Intra-Workout Nutrition: Carbohydrates, Drinks And Supplements

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Making sure your body gets the best possible nutrients is a massive part of a successful training plan.

What you eat and drink will impact how well you perform in the gym, as well as your overall results.

But, when it comes to working out, there’s something else to take into account. When you consume the foods, sports drinks, and supplements that fuel your fitness goals will make a big difference.

Nutritional timing [1] can be the difference between showing up at the gym with low strength, energy, and enthusiasm—and turning ready to take on whatever comes your way.

That’s why having a nutrition plan that suits your training goals can improve performance and will put yourself in the best possible position to succeed.

SmartTip: A solid pre-workout strategy is to eat some complex carbohydrates that are high in fibre to provide a slow release of energy—not just during your workout— but across your whole day.

Combining those fibrous carbs with a lean protein source will have you raring to go and able to hit peak performance.

You could then follow up your training session with more post-workout protein to rebuild your damaged muscle tissue and aid the recovery process.

Likewise, some post-workout carbs will replenish your depleted muscle glycogen stores and get your energy levels back up after pushing hard throughout a long workout.

So, we’ve covered what to consume before and after your workouts—but how about intra-workout nutrition?

Is this something that you should add to your routine? And if so, what sort of intra-workout products are the best to take?

Let’s take a look.

What does intra-workout mean, exactly?

Just like pre-workout relates to what you do before you lift, and post-workout is what you do after your training session—intra-workout is what you do during exercise.

By fuelling up between sets, you can gain certain advantages that can keep your body in peak condition for the duration of your workout—giving you the power to work harder, for longer.

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What are the benefits of intra-workout nutrition?

Taking on sustenance during a workout can support your physical performance by…

  • Enhancing stamina
  • Boosting power
  • Replenishing energy levels
  • Reducing fatigue
  • Keeping you hydrated

Intra-workout nutrition is particularly beneficial for heavy lifting strength training and endurance exercise​​—whether that be resistance training in the gym, high-intensity sporting or athletic performances, or lost-distance cardio (e.g. running or cycling).

Taking on extra nutrients mid-way through exercise can stop you from hitting the dreaded wall. 

You’ll be able to push through that barrier and overcome obstacles so that you get the most out of every workout.

With the right approach to intra-nutrition, you can squeeze out extra reps, run an extra mile, or maintain performance when the training intensity is high. All of which means bigger and better results for you.

Now you’ve seen the advantages of intra-workouts, let’s take a look at what you could include in your kit bag to shake things up.

What can you take as intra-workout nutrition?

Intra-workout nutrition is all about raising your performance levels. To do this, you’ll want to consume something that can give you an extra boost of readily available energy or strength during a workout.

Here are some smart options to get you well on your way to smashing your fitness goals.

Intra-workout carbohydrates

Carbs are your body’s primary source of energy [2]. When you train intensely, your body needs a source of carbohydrates to access for fuel.

If you haven’t fuelled your body with enough carbs to use during a workout, it will burn up your protein stores as a fuel instead—which isn’t ideal if you’re trying to build muscle mass.

Complex carbohydrates, like whole grains, fruits, and starchy vegetables, release glucose gradually into your bloodstream, prolonging the boost to your energy levels.

Then there are simple carbohydrates (like those found in sweet and sugary junk foods). Although these provide a rapid energy release, they come at a cost, as they spike your blood sugar quickly, which leads to an inevitable energy crash further down the line.

This is where consuming carbohydrates like maltodextrin comes in handy.

Although it’s technically a complex carbohydrate (due to the low sugar content), maltodextrin is fast digesting and easily absorbed like simple carbs, making it the perfect choice for intra-workout fuel.

SmartSuggestion: Get your intra-workout carbs by mixing up some maltodextrin and whey protein with milk to boost your endurance and increase the rate of glycogen replenishment.

Intra-workout amino acids

There are 20 different amino acids that you need to function properly—but your body is unable to create nine of these on its own. 

These are referred to as essential amino acids, as they have to be obtained through diet.

Amino acids are often referred to as the “building blocks of protein”, as they repair damaged muscles and help them grow in size.

They also act as an additional energy source by slowing muscle breakdown during your training session.

A serving of intra-workout BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) can provide extra energy and keep you focused when you might otherwise have started to tire and lose sight of your goals.

They also play a role in the recovery process and reduce muscle fatigue and soreness. So you’ll be getting a head start on your post-workout muscle repair too.

Intra-workout electrolytes

If you’re really giving it your all during a workout, you’re probably going to be sweating. But when you sweat, you lose vital electrolytes [3].

But, if you can restore your electrolyte levels when you’re still mid-session, you’ll be able to perform at your best for a while longer.

SmartFact: Electrolyte drinks contain important minerals and salts that can restore those depleted levels, as well as reduce muscle soreness and fatigue.
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Intra-workout creatine

Some people like to take creatine before they exercise, others when they’ve finished their session—but what about during?

Taking a five gram serving of creatine during your workout is another option that will have you pushing out additional reps, boosting your endurance—and giving you the extra drive to see things through.

As it takes around 60 minutes for blood levels of creatine to reach their peak after consumption [4], an intra-workout drink containing creatine can be especially helpful during prolonged exercise sessions.


Finally, remember to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water during your workouts.

It feels like an obvious suggestion to make, but it’s always worth reminding yourself to keep on top of your fluid intake.

Dehydration has a negative impact on blood flow, blood pressure, and energy levels. 

On the flipside, a steady supply of water helps deliver nutrients to your muscles, which aids your overall workout performance as well as the recovery process.

What are the best intra-workout supplements?

You don’t really want to be eating during a gym session.

Protein bars on the treadmill? Pasta between sets on the bench press? No thanks.

It’s an intra-workout supplement that’s the key to unlocking new levels of performance.

Supplements can provide all the key nutrients you need to stay strong, sharp, and energised during even the toughest training sessions—it’s all about finding the right ones for you.

So, if your goal is to step up a gear and raise your game the Smart way, try The Raise Performance Kit. This triple-threat combo contains three great products to supercharge your exercise sessions for big results.

There’s creatine monohydrate powder for intensifying your workouts, electrolytes for optimal hydration and keeping you fresh—plus a mind-focusing nootropic to make sure your mental performance matches your physical one.

To find the best supplements to fuel your workouts, check out the full range of Smart supplements for enhancing your performance and smashing your goals. You’ve got this. 


Smart Protein is committed to sourcing only the best and scientifically-backed research in our articles.


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