The Lies and Myths of Intra-workout Supplements
4 min read
The fitness industry always seems to come up with something new, radical, or integral that you must buy to get that extra bit of edge to make your fitness goals that much more achievable; e.g., testosterone boosters, GH boosters, etc. One of those things pushed by the industry is intra-workout supplements.
The idea behind these, for those unaware, is that these supps act as performance boosters that you should consume in the middle of a workout (hence the term intra); whether you’re trying to replenish lost nutrients, reduce muscle breakdown, or further stimulate your body to continue a high intensity session, these supps will take care of you, and the “best” supps tick off more boxes for your “intra-workout needs”.
But here’s the thing about these supplements: you don’t need them.
And you don’t need to scientifically break down why exactly these supps are useless. Simply by going off of what they promote you can tell that they’re a waste of time and money.
1. Intra-workout Supps: “Increase Energy and Endurance”
Here’s the thing, unless you’re participating in some form of endurance activity, workouts are not long enough to require the supposed boost offered by intra-workout supps. A typical workout is anywhere between 20 and 120 minutes; the harder you work out, the shorter the workout will naturally be because you cannot maintain a high intensity for long without negatively impacting your body – unless you’re on performance enhancers.
If you’re exercising longer than two hours, you’re doing more harm than good – unless, as stated, you’re engaging in an endurance activity or pumped on PEDs. Endurance activities are perhaps the only time you can make an argument for intra-workout supps. However, its target audience tends to be bodybuilders and those engaged in high-intensity workouts – individuals who don’t actually need it.
In these instances, pre-workout supplements are enough for your needs to give you the energy and drive to power through a session.
2. Intra-workout Supps: “Refuel Muscle Cells”
Most intra-workout supps are packed with BCAAs, electrolytes, vitamins, creatine, and/or caffeine. These are definitely helpful in a workout but they come with two glaring problems: firstly, other supplements already contain these ingredients so you don’t need to buy an entire separate supplement to do what your other supplements should already be providing, and, secondly, all of these benefits can be acquired from simply eating normally.
This is why it all falls back to intra-workout supplements are only ever useful if you’re doing an endurance activity; in such a situation your body is in a depleted state and requires replenishing to continue, therefore a concentrated source of nutrients can help, but outside of an endurance activity it’s very difficult to get to a depleted state where intra-workout supps become a requirement.
Effectively, a post-workout supplement is more than enough to replenish energy levels and reduce muscle breakdown after a workout session.
3. Intra-workout Supps: “For Bodybuilders and High Intensity Athletes”
We only need to look at competitive sports to understand intra-workout supps are not required in bodybuilding – the high intensity part, now that matters on the duration of the activity being engaged.
According to Harvard, in a 30-min session, a 155lb/70kg individual will burn roughly 108-216 calories lifting weights (naturally, this will change according to weight, gender, age, body composition, length of workout, etc.), now let’s consider sports and compare that number to soccer (252 calories), tennis (252), basketball (288), and boxing (324). All of these sports are physically more demanding on the body than a workout session and typically last longer than 30 minutes, and yet, notice that during each sport’s respective breaks, competitors are, at best, sipping on their drinks as opposed to chugging them down. Logically, where does that leave the use and benefits of intra-workout supps for bodybuilding?
The Truth About Intra-workout Supplements
The real kicker about these supps is that they’re just another product people or companies are trying to push. Personally, I’ve never come across an article, site, video, or person speaking highly of intra-workout supplements where they didn’t include in the very same piece some kind of product sale – whether that’s them directly selling it, being sponsored, or having affiliated links.
Now, it’s “good” marketing practice to link whatever you’re talking about with a product to promote sales, but compare this practice with intra-workout supps against other supplements such as creatine, protein supps, or pre-/post-workouts that have numerous positive pieces going over them and yet it’s easy to find content that doesn’t try to shove promotions into your face packaged with the glowing reviews. Yet, somehow, intra-workout supps can’t stand alone …
With that said, I judge the integrity of a company or individual on the supplements they recommend/push. If they have intra-workout supplements on their list, it’s a red flag because what other nonsense are they willing to promote just to make money?