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Understanding Peri-Workout Supplementation to Maximize Performance

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Erick Avila

In recent years, many coaches and athletes have advocated the importance of peri-workout supplementation to maximize performance.  “Peri-workout” is a term referencing the three important times around a workout: pre, intra, and post.  The reasoning as to why nutrition and supplementation during these times is so important is based on the knowledge that the nutrients ingested around a workout will help to fuel and maintain performance, as well as assist in the recovery process.   The International Society of Sports Nutrition published a position paper on nutrient timing in 2017 in which they stated that the timing of energy intake and certain ingested macronutrients may enhance recovery following high volume or intense exercise. [1]  

 

With peri-workout nutrition, the focus revolves around the three macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat.  However, when it comes to peri-workout supplementation, the formula becomes a little more complex because there are so many products to choose from.  It’s important to remember that peri-workout supplementation represents just one piece of the puzzle.  Consistently achieving adequate sleep, quality nutrition throughout the day, and proper hydration, alongside a solid training program, are all critical components to optimal performance and progress.  Once those pieces are in place, the benefits of peri-workout supplements are able to shine, since many of these benefits revolve around their ability to help increase work capacity, enabling you to perform more work.

 

To aid you in your peri-workout supplementation selection, here is a guide to some of the most popular ingredients:

 

BCAAs: These consist of the three essential amino acids—leucine, valine, and isoleucine.  Because BCAAs can bypass the liver, they can be oxidized by the muscles, making them a quick fuel source around exercise.  However, for the purpose of muscle protein synthesis, you should get the full spectrum of all nine essential amino acids.

Best time to take: Pre- and intra-workout are the most advantageous times to use BCAAs for muscle fuel. 

How much to take: Ideal serving size will vary based on an individual’s body weight.

 

BetaPower® Betaine Anhydrous: Originally found in beetroot, betaine can act as a methyl donor or an osmolyte in the body.  A study was done on 23 trained male subjects to measure the effects of betaine on performance and body composition.  They split the subjects into a placebo group and a betaine group and had them follow a 6-week periodized training program.  At the end of the study, the researchers noted that the group that supplemented with betaine saw increased arm size, bench press work capacity, and improved body composition. [2]  

Best time to take: Pre- and post-workout doses are recommended. Betaine can help enhance work capacity, making it beneficial before a workout.  It can also act as an osmolyte which may help with hydration, making it ideal after a workout to replace fluids lost via sweat. 

How much to take: Performance studies have used anywhere from 1-6 g daily.  A key point from the studies is that they typically divide the serving into two doses around the workout.

 

Beta-Alanine: is a non-essential amino acid that is the rate-limiting factor in the synthesis of carnosine.  Carnosine acts as a buffer in the body; this buffering capacity is believed to help improve exercise performance and capacity.  A 6-week study was done on 46 active college-aged males performing HIIT-style workouts.  The subjects were split into a placebo group and a beta-alanine supplementation group to examine the effects beta-alanine had on endurance performance and aerobic metabolism.  The researchers found that the beta-alanine group showed significant improvements in VO2 peak, time to exhaustion, and work done at 110% of their pre-training VO2 peak. [3]

Best time to take: Pre- and intra-workout are the most practical times to supplement with beta-alanine, however with beta-alanine, the overall goal is to achieve saturation. You can achieve this by consuming products that contain high quality forms of beta-alanine, such as PRE-KAGED and IN-KAGED, and/or use a standalone beta-alanine product such as SR CarnoSyn®.

How much to take: The goal is to take 3.2-6.4 g per day to reach and maintain saturation.

 

Caffeine: is a plant alkaloid that acts as a central nervous system stimulant, most of its biological effects are due to its ability to block adenosine receptors.  A meta-analysis of 46 studies examined the effects of caffeine supplementation and endurance performance.  The researchers concluded that caffeine can be used effectively as an ergogenic aid when taken in moderate doses. [4]    

Best time to take: Pre- and intra-workout to help improve energy levels.

How much to take: Most studies used dosages in the 3-6 mg/kg bodyweight range. Individual tolerance will differ, with some people being much more sensitive to caffeine’s effects. Avoid products that contain synthetic forms of caffeine and opt for those with organic caffeine instead.

 

Creatine: Creatine is a naturally occurring compound in the body that is involved in ATP production.  Creatine supplementation helps to increase phosphocreatine stores.  The ATP-PC system is important for explosive movements such as jumping, throwing, and sprinting.  Two of the most popular forms of creatine are creatine monohydrate and creatine hydrochloride.

Best time to take: Pre- and post-workout are both good times to take creatine.  Studies have shown benefits in both pre- and post-workout creatine supplementation, but the main goal is to reach saturation.

How much to take: For creatine monohydrate, 5 g per day is enough for most people.  With creatine hydrochloride, the recommended amount is 750 mg per 100 lbs. of body weight. But the end goal is still to reach muscle saturation.

 

Citrulline: is a non-essential amino acid which has been shown to increase plasma arginine levels better than arginine itself.   A double-blind crossover study on trained subjects found that supplementing with citrulline found it to be effective at increasing arginine levels and improved athlete’s time when completing a 4km cycling event. [5]

Best time to take: Pre- and intra-workout to take advantage of citrulline’s vasodilating effects.

How much to take: Most studies use around 6-8 g. To maximize results, choose products that provide pure citrulline rather than other forms of citrulline such as citrulline malate. This will ensure you are getting pure citrulline in every serving.

 

Essential Amino Acids: These products contain a total of nine amino acids, including the three BCAAs. A study was done to measure the effects of long-term essential amino acid supplementation on elderly women, monitoring measures like lean body mass and anabolic response.  The researchers observed that essential amino acid supplementation improved lean body mass and basal muscle protein synthesis. [6]

Best time to take: Post-workout is the ideal time to further augment the muscle protein synthesis response triggered from resistance training.

How much to take: Ideal serving size will vary by bodyweight.

 

Glutamine: is a conditionally essential amino acid, which means that the body can create glutamine on its own but during some instances of high stress, it needs to be consumed through food or supplements.  A study examined the effects that glutamine had on muscle strength and soreness ratings following eccentric exercise.  The 16 subjects, who were divided into a placebo group and a glutamine supplementation group, performed eccentric exercise and were monitored immediately after exercise, as well as 24 hours, 48 hours, and 72 hours later.  The researchers concluded that glutamine supplementation resulted in faster recovery of peak muscle torque and diminished soreness ratings. [7]

Best time to take: Post-workout to help assist with muscle recovery.

How much to take:  Ideal serving size will vary by bodyweight.

 

Taurine: is a non-essential amino acid found in various tissues throughout the body including the skeletal muscle.  A meta-analysis was done on 10 human studies to determine the effect of taurine supplementation on endurance performance.  The researchers found that taurine ingestion improved overall endurance performance.  Most impressively, the researchers noted that the performance improving effects were seen after just a single dose. [8]

Best time to take: Pre- and intra-workout are ideal times to utilize taurine to help with aerobic endurance.

How much to take: Anywhere from 1 – 6 g has been shown to improve endurance performance.

 

Tyrosine: Tyrosine is an amino acid that can act as a precursor to catecholamines.  These compounds play a number of important roles in the body.  In a study of nine soccer players, the effects of tyrosine supplementation on cognitive and physical performance in a hot environment were examined.  The researchers found that tyrosine supplementation may improve cognitive performance when exposed to exercise-heat stress. [9]

Best time to take: Pre- and intra-workout.

How much to take: Tyrosine is commonly taken in doses from 500-2000 mg, however higher dosages have been used in studies.

 

Looking for a simple way to cover your peri-workout supplementation bases?

Kaged Muscle has formulated the PIP stack to address your body’s needs throughout the peri-workout timeframe. By using PRE-KAGED®, IN-KAGED® and RE-KAGED®, you will receive effective doses of the above nutrients at the ideal time around your workout.  Another option is to create your own stack to customize your peri-workout supplements to the time of day you’re training and your specific goal. This may be optimal for individuals with specialized needs, such as those who must exercise at night and are highly sensitive to stimulants, such as caffeine.

Whatever approach you decide to take with your supplementation protocol, athletes need to ensure that their body has the nutrients it needs to support performance and recovery.  When these factors are all in place, along with healthy lifestyle habits, progress will occur at a higher rate.

 

References:

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