Training for an upcoming marathon or triathlon? Going on a super long hike this weekend? Or are you just a regular ol’ gym-rat who consistently spends 1.5+ hours at the gym to sculpt every damn muscle in the body?
Regardless of whoever you are and whatever your fitness goals, you need energy to get from the start of your workout to the end.
And, what’s more, you need to consume energy to expend energy.
Except here’s the problem with that: no one wants to eat a fat meal before a fat workout.
Or maybe you do, but you’ll certainly regret it midway through, especially if you’re shooting for those lean (emphasis on lean) muscle gains.
Fortunately, for the hard-working, lean-mean exercisers, there are Intra-Workout Supplements.
These are a class of supplements that can be taken during exercise. For a quick fix of easy-to-absorb muscle fuel that sustains muscular energy and endurance.
And the best stacks can do this without relying on stimulants that synthetically keep the brain and body going without doing much of anything for long-term exercise results.
In this article, we’ll cover the ins-and-outs of intra-workout supplements, why you might want to take one, as well as the best intra-workout supplements of 2020.
So, read on, padawan!
Table of Contents
The Best 5 Supplements Intra-Workout Guide
The harder you train, the more muscle you gain (as long as you’re eating a calorie surplus, of course).
And the more muscle you gain, the more nutrients and calories you’ll need to maintain all that muscle you trained to gain. This applies to people of all active lifestyles, from bodybuilding to hiking, swimming to running.
But with so many different intra-workout brands and stacks using so many different ingredients, yet promising more or less the same results, how are we to know which intra-workout stack is right for us?
Perhaps the best place to start is to answer:
What is an Intra-Workout Supplement?
It’s all in the name: an intra-workout supplement is a supplement one takes intra, or during a workout. As opposed to other workout-related supplements that are taken either before or after exercise.
We tend to think of workout supplements solely in terms of pre- and post-exercise. So we tend to overlook the advantages of taking a supplement during exercise, especially for the hardcore athletes and exercisers who train for long durations at a time.
Perhaps the best way to understand what constitutes an intra-workout supplement, let’s cover all workout supplement bases from pre to post:
Pre-Workout: taken before exercise for increased energy, circulation, oxygen capacity, and even sharper cognitive focus.
Post-Workout: taken after exercise to replenish lost energy and nutrients while protecting against excess oxidative stress and inflammation for better muscle repair and recovery.
And, of course, Intra-Workout: a performance enhancement supplement taken during exercise, namely to sustain muscular endurance and energy while minimizing protein breakdown for maximum anabolic muscle activity.
Typically, this means that intra-workout must be substantial enough to replenish your torn-up tissues without suddenly weighing down your workout.
What to Look for in an Intra-Workout Stack?
Not all intra-workout stacks are the same. Many formulas boast supplying “EXTREME-O ENERGY!!”, which is unnecessary to an intra-workout stack, while others pack too many ingredients, causing absorption issues.
There’s simply no way the gut can fully process all those aminos and compounds, many of which you likely don’t even need in an intra-workout context.
Ideally, an intra-workout stack should supply only the essentials, but at an exceptionally high quality. The main ingredients to look for in an intra-workout stack include:
Though somewhat of a bogeyman to today’s anti-carb health enthusiasts, carbohydrates are incredibly important to exercise performance and muscle growth—and KarboLyn® Carbohydrates are the best sports carbs in the game.
But why are carbohydrates so important? Likewise, why is KarboLyn® the best?
Respectively, here’s why:
- Carbohydrates prime glycogen muscle fuel reserves, which the body uses for ATP energy production during conditions of intense exercise and activity, after which the body begins to deteriorate muscle tissue as an energy substitute.
- KarboLyn® uses a bioengineered carb delivery system that’s neither too simple nor too complex for rapid, yet sustained carbohydrate absorption, hitting a happy Goldilocks medium for 2+ hours of enhanced muscle energy.
The problem with simple carbs: the muscle energy spike is too quick and may follow with a net muscle energy crash. Yet, the problem with complex carbs: the rate of absorption takes a long time (sometimes 24 hours) and often comes with bloating side effects.
Taken both pre-, intra-, and post-workout, KarboLyn® supplies both quick and slow absorbing carbohydrates for fast-acting, ongoing muscle energy enhancement, resulting in greater muscle growth and minimal protein breakdown.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
Of all the amino acids, only three are classified as branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), an essential class of aminos that are most sought for intra-workout muscle replenishment.
Apart from being essential components of the diet, as opposed to non-essential amino acids that are created in the body, BCAAs are broken down in muscle tissue, rather than the liver. Because of this, BCAAs seem to uniquely play a role in muscle energy metabolism during exercise, likely due to BCAAs preservation effect on muscular glycogen stores, which fuel muscular energy and minimize protein breakdown.
Compromising roughly 35% of the body’s essential amino acid content, BCAAs include the following three aminos: L-leucine, L-isoleucine, and L-valine. While leucine seems to possess greater anabolic, muscle-building advantages, isoleucine and valine are very important to energy production and blood sugar regulation.
Supplementing intra-workout BCAAs is a smarty way to maintain positive muscular endurance, energy, and growth.
If you’re exercising, you’re sweating. (If you’re not sweating, you’re not exercising!) And in addition to water loss, what’s also lost with sweat are electrolytes, a class of minerals in the body that carry an electric charge (e.g, sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium). That electric charge is important to sustaining healthy hydration levels, otherwise, under conditions of electrolyte-deficiency, the body may fail to efficiently build muscle—not to mention the various cardiovascular and cognitive issues that come with low electrolyte levels.
Athletes and exercisers often underestimate the negative consequences of electrolyte loss. Mistakenly, many of us think drinking water after training is enough to rehydrate the body. Except what happens when we drink water without replenishing our H2O-sustaining electrolyte levels is that the H2O goes in one end and immediately out the other, further contributing to electrolyte loss.
Loading up on electrolytes midway through exercise may not only reduce your risk of dehydration but make post-workout rehydration possible.
There’s a reason why organic coconut water has become somewhat of a health trend among today’s fitness freaks, and it’s not because coconut water tastes good. (It tastes like backwash, to be honest.) It’s because of the water’s coconut crystal content, which supplies an organic mix of electrolytes and glucose.
Compared to regular ol’ water, coconut water may actually hydrate the body better, due to the coconut crystal’s electrolyte charge. Not to mention that the coconut sugars (glucose) are also effective at enhancing carbohydrate transport into muscle tissues, making coconut crystals a smart companion ingredient to KarboLyn® carbohydrates.
- Performance Lab BCAA is our #1 recommended Intra-Workout Supplement.
When Do You Need an Intra-Workout Supplement?
Likewise, is an intra-workout only necessary at a high degree of exercise intensity? Odds are gym noobs and lightweight exercisers don’t need an intra-workout, right?
As far as answering the first question, that comes down to your personal fitness goals. Usually, the reason to take an intra-workout supplement is to sustain energy and intensity through long workouts, such as long-distance running, hiking, or long weight-training sessions.
For awhile we thought Clif Bars do a well-enough job at this, until we realized that Clif Bars, and other similar “carb replenishment” snack bars, are essentially candy bars.
An effective intra-workout stack rapidly loads stamina-depleted muscle with healthy, stim-free carb energy, keeping the train rolling, so to speak, without loads of gunky, artificial sugar.
With that in mind, yes, only high-intensity training exercisers will find value in an intra-workout supplement.
The idea is optimized performance here. And if you’re not putting out your best effort, there’s not much an intra-workout—or really any workout—supplement will do for you.
Best 5 Supplement’s Criteria for the Best Intra-Workout Supplements of 2020
Supplying the right ingredients isn’t enough to qualify an intra-workout as the best. Other criteria must be met, including:
- Quality: potent, premium, easy-to-absorb forms;
- Quantity: adequately dosed, properly ratioed ingredients;
- Safety: no unnecessarily risky ingredients or interactions;
- Efficacy: clinically researched ingredients and combos;
- Natural: clean, green, all-natural formula, inside and out;
- Affordable: price must match the value.
Again, many intra-workout supplements try to do too much, resulting in an unnecessarily burdensome stack of otherwise impressive ingredients. Most times the most straightforward approach is best, and that’s certainly the case with intra-workout products. These are supplements you want to work almost immediately, so it doesn’t do anyone any good to slow the rate of the formula’s effects by overstuffing it.
With that in mind, here are a couple stacks that meet our criteria for the best intra-workout supplements of 2020. Enjoy!
Best Intra-Workout Supplements of 2020
Here are three of the best intra-workout supplements that money can buy. You can mix-and-match as you choose—or take all three! Plus, they’re each all-natural and vegan-friendly, so when I say “you” I mean aaalllllll of you.
Performance Lab SPORT Carb
*To Buy, Visit: www.performancelab.com/products/carb
Long gone are the days of “carb loading” with buckets of spaghetti before going to bed. Or perhaps they’re not that long gone (I had spaghetti last night), if gone at all.
But what seems to be true is that our methods of carb loading are more refined. And considerate to the fact that many exercisers and fitness freaks are actually trying to reduce their daily carb count.
Fortunately, Performance Lab SPORT Carb doesn’t supply your usual “spaghetti carbs”. Or any of that sugary stuff that technically qualifies as “carbohydrates,”.
But… I mean, c’mon. No, Performance Lab’s use of KarboLyn® sets this carb stack apart from the rest. Thanks to KarboLyn®’s advanced enzymatic milling process that creates smaller carb molecules for faster, longer-lasting carb fuel.
With 40g of super refined carbohydrates, Performance Lab SPORT Carb delivers 2+ hours of stim-free muscle energy. Making this stack a great (and delicious) supplement to sip on before, during, and after your workout.
Why Performance Lab SPORT Carb is the best
Bear in mind, this isn’t just a KarboLyn® supplement. Performance Lab SPORT Carb also fits these carbs with Himalayan Pink Salt, which supplies electrolytes for better hydration, and Organic Coconut Sugar, which improves carbohydrate transport into muscle tissue. Plus, it tastes damn good.
- To Buy Performance Lab SPORT Carb, click here.
Performance Lab SPORT BCAA
*To Buy, Visit: www.performancelab.com/products/bcaa
To formulate a BCAA stack is simple. All you need are three amino acids: L-leucine, L-isoleucine, and L-valine.
And, yet, many BCAA stacks still manage to mess all this up. By either using inferior BCAA forms or supplying these three ingredients at the wrong dosage ratios. Or they get too ambitious, overwhelming the power of their BCAAs with too many “hybrid” ingredients added to the stack.
Performance Lab SPORT BCAA keeps it simple. Supplying only the three BCAAs at a muscle-optimized 2:1:1 ratio of L-leucine, L-isoleucine, and L-valine, respectively.
What I mean by “muscle-optimized” is that this 2:1:1 ratio matches the BCAA ratio profile of muscle tissue. Again, many BCAA stacks fail by screwing up the ratio, usually by overemphasizing L-leucine, the most anabolic amino. This makes logical sense, yet it breaks away from clinical research, which observes ergogenic benefits with the 2:1:1 BCAA stack.
At this muscle-optimized ratio, Performance Lab’s BCAAs work great for quick, intra-workout muscle replenishment and anabolic energy.
Why Performance Lab SPORT BCAA is the best
What’s more, Performance Lab’s BCAAs are naturally fermented from sunflower lecithin for easier absorption and greater bio-availability. Essentially, this ensures that these BCAAs are actually digested and absorbed into muscle tissue.
And I say “actually” because many BCAA stacks fail to do this, due to their use of cheap, inferior, hard-to-absorb amino forms.
- To Buy Performance Lab SPORT BCAA, click here.
Performance Lab Stim
*To Buy, Visit: www.performancelab.com/products/stim
Performance Lab SPORT Carb + BCAA are both stim-free. And, up until now, we’ve praised intra-workouts for providing stim-free fuel for enhanced muscular energy.
All the same, there’s a reason why people enjoy a bit of stimulation with their exercise. It’s because a bit of stimulation may go a long way in terms of energy and motivation.
Performance Lab Stim provides the energy and motivation with a reasonable dose of caffeine. Accompanied by a few additional nootropics to help take off the “jittery” edge that tends to come with stimulants. Taken mid-workout, Performance Lab Stim could be that stimulatory pick-me-up you need to keep the cognitive wheels turning.
The NutriGenesis® Caffeine Balance B-Complex formula:
- B-Vitamin Complex: B2, B6, B9, B12—these essential B vitamins support serotonin and catecholamine neurotransmitters while replenishing the B vitamins depleted by caffeine’s stimulatory effects.
- Natural Caffeine: sourced from Coffea robusta seeds, this modest amount of caffeine allows for greater intake control, allowing you to take one or two pills, or to take a pill with a separate source of caffeine, and so on.
- Suntheanine® L-Theanine: a premium form of an anxiolytic amino whose relaxing effects complement the stimulatory effects of caffeine for smooth, jittery-free focus and energy.
- Ajipure® L-Tyrosine: caffeine promotes (and, thus, depletes) catecholamine activity, which L-tyrosine helps replenish by supporting catecholamines—e.g., dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine—for better working memory, multi-tasking, and stress resistance.
Why Performance Lab Stim is the best
The caffeine + L-theanine duo is a popular, go-to combo for many nootropic enthusiasts for good reason: it’s an easy way to significantly enhance the familiar feel-good effects of caffeine while significantly reducing the familiar feel-not-so-good “jittery” side effects of the stimulant.
Not to mention the unique addition of B vitamins and L-tyrosine. Which further supports the motivation-boosting catecholamines that are so important to high-intensity training.
- To Buy Performance Lab Stim, click here.
Other Awesome Workout Supplements
Odds are if you’re looking into an intra-workout stack, you’re already quite familiar with pre-workouts and protein powder. And perhaps familiar with several post-workout supplements as well.
One of the annoyances of finding a complete, comprehensive workout stack is picking and choosing from a selection of well-crafted supplements that, while individually effective, don’t quite stack well together.
What’s great about Performance Lab is how their supplements can be easily mix-and-matched into customizable stacks. These stacks work great alone and they work even better together.
- Performance Lab SPORT Pre-Workout: a non-stim pre-workout stack powered by creatine and L-citrulline, and many more, that improves your ATP energy levels and muscular circulation for better exercise stamina and muscle pumps. More on Performance Lab SPORT Pre-Workout.
- Performance Lab SPORT Protein: an organic brown rice protein concentrate called Oryzatein®, the only rice protein clinically shown to build muscle as effectively as whey protein. More on Performance Lab SPORT Protein.
- Performance Lab Energy: a unique complex of mitochondrial ATP enhancing antioxidants that promote natural cellular energy without relying on caffeine or any other stimulants. More on Performance Lab Energy.
And there you have it: with these, you’ll be a fine-tuned, well-oiled*, bodybuilding machine.
(*Oil not included.)
Dietary carbs have a bad reputation, and for a good reason: many of us are practically poisoning ourselves by including wayyy too many carb-heavy meals and snacks in our diets.
This is partially what makes fasting-related fitness trends, like fasted training and intermittent fasting, so great. Because fasting-related diets tend to emphasize the deleterious consequences of constantly eating carbohydrates.
Yet, the flipside of intermittent fasting: not getting enough carbs.
This is what makes these intra-workout Performance Lab supplements so great; they provide effective, on-the-spot glycogen (carb) support—and then some. For a quick fix of muscle fuel that’s otherwise missing from a carb-slim diet. Nothing more, nothing less. Unless you want more, in which case check out their full line of sport supplements: link here.