Intra- Workout Nutrition: What Actually is It?

Most people know and understand the basics of pre and post workout nutrition- such as pre workout supplement, creatine and protein powder. This is shown by the wide use of such products by even the most casual of athlete inside commercial gyms today. However, they may be missing an important piece of the puzzle… what about nutritional supplements that boost your performance while you perform? Most might have heard of them and do not know what they are and some may have never heard of them at all. This is where I come in, to enlighten you.

Intra- Workout Supplements
An example from MyProtein…

Here is an example of a popular fitness retailer’s intra- workout supplements. (Although for the sake of impartiality other retailers are available). As you can see the supplements range from digestible sugars, proteins and pre workout- so for an inexperienced athlete this can become confusing as to which is the most effective. I will go through, one by one, the different types of products available and decipher what they do and how well they do it. So to kick things off here is the first of this motley crew… Sugar.


Sugar is our first port of call and the simplest of the three. Sugar when digested gives you energy allowing you to fuel your activity for longer, it’s as simple as that. But what is the science behind this? What does the science say?

Well the reason for consuming simple sugars during a workout is to compensate for the loss in glycogen, the bodies energy store, during a workout. In fact a 1985 study found that during a resistance training session muscle glycogen, one of the storage points for glycogen, can be depleted by about 36%. If and when these stores run out your body will either begin converting fat or muscle into glucose by a process called gluconeogenesis to keep you going. However, if simple carbohydrates are consumed then you will save that muscle and fat from being digested and those will be used instead. The research undergone on this topic has mainly been done on endurance athletes as this type of nutrition is most appropriate to that sport. A 2016 study found that the greatest benefit is found when a workout lasts for more than ninety minutes. However, an article published in 2008 in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that when looking into the effects of intra-workout carbs on maximal squat testing. In short there was no significant difference in volume or rate of perceived exertion between one group with a placebo and one group with an intra- workout carb supplement. In conclusion endurance training yay and resistance training nay. Its as simple as that.


Ingesting protein during exercise normally happens in two forms- with or without carbohydrates. Today I will discuss both. So, the point of a protein based supplement taken during a training session is aimed to enhance protein synthesis post workout, but what does it really do?

After analysing a paper published by Springer Sports Medicine Journal I found the following… The ingestion of protein during or before exercise is most efficient at enhancing the effects of post exercise protein synthesis when compared to ingestion after the exercise. This is due to exercise typically bringing on an increased blood flow to affected muscles, if that blood has a larger share of amino acids then protein synthesis will occur. However, a 2011 study looking at the effect of exhaustive exercise on the gut found that hypo perfusion of the gut impairing dietary protein digestion. A double edged sword if you will. With that said the same laboratory performed a number of tests on the effect of protein provision before and during exercise on muscle protein synthesis while experiencing exercise conditions. In one study recreational athletes ingested carbohydrates with or without protein before and during a two-hour resistance training session. What was found that rates of muscle protein synthesis significantly increased when carbohydrates and proteins were used in tandem, taken before or during exercise. This may expand the famed “window of opportunity” for muscle growth and over time increase muscle size and/or strength.

So the answer is this- protein taken with carbohydrates during resistance exercise can significantly increase protein synthesis. But exhaustive, endurance exercise does not work well with protein intra- workout.

Pre- Workout

As mentioned in a previous post the only active compound in a pre- workout supplement is caffeine- the exact same thing in tea or coffee. So economically speaking its just an expensive cup of coffee, but scientifically speaking what does it do?

For this final supplement I looked at a 2012 paper published by Springer Sports Medicine Journal titled ” Caffeine and Exercise Performance “. The following was found.

Caffeine has a number of effects on cellular mechanisms such as: ” increased myofilament affinity for calcium and/or increased release of calcium from the sarcoplasmic reticulum in skeletal muscle ” but most importantly ” cellular actions mediated by competitive inhibition of adenosine receptors in the central nervous system and somatic cells “. In easier terms this means that under the influence of caffeine, muscle cells produce more force. There is some controversy in the community about the effects on humans, but the majority of research agrees a benefit is felt. In short for those completing moderately intense exercise for longer than about thirty minutes, should invest in some form of caffeine supplement.

That’s it folks I hope you learnt a little bit about intra-workout nutrition, and even if you didn’t then I certainly enjoyed nerding out to the Sports Science Journals. Remember to follow me and ask any questions down below.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close