Setting Up Your Intra-Workout Shake
With supplement companies scrambling to find ways in making more money, they’ve come out with a new product category within the last decade: the intra-workout shake! You had your pre-workout shake and your post-workout, but now you need to have another goddamn shake that you drink while you train. Before you know it, there’ll be the whole other workout shake that you drink in your car on the way to the gym before the intra-workout shake. But before that becomes a whole rant, let’s go over the whole concept of drinking something while you train. The whole premise behind an intra-workout shake is that you’re able to best absorb nutrients during the time window which you’re breaking down your muscle fibers & your insulin sensitivity is enhanced (as opposed to the times when you’re not training). The first product to really cement the intra-workout shake category in the supplement industry was Scivation’s “XTEND”.
XTEND is an intra-workout powder that has the premise of being able to enhance recovery along with endurance in the gym. Containing essential BCAAs and electrolytes, XTEND would be added to your jug of water while you train and would be best absorbed during your actual training window. I was a loyal buyer of XTEND when I started out in powerlifting, and I even remember spending about $40.00 every 2 months or so refilling my supply of intra-workout powder. Is the notion of consuming BCAAs intra-workout scientifically backed by researched studies? Yes. After a year of drinking this stuff, did I really notice a difference in recovery or performance solely from the product? Honestly, not really. And after giving XTEND a good run, I decided to scrap it completely and stuck to drinking water & using Gatorade powder during my training sessions. The truth is that BCAAs are present in nearly all the protein based foods we eat, and spending money on BCAA powders was better spent buying real food.
Fast forward years later to 2015, and I ended up working with Tony Montgomery on my own nutrition plan for powerlifting. I gave his e-book a read along with following his prescribed macros for my plan. For my training days, the presence of a “pre/intra-workout” shake popped up as one of my windows for macros. My macros for this window looked roughly like:
- 32 GRAMS PROTEIN / 100 GRAMS CARBS / 0 GRAMS FAT
Now, I already knew ahead of time that drinking protein during a training session does very little in aiding performance. Using common sense, I delegated my protein consumption as being pre-workout. Since I go straight from the office to the gym, I would use a protein bar as my form of pre-workout protein. Subtracting the grams of sugar from the protein bar, I’d add the rest of the carbs in my intra-workout shake.
While an intra-workout shake of sugar and electrolytes is completely fine for training, I was also stacking other supplements that I wanted to fit in during my training window. So, my intra-workout shake consisted of the following:
- 1 liter of low-sugar Gatorade
- 1 serving of C4 pre-workout powder
- 5 grams of Creatine Monohydrate
- 50-75 grams of dextrose (depending on whether it’s a high or medium intensity day)
I found this combination to be very useful in training, and having fast absorbing sugars in my intra-workout drink helps a lot during those long 2 hour training sessions. Since this shake had pre-workout powder in it with stimulants, I’d sip on it while driving to the gym and finish the rest of the shake during training. If I ever needed more liquid to drink, I’d just rely on bottled water to keep me hydrated throughout the session.
I still use the very simple formula above for my intra-workout formulation, and it’s effective for any type of training I’m doing in the gym. Regardless of whether you believe in doing all this hoopla or not, you NEED to drink SOMETHING while you train hard, and drink plenty. At the very least, even drinking just bottled water will immensely help you with training performance – don’t train without keeping yourself hydrated! I hope this relatively short piece on intra-workout shakes gives you new ideas on what you can add to your overall nutrition, and that you’re open minded in trying out things meant to help you during the most critical window of time during a regular training day.