Intra-workouts are often under-discussed when it comes to nutrition for health and fitness. This is because they are usually overshadowed by pre-and post-workout supplements. But, intra-workout nutrition can be a key part of improving performance and progress from a workout.
What are they?
As with pre-workouts and post-workouts, intra-workout supplements and protocols are as described. These are taken during a workout to boost certain elements of training, or it’s outcome.
Depending on the training your doing, and your goals, these supplements can vary. They can include everything from fast-acting proteins or carbohydrates to healthy fats.
These may help provide the body with key nutrients at opportune times to help maximize their use by the body. This can then help improve performance and progress.
Why should I use them?
As mentioned above, intra-workout supplements can help provide the body with useful nutrients. It may also help the body use these nutrients more efficiently.
This is because the body is more sensitive to taking in specific nutrients during exercise. This means that intra-workout nutrition may have a positive impact on how your body responds during and after training.
This can then have a beneficial impact on elements like muscle growth and muscle fuel stores and use. So, selecting the right nutrients to take in around a workout can help with everything from fitness to physical appearance.
Do they work?
Much like any question in nutrition, the answer is: It depends. How effective your intra-workout nutrition is will depend on how you’re training. The nutrients you’re supplementing with are also crucial.
For example, supplementing with carbohydrates during intense cardio training can help improve endurance and intensity. But, supplementing carbohydrates during strength training will give you little benefit.
Likewise, protein and creatine are more useful for boosting attributes like strength and power. Although, it may be indirectly beneficial for aerobic capacity by improving the above elements.
So, how effective your intra-workout supplement is will depend on what you take, and the training session that you’re taking it for.
How to take them
As seen above, selecting the right ingredients for your intra-workout supplements is crucial. But, combining the right ingredients can also make your supplement more effective than if only one ingredient was used.
For example, combining creatine and beta-alanine may help improve absorption of the ingredients and boost explosive strength and work capacity. Likewise, adding carbohydrates with creatine, like in the Scientific Xtend supplement, can be synergistic.
Carbohydrates and betaine may also be a good combination for intense cardio workouts. Some ingredients, like citrulline malate, can be useful for both cardio and strength workouts. Caffeine is also a good hybrid supplement that can boost power and work capacity.
Regarding when to take it. The most convenient time is to sip your supplement between sets or intervals. For steady-state cardio, it can also be sipped throughout the workout.
Intra-Workouts vs. Pre-Workouts vs. Post-Workouts
Now that the details on what intra-workout supplements are, and how to take them, the next question is whether they are better than other supplement protocols.
While there isn’t much research comparing pre, post, or intra-workout nutrition, it’s clear they are effective for different goals.
Post-workouts can be beneficial for recovery and to boost adaptation from training. Meanwhile, pre and intra-workout nutrition can help fuel your workout and boost performance. In more advanced athletes, pre and intra-workout supplements may also prove more beneficial for recovery and adaptation than post-workout nutrition.
So, if you’re a more advanced athlete or someone looking to improve your workout performance to break through a plateau, intra-workout supplements may work best.
But, it’s worth mentioning that a combination of the above protocols can be used for added results. Here, you can change the ingredients used for each supplement to an create ideal workout nutrition program.
As with any nutrition program, using a combination of methods that best suits your goals will help provide the best outcome.
To get the most out of each workout, and make as much progress as possible, a few points should be kept in mind:
- Intra-workout nutrition is best suited for those looking to boost workout performance. Advanced athletes looking for added recovery and adaptation from training can also find them useful.
- For improved cardio performance, carbohydrate supplementation, beta-alanine, and betaine are useful.
- For improved strength and power performance, protein and creatine are effective ingredients.
- Citrulline malate and beta-alanine can help both cardio and strength performance. Creatine can also have an indirect benefit.
- These ingredients should be combined as needed into liquid form. Then, they can be sipped throughout the workout easily.
- Pre or post-workout supplements can be added to your intra-workout protocol for added benefit.