Intra-Workout Nutrition

Best Supplements & Drinks to Consume During Your Workouts

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTPublished: January 21, 2021

You know the importance of pre and post-workout nutrition in reaching your fitness goals. But you could be missing the intra-workout window.

This is another key time to give your body the nutrients it needs to recover and grow. That’s why I put together this complete guide to intra-workout nutrition.

With this information, you’ll be able to identify any gaps and optimize your nutrition for maximum results.

Intra Workout

What Does Intra-Workout Mean?

The prefix “intra” means within. So the term intra-workout simply means within your workout. Usually, this refers to a drink or supplement that you consume gradually throughout an exercise session to fuel performance and recovery.

When Is Intra-Workout Nutrition Important?

Most people probably don’t need to worry about intra-workout nutrition. Especially if your goal is fat loss. However, there are times when fueling up during your workout can give you a boost.

One example would be long duration or ultra-endurance workouts that last for multiple hours. In this case, intra-workout nutrition is essential to replenish the nutrients your body burns during exercise.

Another example is people trying to maximize muscle growth. Consuming carbs and calories during a workout provides immediate energy. And makes it easier to hit your macros and calorie surplus.

Intra Workout Infographic

What Should You Take During A Workout?

High Glycemic Carbs

The most important aspect of intra-workout nutrition is carbs. In particular, you want high glycemic carbs that quickly breakdown into glucose and enter your bloodstream where they can be used for energy.

In addition, levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, rise during exercise. But ingesting carbs decreases the rise in cortisol1. Thereby mitigating the damaging effects of intense training and allowing you to recover faster.

The amount of carbs in your intra-workout depends on your body size and exercise intensity. But generally, you should target 25 to 60 grams of carbs.

Plenty Of Fluids

Another key point is that the average person will lose roughly 1 liter (33.8 oz) of water per hour of exercise. So it’s important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids.

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Electrolytes

In addition to losing water, you also lose electrolytes while you work out. These are critical minerals, including sodium, potassium, and chloride. So make sure your intra-workout includes these nutrients.

One cheap and easy trick I use to replace my electrolytes is to put a pinch of sea salt in my intra-workout drink. Another option is to get an intra-workout supplement that includes electrolytes, which I’ll discuss more below.

Related: Is Liquid IV or Gatorade Better for Electrolytes?

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Intra-Workout Drink Examples

Now that you know the main ingredients of an intra-workout drink, let’s look at a few examples.

Sports Drinks

One of the first intra-workout drinks was designed to fuel college football players at the University of Florida. Now Gatorade and other sports drinks are popular all over the world.

While sports drinks do contain water, carbs, and electrolytes, they can also contain other additives that may not be in line with a healthy diet. For that reason, I don’t recommend sports drinks for your intra-workout unless you in a pinch.

Fruit Juice

For a healthier option, look no further than your grocery store juice aisle. Fruit juices contain natural sugars in the form of glucose and fructose. These simple sugars are ideal for giving you that quick shot of energy.

In addition, many fruit juices have naturally high levels of potassium, an important electrolyte. As well as vitamin C, which can help reduce inflammation.

I recommend looking for a fruit juice that’s not from concentrate to avoid added sugars and preservatives. Some of the best fruit juices for intra-workout are orange, apple, and grape.

See my comparison of apple juice vs orange juice nutrition.

Intra Workout Fruit Juice

Carbohydrate Powders

Another option is carbohydrate powders that you mix with water in a shaker cup. These powders are usually made from maltodextrin, dextrose, or some other simple sugar.

The benefit of these powders is that they are designed specifically to be used during a workout. So the carbs are very quickly absorbed.

Carbohydrate powders come in a variety of flavors. Or you can get an unflavored powder that mixes in with your favorite drink.

Best Intra-Workout Supplements

Amino acids are compounds from which proteins are made. Your body has the ability to produce many types of amino acids, but it can’t produce all of them in the quantities needed.

Therefore, you must get some amino acids from the foods you eat (or supplements). These are called the essential amino acids (EAAs) and there are 9 in total.

EAAs

During a strenuous workout, your body uses amino acids for a host of processes and functions. And if there are not enough available in your bloodstream, your body starts to break down muscle tissue to get them.

This is why supplementing with EAAs during your workout can be beneficial. It ensures you have an ample supply of all the amino acids and preserves your hard-earned muscle.

However, EAAs are pretty expensive. And there is a less expensive option called BCAAs.

BCAAs

Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are a subset of 3 of the EAAs. They are Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine and are particularly important for muscle building.

Supplementing with BCAAs intra-workout ensures you have the most important players available. But you need all 9 EAAs, so it’s still possible that your body will break down muscle to get the rest.

For this reason, you should make sure you eat protein before and after your workout. That way, you’re more likely to have all the aminos you need.

Here are some of my top choices for intra-workout EAAs and BCAAs. Snap and EXTEND also include electrolytes.

Key Takeaways

  • Intra-workout means nutrients consumed during exercise
  • Endurance athletes and people trying to build muscle can benefit from intra-workout nutrition
  • A good intra-workout mixture has fluids, carbs, and electrolytes (amino acids optional)
  • Depending on your macros and goals, target anywhere from 25 to 60 grams of carbs

At the end of the day, an intra-workout drink isn’t going to make or break your gains. But when you have optimized the rest of your diet and exercise routine, it can give you that extra boost your need to break through and make new progress.

If you haven’t optimized your pre- and post-workout nutrition, check out some of my articles below to learn how.

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