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The Experts Weigh In: Do Intra Workout Blends Help You?

Another day, another supplement you should be taking. That’s how it seems to go lately, and as a supplement retailer, we generally have opinions. We’re the first to admit that some supplements *ahem, detox products* are purely diet culture at work. Others, we’re proud to say, “heck yeah, we use this, and you should, too!”

Let’s talk about intra workout blends or supplements designed for you to take as you work out. Generally, they’re made of amino acids—BCAAs and EAAs, and carbs. Sometimes electrolytes are added, too. Additionally, there could be many other ingredients for various reasons. Intra workout blends are like pre-workout supplements in that they are named for what they do rather than what they contain.

What Do Intra Workout Blends Do?

Beyond Yourself Amino-IQ, Blue Freeze

Intra workout blend supplements are designed to:

  • increase energy levels
  • improve athletic performance
  • support hydration
  • encourage recovery

In addition to delivering these results, intra workout blends are also designed to start working immediately. This way, you use these benefits to push harder and longer through even the most grueling workout. Let’s talk about the benefits of these supplements in more detail.

Energy from Intra Workout Blends

Many adults have been brainwashed into believing that carbohydrates are evil but fail to understand that carbs are the body’s primary source of energy. If you know anything about the body’s energy systems, you know that there are three:

  • anaerobic alactic, also known as the immediate energy system
  • anaerobic lactic, also known as the glycolytic system
  • aerobic, also known as the oxidative system

A Quick Lesson on Energy Systems

The immediate energy system is used initially and runs its course quickly. The muscle fibres utilize ATP and creatine phosphate (from food or supplement sources) to generate energy for quick, explosive movements. When the readily available creatine phosphate is gone (after about 10-30 seconds), the body moves on to the next energy system.

Man working out with battle ropes

The glycolytic system is the energy system that utilizes carbohydrates by splitting the glucose to generate more ATP. Again, this system is quick and short-lived, ending when the stored glucose is used. This is the system that benefits the most from intra workout blends.

Lastly, the oxidative system comes into play. It is the system that can last for long periods, but due to a slower process, exercise intensity must slow. It works off stored glucose and fatty acids, which is why it’s known as the “fat-burning” energy system.

As you can see, each energy system uses glucose, stored in the muscles as glycogen, to create the necessary energy for carrying out the exercise. Glucose comes from carbohydrates, which is why carbs are the primary ingredient for intra workout blends.

Performance from Intra Workout Supplement Blends

Supporting the body’s energy systems is enough to improve performance, especially on days that you feel like you’re running on E.

However, intra workout blends often also include ingredients that improve athletic performance, including:

  • caffeine
  • creatine
  • citrulline
  • beta-alanine
  • BCAAs
  • EAAs

Intra Workout Supplements and Hydration

Woman sitting in gym drinking water

Hydration is one aspect of the athletic world that’s often discussed, but mainly in terms of recovery and post-workout. Of course, we all know that dehydration can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening if it gets severe. We also probably can all relate to the unpleasantness of a dehydration headache. But did you know that even slight dehydration reduces not only your physical performance but also your mental performance and mood?

In addition to this little-known fact, staying hydrated is more complicated than you probably realize. Case in point, if you’re thirsty while working out (who isn’t?), you’re already suffering the effects of dehydration.

That being said, intra workout blends are typically mixed with water, which obviously helps increase hydration, but they also might contain electrolytes to help support hydration.

Electrolytes are minerals like:

Electrolytes carry an electric charge when in fluid (aka the water in your body), and they’re vital for proper hydration because they direct water to the locations most in need and maintain the hydration level within the cells.

When we sweat, we lose water and electrolytes. Rehydrating with water alone isn’t always enough.

Recovery with Intra Workout Supplements

Allmax Aminocore BCAA Supplement, Fruit Punch

Lastly, while recovery isn’t the primary goal or benefit of intra workout blend products, it is a bonus. BCAAs and EAAs are often main ingredients, thanks to properties that support performance, hydration, and more. However, BCAAs and EAAs are also well-known for their properties that naturally support recovery.

In addition to recovery post-workout, other ingredients (like those mentioned above in the performance section) help to support short-term recovery between sets and exercises.

Who Should Use Intra Workout Blends?

Many people can benefit from intra workout blends, especially if you’re someone who tends to struggle through a workout. Maybe you hit it hard at first and then tend to fizzle out. An intra workout blend might be the little boost you need to power through.

While many people can benefit, the following folks are those who can benefit the most from these supplements:

  • those who do endurance activities such as cycling or distance running
  • those who play sports that utilize quick bursts of energy like hockey or wrestling
  • those who need to generate a lot of power, like powerlifters
  • Those who are focusing mainly on their performance

Like all supplements, intra workout blends are something that you should try and see if you like. You might love how it makes you feel, or you might decide it’s not worth the additional supplementation.

Can I Use BCAAs or EAAs During My Workout Instead?

Mammoth EAA Supplement, Candy Peach

Suppose the idea of consuming a bit of fuel mid-workout is appealing, but your workout intensity doesn’t require extra hydration or energy support. In that case, you might be wondering if an intra workout EAA or BCAA supplement might be enough.

In fact, there are intra workout blends designed for exactly this situation. The branched-chain amino acids are those that bypass the liver and head straight to the muscles, where they provide energy and help with the catabolizing and synthesizing processes.

We’ve touched on the EAA vs. BCAA supplement argument many times, and essentially it boils down to this: if you religiously hit your protein requirements, it’s okay to go with BCAA supplements alone. If you don’t, you will benefit the most from an EAA supplement. We like EAAs more because they contain the BCAAs along with the other essential amino acids necessary to synthesize new muscle fibres.

EAA + BCAA Complete by PVL Gold Series

If this EAA and BCAA focused intra workout blend sounds like your style, the product we recommend is EAA + BCAA Complete.

This product contains 8 grams of amino acids and the addition of B vitamins and electrolytes to give you a little boost of energy and hydration support without adding carbohydrates to your macros when you don’t need them.

From EAAs to BCAAs, What Should My Intra Workout Blend Contain?

EAA + BCAA Complete by PVL Gold Series

If you need a little more than just BCAAs and EAAs, you know you want a more traditional intra workout blend. However, it can be confusing to know what to look for when products don’t have a specific formula.

At the end of the day, it will come down to personal preference. Some people will want the addition of caffeine, and others won’t. Additionally, sometimes people don’t enjoy the way some ingredients make them feel—even if they’re not having a reaction or anything like that.

We recommend the following ingredients based on someone who is already using a traditional pre-workout product that contains a stimulant like caffeine:

These are the ingredients we recommend because citrulline helps boost nitric oxide production, improving the muscle pump. Beta-alanine is great for improving performance and endurance, and as we mentioned earlier, EAAs and BCAAs are great for helping the body manage the catabolism and synthesis processes as well as providing an energy boost.

You might notice two things we left off this list—carbs and creatine. Carbs are really only necessary if you’re focusing on your performance or you’re working at a high intensity for a long period. Creatine is one of our favourite supplements, and we recommend it often, but it doesn’t work like the rest of these ingredients.

Creatine supplementation isn’t designed to work immediately, and therefore we feel it’s unnecessary in an intra workout blend. Alternatively, we suggest taking creatine on its own or in a supplement you take every day, even on rest days. This is because creatine supplements work by filling the creatine phosphate reserves in the muscles over time—not immediately.

Is it Okay to Stack an Intra Workout Blend on Top of Pre-Workout?

HD Muscle Intra-HD Workout Supplement, Watermelon

Yes, you can stack an intra workout blend on top of a pre-workout supplement you already take. However, there are some things to consider when adding to your stack. They are:

  • caffeine in both
  • sugars, sugar alcohols, or artificial sweeteners
  • the nutrition of your other products 

Obviously, it’s important to ensure you’re not accidentally overdosing on otherwise beneficial ingredients. The daily recommended limit is 400 mg., and one cup of coffee contains about 100 mg, and many supplements contain anywhere from 100-200 mg. So, it can be easy to overconsume if you’re not careful.

Sugar is a big one to look for, too, and while many pre-workouts and intra workout blends don’t contain added sugar, they do contain sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners. So, be mindful of how much you’re consuming in a day.

It’s also important to make sure you’re not overdoing vitamins and minerals—too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.

Our Favourite Intra Workout Blends

Now that you’ve decided intra workout blends are the right choice for you, allow us to tell you about our favourite and best-selling products.

All Day You May by 5% Nutrition

Our best-seller by an incredible supplement brand, 5% Nutrition. They always bring creativity and innovation, and All Day You May is no exception. This intra workout product contains:

  • EAAs and BCAAs
  • Beta-Alanine
  • Vitamin C
  • Electrolytes
  • B vitamins

Intra-HD by HD Muscle

This is another top-selling product by a solid, up-and-coming Canadian supplement brand, HD Muscle. Intra-HD includes:

  • Carbohydrates
  • EAAs and BCAAs
  • Electrolytes
  • Green coffee extract

OPUS by Magnum

Opus by Magnum Intra-Workout, Red Berry Candy

Magnum is another of our favourite brands, and OPUS is an awesome product. It contains:

  • B vitamins
  • EAAs and BCAAs
  • Electrolytes

On this list, you should be able to find the right intra workout blend for you.

Other Ways to Support Yourself During a Workout

While we’re supplement lovers over here, we also like to stress the importance of using supplements the way they were meant to be used—as a tool to help support you rather than your main source of nutrition. So, consider these ways to support your body through tough workouts without the use of another supplement!

Stay Hydrated

There isn’t a whole lot that more water can’t fix! So, always drink enough water and carry a big water bottle around the gym with you to ensure you’re keeping those cells plump and properly hydrated. 

Fuel Beforehand

Healthy food that provides fuel

If you’re struggling with a lack of motivation to start your workout or fatigue when you do, make sure you’re eating enough to fuel your activity level. Your body probably requires more calories than you realize if you’re working out at a high level of intensity most days of the week.

Make sure you consume carbs before and after a workout, along with your protein, to ensure your muscles have the required glycogen not only for the work you expect of them but also for the recovery process.

Your workouts won’t mean much if you don’t give your body what it needs to repair itself.

Intra workout blends are a great way to feel your best through even the toughest workout. Because these products don’t have a specific formula, it requires some thought on your part to determine which ingredients can serve you best. For example, something with carbohydrates is great for those focused on their performance or duration, while a product that contains some electrolytes, EAAs, and BCAAs is perfect for those who don’t need the added carbs.

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