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Peri-Workout Supplements The Complete Pre-, Intra- & Post-Workout Guide

Peri-Workout Supplements  Der vollständige Pre-, Intra- & Post-Workout Ratgeber

With the variety of supplements available on the market, it's hard to keep track of them all. This guide takes a look at the most effective of these supplement ingredients and includes recommendations and timing.

In this guide you will learn

  • What the anabolic window is and why it's such a hotly debated topic
  • What the most popular workout supplement ingredients are and what their benefits are
  • When and how much of these supplement ingredients should be used
  • Who should consider these ingredients and who should avoid them
  • What a good workout stack might look like


Looking at the list of workout supplements available can be overwhelming. The sheer number of different products and ingredients can make it difficult to decide, especially for less experienced supplement users. And even though many supplements will have a noticeable effect, there is still the question of whether that effect is worth the money.

Many supplements have value to a certain extent, but you also have to consider the cost-benefit ratio. This guide is intended to serve as a foundation for supplement users who want to get the most bang for their buck when it comes to their supplementation around their training.

The next question is what the scientific literature says about all this. Does it matter if you take your creatine before or after your workout? What happens if you use BCAAs after instead of during your workout? Is the famous anabolic window really that crucial or is it an over-hyped concept in fitness? There are sources and anecdotal evidence to support both the "anabolic window" and "timing is irrelevant" theories. This guide will look at both theories and use the results to determine what you should do before, during and after training from a supplementation perspective.

What exactly is the so-called "anabolic window"?

The anabolic window is a term used to describe the period immediately after training. The general view is that training with weights triggers a variety of acute metabolic responses that have a beneficial effect on nutrient and supplement uptake. One example of this is the body's increased insulin sensitivity (i.e. ability to absorb glucose) following a weights training session (1).

Taking into account the extremism inherent in the supplement industry, many manufacturers use a sound concept (or theory) such as this example and push it to the limits of absurdity in the hope of attracting potential customers. A good example of this is the superfluous amounts of dextrose in certain creatine monohydrate supplements, which are used in the hope of getting more creatine into the muscles. These extrapolations often originate from seemingly practical studies that conclude that a moderate amount of "X" results in a positive outcome for "Y".

The key point here is that correlation does not necessarily imply causation - especially when looking at literature, studies or even anecdotal evidence. If person A uses supplement "X" and has 50 centimeter biceps, this alone does not justify the statement that his arms are the direct result of using that supplement. Likewise, a study that concludes that carbohydrate consumption results in a positive uptake of creatine in muscle tissue does not necessarily imply the need for mega-doses of carbohydrates to maximize creatine uptake.

Coming back to the anabolic window, one should simply be careful to avoid extremes and be skeptical of an "all or nothing" approach to supplementation.

Does the anabolic window even matter then?

The short answer is yes and no. In my opinion, a better way to approach this topic is to look at the anabolic window of opportunity not in terms of its acute effects, but in terms of its impact on ongoing metabolic adaptations. In essence, resistance training does indeed provide an anabolic window of opportunity, but this window does not suddenly open and close. The adaptations your body makes in response to resistance training will last your lifetime if you stick with your training.

Many people will freak out if they forget to take their whey protein and insulin-releasing Waxy Maize Starch exactly 15 minutes after their workout because they fear they are missing the optimal window for their body to use these nutrients. However, I can assure you that this is not the case.

An example of this was illustrated by a meta-analysis of type 2 diabetics and the effects of a resistance training program on their insulin sensitivity. This analysis concluded that several months of training with weights reduced the insulin response to glucose intake without affecting glucose tolerance and increased glucose clearance (2).

In addition, studies have consistently found that the acute responses to resistance training are generally overshadowed by the benefits seen in individuals who consistently stick with such a program.

Evidence suggesting this comes from observations that habitual resistance training causes changes in muscle morphology from glycolytic type IIb fibers to more oxidative type IIa muscle fibers (2). This is a significant adaptation, as type IIa muscle fibers have a higher capillary density than type IIb muscle fibers and are therefore more responsive to insulin.

What does all this mean for the majority of exercisers? In layman's terms, it means that the most significant adaptations and benefits of resistance training come after following a program for an extended period of time. Basically, your body's capacity to use and synthesize nutrients will be enhanced even when you're just sitting around or doing activities of daily living - and not just during the window of time immediately following your workout.

This is not to say that the acute metabolic responses to resistance training are not important. There are certainly short-term benefits of training with weights such as endorphin release, increased GLUT4 expression and better blood flow to skeletal muscles (2). However, it's important to keep the big picture in mind and not stress too much about "missing the opportunity" when it comes to post-workout supplements.

There are still benefits to using the acute reactions to training with weights to your advantage and the rest of this guide will give you an insight into the benefits you can achieve in the gym with a selection of supplements.

Which supplements you should consider around your training

Below is a detailed guide (in no particular order) to some popular supplements that you can consider using around your training. This guide will look at what benefits each of these supplements provide, how they work in the body, what dosages are recommended, who should consider these supplements, when they should be taken and what possible side effects there are.

Creatine Monohydrate

As the two most popular supplements available (for good reason), creatine monohydrate has proven itself over the decades when it comes to training with weights and athletic performance. Creatine is one of the most efficient supplements you can consider when it comes to cost-benefit ratio and safety/tolerability. How does creatine work?

The energy currency of cells is known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Basically, your muscles continuously use ATP to do work (i.e. contract). At the same time, ATP needs to be restored to continue supplying your muscles with energy. One way to replenish the depleted ATP stores in your muscles is through the phosphocreatine energy system. This is accomplished by donating a high-energy phosphate from a phosphocreatine molecule to an ADP (adenosine monophosphate) molecule so that a new ATP molecule can be formed.

Primary benefits

  • Increases intracellular water levels in muscle cells, which in turn increases protein synthesis (3)
  • Increases ATP production, resulting in increased strength/power release (4)
  • Acts as a neuroprotective agent, as brain cells rely on ATP for membrane integrity (5)

Possible side effects

  • Water retention/cramps (although water retention is beneficial to the muscle building effects of creatine.
  • Dehydration (if you don't drink enough fluids)

Who should use or avoid creatine?

  • Athletes
  • Bodybuilders
  • Powerlifters/Strongman competitors
  • People with kidney problems or diabetes should avoid creatine supplements

When should creatine be taken?

  • Preferably before training, although the time of intake is not so important as long as it is taken consistently to maintain stable creatine levels.

Recommended dosage

  • Most studies have concluded that once saturation has been reached, creatine at a dosage of between 3 and 5 grams per day is sufficient to maintain intracellular levels (5)

Note: With creatine, a so-called front load with higher dosages (generally 8 to 10 grams, divided into two single doses) is possible to achieve faster saturation of the cells, although this is not mandatory.

Creatine FAQs:

Q: Does creatine cause kidney damage?

A: No, as long as insanely high doses are not used (and even then it is unlikely). However, creatine could pose a risk to people with impaired kidney function, although there is little evidence that normal doses can cause such problems.

Q: Is it normal that I feel a stronger urge to urinate since using creatine?

A: This is probably due to the unconscious increase in fluid intake and not creatine itself.

Q: It is often claimed that Kre-Alkalyn and creatine ethyl ester are better than creatine monohydrate. Is this true?

A: Contrary to popular belief, these supposedly highly absorbable forms of creatine are actually less bioavailable than the tried and tested creatine monohydrate.

Q: Can I combine creatine with other supplements in powder form?

A: Yes, this is perfectly fine (and in many cases even beneficial).

Branched-chain amino acids (and other essential amino acids)

BCAA (and EAA) supplements have been the center of some controversy over the past few years, as there is evidence both for and against their futile benefits. However, it's hard to dispute the fact that exercisers can benefit from tangible benefits from supplementing with BCAAs and/or EAAs related to the ability of these amino acids to positively regulate the mTOR pathway (6). These supplements are also not too expensive and virtually free of side effects.

How do BCAAs/EAAs work?

The primary mechanism of action of BCAAs/EAAs appears to be related to the fact that L-leucine is a positive regulator of key enzymes in the mTOR pathway (6). L-leucine does not increase muscle protein synthesis sufficiently on its own (it is more efficient in the presence of insulin and other EAAs) (7).

Primary benefits

  • BCAAs and EAAs can increase muscle protein synthesis and muscle hypertrophy (6)
  • BCAAs and EAAs can promote recovery from muscle damage after exercise and counteract the development of muscle damage during exercise (8)

Possible side effects

  • Fatigue and loss of motor coordination (but only in very rare cases)

Who should use BCAAs/EAAs and who should avoid them?

  • Athletes
  • Bodybuilders
  • Powerlifter/Strongman competitors
  • People suffering from Lou Gehring's disease or ketoaciduria in response to branched-chain amino acids

Recommended time of intake?

  • Most studies have shown positive effects of using BCAAs/EAAs when taken immediately before and after resistance training (8). Some exercisers also take BCAAs/EAAs in small amounts during training, which also works.

Recommended dosage

  • The recommended dosage varies based on individual body mass and the ratio of the BCAA blend. A good starting point is to use 10 grams of BCAAs with a 4:1:1 ratio of the amino acids leucine, valine and isoleucine.
  • Follow the directions on the label if you're not sure how to best incorporate BCAAs/EAAs into your workout supplementation


Q: Couldn't I just use whey protein instead of BCAAs/EAAs?

A: The answer depends on what you want to achieve. BCAAs and other free amino acids can be used by the body much faster because they are already in free form and do not need to be digested to a certain extent before they can increase plasma amino acid levels like whey protein.

Q: Do I need a BCAA/EAA supplement if I already consume sufficient amounts of protein?

A: Do you need to? No. Can you still benefit from additional BCAAs/EAAs? Yes. As with virtually any supplement, you need to determine the cost/benefit ratio and find the one that fits your goals. BCAAs/EAAs are generally quite inexpensive and have a whole host of benefits, so it's hard not to recommend them for dedicated strength athletes. In the second part of this article, we'll take a closer look at caffeine, beta-alanine and citrulline.


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