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Keying in on Pre-, Intra- and Post-Workouts

Sports Nutrition Sports Nutrition

There are several different ways that the market could be segmented or categorized for sports nutrition. Sports nutrition as a category can be broken down into specific time points in and around the workout that are being highlighted by the product being formulated. The idea of stacking supplements is nothing new, but it’s almost a three-dimensional stacking at this point; not only stacking supplements for synergistic effects but also stacking different supplements at different times of the day to optimize their efficacy in conjunction with a workout. The main focus in this regard would be pre-workout, intra-workout, and post-workout products.

Pre-workout supplements and products are formulated to provide the fuel needed for the workout as well as to increase energy and focus. To put it simply, if you aren’t prepared to workout, both in body and mind, then your workout won’t be optimal. In terms of building muscle, pre-workout formulations should be formulated to increase protein synthesis, strength, and endurance, improve nutrient delivery, and to decrease muscle breakdown during training. This means the pre-workout regimen should assist with creating an optimal hormonal environment (insulin, growth hormone, adrenaline, etc.), and include amino acids to assist with protein synthesis and strength. Additionally most pre-workout formulations contain “energy” compounds such as caffeine, which will help with improving focus. Caffeine also has been shown to stimulate the central nervous system, resulting in increased levels of adrenaline and epinephrine, which may help delay fatigue, and can dampen pain perception through the blocking of adenosine receptors.

Intra-workout products should be tailored to suit the consumer’s specific goals, be it muscle building, fat burning or both. For muscle building, it should contain antioxidant compounds (such as plant polyphenols quercetin and pterostilbene, vitamins such as vitamin E, or other compounds such as alpha lipoic acid and N-acetyl cysteine). These ingredients will help protect the muscle from the damage caused by free radicals, which are byproducts of cellular respiration and accumulate rapidly during high intensity workouts and endurance exercises. Again, depending on the final desired outcome, intra workout formulations should contain sources of “cellular energy” such as carbohydrates, which will provide glucose needed to keep the body going for the long haul.

For post workout products, the key is recovery and tissue building. Recovery formulations should go above and beyond rehydration and the replenishment of electrolytes lost during activity and also focus on repairing the damage caused by the workouts in the first place—from inflammation and joint stress to muscle microtears, oxidative stress, and immunocompromise. Recovery is critical because without taking the proper measures the main benefits of the workout may never be realized. Take weightlifting for muscle building for example. During the process of lifting weights the muscles suffer numerous microtears. The healing of these microtears is what ultimately makes the muscle stronger and more resistant to major tears and serious injury. Amino acids, such as creatine and arginine and branch chain amino acids, are key components to the microtear healing process, and recovering from a workout without their help may slow down both the healing process and the building of muscle strength. The key is to formulate these building blocks of protein in a way to increase their uptake by the body and at the same time to incorporate other compounds that may assist with this process or help streamline their use in recovery at the cellular level. One way to increase the cellular uptake of amino acids is to micronize them, which assists in their absorption by reducing their particle size. Additionally they can be ionically bound to other compounds (such as longer polypeptides), which will allow them to be absorbed through different digestive pathways. Addition of compounds that encourage endothelial nitric oxide (eNOS) activation will also help with repair timing and efficiency.

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