytes lost when sweating during exercise. Loss of electrolytes can severely impact your energy levels so best to keep these topped up.


Most amino acid supplements will take the body on average around 30 minutes to digest, and to allow the amino acids and some other ingredients to enter the bloodstream.

It is therefore recommended that you should start your intra-workout supplement regime around 30 minutes prior to the start of your workout, and then continue it throughout your workout.

As an example, begin to sip 30 minutes prior to your training session, or on your way to the gym, with the rest continuing to be sipped throughout your workout using the same amount of water you would typically consume during your training sessions.

It would always be better to over-dilute these supplements rather than under. Try using a large water hydrator – alternatively, sipping out of a shaker bottle during your training session will also work, or purchasing a funnel to cleanly store and distribute your ingredients in to your water bottle would also be a great idea.

Take Home Message…

Once your workout has finished still be sure to consume a post-workout meal or a protein shake if you’re on-the-go. This is still vital and will only boost the effectiveness of your workout supplementation regime, and overall results!

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