11 Aug What Supplements Should I Take Before and After a Workout?
The foundation of your nutrition should always be on whole foods, but dietary supplements offer you a nutritional edge.
Pre-workout and post-workout supplements in particular can make a significant difference in your performance and results.
Let’s take a look at the best pre-workout and post-workout supplements that you should consider for workouts and recovery.
Best Pre-Workout Supplements
Why should you take a pre-workout supplement?
The purpose of a pre-workout is to prepare your body and mind for the workout that follows.
The best pre-workout supplements contain a mixture of ingredients that do the following:
- Support physical energy and performance
- Promote cellular energy via the production of adenosine triphosphate (muscle’s preferred source of fuel)
- Boost your mental focus and alertness
Here are the ingredients that every pre-workout supplement should contain.
We all know about caffeine – It’s the reason we drink our morning coffee!
That mental boost that you get from caffeine makes it a valuable ingredient for exercise.
Studies show that caffeine is effective at increasing muscle endurance, muscle strength, anaerobic power, and aerobic endurance. 
That’s A LOT for one ingredient.
Some researchers noted that caffeine’s performance benefits were more pronounced during aerobic (cardio) exercise than anaerobic (weightlifting).
But one thing that was consistent across all studies was the immediate increase in perceived mental energy (which should come as no surprise).
Branched-Chain Amino Acids
Amino acids are the literal building blocks of muscle tissue.
They can also act as a last resort for bodily and cellular fuel through an energetically expensive process called gluconeogenesis.
Aminos are the byproduct of protein digestion, which means after you eat a high-protein meal, your body breaks down the protein into usable amino acids.
There are a total of 20 amino acids that the human body uses for hundreds of processes.
Nine of these amino acids are considered essential, which means the body can’t create them on its own. In order to get essential amino acids, you’ll need to consume them through food or supplements.
Of these nine essential amino acids, there are three that are of special importance to fitness:
Commonly abbreviated as BCAAs, these three aminos are called branched-chain amino acids, and they have been the subject of many exercise science studies.
Leucine is the star of the show, being cited as the most effective muscle building amino acids.
Isoleucine’s importance primarily lies in the fact that it helps to regulate energy levels and blood glucose levels.
Some studies suggest that isoleucine helps the muscles take in a higher concentration of blood glucose, thereby providing muscle tissue with fuel and lowering your total blood glucose levels. 
Isoleucine is also thought to support the body’s immune function. 
Valine is most known for its ability to prevent protein degradation.
It’s also been suggested to stave off perceived mental exertion, which means you will feel like you can exercise longer than normal. 
It’s recommended to consume a 2:1:1 ratio of five grams of leucine, isoleucine, and valine, respectively. That boils down to 2.5 grams of leucine, 1.25 grams of isoleucine, and 1.25 grams of valine.
It’s essential that your BCAA supplement contains at least 2.5 grams of leucine as this is the magic number to help with protein synthesis.
Consuming BCAAs before and during a workout can help to prevent the breakdown of muscle tissue and kickstart your recovery.
Bonus Pre-Workout Supplement: Creatine
Creatine is a natural substance in the body that is converted into adenosine triphosphate (ATP). As mentioned above, this is the preferred fuel source for cells and muscle tissue.
Once thought to be an exclusive bodybuilding supplement, dozens of studies have highlighted the use of creatine for the general population.
Creatine is most known for its ability to promote high-intensity exercise capacity, which means you’ll notice a boost in your performance.
For anyone trying to build more lean body mass, creatine has been shown time and time again to be the go-to supplement. 
When Should I Take Pre-Workout Supplements?
These pre-workout supplement ingredients should be taken 30 minutes before a workout
This is because the effects of caffeine don’t fully kick in until about 30 minutes after you consume it.
What’s more, you want BCAAs in your system just before your workout to support performance.
Studies suggest that timing doesn’t matter with creatine so long as you’re taking it consistently, but I think it’s most convenient to throw it in with the other two ingredients.
You finish your workout, and you’re wiped. Now what?
It’s time for a post-workout supplement.
The purpose of a post-workout supplement is to refuel the muscle, restoring glycogen reserves while initiating muscle repair and recovery. This will help to reduce muscle soreness.
Here’s our recommendations for the best post-workout supplement ingredients.
With the explosion in its popularity, there’s a good chance that you have a tub of protein on top of your refrigerator.
The most popular protein supplements are made from whey, which is a byproduct of cheese production.
Have you ever opened a yogurt to see that clear yellowish liquid on top? That’s whey!
It’s a rich source of high-quality bioavailable protein, and once it’s dried, it can be consumed.
The ideal form of protein for post-workout is called whey protein isolate. This is an ultra-filtered, rapidly digesting form of whey.
But any form of whey or mixed-plant protein will be okay.
Protein is broken down into usable amino acids, providing you with a number of recovery benefits.
Post-workout protein supplementation has been shown to spike muscle protein synthesis, promoting lean muscle growth while protecting from protein degradation. 
The recommended amount of protein to consume after a workout is 20 to 30 grams post workout for women and 25 to 50 grams for men.
Electrolytes are minerals that ensure proper communication between cells, muscle tissue, and the brain.
You literally cannot live without electrolytes.
Exercise quickly depletes electrolytes, and this can contribute to post-workout fatigue.
In fact, a water weight loss of just two percent can dramatically decrease your performance.
By supplementing with electrolytes during and after a workout, you can avoid a sudden drop in performance. 
When Should I Take Post-Workout Supplements?
It’s important to take these supplements within an hour of working out.
Although it’s been debated, many fitness experts agree that it’s best to take advantage of the post-workout window that allows for higher uptake of muscle recovery nutrition.
Looking for Workout Supplements? We’ve Got You Covered
Not sure what or where to look for these pre- and post-workout supplements?
For pre-workout supplements, we recommend Xtend and Amino Energy. For post workout protein, the three brands that we recommend are Quest, Muscle Milk and Orgain (dairy free).
We now offer all of the brands mentioned above at Faster Fitness, so chat with one of our trainers if you have any questions about what would be the best option to help you hit your goals.
If you’re not currently a member and would like to learn more about our program, click the link below to check us out!
- Grgic J, Grgic I, Pickering C, Schoenfeld BJ, Bishop DJ, Pedisic Z. Wake up and smell the coffee: caffeine supplementation and exercise performance-an umbrella review of 21 published meta-analyses. Br J Sports Med. 2020 Jun;54(11):681-688. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2018-100278. Epub 2019 Mar 29. PMID: 30926628.
- Mero A. Leucine supplementation and intensive training. Sports Med. 1999 Jun;27(6):347-58. doi: 10.2165/00007256-199927060-00001. PMID: 10418071.
- Breen L, Churchward-Venne TA. Leucine: a nutrient ‘trigger’ for muscle anabolism, but what more?. J Physiol. 2012;590(9):2065-2066. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2012.230631.
- Doi M, Yamaoka I, Fukunaga T, Nakayama M. Isoleucine, a potent plasma glucose-lowering amino acid, stimulates glucose uptake in C2C12 myotubes. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2003 Dec 26;312(4):1111-7. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2003.11.039. PMID: 14651987.
- Gu C, Mao X, Chen D, Yu B, Yang Q. Isoleucine Plays an Important Role for Maintaining Immune Function. Curr Protein Pept Sci. 2019;20(7):644-651. doi: 10.2174/1389203720666190305163135. PMID: 30843485.
- Waldron M, Whelan K, Jeffries O, Burt D, Howe L, Patterson SD. The effects of acute branched-chain amino acid supplementation on recovery from a single bout of hypertrophy exercise in resistance-trained athletes. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2017 Jun;42(6):630-636. doi: 10.1139/apnm-2016-0569. Epub 2017 Jan 27. PMID: 28177706.
- Buford TW, Kreider RB, Stout JR, et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2007;4:6. Published 2007 Aug 30. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-4-6.
- Paddon-Jones D, Rasmussen BB. Dietary protein recommendations and the prevention of sarcopenia. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2009 Jan;12(1):86-90. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e32831cef8b. PMID: 19057193; PMCID: PMC2760315.
- Thomas DT, Erdman KA, Burke LM. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016 Mar;116(3):501-528. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2015.12.006. Erratum in: J Acad Nutr Diet. 2017 Jan;117(1):146. PMID: 26920240.