How to Time Supplements for Greater Effectiveness

By Robert Schinetsky


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.

Supplement Timing

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.[1] 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]



  1. 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.
  2. Kreider, R. B. (2003). Effects of creatine supplementation on performance and training adaptations. Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, 244(1-2), 89-94.
  3. 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

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What is your stimulant tolerance?
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Alpha Amino BCAA

Alpha Amino is the ultimate performance, hydration and recovery sports drink powder. Its premium formula is built on the power of amino acids and formulated with ingredients that promote healthy fluid balance. Alpha Amino has 14 Amino Acids including a well-studied 2:1:1 BCAA ratio. These Amino Acids support the body’s ability to fuel skeletal muscles, preserve muscle glycogen stores and reduce protein breakdown.

  • Performance BCAA’s with 0g Sugar
  • 14 Amino Acids
  • 5g BCAA’s in the clinically studied 2:1:1 ratio
  • Electrolytes for hydration
  • Zero Stimulants & Zero Sugar
C4 Sport

C4 Sport! If you are a collegiate athlete or play sports competitively, C4 Sport is the perfect pre-workout for you because it is NSF Certified for Sport. C4 will help you tackle your training in the gym and on the field.

  • Boosts energy + focus
  • Enhances muscular endurance
  • 135mg of caffeine
  • Contains CarnoSyn® Beta Alanine, an amino acid, patented and clinically studied form of beta-alanine that has been shown to support muscular endurance
  • NSF certification is trusted by the MLB, NFL, NBA, NCAA, and everyday athletes alike
C4 Original

C4 Original! This is our best-selling pre-workout with more than 1.3 billion servings sold! C4 Original is perfect for you if you are new to the pre-workout game or you are seeking a lower stimulant C4.

  • Perfect for energy, focus and pumps
  • Good if you’re at the start your fitness journey/want to step up your workouts
  • 150mg of caffeine

Pro tip: If you are just starting out on a pre-workout, take half a scoop to assess tolerance level.*

Also available in convenient, bottled, ON THE GO formula!

C4 Ripped

C4 Ripped! If your goal is to lose weight, C4 Ripped is the perfect pre-workout for you.

  • Helps you train harder while supporting your body’s ability to burn fat
  • Creatine-free
  • Includes ingredients like Green Coffee Bean Extract to support weight loss
  • 150mg of caffeine
  • L-Carnitine Tartrate
C4 Extreme

C4 Extreme! If you love energy drinks and are always on the hunt for higher caffeine levels, C4 Extreme is for you.

  • 200mg Caffeine Explosive Energy®
  • 2g CarnoSyn® Beta- Alanine
  • 1g Nitramax (NO3-C)™
  • 1g Creatine Nitrate (NO3-T®)
C4 Ultimate

C4 Ultimate! If you’re a seasoned gym goer who loves pre-workouts and you’re looking for a fully-loaded, high-impact pre-workout, C4 Ultimate has what you need.

  • The most powerful C4 created
  • Per scoop: 300mg caffeine, 6g Citrulline Malate, 3.2g of CarnoSyn® Beta Alanine, 1.5g Nitrosigine®, 1.5g Creatine Nitrate, plus a powerful blend of nootropics
  • Fully-loaded formula packs a heavy punch of ingredients for focus, endurance, and pumps to help push you to your ultimate limit
  • Formulated for the ultimate – not entry level

Also available in convenient, bottled, ON THE GO formula!

BCAA Sport

BCAA Sport! If you are a collegiate athlete – or play sports competitively, BCAA Sport is a perfect stimulant-free option for you, because it is NSF® Certified for Sport®! BCAA Sport supports all day hydration & recovery, to maximize your workout results

  • All Day Hydration & Recovery
  • Supports All Day Hydration & Recovery
  • Zero Stimulants & Zero Sugar
  • 4G BCAA’s, 2.25G Added Amino Acids, 2G Added Glutamine, and Added Electrolytes
  • NSF® Certified for Sport®

CN3&trad; combines 3 forms of Creatine into a stimulant-free 3-in-1 Creatine complex! Providing 6.25 total grams consisting of micronized Creatine Monohydrate, Creatine Nitrate, and Creatine Hydrochloride. CN3&trad; is an amazing product to be taken before, during, or after a workout. Looking to amplify Strength & Pumps? CN3&trad; has got you covered!

  • Strength & Pump Amplifier
  • Stimulant free
  • Includes Creatine Monohydrate, Creatine Nitrate, and Creatine HCL
  • Unflavored or flavored

Cellucor CLK® is a stimulant free toning and sculpting supplement built on the power of four all-star weight loss ingredients: CLA, Raspberry Ketones, Carnitine, and the latest in diet support; Slimpro®.

  • Stimulant Free Fat Loss
  • Stimulant free toning and sculpting formula
  • Powered by four ingredients to support weight loss
  • Can be taken standalone, or paired with C4 Ripped (C4 Ripped contains stimulants)
  • Raspberry flavored softgels

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