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Pre-workout and Post-workout Supplements (The Clear Answer) 

Donald Christman
Published by Donald Christman
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: June 21, 2022

What you take before your workout is just as important as what you take afterward.

Apart from your typical workout supplements, pre and post-workouts help you build muscle, assist with weight loss and aid the overall recovery, so I decided to synthesize my knowledge about them in this article, so I can better educate my clients.

Let’s take an in-depth look at what the main differences are and why these supplements could play an essential role in your diet and fitness goals.

Quick Summary

  • A pre-workout supplement is designed to boost your energy levels before a workout, whereas a post-workout supplement helps you with recovery.
  • Both pre-workout and post-workout supplements are powders that can be mixed with water and consumed.
  • Both pre and post-workout supplements are designed to make you get the most out of your training session.

Pre-Workout versus Post-Workout: What’s the Difference?

Getting a scoop from a supplement powder container

The main difference between pre and post-workout is in the name: you take the former before your workout and the latter after it.

But naturally, there are a few other differences as well:

  • Pre-workouts are designed to give you an energy boost before your workout.
  • Post-workouts are designed to speed up your recovery after your training.
  • Pre-workout nutrition includes food that fuels you before any intense physical activity. It's designed to sustain your energy and prevent glycogen depletion (glycogen is a type of sugar molecule, and it’s a primary fuel for your cells).
  • Post-workout nutrition focuses on foods like protein and individual amino acids that aid muscle growth and recovery.
  • And when it comes to meals, a pre-workout meal is usually smaller than a post-workout meal.
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Pre-workout Supplements Benefits

Woman flexing arms

The primary benefit of pre-workout supplements is that they are designed to increase your energy levels and improve your athletic performance.

In case you opt to eat food for your pre-workout, we recommend you do so for around 1 to 3 hours before getting into your workout routine.

This will give your body enough time to digest and absorb the nutrients it needs from the food.

Certain foods like PB&J, oatmeal, bananas, yogurt, and trail mix are excellent sources of carbs, which can fuel your body with the energy it needs before your workout [1].

However, many gym-goers are in a time crunch, so they opt for supplements because they’re faster to consume and absorb.

Let’s get into the benefits of taking pre-workout supplements in more detail:

However, many gym-goers are in a time crunch, so they opt for supplements because they’re faster to consume and absorb.

Let’s get into the benefits of taking pre-workout supplements in more detail:

Anaerobic Power Boost

Research has shown that taking pre-workout before exercise may boost anaerobic power performance [2].

In other words, it could help perform explosive and high-energy-demanding workouts.

Ingredients That Boost Physical Fitness

In my experience, the best pre-workouts contain the following ingredients: taurine, caffeine, and citrulline.

Here are the benefits of each of these ingredients:

  • Taurine: is known for boosting athletic performance, as well as nerve and heart health [3].
  • Caffeine: enhances physical performance and improves brain function [4].
  • Citrulline: boosts your athletic performance by increasing the amount of oxygen that reaches your tissues [5].

Post-workout Supplements Benefits

Naked healthy man

Post-workouts aid you with muscle-building after a workout.

They're usually made from branched-chain amino acids, better known as BCAAs.

Taking amino acid supplements will decrease muscle fatigue, repair muscles, and ease muscle soreness [6].

When you work out, your muscles experience tiny tears, which your body repairs and rebuilds. BCAAs provide muscle-building blocks to help this process.

The benefits of taking a post-workout are:

  • Aiding muscle repair
  • Increased strength for your next workout
  • Building muscle size and strength
  • Faster recovery

The Best Time to Take Each

A water and a pill

To make the most out of your pre and post-workout supplements, you should take them at the optimal time for each.

Best Time to Take Pre-workout

On average, the best time to take a pre-workout is around 30 to 45 minutes before a gym session.

Because it takes around that much time for your body to absorb it, if you take it right before exercising, it’ll be too late before you see its positive effects in your workout session.

An important thing to keep in mind here is that no exact science determines when exactly you should take your pre-workout.

That’s because the effectiveness of pre-workout depends on many factors: age, weight, height, muscle mass, rate of metabolism, and genetics.

Even controllable factors like when and how much you ate before working out can influence the efficiency of your pre-workout.

Best Time to Take Post-workout

Man drinking a post workout beverage

The best time to take post-workout is 15–30 minutes after exercising. If this is not possible, try taking it within 60 minutes after your workout.

If your workout sessions are at night, we recommend taking casein for your post-workout recovery.

That’s because casein takes hours to metabolize; your body can recover as you slumber away [7].

Muscle soreness after working out can be a pain, so we recommend you take creatine or a protein shake within an hour after working out.

It helps with improving muscle strength and recovery and fuels your body with essential amino acids [8].

​​"The primary reason to eat after a workout is to replenish what’s been lost during exercise, as well as to aid in recovery. You not only want to restore depleted glycogen stores, electrolytes, and fluids. You also must work on repairing damaged muscle tissue and building lean muscle mass."

- Dr. Natasha Trentacosta, MD, Orthopaedist

The Best Way to Take Them

There doesn’t seem to be any literature that suggests the best way to take pre and post-workout. But here are some tips based on my experience.

  • Mixing pre-workout supplements with water before exercising worked best for my clients.
  • If you prefer having a pre-workout meal, load up on pre-workout foods a couple of hours before hitting the weights.
  • Clients who took whey protein powders after their workout preferred mixing it with water, whereas some mixed it with milk.
  • However, those who preferred to eat took post-workout snacks around 60 minutes after working out.

FAQs

Do I Need a Post-workout?

Yes, you need a post-workout so you can reap the maximum benefits from your exercise routine. Post-workout supplements or meals will aid you with muscle recovery.

Is Protein Powder Better than Pre or Post-workout Supplements?

No, protein powder isn’t necessarily better than pre or post-workout supplements. In fact, protein powder is a common ingredient both in pre and post-workouts, and it can be taken as a post-workout supplement to fuel your muscles.

Final Thoughts on Pre and Post-workout

If you value your fitness goals, then you want to get the most out of your workouts. Taking pre-workouts and post-workouts is a great way to enhance your nutrition and achieve your dream physique.

I recommend checking this list of pre-workout supplements to my clients because their progress is essential to me. Every ingredient in these products is easily absorbable and allows them to perform high-intensity workouts that help them develop lean muscle and pure strength.

Take your gym training to the next level by checking out which product works best for you.


References:

  1. https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/ss/slideshow-foods-for-workout
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4947244/
  3. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1024/taurine
  4. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/coffee-before-workout
  5. https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-citrulline
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18974721/
  7. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1575/casein-protein
  8. https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-10-36

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