Following on from the “Personalise Your Pre-Workout” article, we are going to take a look at intra workout supplementation. Intra workout is the period during our workout and these supplements are designed to help support performance and muscle growth during exercise. There are a few different situations in which intra workout supplementation may be of benefit, for those looking to maximise muscle growth and also endurance athletes. These may seem like completely opposite ends of the training ‘spectrum’ but intra workout supplementation can impact positively on both but in different ways.
For muscle building, intra workout supplementation provides an opportunity to feed the muscle the nutrients it needs to support recovery and growth. Although it might not be essential, for some people it can certainly be beneficial to focus on providing amino acids and fast digesting carbohydrates in the pre, intra and post workout period (in combination known as the peri-workout window). Providing these nutrients at these times will help keep the body in a more consistent anabolic, muscle building state.
For those who struggle to eat enough of the right types of food and consume enough energy over the course of the day to support muscle growth, then this intra workout period is something we can capitalise on as it is an opportunity to provide extra nutrients and energy to support muscle growth in what are easy to digest, absorb and hyper-palatable forms.
For endurance training and sports that perform activity at moderate to high intensities for longer than hour, intra-workout supplementation with easy to digest carbohydrates and electrolytes can help to maintain performance. The current guidelines for this type of activity suggest that if exercising for 1-2 hours you should consume around 30g of carbohydrate from quick to digest sources each hour. For 2-3 hours of exercise around 60g per hour and >2.5 hours of exercise around 90g per hour.
What should you look for in an Intra Workout Supplement?
The main players in the intra workout supplement game are those that provide either amino acids, to support recovery and/or muscle growth, and forms of quick digesting carbohydrate that provide the glucose to maintain energy provision during exercise and help to replenish glycogen used up during exercise.
Our range of intra workout supplements that provide amino acids include Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s), PeptoPro® and Essential Amino Acids (EAA’s). All of these mix easily with water and are very rapidly digested and absorbed, so are very easy to drink and don’t sit in the stomach compared to other protein sources.
BCAA’s contain the Essential Amino Acids Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine which are important amino acids that support muscle growth. Leucine in particular is of interest because it is a nutritional trigger of a process called muscle protein synthesis (MPS). MPS is the process by which the body creates new muscle protein, to help repair damage caused by exercise and therefore they support recovery and muscle growth.
EAA’s also contain the Branched Chain Amino Acids, however, as the name suggests, they also contain all of the essential amino acids the body needs to support muscle growth. This means that EAA’s have the edge over BCAA’s as ideally we need to provide the body with all of the essential amino acids to allow muscle building processes to not just be triggered, but also sustained.
PeptoPro® is an increasingly popular intra workout source of amino acids because, like EAA’s, it contains all the essential amino acids but it also contains all of the non-essential ones too, making it a complete protein like other quality protein sources such as whey, casein and of course meat, fish and eggs.
This is because PeptoPro® is made from casein that has been ‘hydrolysed’. Hydrolysing casein breaks down the long chains of amino acids into much shorter chains called peptides (hence the name PeptoPro®), which means that unlike casein it does not coagulate in the stomach, mixes well with water and therefore provides the body with amino acids quickly in ratios that are found in other complete protein sources.
These amino acid supplements can easily be combined with carbohydrate powders into an easy to drink fuel source to encourage muscle growth. The main types of carb powders include Dextrose, Maltodextrin, Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin (Cluster Dextrin®), Waxy Maize Starch and Vitargo®.
The main difference between these sources of carbohydrates is how soluble they are in water and their potential effects on the digestive system. Most people can easily tolerate Dextrose and Maltodextrin as long as they consume enough water, however taking a lot of simple carbohydrates in one go without sufficient water can upset the digestive system and for some people they might not ‘sit’ right. So, although these both work rapidly and efficiently to provide glucose they might not be for everyone.
To ‘solve’ the digestive system problems that some people suffer with after consuming a large amount of simple sugars such as Glucose, Dextrose and Maltodextrin, Cluster Dextrin® was created. This has the same rapid digestion and absorption as Dextrose and other carbs but as it is highly water soluble and therefore it is far less likely to cause any digestive system concerns.
Vitargo®, which can be made from Waxy Maize Starch, can also help with some of these digestive issues as more carbs can be taken on board without causing the digestive issues of Dextrose/Maltodextrin. Vitargo® differs from Waxy Maize Starch in that it is a more processed form which allows it to enter the blood stream a bit quicker, so if glucose needs to be provided quickly for energy/glycogen replenishment then Vitargo® has the slight edge. This may be more beneficial for endurance athletes in particular who need access to glucose from carb powders as efficiently as possible during training or competition.
The final consideration for our bespoke intra-workout supplement is if we need to add electrolytes. Electrolytes allow our body to function efficiently and maintaining sufficient intake to replace significant losses in sweat during exercise will be important. For those who train in a ‘normal’ gym environment and for relatively short durations, then electrolyte supplementation is probably not required as we can replenish these enough through normal diet. However, for those who train for long periods, especially in environments where they are likely to lose a lot of water then electrolytes, either as tablets, or Coconut Water Powder (which also contains added vitamins and minerals), can be a useful addition to your own intra workout supplement.
Take Home Message
Combining these individual ingredients into and effective intra workout supplement that can be tailored to your own needs can be done fairly easily with a little bit of thought into your training goals and the demands of your workouts. However, for those who want a more convenient approach to their intra workout nutrition, then we also offer a range of complete intra workout supplement formulations that combine many of these supplements to support recovery and muscle growth.