However, if you’re not familiar with intra-workout supplementation then you’re going to be missing out on some easy gains.
Today we’re talking about intra-workout supplements:
- Are they worth it?
- What are they for?
- What’s the best kind of intra-workout supplement?
If you’re looking for answers and clarity on these questions, you’re in the right place…
…Read on if you want a better workout from some simple intra-workout nutrition!
Yes, they are worth it: The Role of IWO Supplements
In answer to the question posed in the title of this article, Yes.
In short, intra-workout supplements (IWOs) are worth it.
The main conditions of use are simple: you need a good idea of what you’re using an IWO supplement for – and then you need the best quality product for that goal. If you can get these two aspects nailed down, your IWO nutrition is going to be on-point and worth it.
The intra-workout supplement exists because workouts are the times when your body is going through the most intense nutritional demands. The work you do in the gym demands huge amounts of calories, nutrients, and other resources.
A good workout is benefitted by nutritional support – and a pre-workout can go some way towards helping but it doesn’t provide a complete package. This becomes even more important if you’re in the gym for more than an hour.
You can’t eat a huge meal before the gym, so you may need to support your workouts with intra-workout nutrition. Supplements are the best – and often the only appropriate – way of achieving this.
The Challenges You Need to Overcome
When we discuss the point of intra-workout supplements, there are a few clear and common goals that are going to pop up. These are the basic physiological challenges that your body faces during intense exercise. We’re going to outline them and what you need to do to produce maximum results and performance.
This is one of the most common problems: calorie use during exercise is much higher than at rest. Even during your most active days, you’re not going to use calories in the same quantity as exercising for the same amount of time.
Simply put, intense exercise has intense calorie needs – and you need to keep energized!
The intake of carbohydrates is the main way to improve your energy levels during a workout. This is because carbohydrates – especially the fast-absorbing (high GI) kind – release energy rapidly. They’re burnt up for short-term energy and keep you fueled.
Carbs are so good for short-term energy that even sensing them in the mouth has been shown to combat fatigue. However, you can keep energy levels up with proper carb consumption – which is even more effective if you’ve consumed caffeine recently, or take it with your carbohydrates.
The required amount is roughly 45g of carbohydrates per hour of exercise for an average sized man (roughly 80-85kg). You should adjust this up if you have more muscle mass and down if you have less muscle/more fat.
Amino Acid Shortage
Replenishing energy stores alone isn’t enough for optimal results. The proteins in the muscles and tendons that are damaged are also susceptible to degeneration if you don’t replace them.
Proper protein intake during long workouts is another factor for optimal performance and recovery/growth. The rates are much lower – with only 1/3 of the carb requirements, with only 15g of protein per hour required for the average man.
The point is to consume proper amino acid content. Unfortunately, protein shakes are rarely the right consistency for proper intra-workout supplementation. This is why branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) supplementation is often prioritized.
BCAAs (Leucine, isoleucine, and valine) are essential amino acids that aren’t in full protein format. This makes them far more rapidly absorbed by the body and there are some benefits to compounds like Leucine and its metabolites (HMB specifically) in sparing muscles from damage and being broken down.
This makes BCAAs a great combination with carbohydrates to keep amino acid levels up during exercise. It may also support better muscular sparing when you’re performing hard workouts on a weight-loss diet.
The muscles and tendons will necessarily take damage in the pursuit of strength and size gains. Workouts damage you – and proteins repair and replace these tissues. Supplementation during workouts can kickstart the recovery process early and prevent muscle-breakdown signals.
Muscle Cramping and Endurance-Support
The muscles don’t just need to be replaced and supported with amino acid intake; they require proper chemical support. They don’t just activate themselves – the electrolytes (fancy salts) are essential for healthy muscular contraction.
This is why potassium and other forms of electrolyte are common additions to pre-workout supplements. Electrolytes are lost during exercise and deficiency in the muscles can produce serious cramping – or just reductions in performance when it comes to strength and endurance.
Replenishing these essential minerals on the way through your workout is a crucial way of supporting better recovery, too. Poor electrolyte balance after a workout is one of the key factors associated with muscular damage – with Calcium ions leading the way.
This could be combined with your carbs and amino acids but could equally be taken separately. Obviously, it’s salt, so it is better when mixed in with other not-awful-tasting things. We like a solution of juice, water, and salt if you’re going to take it alone.
However, mixing this with a workout carb and BCAA supplement can provide a wealth of benefits and support your workout from multiple ‘angles’. The combinations are more effective than any individual support, so think about the combinations you might use in your own workouts.
The Best Approaches to IWO Supplements
Carbs + BCAA
The best combination for simplicity is a solution of workout carbohydrates like cyclic dextrin with a BCAA supplement. This provides the most rapidly absorbing form of carbohydrates and amino acids, while also being hydrating.
The proper supplementation of both compounds can be performed with a high-quality BCAA and a simple powdered carb. These work even better if you’re taking them mixed into something like coconut water, which has one of the highest hydration ratings of any liquid.
As we mentioned above, you should be getting your electrolytes in one way or another. This is part of the hydration process, as well as just being a great way to support muscular health and recovery.
The hydration of your tissues during/after exercise is also important. You’re going to be using a lot of water to clear metabolites, and it’s used in a huge number of metabolic reactions. You need to replace what you’re sweating out.
Proper water intake is best with these intra-workout supplements, but things like electrolytes, coconut water (or its powder), creatine, and glycine all improve hydration significantly. These are called osmolytes; they boost the intake of water into cells like the muscle fibers.
What Makes a Good Intra-Workout Supplement?
The specificity of a supplement to one of the key factors we’ve mentioned above makes it a good supplement. If it’s not directly building up to some of these factors, it’s probably not the smartest intra-workout product.
There are a ton of products that offer some benefits, but without being specific to the role an intra-workout supplement should play. This is what makes it an IWO supplement and not just a general support and performance product!
The most obvious thing you need to look for is a proper focus on quality. You want ingredients that are as close to the purest, most nature-identical possible. A product like Performance Lab SPORT BCAA would be our choice for amino acids, for example.
- 100% vegan-friendly
- Free from GMOs, soy, allergens and gluten
- Caffeine free
- GMP certified, meaning it is produced to strict standards in FDA-approved labs.
- It also uses a pure form of fermented sunflower lecithin (which is more bioavailable than normal BCAAs), which are in the industry-recommended 2:1:1 ratio.
Equally, a quality carb powder would be as pure as possible and avoid sugars, sticking with higher-GI starches. This kind of focus on the proper quality of ingredients – as well as their selection – is a key factor in putting together the perfect intra-workout supplement stack.
The better the supplement, the better the results. Focus on purity, ratios, and the source from which your nutrients come from. These are the key factors and they’re what your money is likely to be paying for!
*To Buy Performance Lab BCAA, Visit: www.performancelab.com
Reputation and Peace of Mind
The supplement market isn’t the best-regulated and there are times when the quality of a product is dubious. This is why the value of a well-regarded and trusted supplement manufacturer can be a benefit.
The better reputation a manufacturer – and the more assurances they can provide – the better peace of mind you can have that your product is legit.
To return to the example of the Performance Lab BCAA, we see some key assurances: good manufacturing practices, totally clean label, free from common allergens, totally vegan, positive reviews, strong customer service, a respected brand name – the list goes on.
The point is that this kind of pro-active approach to clear labels and a healthy product go a long way. Better intra-workout supplements are those that bring you the certainty that you’re only getting what is on the label.
Intra-workout supplements are worthwhile if you’re using them for their intended purpose and relying on the best quality supplements. They’re a great way of boosting your workout performance and the results you can expect as a result.
The results from an intra-workout supplement depend on the quality of ingredients, their selection, and how well they’re matched to your workouts. If you’re able to support hydration, amino acids, carb turnover, and electrolytes then you can seriously improve your workouts.
This is a simple matter of fueling yourself for the best performance and for the best results. It’s the same level as getting your protein shake after a workout or caffeinating before exercise. Give yourself the best chance for great results: take your intra-workout nutrition seriously!