Properly fueling your body while you exercise is a critical, yet often overlooked area in workout nutrition. An intra workout supplement can provide critical nutrients to boost energy and start muscle recovery without disrupting physical activity.4
What is Intra Workout?
Intra, or during workout supplements, are specially formulated supplements designed to help you refuel during your workout by activating muscle recovery, increasing mental focus and restoring glycogen levels to increase endurance.4
Compared to pre workout supplements, intra workouts formulas focus on amino acids, which act as the building block for protein and help fuel protein synthesis. These supplements tend to contain less stimulants than pre workouts, delivering a sustained endurance rather than an extreme energy boost.
Intra supplements may come in the form of easy to mix workout powder, capsules, or in a ready to drink bottle.4
During Workout Drink
We’ve all heard that proper workout nutrition and exercise supplements taken before or after a workout can help promote performance, recovery and rehydration.
But what to drink during workout sessions is often left out of the conversation. Intra workout nutrition can make the difference between ‘hitting the wall’ and reaching your training goals.9
Work out drinks may also provide training benefits if you’ve forgotten to take a pre workout supplement or pre workout snack. In this case, having a drink during workout sessions can replenish carbohydrate levels, provide rehydration and energy to power through.
Read more: about the importance of pre workouts.
Having a standard workout drink will help you stay hydrated and replenish your body with electrolytes and minerals lost through sweat that are required for our cells and organs to function properly.7
However, intra workout drinks help deliver electrolytes plus key workout ingredients such as beta-alanine, citrulline malate and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) to promote mental focus, support muscle protein synthesis and increase endurance.4
When is the Correct Time to Consume Work Out Drinks?
The best time for a during workout supplement drink will vary from athlete to athlete and depend on various factors such as form of exercise, duration and intensity. According to Dr. Francis Wang, a team physician for Harvard athletics,8
Although many athletes will take an intra drink in the middle of their session, the best advice is to listen to your body and consume your work out drink when you experience thirst.8
For training sessions in excess of 45 minutes to one hour (depending on how much sweat you’re losing), consuming intra drinks during workout routines can help you refuel so you don’t have to comprise on performance.9,11
During workout drinks are designed to be compatible with other dietary supplements. This means athletes can stack pre workout and intra workout supplements together.3,4
Supplement Analyst recommends always reading the labels of your pre, post and intra workouts to ensure you don’t exceed the recommended daily amounts of stimulants, such as caffeine or strength enhancers, like creatine.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, there are several recommendations that all athletes can follow to maintain adequate fluid replacement and during workout nutrition.
They recommend that athletes consume a drink during workout sessions at regular intervals to match fluid lost through sweating.11
They also recommend that when engaging in physical activity for longer than one hour, being equipped with supplements to take during workout sessions can promote endurance.
Make sure to consult the label to ensure whichever intra workout you drink contains adequate electrolytes and carbohydrates to delay fatigue and promote carbohydrate oxidation (energy production).11,12
BCAA During Workout
Thinking of purchasing an intra supplement but don’t know which one to choose? Click here for the latest Buying Guide.
Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) valine, leucine and isoleucine are a group of amino acids that play a key role in protein synthesis and muscle recovery. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and BCAAs can help preserve muscle mass in periods of protein loss or catabolism (the breakdown of complex substances into simpler compounds).2,6
It’s thought that amino acids play a role in energy metabolism during physical activity and act as energy sources, sparing glycogen stores. Unlike other amino acids, BCAAs can be oxidized in the skeletal muscles. Exercise increases both oxidation and energy depletion.1
While previous scientific research has looked at the effect of taking amino acids before or after workout sessions, taking BCAAs during workout routines is thought to kick-start muscle protein synthesis and promote muscle growth. BCAAs account for approximately 35% of essential amino acids found in muscle proteins, and are considered the best aminos to promote protein synthesis.1,2
As a result, BCAA intra workout drinks have received lots of attention in the athletic community as a way to activate muscle-protein synthesis and muscle gains during your workout.
In a study published by the Journal of the International society of Sports Nutrition, twelve athletic males were asked to perform an exhaustive workout and given a BCAA during workout drink to measure the effect on protein synthesis (muscle-building). The study also examined if BCAA supplements could reduce the effect of exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD).2
EIMD is a common side effect of physical activity that can lead to muscle soreness, muscle fatigue, reduced mobility or function for a temporary period. Several methods for reducing the effects of EIMD have provided mixed results, but consuming a branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) drink during workout periods or immediately after has produced promising data.2
Results indicated that peak muscle soreness occurred at 48 hours post exercise. Post-hoc analysis indicated that muscle soreness was significantly reduced in the BCAA supplement group both at 24 and 48 hours’ post-exercise.2 Compared to the placebo group, the BCAA group experienced faster recovery, an important factor for athletes who consistently train or have multi-day events.
When you train, you may focus on working select groups of muscles until fatigue and then move on to the next muscle group. Although your workout continues, that first set of muscles has already started to go into recovery mode.15 Intra workout amino acids provide fuel to the muscle groups you’ve already worked, reducing muscle breakdown and delivering a sustained energy to promote endurance and make the most of your training sessions.
Research has shown that physical exercise combined with increased levels of amino acids work together to maximize protein synthesis and the anabolic effect of working out. In some studies, muscle protein synthesis has been noted to increase by over 200%, when measured three hours after reaching hyper aminoacidemia (excess amino acids in the blood stream) and engaging in physical activity.15
Intra Workout Protein
Select during workout supplement products will also contain a type of fast-absorbing protein designed to start building muscle while you train.
A protein intra workout drink may contain amino acids, protein, carbohydrates and stimulants such as caffeine to keep you energized to push through the rest of your workout. These intra workout supplements are specifically designed to break down quickly, providing energy and nutrients without pulling valuable blood away from the skeletal muscles.3
It’s important to take specific supplements for the purpose they are intended. Taking supplements at the wrong time could impact sport performance.
For example, if athletes were to take regular post-workout products during a workout, blood would redirect from the skeletal muscles to digestive tract to absorb the supplement; potentially cutting into training and causing stomach pain.3
Intra Workout Supplement Benefits
In a clinical study, researchers examined how exercising effected muscle protein synthesis and amino acid transportation. Average, healthy volunteers engaged in an exhaustive resistance exercise routine and were measured before exercise and again at three hours post-exercise.13
Researchers found that after three hours, protein synthesis increased by 100% and protein breakdown increased by approximately 50%. This was caused by the increased availability of amino acids, lysine, alanine and particularly leucine, which trigger protein synthesis.13
By increasing the available amino acids through an intra workout supplement, it’s thought to provide fuel for protein synthesis and spare muscle breakdown. Because during workout drinks are typically low in calories, this strategy may be particularly effective for individuals looking to maintain lean muscle while staying within daily macronutrient counts.
An intra workout drink can help support training by:5
- Delivering immediate fuel for your workout
- Providing electrolytes for proper nerve and cell function
- Keeping you hydrated
- Replenishing energy levels and boosting performance
- Sparing muscle breakdown
- Preserving lean muscle
- Improving muscle recovery
Side Effects of During Workout Supplements
Very few side effects have been reported when taking an intra workout supplement.14
Taking BCAA supplements appear to be safe in most populations for up to six months, with potentially mild stomach discomfort from during workout drinks which contain protein.
Those sensitive to caffeine may experience effects as nervousness and increased heart rate.
Individuals taking medications for blood pressure should avoid intra workout supplements with citrulline malate as this ingredient can lower blood pressure.
Intra Workout Reviews
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- Shimomura, Y., Murakami, T., Nakai, N., Nagasaki, M., & Harris, R. A. (2004). Exercise Promotes BCAA Catabolism: Effects of BCAA Supplementation on Skeletal Muscle during Exercise. Journal of Nutrition, 134(6), 1583S-1587S.
- Howatson, G., Hoad, M., Goodall, S., Tallent, J., Bell, P.G., & French, D. N. (2012). Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition, 9(20). doi: 10.1186/1550-2783-9-20
- com. (n.d.). Why take intra workout supplements. Retrieved October 14, 2016 from http://www.bestworkoutsupplementsblog.com/benefits-of-intra-workout-supplements/
- com (n.d.). During workout. Retrieved October 14, 2016 from http://ca.bodybuilding.com/store/goalintraworkout.htm?_requestid=1516492
- Pierre, B. (n.d.). Workout nutrition explained: what to east before, during, and after exercise. Retrieved October 14, 2016 from http://www.precisionnutrition.com/workout-nutrition-explained
- (n.d.) Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. (2003). Retrieved October 14 2016 from http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/catabolism
- com. (2015, November 11). Electrolytes. Rerieved October 14, 2016 from http://www.medicinenet.com/electrolytes/article.htm
- Skerrett, P. J. (2012, July 30). Trade sports drinks for water. Harvard Health Publications. Retrieved October 14, 2016 from http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/trade-sports-drinks-for-water-201207305079
- Salter, P. (2016, August 2). Your guide to intra-workout nutrition. Retrieved October 14, 2016 from http://www.bodybuilding.com/content/your-guide-to-intra-workout-carbohydrates.html
- com (n.d.). Best BCAA. Retrieved October 14, 2016 from http://ca.bodybuilding.com/store/bpi-sports/best-bcaa.html
- Convertino, V.A., Armstrong, L. E., Coyle, E. F., Mack, G.W., Sawka, M. N., senacy, L., C., Jr., Sherman, W. M. (1996). American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Exercise and fluid replacement [Abstract]. Medicine and Science in Sports Exercise, 28(1), i-vii. Retrieved October 17, 2016 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9303999
- (n.d.) Saunders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary, 3 ed. (2007). Retrieved October 17 2016 from http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/oxidation
- Biolo,G., Maggi, S.P., Williams, B.D., Tipton, K.D., Wolfe, R.R. (1995). Increased rates of muscle protein turnover and amino acid transport after resistance exercise in humans. American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism, 268(3), E514-E520. Retrieved fromhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7900797
- Hajoway, M. (2015, September 9). The importance of BCAAs! Retrieved October 18, 2016 fromhttp://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/bcaa2.htm
- Biolo, G., Tipton, K.D., Klein, S., & Wolfe R. R. (1997). An abundant supply of amino acids enhances the metabolic effect of exercise on muscle protein. American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism, 273(1), E122-E129. Retrieved from http://ajpendo.physiology.org/content/273/1/E122