It seems like supplement companies have found ways to monetize every minute of our lives.
To squeeze money out of us from the moment we open our eyes in the morning – till bedtime.
Heck, there are even supplements to help us grow through the night, while we sleep.
We’ve got an array of pre, intra, and post workout supplements to choose from.
This combination of workout supplementation has its own special name, you might have heard it referred to as “peri-workout nutrition”. Which simply means the foods, or supplements, consumed in proximity to your workout.
We’ve got supplements to take first thing in the morning, upon waking.
To take throughout the day.
To take pre (before) working out.
To take during (ye, during) working out.
To take post (after) working out.
To take while we sleep.
Sh*t, they’ll be pushing supplements for us to take in the afterlife at this rate.
It’s madness I tell you… madness!
Today, I’m delving into the intra-workout supplementation strategy, to see if there’s any truth in the claim that such a product or nutrition strategy will help you build more muscle.
The “intra” workout nutrition craze arrived, and a new supplement category was born.
In case you missed what “intra” workout supplementation means, it simply supplements you take during your workout.
You heard that right, supplements you consume “while” you’re training.
I don’t always intra-workout… but when I do, I use this hat!
Liquid carbs on one side, liquid protein on the other… next-level gains, bro!
Joking aside, if we listened to everything the big bodybuilding supplement brands and endorsed pro bodybuilders told us, supplement consumption would dominate every waking (and sleeping) moment of our lives.
And for a lot of gullible folks, it does.
But we have brains as-well-as muscles, so let’s use our heads here and analyse the science behind peri-workout nutrition, and supplementation.
Here’s the deal…
If you’re training with the goal to build muscle, and you’ve got your pre and post work nutrition sorted, intra-workout nutrition / supplementation is a complete waste of time, and won’t provide any benefit.
Ok, ok, I’ll elaborate…
We know that the anabolic response of a high-protein meal (containing protein in the range of 20 – 40g) lasts around 5 – 6 hours.
So, if you consume a high protein meal 1 – 2 hours pre-workout, train for an hour, then consume a post-workout meal 1 – 2 hours post-workout, the anabolic response from these meals overlap, making intra-workout intervention redundant, and entirely pointless.
There’s no nutritional gap to fill intra (during) workout.
I drew this to help illustrate my point here.
The body takes some time to digest and absorb nutrients from a meal – even fast-digesting protein like whey.
Studies have shown that the consumption of a high-quality protein consumed before training provides a sustained release of essential amino acids, peaking during the workout and into the post exercise recovery period.
And because of this, the pre workout meal will create a positive net protein balance post-workout.
To build muscle, the goal is to maximize muscle protein synthesis, while minimizing muscle protein breakdown.
A proper per and post workout meal (or protein shake) means you’re maximizing protein synthesis around your workout.
When you rack the weight at the end of your workout, the muscle-building process begins, but only if sufficient amino acids are present in the bloodstream.
Those amino acids are provided by 30 – 40 grams of protein from the pre-workout meal, which will maximize the anabolic response when your training session is complete.
…and let’s face it, you can’t maximize something that’s already maximized.
Your Peri Workout Protocol
Pre-Training Meal (1 – 2 hours before training)
Protein: 30 – 40 grams (required to maximize protein synthesis)
Carbs: 50 – 60 grams (dose range is not important)
Fats: 5 – 20 grams (dose range is not important)
Your post-workout meal should be the same, or very similar, but don’t stress over numbers. Just make sure you’re getting in a good dose of quality protein (you know, stuff like – chicken, eggs, whey, fish), some moderate carbs (you know, stuff like – rice, oats, pasta), and whatever amount of fat.
BOOM – you’re all set.
The two things we need to be most concerned about when it comes to nutrition are;
- Covering your total daily calorie and macronutrient requirements
- Distribution of calories and macros over 24 hours.
Peri (I’m really hating this word) workout nutrition is low on the scale of importance, and shouldn’t be stressed over. However, when everything else is nailed, optimizing pre and post workout nutrition is a good way to maximize growth.
Does Intra Workout Nutrition Have Any Uses?
As I said, for bodybuilding and strength training, intra workout intervention is a waste of time and money, providing your pre and post-workout nutrition is sound.
Bodybuilding and strength training workouts last 45 – 60 minutes. The consumption of high protein, nutritious meals eaten within 2 hours of each side of the workout, means you have all the energy and muscle building nutrients you need.
However, if you’re a marathon runner or endurance athlete, and your training session is hitting the 2+ hours mark, and beyond, then you will absolutely benefit from some intra-workout BCAA and carbs.
But this blog, and this post, pertain to the former – those following a training and nutrition strategy to build muscle, and/or increase strength.
The only time you might consider an intra-workout drink would be any time you want to train, but it’s been 4 hours or longer since your last meal – that is all.