Pre, intra and post-workout supplements can be marketed as complete game changers for your training and results, but often these are overhyped as part of a sales pitch. In this post we will go through the actual benefits and drawbacks.
Pre-workout supplements can provide a huge boost to how energetic and focused you feel, while also reducing the perceived amount of effort you are putting out. This can make training feel much easier and more enjoyable, which might help you achieve more if you weren’t feeling very motivated.
A large part of this benefit comes from the high caffeine content in most pre-workout supplements, which is something that you can recreate much more cheaply through having another caffeine source such as coffee. Some pre-workouts also have minor benefits from other ingredients such as beta-alanine (which often contributes to the “tingling” feel you get from a pre-workout) or creatine monohydrate, which could potentially help you get another rep in a set every now and then, but they aren’t a major difference.
Dialling in your pre-workout nutrition and ensuring that you are sufficiently fuelled with high quality carbohydrates and protein will make a much bigger difference to your training.
Intra-workout formulas like BCAAs don’t have much research to suggest they provide any benefit unless your overall protein intake is sub-optimal.
Prioritising getting enough protein each day will make the need for an intra-workout supplement obsolete. In some cases where people are training hard for 2+ hours or training multiple times a day it might be beneficial to have a sports drink, but for most people water will be best. It will be much cheaper too.
Post workout you need to start the recovery process. If you are training hard and looking to optimise muscle mass, adding in the protein and high-quality carbohydrates will optimise your recovery and get your body ready for the next session. Recovering effectively also helps to prevent DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) and reduce risk of injury.
Getting this through food is the best way to go, but if this is not possible a protein supplement such as a Whey Protein Isolate could be a great option. Whey protein is digested and absorbed quickly, which means the recovery process can be started as soon as possible. Contrary to what you will hear from some people, there aren’t many supplements that actually live up to the hype.
If you do choose a supplement, some of the ones that do have good evidence in athletes are things such as caffeine, creatine monohydrate, beta-alanine, bicarbonate and whey protein.