Tips for Optimal Intra Workout

Your body works hard during training. An intra-workout supplement that contains a high concentration of amino acids maximizes those efforts and accelerates your progress.

How? Intra-workout supplementation takes effect at the exact time your body needs it. During exercise, blood flow to your muscles and nutrient absorption are at an all-time high.

When consumed as an intra-workout supplement, amino acids promote muscle building and fights muscle breakdown. This means you’ll see improvements in both performance and recovery.

But creating the best intra-workout supplement is a matter of individual goals, preferences, and priorities.

Here, we’re breaking down the different types of amino acids, their sources, and dosage guidelines, so you have all the information you need to build your optimal intra-workout supplementation plan.

WHICH AMINO ACIDS SHOULD I TAKE INTRA-WORKOUT?

Even as healthy adults, our bodies cannot make the nine classified essential amino acids (EAAs) so we need to rely on our diets to get them. Included within these nine EAAs is the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)—leucine, valine, and isoleucine.

If you’ve done any reading on the topic, you’ll find plenty of conflicting information about whether you should take just the BCAAs or the full spectrum of all nine EAAs.

Related: Why Intra-Workout Supplementation Works

BCAA advocators believe that athletes already consume plenty of protein, whether it’s from food or supplements, so additional EAAs are not necessary. They support only taking the BCAAs, particularly leucine, during workouts.

But EAA advocators question this stance, wondering why BCAA advocators recommend taking the other two BCAAs (valine and isoleucine) at all if leucine is the key amino acid responsible for stimulating protein synthesis (muscle building). Using leucine alone yields the same stimulus results as taking all three BCAAs, so a middle-ground stance of taking just the three BCAAs doesn’t make sense.

Here are the facts: Research has found that taking all nine EAAs may allow for a longer stimulus on protein synthesis than just taking the BCAAs alone. To gain the largest and longest protein synthesis, include all nine EAAs in your supplement. Based on scientific research, this approach will maximize the benefits of your intra-workout supplementation.

One exception to note: Emerging research shows that under extreme training conditions, our bodies may need nonessential amino acids (NEAAs) in order to sustain elevated levels of muscle protein synthesis.

Previous research has found that those who took whey protein, which contains both EAAs and NEAAs, experienced an elevated rate of muscle protein synthesis for three to five hours post-exercise, while those who just took the EAAs kept muscle protein synthesis elevated for only one to three hours.7

Given these findings, there is a strong, growing case that taking EAAs and NEAAs together from whey is superior to taking just the EAAs, and certainly superior to taking just the BCAAs.

WHICH SOURCES OF AMINO ACIDS PROVIDE THE MOST BENEFITS?

To optimize the effects of your intra-workout supplement without upsetting your digestive tract, focus on hydrolyzed protein and free-form amino acids. As a distant third, consider your general protein powders.

Let’s explore the pros and cons of these different sources:

HYDROLYZED PROTEINS

Whey is currently the best source of protein that has been hydrolyzed (enzymatically broken down) into rapidly absorbing di- and tripeptides.

Peptides are chains of two or more amino acids. Your body can absorb the shortest peptides rapidly and without any digestion needed. Any peptide longer than tripeptide requires digestion to break it down to either a dipeptide, tripeptide, or a single amino acid, before it can be absorbed into the blood.