When you’re in the middle of a hard workout grinding out every last rep, you want to make sure that your nutrition is perfect. Most people know the importance of fuelling their body pre and post-workout. However, intra-workout nutrition is often overlooked.
The longer you exercise for, the more important refuelling your muscles during the workout becomes. If your lifting sessions often exceed an hour, your body might be breaking down muscle tissue for energy. Sweating heavily can also deplete your electrolytes and increase your risk of developing muscle cramps or injuries.
Unlike some supplements like creatine or whey powder, the ingredient list in intra-workout supplements varies widely between brands. We’re going to break down some of the best intra-workouts on the market to help elevate your training to the next level.
Ready? Let’s dive into it!
Our Top Picks at a Glance
- Iron Labs Nutrition BCAA Power
- Sci-MX Nutrition BCAA Intra-Workout
- Kaged Muscle Intra-Workout Powder
- BULK POWDERS Complete Intra-Workout Pouch
- PhD Nutrition Intra BCAA
- Reflex Nutrition BCAA Intra Fusion
- Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard BCAA Train & Sustain
- BULK POWDERS ENDURE
Note: There’s a lot more information below but clicking the above links will take you to current prices, further information and customer reviews on Amazon.
What is an Intra-Workout Supplement?
An intra-workout supplement is anything that’s designed to be taken in the middle of a workout. Usually, these supplements focus on reducing muscle tissue breakdown during your workout and preventing dehydration.
Each intra-workout has a slightly different formula, and the formula that’s best for you depends on what type of workout you do.
If you do a ton of cardio out in the sun, you’ll want something with electrolytes to fend off dehydration. If you find you spend more than an hour in the weights room per session, you may benefit from sipping on a supplement that contains BCAAs.
If you find your motivation dipping in the middle of a workout, you may want something with caffeine, protein, and Rhodiola Rosea extract to help you feel re-energised.
What’s in Them?
Here are some of the more common ingredients that you’ll find in intra-workout supplements. You don’t need to find a supplement that contains all of them. This list is designed to give you an idea of which ingredients you want to prioritise when choosing an intra-workout.
Each of these ingredients is found in at least one of the supplements we’ll review below.
Branched-chain amino acids are among the most popular ingredients in intra-workout supplements. They consist of the three amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
BCAAs help prevent muscle soreness after your workouts. They may also be able to spare muscle when you’re in a caloric deficient or prevent muscle breakdown during long workouts.
Leucine has the most powerful effect on muscle synthesis of the BCAAs, which is why most supplements contain more leucine than valine or isoleucine. Research shows that a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine to the other amino acids increases muscle protein synthesis more than taking leucine alone.
Electrolytes are charged mineral ions that conduct an electric charge in your nerves and muscles. They’re commonly lost through heavy sweating, which can lead to muscle cramps and an increased risk of muscular injury.
Many sports drinks contain electrolytes to help you replenish those lost during a workout. However, most sports drinks also contain sugar that you don’t need unless you’re an endurance athlete.
If you work out in a particularly hot environment like a gym that has poor ventilation, taking intra-workout electrolytes can drastically increase your risk of dehydration.
The most well-known electrolytes are sodium and potassium, but calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous are also all essential.
Coconut Water Powder
Coconut water is a popular alternative to sugar-loaded sports drinks for its electrolyte content. Coconut water powder provides you with a blend of minerals in a similar ratio to how they’re distributed in your blood and is great for preventing dehydration.
Glutamine is a non-essential amino acid. It plays an important role in immune function. When your body’s need for glutamine becomes greater than the amount your body can make, like during a heavy workout, your body will break down muscle tissue to get more glutamine.
Research has found that taking glutamine may support your immune system. It doesn’t directly help your body build muscle but may help reduce the amount of time you miss from training due to illness.
Most studies examining its immune-boosting effects look at about five grams per day.
Pantothenic acid is also known as vitamin B5. Your body needs this essential vitamin for energy production. Because it’s water-soluble, your body can’t store it like it can with fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin A or vitamin D, so it can be quickly depleted.
Pantothenic acid is necessary for the breakdown of fat for energy, so it’s thought that taking vitamin B5 may be able to increase your energy during long workouts.
Research examining the effect of pathogenic acid on exercise performance looks at doses of about 1.5g per day, although there still isn’t much evidence available.
You probably already know how important protein is for muscle-building. You might already take protein pre and post-workout, but for extended workouts that are pushing two hours or more, you may want to consider taking it during your workout as well.
When looking for an intra-workout supplement with protein, make sure the protein is coming from a high-quality source like whey or whey isolate. Soy protein may replicate oestrogen in your body, so it’s best to avoid it.
Rhodiola Rosea Extract
Rhodiola rosea is an herb used to prevent fatigue and to reduce stress. It’s often included in intra-workouts because it’s thought that Rhodiola rosea can increase exercise performance by increasing the amount of time you can exercise until you become fatigued.
One study found that 170mg is enough to reduce general fatigue in healthy individuals. Another study found that 340mg taken daily may decrease muscular damage post-workout. It may also be able to reduce perceived rate of exertion from exercise.
Taurine is often mistakenly referred to as an amino acid. It’s not actually one of the building blocks of protein, but it still has many critical roles. It’s critical for the function of your central nervous system, eyes, muscles, and cardiovascular system.
Taurine supplementation may be able to increase your exercise performance by clearing metabolic waste from your muscles. It may also be able to reduce post-workout muscle damage and fatigue post-workout.
Why You Need an Intra-Workout
Intra-workout supplements help you maximise your potential during a workout. The longer your workout is, the more important taking an intra-workout becomes.
For instance, if your training session is only 45 minutes, you can probably get away with your usual pre and post-workout supplements. But when you’re grinding in the weights room for more than an hour, you don’t want your body to start breaking down your muscles as you’re trying to build them up.
One of the primary benefits of taking an intra-workout supplement is minimising your injury risk by fuelling your muscles with protein and electrolytes. The last thing you want to do when you’re in a hard block of training is to have to take a session or several sessions off because of a tight muscle.
Difference Between Pre and Intra-Workouts
Both these types of supplements contain similar ingredients. However, there are some subtle differences.
Most pre-workouts are designed to give you an energy boost before your workout. They accomplish this by including stimulants like caffeine and other ingredients like beta-alanine that can put you in a performance mindset.
Intra-workouts are designed to extend the amount of time you can work out before you deplete your electrolyte and protein levels. If you’re a competitive lifter or if even a recreational lifter who wants to take their training to the next level, an intra-workout may help elevate your training to the next level.
A Detailed Look at the Best Intra-Workout Supplements
We’ve broken down some of the best intra-workout supplements available on the UK market to make your buying decision easier. Each has pros and cons, so which one is best for you depends on your exact workout needs.
Iron Labs Nutrition’s BCAA powder helps support your workout primarily by providing you with BCAAs. Each scoop contains an outstanding 7.5 g of BCAAs with a 10:1:1 ratio of leucine to isoleucine to valine. If you take a full scoop, you’ll get 15 g of these essential aminos.
Leucine is the most powerful of the three amino acids, so the high amount of leucine in this product is key for helping prevent muscle wasting during extended workouts.
The extremely high amount of BCAAs in this product can support your longer workouts to allow you to continue lifting heavy without having to worry about your body breaking down your muscles for energy.
- Relatively cheap per scoop
- Only need to use half a scoop per serving
- Mixes well in water
- 7.5g of BCAAs per serving
- Is basically just a BCAA supplement
- No electrolytes
If you’re looking for something to support your muscles during long lifting sessions that last longer than an hour, this intra-workout mix makes a great choice. The 7.5 g of BCAAs per serving are made up of more than 80% leucine to prevent muscle breakdown.
Iron Labs Nutrition’s BCAA powder is also made in a GMP-Certified facility, so you don’t have to worry about any potentially dangerous filler ingredients.
Sci-MX Nutrition’s BCAA Intra-Workout supplement provides a spectacular 10 g of BCAAs per serving with a 2:1:1 emphasis on leucine. It also contains several other ingredients such as glutamine and glycine that prevent muscle-wasting during workouts and is vegan friendly.
This intra-workout supplement makes a great choice if your workouts tend to go on the longer side. Its BCAA blend that emphasises leucine will increase your energy without relying on sugar to give you a boost.
- Relatively cheap
- 10g of BCAAs per serving
- Contains a 2:1:1 ratio of leucine to other BCAAs
- Contains glutamine
- Doesn’t have a GMP-certified stamp
- Doesn’t contain electrolytes
If you’re looking for a BCAA focused intra-workout supplement that provides you with a leucine heavy mix, this might be the supplement for you. It’s vegan-friendly so even if you have dietary restrictions, you can enjoy 10g of BCAAS per serving.
Kaged is a well-known supplement brand with a reputation for providing high-quality products. In-Kaged goes with Pre-Kaged and Re-Kaged in their series that covers every part of your workout.
For a price comparable to most other intra-workout supplements, you get a lot packed into each scoop. You’re getting a solid 5 g of BCAAs per serving mixed with a blend of other varies other substances to increase your energy mid-workout.
It also contains coconut water powder to replenish electrolytes you lose during training. This banned substance tested intra-workout can support your workouts no matter whether you’re an elite athlete or a weekend warrior.
- Contains L-Citrulline and taurine
- Contains electrolytes (coconut water powder)
- Banned-substance tested
- Only 5g of BCAAs per serving
- Contains caffeine (may be a pro or con)
In-Kaged is one of the best intra-workouts on the market. Unlike some intra-workout supplements that are basically just BCAAs, this one provides a mix of substances to increase your energy during your workout. It does contain caffeine though (124 mg), so if you’re caffeine sensitive, it’s worth being aware of.
It also includes electrolytes, which makes it a great all-around intra-workout. If you’re a competitive athlete, you can take this supplement without worry since its banned-substance tested.
Bulk Powders provides a great per serving price with this intra-workout. Each 500 g bag contains 25 servings. If you don’t want to commit to a full bag until you try it, you can also get started with the 100 g bag.
Like most BCAA supplements, this BCAA supplement emphasises leucine with a 3:1:1 ratio to the other aminos.
If you’re looking for a good value intra-workout that provides you with a solid amount of leucine to support your workouts during long sessions, this may be the supplement for you.
- Mixes well in water
- Very cheap per serving
- 25 scoops per bag
- 10g of BCAAS per scoop
- No electrolytes
- Missing taurine
If you’re looking for a good value and basic intra-workout mix to start with, this makes a great choice. It doesn’t contain electrolytes, but since it’s one of the least expensive supplements on the market, you can probably take it with an electrolyte supplement and still save money compared to many other brands.
PhD Nutrition’s Intra BCAA provides you with 7g of BCAAs (ratio of 4:1:1 leucine to isoleucine and valine) plus whey protein isolate for an additional protein boost. It also contains coconut water powder to help you replenish lost fluids.
If you like to train hard and want something to maximise your performance, this supplement makes a great option. It avoids filler ingredients and provides you with a solid mix of electrolytes and BCAAs that work.
- Relatively cheap
- Good taste
- Contains electrolytes
- 7g of BCAAs per serving
- Doesn’t reveal how much coconut powder is in it
- May be heavier on your stomach than other intra-workouts
PhD Nutrition did a great job when designing this supplement. It contains enough protein, BCAAs, and electrolytes to support your workout no matter whether you’re doing cardio in the sun or have a particularly gruelling lifting session.
Reflex Nutrition BCAA Intra Fusion provides you with 10g of BCAAs and 5g of L-glutamine per serving. It’s the first intra-workout we reviewed that contains 5g of L-glutamine, which is the dose most often used in research.
If you’re a serious athlete, you’ll be happy to know that this supplement is made in an Informed-Sport facility to prevent contamination with banned substances. This powerful BCAA mix can keep your muscles from breaking down even when you’re in the gym for hours.
- 10g of BCAAs
- Banned-substance free
- Contains 5g of glutamine
- Missing electrolytes
- Basically just a BCAA supplement
If you’re looking for a supplement that’s banned substance tested, this makes a great option. It contains 10 g of BCAAs per serving to keep your muscles from tiring even during extended workouts. However, if you tend to feel dehydrated during your workouts, you may want to include a supplement that also has electrolytes.
Few brands on the market are as recognisable as Optimum Nutrition. Gold Standard BCAA Train and Sustain provides you with five grams of BCAAs per serving as well as several other ingredients such as Rhodiola Rosea that may increase your energy.
This product also contains a solid mix of electrolytes to support your workout and prevent dehydration. If you’re primarily looking for a way to combat dehydration, this is a great product to help you avoid muscle cramps while also supporting your muscles with essential amino acids.
- Contains electrolytes
- 200mg Rhodiola rosea
- Banned-substance tested
- Only 5g of BCAAs
- Relatively expensive
If you’re looking for a supplement that contains both electrolytes and BCAAs, this one makes a great option. You also get some bonus ingredients like Rhodiola rosea that may have benefits for reducing fatigue. However, it’s a little on the pricier side, so if you want something cheap, it may not be your best option.
This is the second Bulk Powders intra-workout we’ve looked at. Compared to Bulk Powders Complete, Endure packs much more in each serving. It contains a 4:1:1 ratio of leucine to other BCAAs, a blend of electrolytes, and vitamin B5.
It’s a little stingier on the BCAAs than the other supplements we’ve looked at, but it provides you with a nice mix of ingredients to support both your muscle and mental energy levels during your workout.
- Contains electrolytes
- Informed-sport approved
- Includes vitamin B5 and taurine
- Only 4 g of BCAAs
- Only two flavours
Endure provides a solid list of ingredients to support your workout. It doesn’t contain as many BCAAs as some of the supplements we’ve looked at, but it makes up with it with its blend of electrolytes and other energy-producing ingredients.
All of the intra-workouts we looked at are solid options, but some stand out to us more than others.
If you’re looking for an intra-workout that contains a large mix of ingredients to support your workout, you may like In-Kaged by Kaged Muscle. Each serving contains 5g of BCAAs to support your muscles, electrolytes to prevent dehydration and muscle cramps, and a variety of other energy-producing ingredients for a solid price.
PhD Nutrition’s Intra BCAA mix provides you with a great balance of BCAAs, protein, and electrolytes. It supports every aspect of your workout without waffling with unnecessary ingredients.
If you’re an athlete and want something that’s banned substance tested, Reflex Nutrition’s BCAA Intra Fusion, In-Kaged, Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard, and Bulk Powders Endure are all safe choices.