If you’re looking to optimize your workouts and become as fit as you possibly can, you not only need to know what supplements to take, but also when to take supplements in regards to your workout schedule.
In this post, we will cover what to take (if anything) before, during, and after your workouts. Following this guide can help you get more out of the supplements you’re already taking, and perhaps also cue you into a few additional supplements which may help you reach new levels of fitness.
When to take supplements
Knowing when to take supplements, for some, can be fairly obvious. You definitely don’t need to take a pre-workout after you workout, for example. Some others, however, are a bit more confusing.
Should you take BCAA’s before or after a workout? Does it matter? Let’s simply go in chronological order and decide when you should take what.
before you workout
Of course your pre-workout goes before you workout – but it is important to know how long before you start you should drink it. In order to process the caffeine and the beta alanine found in most pre-workouts you want to give your body approximately 45 minutes. Some people may process it quicker than that, and can be closer to the 30 minute before the workout mark.
Besides pre-workout, you can also use BCAA’s before your workout. This is particularly useful if you workout in the morning and follow an intermittent fasting protocol. The BCAA’s can help your body stay out of a catabolic (muscle breakdown) state and also provide you with a little energy boost before your workout.
Finally, you want to ensure you’re nicely hydrated before you workout. Simply drinking water can do the trick, or if you’re in the mood, an electrolyte pill such as Nuun Hydration is a great option before a workout.
During your workout
Intra-workout supplements change based on your workout style, length, and intensity.
If you are a weightlifter and are going to be in the gym for multiple hours doing very short, high intensity lifts, sipping on a combination of protein and carbohydrate powders can be extremely beneficial. This will keep your energy levels high, and ensure you’re building muscle from all that lifting.
Now, if your workouts are higher intensity (think CrossFit, or HIIT style workouts) you are not going to want to sip on a protein drink during your workout. For one thing, you don’t have the time. For another, your stomach simply won’t feel good during that time.
Most CrossFit workouts do not require intra-workout nutrition. However, longer workouts, such as Hero WOD’s, which go past 30 minutes are aided by additional carbohydrates. Choosing a BCAA + electrolyte drink like FitAid is a good choice. You can also drink a coconut water beverage like Nooma which will give you needed electrolytes and carbohydrates. Additionally, don’t discount the positive effects of pure sugar here. CrossFit Games athletes were eating gummy bears during the marathon row event in 2018.
Post Workout Supplements
Immediately following your workout – some studies indicate within 10 minutes is best – get some protein into your system. If you consume dairy-based products, whey protein is a great option. For those following a vegan/plant-based diet, Vega is a good powder with a complete protein profile.
You’ll also want to focus on carbohydrates after your workout. If you have the ability to eat a full meal within the next 60-90 minutes, just having your protein shake is going to be okay. However, if you cannot, you need to include some carbohydrates with your shake. Shoot for a ratio of 2:1 carbs to protein. There are many powders available now, with the best being multi-branched cyclic dextrin. You can also choose something like chocolate milk for a more accessible, but less healthy, option.