Are you wondering, “What is intra-workout?” These are supplements meant to be taken during your workout, but are they really necessary?
While most people don’t need intra-workouts, endurance athletes may benefit greatly from these supplements. If you’re interested in a high-quality intra-workout supplement, our recommendation is Transparent Labs Intra-Workout.
What is Intra-Workout? An intra-workout is a supplement meant to be taken during a workout. They are usually made up of EAAs/BCAAs, caffeine, or electrolytes. Most athletes don’t need these supplements. But, they will be beneficial for endurance athletes who work out for several hours at a time.
What is an intra-workout and is it really necessary?
So, what does intra-workout mean? Intra means “within”. So, intra-workout mainly refers to a supplement to drink during workouts.
For the majority of athletes, an intra-workout supplement will not make a major difference in performance. This is especially true for strength athletes. For workouts lasting less than 1-2 hours, you’re better off with a high-quality pre-workout supplement instead. Intra-workouts are primarily carb, amino acid and electrolyte-based, while pre-workouts will have higher stimulation and more active ingredients/performance enhancers. This makes pre-workouts more useful for short, intense workouts, like those performed by strength athletes.
Intra-workout supplements will have a combo of:
You could also consider a carbohydrate beverage an intra-workout supplement. Something like this would be especially useful to have in between workouts if you’re exercising twice a day or during ultra-endurance workout. Adding in some protein to this mixture would be beneficial as well.
Intra-workouts are more necessary for endurance athletes. Because when they work out for hours on end, depleted electrolytes and elevated protein breakdown are more of a concern. Intra-workout benefits in this case may include improved performance and energy, reduced fatigue during exercise, as well as improved recovery. So, unless you’re exercising for more than 2 hours at a time, you won’t experience many benefits from an intra-workout supplement.
In what cases can the use of an intra-workout be justified?
If you are an endurance athlete
Intra-workout supplements are most useful for endurance athletes. Carbohydrates are the most immediate source of energy for exercise. Glycogen stores will be depleted much faster during exercise if someone hasn’t eaten many carbs in the past few hours. This will make completing endurance exercise more difficult, and is where intra-workout beverages come in handy.
BCAAs play a supplementary role in providing energy during prolonged exercise, making them more valuable to someone with depleted glycogen stores. Caffeine can provide a quick boost of energy. Electrolytes will be beneficial to help prevent dehydration if anyone exercising for more than 90 min or in a hot environment.
If you combine strength and long endurance training in one session or have multiple sessions a day
Intra-workout drinks may also be beneficial if you’re adding extra work to endurance training. While we don’t recommend this style of training, if you go on a long run and immediately hit the gym after, your body will be pretty taxed without some rest or anything to refuel it. In this case, carbs, amino acids, caffeine, and electrolytes can help you a bit to get through such a tough workout.
While intra-workout supplements can help with such a workout, it may not be the best idea. Rest and recovery are important for improvement. Combining endurance training with strength training immediately after may lead to symptoms of overtraining. Our bodies are not able to adapt to multiple stressors like prolonged endurance training and strength training in such close proximity. Consider spacing out your workouts for at least a few hours. This will give your body some time to recover, allow you to refuel with a proper meal, and give your body the ability to respond to the imposed demands (stressor).
If you have a pronounced DOMS effect
Finally, intra-workout supplements may be beneficial if you find yourself experiencing severe DOMS – or delayed onset muscle soreness. This is because BCAAs have potential to alleviate muscle soreness.
Although BCAAs are beneficial in this case, you can get the same effects from either a whey protein supplement or a meal rich in complete protein. Other ways to alleviate severe DOMS include stretching, mobility work, ice packs, massage, and walking. DOMS should get better over a few days with proper rest and nutrition.
Which intra-workout components deserve the most attention?
EAA's and BCAA's
Some of the most common ingredients found in intra-workout supplements are essential and branched-chain amino acids. While they’re found in plenty of supplements, these may not be the most useful ingredients for aiding with performance – here’s why.
The majority of people get enough amino acids through diet alone, making further supplementation unnecessary. Although they do contribute to muscle energy, it’s at a fairly small percentage when compared to other sources like carbs and fats. Plenty of EAAs and BCAAs can be found in a whey protein supplement, which will offer more value for money for most athletes.
Vegans and vegetarians are more likely to be deficient in BCAAs and EAAs. This makes supplementation more beneficial for people who follow these diets. But, if someone is deficient in amino acids, they’re most likely protein deficient as well. This means they would be better off incorporating more sources of complete protein in their diet rather than supplementing with amino acids.
Because caffeine can provide quick energy in as little as 15 minutes, it can be beneficial intra-workout. Especially for endurance athletes spending multiple hours working out, a quick boost of caffeine can make a major difference.
While caffeine is commonly taken as part of a pre-workout supplement, it can be equally beneficial intra-workout. Consider ultra-endurance athletes who are out for a 4-hour workout. When do you think they’ll need a boost of energy? Right when they leave or in the back half of their workout? Caffeine is great for providing athletes with energy beyond the first hour or two of their workout.
Finally, electrolytes are also beneficial for those exercising for longer than 90 min. When we sweat, our body loses electrolytes. This makes it necessary to replenish them to stay properly hydrated and maintain desired performance.
While this won’t affect performance too much if you’re only working out for an hour, the longer you work out, the more electrolytes you’ll be losing. So, if you’re an endurance athlete, having an intra-workout supplement full of electrolytes can help fuel you through especially tough workouts.
How to take Intra-Workout?
Most intra-workout supplements will come in a powder and are very simple to use. Just add 1 scoop to 1-2 cups of water or any beverage of your choice. Consider using a shaker bottle to get a smoother texture, although this isn’t necessary. Best advice - be sure to follow the instructions on the package of whatever product you buy!
Note that if you’re buying a supplement with caffeine, be careful not to exceed the daily recommended dose of caffeine. It’s recommended that adults don’t drink more than 400mg of coffee a day. With some intra-workout supplements having 200mg+ in a single serving, be sure you’re not taking in excessive caffeine. Side effects of high caffeine doses include restlessness, anxiety, tremors and insomnia. Too much caffeine will also have detrimental effects on your performance.
Best Intra-Workout Supplement: Transparent Labs Intra-Workout
While intra-workouts aren’t necessary for most people, if you’re an endurance athlete and you’re interested in trying a high-quality intra-workout supplement, we recommend trying Transparent Labs Intra-workout.
This is a non-stim supplement, meaning it doesn’t contain any caffeine. If this is something you’re looking for in your intra-workout, then you’ll have to look elsewhere. Transparent Labs does contain a solid electrolyte blend, containing good amounts of calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium.
There’s also a solid blend of 6.7g of EAAs and BCAAs. As mentioned above, while these aren’t necessary for the majority of athletes, they may help provide energy for vegans and vegetarians who don’t get enough protein in their diet. But, these people would be better off just eating more protein as opposed to supplementing with amino acids.
photo by @reggie_luke
Another major benefit to this supplement is its active ingredients Citrulline Malate and Betaine. You can expect 2g of citrulline malate and 1.25g of betaine. While these aren’t especially high doses, especially for the citrulline, it’s still a potentially beneficial inclusion. Citrulline is a vasodilator that has been shown to improve exercise performance, albeit at higher doses. Betaine has also been shown to increase force production with consistent supplementation, although also at a higher dose.
This supplement comes in 2 unique flavors: strawberry lemonade, and blue raspberry. It’s also a fairly expensive supplement at ~$1.47 per serving. It will still be a good choice for endurance athletes looking for an electrolyte-based intra-workout supplement with some extra active ingredients. Another good thing is that it almost doesn’t contain carbs (2g) so you can make a choice and add them (ones you prefer) into your intra-workout when there will be such a need.
What is the meaning of intra-workout?
Are intra-workouts worth it?
It depends largely on your training style, but intra-workouts are not worth it for most people. Intra-workouts will likely only be worth it to endurance athletes, as they are the ones most in need of replenishing their energy sources, electrolytes, or a hit of caffeine during their workout. For those who work out for less than an hour or two at a time, they’ll likely be better off with a high-quality pre-workout.
Also, consider dialing in your diet before taking any supplements, as intra-workout won’t make a major difference if you’re not eating properly!
What is the difference between intra-workout and pre-workout?
What does Intra-Workout Do?
Intra-workouts are supplements meant to be taken during your workout and are commonly made up of amino acids, caffeine, and electrolytes. While intra-workouts are mainly beneficial for endurance athletes, they are not necessary for most athletes.
If you’re interested in trying a high-quality electrolyte-based intra-workout, we recommend checking out Transparent Labs Intra-Workout.
Have you ever taken an intra-workout supplement? Were you aware that they’re mainly useful for endurance athletes? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
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- "Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness", Harvard T.H. Chan, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/143/2016/10/9_2015Delayed-Onset-Muscle-Soreness-doms.pdf
- Kyla N. Marquez, "Effects of Branched Chain Amino Acid Supplementation", Grand Valley State University, https://scholarworks.gvsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1891&context=honorsprojects
- Adam M Gonzalez, "Effects of Citrulline Supplementation", PubMed, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31977835/
- Brian Cunniffe, "Acute Citrulline-Malate Supplementation", PubMed, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26808848/
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