Whether your goal is to build muscle, increase strength, reduce body fat, or boost athletic performance, supplements can make a substantial difference in achieving the results you’re after.
Taken at the right time, and in the appropriate dose, supplements can have a profound and distinctly noticeable impact on your performance. However, taking the wrong dose, or not timing your supplements properly can result in you not maximizing their benefit, or not “feeling” them at all.
The saying goes that “timing is everything”, and nowhere is this more true than with sports supplements.
While we all know that supplements aren’t all you need to build muscle and burn fat, they certainly can help, and taking the right supplements at the right time can make all the difference in whether or not you’re getting the most bang for your supplement buck.
Ahead, we’ll discuss three of the most common supplements and how to time them appropriately for greater effectiveness in your training, recovery, and growth.
Pre-workout: C4 Original -- 20-30 Minutes Prior to Training
Many lifters tend to drink their pre-workout upon entering the gym. They mix their pre-workout supplement in the least amount of water possible and chug.
But here’s the thing -- if you're considering that caffeine takes a little while to get going, slamming a caffeinated supplement right as you start your first set isn't optimal.
Following ingestion, it takes anywhere from 15-120 minutes for caffeine to reach peak plasma concentrations. This means that for some individuals, it can take almost two hours before they really start to feel the stimulative effects of their pre-workout. So, simply taking it right when you walk into the gym and immediately getting to work isn’t really taking full advantage of the performance enhancing benefits of caffeine in your pre-workout.
Why such the large time span?
Well, a couple of factors.
The rate at which caffeine is absorbed, as well as how quickly you “feel” its energy-boosting effects depends on how fast (or slow) your body metabolizes caffeine. Fast metabolizers will feel the energy boost of caffeine more quickly than slow metabolizers will.
Also affecting the rate of caffeine absorption, is whether or not you have had anything to eat in the hour or so of taking your pre-workout. Taking a caffeinated pre-workout in a fasted state accelerates the onset of action, meaning you’ll feel it “hit” a lot sooner, and probably more intense too.
If you take your caffeinated pre-workout alongside a pre-workout meal (or shortly thereafter), the odds are pretty good that it’s going to take closer to 60-75 minutes to really start feeling the increased energy, alertness, and focus. This is due to the fact the mixed meals slow the digestion and absorption of caffeinated supplements.
But, let’s say it’s been about 2 hours since you’re last meal. It’ll probably take 20-30 minutes to really start feeling the ramped up effects in your body. As such, we’d recommend taking your pre-workout at least 20 minutes prior to starting your warm up sets.
And don’t worry about “running out of steam” during your workout. Plus, when you factor in the fact that C4 Original also contains TeaCrine, an incredibly long-lasting energy and focus booster, you’ll have enough energy and focus to last all day long.
Intra Workout: Xtend BCAA -- During Training
Comprised of leucine, valine, and isoleucine, the three BCAAs are critical for stimulating protein synthesis, reducing muscle breakdown, and supporting energy production during training. In your muscles, BCAAs serve as an important energy source during training, and they can also help improve recovery following training.
Yet another reason to sip on BCAAs during training is due to the fact that they may help combat fatigue during your workouts by reducing tryptophan levels in the brain.
Tryptophan is the amino acid your body uses to produce serotonin. When serotonin levels rise, so does your perception of fatigue. The BCAAs compete for the same receptors in the body as tryptophan. So, by consuming BCAAs during training (like those found in Xtend), you limit tryptophan uptake and conversion to serotonin, which means you can train harder for longer periods of time.
Post-Workout: Whey Protein -- Immediately After Training
Following exercise, your muscles are thirsting for some much needed nutrition. They’ve just spent the past 60-90 minutes under extreme stress, and now they’re ready for some serious R&R.
Whey protein is the ideal post workout supplement due to its rapid digestion, ultra-fast absorption, and rich profile of amino acids, including a high dose of mTOR stimulating leucine. Plus, your body is in a heightened state of insulin sensitivity and protein synthesis following training, which accelerates nutrient uptake, giving you yet another reason to take whey protein immediately after exercise.
As a bonus tip, post workout may also be the most optimal time to take your daily serving of creatine. While most research indicates that timing really doesn’t matter when it comes to experience the benefits of creatine, some newer studies have shown that taking creatine immediately post workout may be lead to greater gains in size and strength compared to pre workout.[2,3]
- Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Military Nutrition Research. Caffeine for the Sustainment of Mental Task Performance: Formulations for Military Operations. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2001. 2, Pharmacology of Caffeine.
- Kreider, R. B. (2003). Effects of creatine supplementation on performance and training adaptations. Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, 244(1-2), 89-94.
- Antonio, J., & Ciccone, V. (2013). The effects of pre versus post workout supplementation of creatine monohydrate on body composition and strength.Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 10(1), 36