What Does Intra-Workout Mean?
Every time you go to the gym, you've got goals in mind. Maybe you're looking for a new edge to make yourself stronger and recover more quickly. The more you can increase these factors, the easier it becomes to hit your goals. One new way to give yourself that extra step is by taking an intra-workout supplement.
What Intra-Workout Means
The word "intra" means in-between or within, so intra-workout is defined quite simply as in the middle of a workout. It can be during a weightlifting session, partway through a race, or even while on a long bike ride. You'll feel reenergized, rehydrated, and be able to drop into an extra gear during your workout.
What Are Intra-Workout Supplements?
Just like you have a pre-workout that you take before you go to the gym and a post-workout shake afterward, an intra-workout supplement you take during your workout. Intra-workout supplements commonly come in a powdered form which you mix with water and then drink. The powdered form allows the body to quickly absorb all the nutrients that'll give you the fuel you need to finish up strong. The secret behind what makes intra-workout supplements work lies in a few key ingredients.
Ingredients in Intra-Workout Supplements
They don't make every intra-workout supplement the same way, but it needs to have the following ingredients to be effective:
BCAAs, or branch-chain amino acids, are the fundamental building blocks of the protein found in your body. They support muscle growth and recovery. But when you take them during a workout, they fuel your muscles so they last longer and don't break down. A typical serving is 5-10g and includes the BCAAs L-Isoleucine, L-Leucine, and L-Valine.
While beta-alanine isn't considered one of the branch-chain amino acids, it's just as important in one of these supplements. This fast-acting ingredient helps improve muscle performance, reduce fatigue, build muscle, and quicken recovery. A serving of this skin-tingle-inducing amino acid is between 3-5g.
If your intra-workout doesn't have carbs, you won't get the fastest absorbed source of energy you can take. The body is able to break down carbohydrates fast to deliver energy to muscles as you work out. If you don't have this readily available source of energy, catabolism will occur, which isn't great. Catabolism is the breakdown of muscle tissue for fuel. Dextrin is the most common carb in intra-workouts, and each serving should have between 10-20g.
The lifting world knows creatine for its ability to help you pack on mass. It also helps the body create ATP or adenosine triphosphate, which is where the muscles store energy. Since your body produces so little, its added boost helps your muscles recover quicker and grow faster. Around 3-5g of creatine is all you need for a single dose to be effective.
While all of the other ingredients in an intra-workout focus on muscle energy, growth, and recovery, you can't forget about electrolytes. There's a good chance you're sweating during a workout; if so, you need to replenish all the nutrients you sweat out. If you don't replace the magnesium, potassium, and sodium you lose, your muscles will cramp up. Look for a serving of 10-20g of electrolytes in an intra-workout.
The Benefits of Intra-Workout Supplements
There are quite a few benefits of taking supplements during your workout. Not only will you have more energy, but you'll stay hydrated, see a performance boost, and recover faster.
- More energy — The fast-acting carbs found in intra-workout supplements give you a quick injection of energy. You'll be able to push on with your workout for much longer than before.
- Hydration — Electrolytes like magnesium, potassium, and sodium replace those you lose via sweating during your workout. You'll be able to last longer and perform at higher intensity levels if you stay hydrated.
- Performance boost — The creatine and BCAAs give you a performance boost by making your muscles work more effectively. You'll be able to lift more and maybe even set some new personal bests.
- Faster recovery — Creatine and BCAAs also allow your muscles to recover from post-workout fatigue much faster. The better and quicker you recover, the larger and stronger your muscles can grow.
Who Should Use Intra-Workout?
The real question comes down to whether or not you're someone who needs to use an intra-workout supplement. The first question you should ask yourself is how long your workouts usually last. If you're at the gym for no more than 45 minutes anytime you go, the answer is probably not. By the time it takes the intra-workout to kick in, you wouldn't take full advantage of all of its benefits. If you're running, biking, or hitting the weights for an hour or longer, you should try adding intra-workout to your routine. Your body and muscles could definitely use the refueling for workouts that last this long.
Another consideration is the intensity of your workouts. If your workouts are intense with activities like high-intensity interval training, sprinting, or lifting super heavy, it definitely will help power you through a challenging workout. On the other hand, if you're doing light exercises, you probably don't need this additional fuel source, although the recovery aspects of the supplement won't go to waste.
So it all comes down to the intensity and length of your workouts. If it's long or tough, you should consider taking intra-workout supplements. But if your activity is short and sweet, you can probably skip it.