It is well known that good nutrition in the hours before a workout will help to fuel you through the gruelling sessions to come and help you achieve your maximum results in training and competition. It is also abundantly clear that good nutrition directly after physical activity enables you to recover quickly and to maximise the results from your efforts. However, there is another school of thought that promotes the act of nutrient absorption during the activity itself.  Intra-Workout Supplements are products that are intended to be taken during a workout to enhance performance and training adaptations and are the subject of this article.

Why Take an Intra Workout Drink?

The simple truth is that anybody that engages with physical activity shares a similar goal. That is to obtain their desired results in the shortest time possible. To accomplish this, whether your goal is fat loss, muscle building, improved endurance or athletic performance related adequate diet and nutrition, consistency of training effort and adequate rest are the keys to success. In regards to nutrition, intra-workout supplements are intended to improve goal attainment by providing nutrients that will have a direct impact upon performance and adaptations. There is a bed of interesting research regarding the intra-workout supplement field.

Intra Workout Supplements and Increased Endurance

Research has suggested that maximal endurance is achieved when carbohydrates are consumed both pre-workout and intra-workout. Interestingly, the study also indicated that in relation to endurance intra workout carbs alone were more effective at improving overall endurance than pre-workout alone.  However, maximum results were obtained when both were combined. That said, the main difficulty with converting this research into practice lies not only with the small body of research that demonstrates such results but rather when considered in relation to goals. If you are purely concerned with improving your endurance in the immediate future then this is a useful tool. However, how intra workout boosts effect overall endurance improvements and body composition (particularly fat loss) are much more complex to establish. In short, it appears safe to assume that intra-workouts permit you to work harder during exertion because of the availability of fast acting carbohydrates and / or fatigue reducing ingredients often contained within.

Intra Workout Supplements and Muscle Gain

Research has demonstrated that those engaged with weight training protocols and consuming intra workout supplements will have increased insulin levels during training (which is potentially muscle building) when compared to those not consuming the supplements. Furthermore, those not consuming intra-workout supplements demonstrated higher cortisol levels than those who did. In summary, this research suggests that intra-workout supplements reduce muscle breakdown and increase protein delivery to the muscle cells during exercise and beyond. These factors may be explained away by the traditional response to consuming fast acting carbohydrates. However, arguably the most interesting results from this research was that in the 48 hour period following the workouts those that consumed intra-workout supplements demonstrated a higher cross-sectional muscle area than those that did not. In other words this research suggests that consuming intra-workout supplements is an effective means to maximise muscle growth. However, as is always the case much more robust research is needed but it is an encouraging start.

Intra-Workout Summary

Dependent upon the nutritional profile of the individual supplement these products can:
  • Improve recovery
  • Enhance endurance through glycogen replenishment
  • Enhance strength and power
  • Improve focus

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