Workout Supplement timing is the difference between the supplements you take being a massive help or a massive waste of money.
We specialize in workout supplement reviews and are widely known for our official top 10 pre workout supplements list along with post workout and intra workout specialties.
Below we’ve outline everything you need to know about supplement timing and maximizing your results in and out of the gym.
Included in this Article:
- Pre Workout Supplement and Meal Timing
- Intra Workout Supplement Timing and Specifics
- Post Workout Timing, Specifics, and Benefits
Pre Workout Window
Pre Workout Meal
Timing is very important for pre workout supplements and meals. If you would like to eat a meal before working out, it’s best to eat at least two hours before working out to prevent exhaustion from mechanical digestion.
This is based upon the fact that after a meal roughly 25% of your body’s blood volume is involved in extracting nutrients from your gut. If you try to work out during this time, you’re pump and oxygen delivery will suffer greatly.
So, the solution is simple, wait at least 2 hours after eating a big meal to lift.
The benefits to this practice include: maximum circulation availability, peak nutrient availability, and greatly reduced carb to fat conversion and reduced carb blocking fat oxidation!
In general, the pre workout window represents preparation for athletic activity.
Update 5/20/2016: For more in-depth information on meal-planning before your workout, check out our best pre workout foods.
Pre Workout Supplements
Taking a pre workout supplement is a completely different game in comparison to the pre workout meal.
With that being said, it is important to recognize that pre workout supplements do not replace the nutritional preparation that the pre workout meal offers.
But either way, a pre workout supplement more times than not will increase your performance and muscle building potential.
Pre workout supplements work by a simple mechanism: increase the availability of energy (willpower), muscular potential (creatine and cell currency), and circulation (pump and nutrient/oxygen delivery).
When supplementing the body with these 3 factors, athletic performance and strength as a whole will be greatly optimized. Not to mention your overall muscle content and fat mass; which we measure over greater periods of time.
The Pre Workout Window
The 30 minutes before workout window for pre workout supplements is based upon the fact that: 1.) it takes some time for pre workouts to get into your blood stream, and 2.) the body quickly burns through these energy, strength, and pump producing nutrients once they are available.
Therefore, taking a pre workout fifteen to thirty minutes before hitting the weights gives adequate time for absorption, followed by a solid few hours of ‘performance overdrive’ for you to make use of in the gym.
An important side-note we often have to remind most bodybuilders is to stay hydrated while on pre workouts.
We know that you’ve seen videos of guys taking straight pre workout powder into their tongue and eating it without water, but that’s just a show. There is literally no real benefit.
In reality, to get the most out of your pre workout, you’ve got to take it with plenty of water, and then stay hydrated during your lift.
Dehydration is the single largest performance killer in athletics (View Study).
Intra Workout Supplement Timing
A lot of guys have a hard time understanding the real purpose of intra workout supplements in their fitness regimens. This is because depending upon your goals and activity, your intra workout needs are different from others.
We’ll focus on the needs of bodybuilders, men, and women who are trying to build muscle and burn fat through lifting weights at the gym.
Update 5/20/2016: See here for the ultimate BCAA supplement Guide and Top 10 List.
So, what is going on in your body during your workout? What processes are able to go on during this time frame and what processes are not? Let’s start with what you want to avoid during intra workout.
- Avoid mechanical digestion: this means, you do not want to consume a lot of carbs or protein because digestion is energy and blood demanding; two factors you need to be directed towards your lifting.
- Avoid stimulant burnout: taking a second serving of stimulants more times than not will overstimulate your central nervous system and actually cause fatigue. The real reason you’re burning out probably has to do with #3.
- Prevent dehydration: taking a massive dose of creatine monohydrate or other water loving compounds can rob hydration from your synovial fluid, as water fluxes to your muscles. Pair on top of that all the water you’re sweating out, and your due for a headache and fatigue.
Avoid the headache and fatigue by bringing at least a liter of water to the gym, and plan on drinking it all.
What’s Acceptable during the Intra Workout Window?
Eating while you lift doesn’t work well. With that being said, supplementation should really be kept to a minimum.
During your workout, it’s all about water, BCAAs, electrolytes… and that’s it. All you need.
Its really important to point out that water is the most important thing to be taking during your workout. In fact, BCAAs are arguably better taken before your workout alongside your pre workout supplement than during your workout. Interesting to think about.
This section was on the dense side, and you may still have some questions. Feel free to comment below or send us an email and we’ll discuss anything you would like. Just know that we are not doctors, we are not certified to give health advice; we are simply letting you know what we have witnessed over many years and through many reviews, studies, and discussions.
Post Workout (Immediate and later)
Immediate Post Workout Window
Bodybuilders that have the best gains typically share flawless post workout nutrition (in addition to incredible work ethic in the gym). There are a few cool reasons why the immediate post workout time frame is a major muscle builder; aside from the punch in the face statement of “it just works”. Immediate post workout nutrition helps you build more muscle through these mechanisms in the body.
1.) Muscle cells are depleted of free AAs, nutrients, and glucose. This means, the supplements you take will be rapidly absorbed. So, if you take a protein drink with a high concentration of leucine in it, the majority of that leucine will make it into the cell where it can trigger heightened anabolic activity.
Note – we hinted at this but have not made a clear statement yet regarding the importance of glucose (carbs) in addition to fuel and glycogen. A lot of guys worry about insulin spikes and consider insulin spikes to be the “anti-growth hormone”. This is true, in a way… But overall the insulin spike is very beneficial if done right, here’s why. Post workout, when you eat a reasonable amount of carbs along with your protein and straight AA and possibly creatine mix- insulin spikes in response to the carbs. This in turn does lower one type of growth hormone. However, the insulin spike promotes not only the carbs but also the AAs to absorb rapidly into muscle tissue and triggers something referred to as insulin mediated growth hormone which promotes muscle growth in its own way. This means bigger gains in the long run if done right. See, where this picture goes ugly is when guys eat sugary foods all day long. This results in a reduction in the efficiency of insulin mediated growth hormone alongside the complete elimination of regular low-blood sugar released growth factor. It’s a very complex science, but this explanation should have given you a better perspective.
2.) The immediate post workout window is a fork in the road between build excess muscle, or tear down pre-existing muscle to meet metabolic needs. With that being said, by not supplementing immediately after working out, you are not only refusing muscle growth but completely compromising the muscle you already have. By taking in the amino acids, carbs, and raw protein you can order your body to build more muscle.
Later Post Workout Nutrition and “throughout the day” nutrition
Everyone that knows a cents worth of bodybuilding facts will tell you that in order to build muscle, you’ve got to eat often. But, what’s the purpose of this, what’s happening in your body?
Here we go…
Most guys know that even after the immediate post workout meal, your body still has repair work to do. So, when you eat a great well rounded protein rich diet throughout the day and a few hours after working out, you continue to provide nourishment for repair. However, there is another aspect that’s present even if you’re not sore.
Throughout the day, our bodies are constantly remodeling and revitalizing our tissues, bones, and muscle. That means that even though damage has not been done, your body is working.
Additionally, general maintenance requires AAs and raw protein to carry out daily metabolic tasks. When adequate amino acids are not present in the blood, or when adequate glucose is not available; your body will make it available by metabolizing excess muscle tissue aka the stuff we worked so hard for. And this all happens right beneath your nose without you noticing.
So, what’s the solution? Eat proper protein rich meals throughout the day and never go longer than 3 hours without some form of nourishment. By abiding by this, you will supply your body with everything it needs to continue repairing muscles, carrying out maintenance, and reassuring your physiology that you are competent of providing the conditions necessary for an anabolic atmosphere.
Best Supplement Timing for Workout Supplements
These were our best recommendations for supplement and meal timings. We are not professionals; we just know what often works and what doesn’t. We welcome you to start a conversation below and ask any questions you have or add to the information on this page in any productive way you can. Remember, we do this to help you. Want to help us? Like us on Facebook and mention us on twitter or Google plus!