Peri-Workout Supplements: Complete Pre, Intra & Post-Workout Guide

Peri-Workout Supplements: Complete Pre, Intra & Post-Workout Guide
With so many workout supplement choices where do you start? This guide takes a complete look at supplement ingredients, and includes recommendations and timing.
  1. 1. Inroduction
    1. 1.1. What exactly is the so-called “Anabolic Window of Opportunity”?
    2. 1.2. Does the “Anabolic Window of Opportunity” matter then?
  2. 2. What basic supplements to consider Peri-Workout
    1. 2.1. Creatine Monohydrate
    2. 2.2. Branched Chain Amino Acids (and other Essential Amino Acids)
    3. 2.3. Caffeine (1,3,7-trimethylxanthine)
    4. 2.4. Beta-alanine
    5. 2.5. Agmatine (Sulfate)
    6. 2.6. L-Citrulline (Malate)
  3. 3. Example Peri-workout Supplement Stack
  4. 4. Wrap Up
  • What the anabolic window is, and why it is such a hotly discussed topic.
  • About the most popular peri-workout supplement ingredients and what their benefits are.
  • When and how much of each supplement ingredient is recommended,
  • Who should consider each supplement ingredient, and who should avoid them.
  • What a quality peri-workout supplement stack might consist of.

Introduction

It can be a bit overwhelming when one first peruses the catalog of a supplement vendor or strolls into a local supplement store; the sheer multitude of products on the market makes choosing a select few a daunting task, especially for those without prior supplement knowledge. While many supplements will undoubtedly produce some sort of noticeable positive effect on the user (versus taking nothing at all), there is still the issue of diminishing returns.

Many supplements do have merit to some degree, but the cost-to-benefit ratio must be considered as well. Given this, this guide will serve as a basic foundation for supplement users seeking the most bang for their buck in terms of peri-workout supplements.

The term “peri-workout” has been colloquially used in bodybuilding subculture to refer to the entirety of the pre, intra, and post-workout time frames. Questions from most any gym rat will arise such as “What are the best supplements after hitting the iron?” and “What’s the best fat-burning aid before I do cardio?”

Moreover, what does the literature say about all of this? Does it matter if one takes their creatine before a workout as opposed to after it? What happens if you take BCAAs after training instead of during your workout? Is the purported “anabolic window of opportunity” really that critical or is it just an overhyped concept perpetuated in the fitness and physique realms? Well there are sources and anecdotes that support both the “anabolic window” and “timing is irrelevant” suppositions; this guide will delve into both of those theories and from there we can assess what you should be doing from a supplementation standpoint before, during and after your workout.

*Note: Protein and carbohydrate supplements will be discussed in the peri-workout nutrition guide to minimize convolution.

What exactly is the so-called “Anabolic Window of Opportunity”?

Intra Workout SupplementsThe “anabolic window of opportunity” is a term denoting the immediate time period after one performs their weight training session. The general forethought here is that weight training elicits a host of acute metabolic responses that are favorable to nutrient and supplement uptake. An example of this is the body’s intensified insulin sensitivity (i.e. ability to uptake glucose) after performing resistance training. (1)

Given the extremism that inherently comes with the territory in the supplement industry, many companies will take a sound concept (or theory), such as the previous example, and push it to the limit of absurdity in hopes of attracting consumers. Take for example the use of superfluous amounts of dextrose (i.e. glucose) in certain creatine monohydrate products in hopes of “shuttling” more of the creatine into muscle tissue. These extrapolations often originate from seemingly practical studies that conclude a moderate amount of “X” results in a positive outcome for “Y”.

The key point to remember here is that correlation does not necessarily equal causation, especially when reviewing literature and studies or even anecdotal evidence. If Brutus Biceps takes supplement “X” and has 20-inch bazookas that alone doesn’t justify that his arms are a direct result of using that supplement. On the same token, if one study concludes that carbohydrate ingestion results in a positive uptake of creatine into muscle tissue, that doesn’t necessitate the need for mega-doses of carbohydrates to maximize creatine uptake. To tie this back into the “anabolic window of opportunity”, just be careful to avoid extremes and exercise caution when you see an all-or-nothing approach to supplementation.

Does the “Anabolic Window of Opportunity” matter then?

Well, in short, yes and no. I feel a more proper way to approach this topic is to view the “anabolic window” not in terms of its acute effects, but rather its implications on lasting metabolic adaptations. Essentially, resistance training does indeed provide an “anabolic window of opportunity” but that window doesn’t just open and close all at once; the adaptations your body makes in response to resistance training will last you a lifetime if you stick to your program.

Many people will freak out if they forget to take their whey protein and “insulin-spiking” waxy maize precisely 15 minutes after weight training because they fear they have missed the optimal “window” for their body to utilize those nutrients. I assure you that this is not the case.

An example of this was elucidated in a meta-analysis of type-2 diabetics and the effects of a sustained resistance-training program on their insulin sensitivity; several months of weight training was found to significantly lower the insulin response to a glucose challenge without affecting glucose tolerance, and to increase the rate of glucose clearance during a euglycaemic clamp. (2)

Furthermore, studies have consistently found that acute responses to resistance training are generally overshadowed by the benefits observed in individuals who consistently stick to such a program. Evidence seems to suggest this comes from the finding that habitual resistance training causes changes in muscle morphology from glycolytic, typeII-b muscle fibers to the more oxidative typeII-a muscle fibers. (2) This is a significant adaptation since typeII-a muscle fibers have a greater capillary density than that of typeII-b fibers and thus are more responsive to insulin.

So, what the heck does this all mean for the majority of gym rats? In layman’s terms it means the most significant adaptations and benefits you derive from resistance training will come after a sustained regimen (i.e. months of training) is followed. In essence, your body’s capacity to utilize nutrients and synthesize muscle tissue will be improved even when you’re just sitting around and going about daily life, not just in the immediate time period after you train.

This is not to say acute metabolic responses to resistance training aren’t important, because there are certainly short-term benefits to weight training, such as endorphin release, increased GLUT4 expression, and vasodilation of skeletal muscle. (2) But it's important to keep the big picture in mind and not stress too much over “missing the opportunity” when it comes to supplements after training. That being said, there are still benefits to taking advantage of the acute responses to weight training and the rest of this guide will give some insight into how to reap what you sow in the gym with a variety of supplements.

What basic supplements to consider Peri-Workout

Below you will find a detailed guide (in no particular order) of some popular supplements to consider utilizing peri-workout. The guide will elaborate on what benefits each supplement provides, a brief description of how they work in the body, their recommended dosings, who should consider using them, possible side effects, and when to take them.

Peri Workout

Citrulline has been shown to have synergistic effects with a variety of other ingredients, making it the perfect complement to one’s peri-workout supplement stash.

Creatine Monohydrate

Arguably the most popular supplement available (and for good reason), creatine monohydrate has stood the test of time when it comes to weight training and athletic performance. It’s one of the most efficient supplements to consider when looking at its cost-to-benefit ratio and safety/tolerability.

How creatine works: The energy currency of the cell is known as adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP). Essentially, your muscle are constantly using up and restoring ATP levels in order to perform work (i.e. contract). One way to restore depleted ATP stores in muscle cells is through the phosphocreatine energy system. This is achieved upon donation of a highly energetic phosphate from a phosphocreatine molecule to an ADP (adenosine di-phosphate) molecule, thus forming a new ATP molecule.

Primary Benefits:

  • Increases intracellular water levels in muscle cells, which in turn increases protein synthesis (3)
  • Bolsters ATP production, resulting in increased power/strength output (4)
  • Acts as a neuroprotective agent since brain cells rely heavily on ATP for membrane integrity (5)

Possible side effects:

  • Bloating/cramping (even though “bloating” in this sense is actually conducive to creatine stimulating muscle growth)
  • Dehydration (if not drinking ample water)

Who should or should not use creatine:

  • Athletes
  • Bodybuilders/physique competitors
  • Powerlifters/strongman competitors
  • Avoid use if you have renal issues or diabetes
When to take:
  • Preferably pre-workout but its not a major issue when creatine is ingested so long as it is kept consistent
Recommended dosing:
  • Most studies have concluded that once a saturation point is achieved creatine can be dosed between 3-5 grams/day to sustain intracellular levels.5

NOTE: Creatine may be “front-loaded” at a higher dose (generally 8-10g/day, split in two doses) to achieve quicker saturation of cells, but this isn’t required.

Workout SupplementsCreatine FAQs:

Q: Is creatine a steroid?

A: I have no clue where this common claim originated from but the answer is no, just no.

Q: Does creatine cause kidney damage?

A: No, not unless you’re taking exceptionally high amounts (and even then its unlikely). Creatine may be a risk for those with pre-existing renal impairment, but there is little evidence that nominal doses cause such issues.

Q: I’m using creatine and notice I urinate more often, is this normal?

A: Unbeknownst to you, its likely due to an increase in the amount of fluids you consume, not the creatine itself.

Q: I see a lot of talk about kre-alkalyn and creatine ethyl ester, are these better than the monoydrate form?

A: Contrary to popular belief, these purported “highly absorbable” forms of creatine are actually less bio-available than the tried-and-true monohydrate form.

Q: Can I mix creatine with other powder-based supplements?

A: Yes, that’s fine (and often times favorable).

Branched Chain Amino Acids (and other Essential Amino Acids)

BCAA (and EAA) supplements have received a lot of scrutiny in recent years, as there seems to be evidence both for and against their purported benefits. That being said, its hard to argue with the fact that one can derive a noticeable benefit from supplementing with BCAAs and/or EAAs due to their inherent ability to positively regulate the mTOR pathway. (6) They are also affordable and virtually side-effect free.

How BCAAs/EAAs work: The primary mechanism of action appears to be that L-leucine is a positive regulator of key enzymes in the mTOR pathway. (6) However, L-leucine on its own does not sufficiently increase muscle protein synthesis (it is more efficient in the presence of insulin and other EAAs). (7)

Primary Benefits:

  • Enhances muscle protein synthesis/muscle hypertrophy6
  • Promotes recovery/reduces muscle damage during resistance training8

Possible side effects:

  • Fatigue and loss of motor coordination (but extremely rare)

Who should or should not use BCAAs/EAAs

  • Athletes
  • Bodybuilders/physique competitors
  • Powerlifters/strongman competitors
  • Avoid use if you have Lou Gehrig’s disease or branched-chain ketoaciduria
When to take:
  • Most studies have demonstrated positive ramifications from BCAA/EAA use when taken immediately before and after resistance training.8 Some people also enjoy sipping on them during their workout which is fine as well.
Recommended dosing:
  • Will vary on the individuals size and the ratio of the BCAA mixture; a starting point is to use ~10g of BCAAs with a 4:1:1 ratio of leucine, valine, and isoleucine, respectively.
  • Follow the product label if unsure of how to implement BCAAs/EAAs into your peri-workout protocol

Intra Workout Supplementation

Agmatine is a bit more expensive then it’s arginine counterpart, but it’s also noticeably more effective on a per gram basis and provides a multitude of benefits.

BCAA FAQs:

Q: Couldn’t I just take whey protein instead of BCAAs?

A: It depends on what you’re trying to accomplish; BCAAs (and other free-form amino acids) are much quicker to be utilized since they are unbound moieties, whereas whey protein needs to be digested to a degree before plasma amino acid levels will rise.

Q: Do I need a BCAA/EAA supplement if I already eat a sufficient amount of protein?

A: Need? No. Could you still benefit? Yes. Like most any supplement, you need to determine the cost-to-benefit ratio and find what suits your goals. BCAAs/EAAs are generally very affordable and have a host of benefits, so it is hard to not recommend them to avid resistance trainees.

Caffeine (1,3,7-trimethylxanthine)

A substance that needs little introduction, caffeine is the most used OTC drug in the world and for good reason. (9) Caffeine is an organic, alkaline substance and a derivative of xanthine. It’s primarily found in tea leaves, coffee beans, guarana, various fruits, and other sources. Its sister homologues--theobromine (aka 3,7-dimethylxanthine) and theophylline (aka 1,3-dimethylxanthine)--are primarily found in kola nut and cacao plant. It is readily available, very affordable, relatively safe (when implemented properly) and an exceptional ergogenic aid.

How caffeine works: Caffeine serves as a central nervous system and myocardial (heart) stimulant and is often therapeutically used to treat disorders such as COPD and asthma due to its bronchodilating property. It acts as an acetylcholinesterase and phosphodiesterase (PDE) inhibitor; for performance we are mainly concerned with the latter of the two. PDE enzymes serve to break phosphodiester bonds such as those in cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) and cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP).

In brief, cAMP and cGMP convey signals from various hormones and other substrates from cell-membrane receptors to intracellular target-molecules. When these signals are amplified by cAMP and cGMP, metabolic processes are more rapid, and this can have dramatic effects on physical and psychological performance.

Primary Benefits:[10,11,12]

  • Enhances carbohydrate metabolism
  • May support fat loss by increasing fatty acid oxidation
  • Provides psychostimulation by increasing epinephrine (adrenaline) levels
  • Increases oxygen uptake via bronchodilation
  • Decreases muscle interstitial potassium levels

Possible side effects (generally dose-dependent):

*Keeping caffeine intake within recommended dose ranges and cycling on and off the drug every few weeks (or months) should ameliorate most of these side effects.

  • Dehydration/cramping/gastrointestinal distress
  • Headache/nausea/dizziness
  • Frequent urination (i.e. it’s a diuretic)
  • Heart palpitations
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Mental Issues: Irritability, Anxiety, Nervousness, Depression, etc
  • Decreased fine motor skills

NOTE: Caffeine is toxic/possibly lethal at exceptionally high doses (>5g/day); treat it like you would any other drug and avoid abuse.

Who should or should not use caffeine:

  • Physique competitors
  • Powerlifters
  • Aerobic/endurance athletes
  • Those looking for an acute mental boost
  • Avoid (until approved by your physician) taking if you have withstanding medical conditions (especially if cardiac related)

*Caffeine is unique in that it is a CNS stimulant and may be tolerated/perceived differently among individuals. Given this, it is advisable to monitor your intake of caffeine and assess if it fits your goals for exercise/mental performance

Workout Nutrition

Beta-alanine is similar to creatine in that its effects are not fully derived until muscle carnosine levels are significantly elevated, which may take days to weeks.

When to take:

Caffeine is a relatively quick-acting drug with a short half-life (~4-6 hours, assuming your liver is working properly), so it is generally recommended to ingest your dose about 30-60 minutes before your workout or competition.

If you are taking the caffeine on an empty stomach you could get away with as few as 10-15 minutes as food will slightly slow absorption rate. If you prefer to ingest a pre-workout meal, I would aim to take your caffeine in about one to two hours after said meal (this should help minimize any acute GI distress that may arise).

If you workout in the late evening, it is advised to avoid or limit caffeine intake since it may interrupt your sleeping pattern.

Recommended dosing:

The general dose recommendations for performance enhancement with caffeine are 1-3mg per kg of bodyweight  (1kg=2.2lbs). (13)

Ex: If you’re an 81kg (~180lb) athlete, your dose range will land around 80 to 240mg. This is where one will need to assess their individual goals along with their tolerance to caffeine through trial and error.

Cycling caffeine use to avoid desensitization:

Caffeine may become addictive and the nominal dose to achieve performance benefit will gradually increases as one develops tolerance to the drug. This is why most coffee drinkers can slam a triple-shot espresso and not feel a thing, or they get a short-lived burst of energy and crash 20 minutes later. If you’ve reached such a point, I strongly encourage you to back off the caffeine either gradually or cold turkey (if you can handle the withdrawal for a few days).

The time it takes for one to become “stimmed out” is still up for debate as the variables that come into play are too numerous, so a general recommendation is that for every 8-12 weeks of using caffeine, one should take 1 to 2 weeks off of it (and most any OTC stimulants). This will be another case of trial and error though, if you find you handle caffeine well and are still obtaining positive effects 4-5 months in a row, then listen to your body and keep dosing caffeine. Contrarily, if you are 3 weeks in with supplementing caffeine and you feel horrible (with or without your daily dose), then it’s time to reconsider your approach and back off for a bit.

Caffeine FAQs:

Q: Since caffeine is a diuretic and creatine promotes water retention won’t taking both be mutually exclusive?

A: No, in fact caffeine has been shown to promote creatine uptake. (14) You will however need to make sure you stay sufficiently hydrated.

Q: Does it matter what source (coffee, supplemental powder or capsules, tea, etc) I obtain my caffeine from?

A: Nope, caffeine is a discreet chemical; synthetic and organic versions of it act identical physiologically.

Q: Should I take multiple doses of caffeine spread throughout the day or should I just take one large dose at once?

A: This is really up to you, the user. It also depends on how much caffeine you plan to take in, as a large dose of caffeine at once could cause many of the aforementioned side effects.

Q: I drink coffee pretty much everyday, how can I tell if I’m dependent on caffeine?

A: Simple, cut the coffee out for a few days and see if you notice a significant decrease in cognition and physical performance. If you do, then its time to cycle off the caffeine for a bit.

Workout Supplements

The time it takes to become “stimmed out” is still up for debate. So a general recommendation is that for every 8-12 weeks of caffeine use, take 1-2 weeks off.

Beta-alanine

Structurally speaking, the amino acid alanine exists as two distinct isomers (denoted by the amino group bonding to the alpha or beta carbon). Alpha-alanine is one of the 20 genetically encoded amino acids and is abundant in many biomolecules, whereas beta-alanine is not used in any major enzyme or protein biosynthetic pathways. Instead, beta-alanine is primarily found in naturally occurring peptides such as anserine and carnosine, the latter of which is an important dipeptide (made up of histidine and beta alanine) in muscle cells and is limited by the availability of beta-alanine. Thus, beta-alanine supplementation confers benefits to athletes looking to increase anaerobic and aerobic performance by increasing concentration of carnosine in muscles. Furthermore, beta-alanine is generally inexpensive and well tolerated by individuals.

How beta-alanine works: The majority of studies concluding beta-alanine has benefits to athletic performance have demonstrated that the effect is the result of carnosine levels in muscle tissue. (15) The mechanism by which carnosine boosts athletic performance stems from increased buffering capacity in working muscles which subsequently delays the onset of muscular fatigue. (16)

Primary Benefits:

  • Increases intramuscular carnosine content
  • Delays onset of muscular fatigue (15)
  • Increases capability of muscles to perform work, which subsequently supports muscle anabolism (16)
  • Promotes vasodilation/pumps since carnosine generates NO synthase

Possible side effects:

  • The primary side effect of beta-alanine is paraesthesia, also colloquially termed “beta-alanine tingles” by many supplement companies. This is variable among individuals and appears to attenuate itself by finding the proper dosage.

Who should or should not use beta-alanine:

  • Predominantly those involved in anaerobically-taxing sports, such as sprinting, weightlifting, etc.
  • Physique competitors
  • Powerlifters
  • Possibly those in aerobically-taxing sports such as distance runners, but there is limited data to support this aspect.
When to take:

Beta-alanine is similar to creatine in that its effects are not fully derived until muscle carnosine levels are significantly elevated, which may take days to weeks. Therefore, it’s okay to supplement with beta-alanine at times that are not peri-workout, but for practicality it’s usually easier to mix it in with your other peri-workout supplements.

Recommended dosing:
  • A baseline dose of 10mg/kg should be established for tolerance purposes, from there doses can be incrementally increased until roughly 3-6g is being ingested daily

*(NOTE: Be sure to split your doses up so you don’t take too much at once; large, acute doses can cause a severe amount of paraesthesia)

Beta-alanine FAQs:

Q:Why not just take carnosine supplements in place of beta-alanine?

A: Carnosine is generally much less efficient than beta-alanine, both in terms of cost and effects (i.e. you would have to take a much larger dose of carnosine to elevate muscle carnosine levels versus just taking in beta-alanine alone).

Q: I’ve been taking beta-alanine for a week with little noticeable effect, should I stop taking it?

A: The effects of beta-alanine may take several weeks to set in, therefore give it a good month or two before making any decision about continuing your use of beta-alanine.

Q: Will these “beta-alanine tingles” ever dissipate?

A: Unfortunately, the paraesthesia induced from beta-alanine may occur each time you take it, but over time it should become more tolerable.

Post Workout Supplements

Many people freak out if they forget to take their whey protein 15 minutes after weight training. They fear missing the optimal “window.” I assure you that this is not the case.

Agmatine (Sulfate)

Agmatine is a newer compound (relatively speaking) in terms of its incorporation in supplements, and may even be unheard of to many supplement users; given its vast potential in human health and athletic performance, I would surmise agmatine is soon to be a not-so-secret weapon in many people’s supplement arsenal. Agmatine is the decarboxylated derivative of arginine (a nonessential amino acid), and the purported “pump” that arginine is supposed to elicit via synthesis of nitric oxide may be more properly attributed to agmatine. (18) One way I like to describe agmatine to those who aren’t familiar with it is to say, “Agmatine is what arginine pretends to be in the supplement industry.”

The literature is still a bit scarce on agmatine’s role in exercise since it is somewhat new to the supplement industry, but what’s been published is promising and the majority of anecdotes from those who have used it are highly positive. Agmatine is a bit more expensive then it’s arginine counterpart, but it’s also noticeably more effective on a per gram basis and provides a multitude of benefits not seen with arginine supplementation. It’s also safe and well tolerated in nominal doses.

How agmatine works: It was once thought that agmatine was not synthesized in higher life forms, but it is now known that humans do in fact produce agmatine in the brain. (18) There are multiple mechanisms that agmatine acts through to induce its benefits, such as altering certain enzymes of the nitric oxide synthase (NOS) family, and by activating transmembrane receptors like imidazoline 1 and alpha(2)-adrenergic receptors. (20) In short, these mechanisms result in positive changes to vasodilation/blood flow, insulin sensitivity, and psyche, all of which are favorable to an athlete/trainee.

Primary Benefits:

  • Vasodilation (i.e. promotes “the pump”) via modulation of the nitric oxide synthase family of enzymes (18)
  • Improves insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism (19)
  • Increases secretion of beta-endorphin from the hypothalamus and pituitary gland (the “feel good” neurotransmitter) (20)
  • Acts as an anti-inflammatory agent (18)
  • Provides neurprotective benefits and positively effects stress-related disorders (20)

Possible side effects:

  • Gastrointestinal distress (21)
  • Lowers pain threshold (only seen with excessively high doses) (21)

Who should or should not use agmatine:

  • Physique competitors
  • Powerlifters
  • Those looking for an increased “pump” during training
  • Individuals looking for stress relief and enhanced mood

*Be cautious of concurrent use with any drugs/medications that alter the same receptors as agmatine

When to take:
  • Preferably, agmatine should be taken about 30 minutes before resistance training

May also be dosed periodically throughout the day if using it for insulin sensitivity or neuromodulation purposes

Recommended dosing (*for agmatine sulfate):
  • Start with a smaller dose of 250mg, working your way up to 750-1000mg (if necessary, some individuals notice many of agmatine’s benefits even at a lower dose)

Intra Workout Supplementation

The term “peri-workout” has been colloquially used in bodybuilding subculture to refer to the entirety of the pre, intra, and post-workout time frames.

Agmatine FAQs:

Q: Do I need to cycle on and off agmatine?

A: Agmatine can be used daily if desired and it appears to be safe in the long term.

Q: I am highly stressed out and my antidepressant medication isn’t helping; can I replace it with agmatine?

A: This is something you need to discuss with your primary care physician before making a decision.

Q: Can I still take arginine even if I’m taking agmatine already?

A: Yes, but it may not add much noticeable effect.

L-Citrulline (Malate)

Citrulline is an alpha-amino acid that is not coded by human DNA but is still found in certain proteins. Similarly to agmatine, citrulline can be produced as a by-product of arginine oxidation, and also in the urea cycle. It is found in minute amounts in the rind of watermelon and is becoming a more prominent ingredient in the field of dietary supplements. Citrulline has been shown to have synergistic effects with a variety of other ingredients, making it the perfect complement to one’s peri-workout supplement stash. It is also highly safe and affordable to boot.

How citrulline works: The primary mechanism of action of citrulline is augmentation of nitric oxide-dependent signaling. (22) Oral citrulline supplementation has been shown to increase increase plasma L-arginine concentration and thus enhances production of arginine-derived metabolites (i.e. nitrite, ornithine, creatinine, etc). (22) It also exerts benefits by enhancing the use of other amino acids, especially BCAAs.

Primary Benefits:

  • Increases intracellular NO production which is a positive regulator of vasodilation and blood flow (23)
  • Enhances the utilization of essential amino acids during exercise (22)
  • Enhances elimination of endotoxins (22)
  • Increases growth hormone levels to a higher degree in individuals after resistance training as compared to a placebo group (22)
  • Reduces/inhibits the increase in plasma insulin levels that usually arises after high-intensity exercise (24)

Possible side effects:

  • In some instances citrulline may cause stomach discomfort
  • Who should or should not use citrulline:
  • Physique competitors
  • Athletes involved in aerobic and/or anaerobic events/sports
  • Powerlifters
  • Those looking for increased blood flow and “pumps” during training
When to take:
  • Optimally, citrulline should be taken about 15-30 minutes before training.
  • Can also take it during and/or after training if desired
Recommended dosing:
  • Start with a once-daily dose of 6-7g
  • If desired, dose may be increased to 15-20g split into multiple doses throughout the day

Citrulline Malate FAQs:

Q: I’ve heard citrulline should be taken on an empty stomach, is this true?

A: This is likely due to the rare occurrence of stomach distress that may occur after ingesting citrulline; it is fine to take citrulline at meal times if you tolerate it well.

Q: How long does it usually take for me to notice the effects of citrulline?

A: This will vary for most individuals, but acute effects such as toxin removal will happen after the first dose; more latent benefits such as strength increases may take a few weeks though.

Example Peri-workout Supplement Stack

Pre-workout (taken ~30-45 minutes before training)
Intra-workout (sip on throughout your training session)
Post-workout (ASAP after training)

Wrap-up

This is by no means an exhaustive list of supplements to consider peri-workout, but rather a solid foundation stack that most any active individual could benefit from. Supplements are always evolving and it’s certainly wise to try out new products if you feel that there is a potential benefit for you. Hopefully these basic supplements can serve as your platform to better performance in the gym and achieving your health and fitness goals.

References:

1. Wallberg-Henriksson H, Rincon J, Zierath JR. Exercise in the management of non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.Sports Med. 1998 Jan;25(1):25-35. Review. Erratum in: Sports Med 1998 Feb;25(2):130. PubMed PMID: 9458525.

2. Ivy JL. Role of exercise training in the prevention and treatment of insulin resistance and non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Sports Med. 1997 Nov;24(5):321-36. Review. PubMed PMID: 9368278.

3. Fitch, C.D. & Shields, R.P. Creatine metabolism in skeletal muscle. I. Creatine movement across muscle membranes. J. 8iol. Chem. 1966; 241, 361 1-14.

4. Hultman, E.. Bergstrom, J. & McLennon-Anderson, N. Breakdown and resynthesis of phosphorylcreatine and adenosinetriphosphate in connection with muscular work in man. Scand. J. Clin. Lab. Invest. 1967; 19, 56-66,

5. Buford TW, et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: creatine supplementation and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. (2007)

6. Blomstrand E, Eliasson J, Karlsson HK, Köhnke R. Branched-chain amino acids activate key enzymes in protein synthesis after physical exercise. J Nutr. 2006 Jan;136(1 Suppl):269S-73S. Review. PubMed PMID: 16365096.

7. Suryawan A, Torrazza RM, Gazzaneo MC, Orellana RA, Fiorotto ML, El-Kadi SW, Srivastava N, Nguyen HV, Davis TA.Enteral leucine supplementation increases protein synthesis in skeletal and cardiac muscles and visceral tissues of neonatal pigs through mTORC1-dependent pathways. Pediatr Res. 2012 Apr;71(4 Pt 1):324-31. doi: 10.1038/pr.2011.79. Epub 2012 Feb 15. PubMed PMID: 22391631; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3619200.

8. Howatson G, Hoad M, Goodall S, Tallent J, Bell PG, French DN. Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012 May 8;9(1):20. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 22569039; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3395580.

9. Lovett, Richard (2005-09-24). "Coffee: The demon drink?". New Scientist (2518). Retrieved 2013-04-21.(subscription required)

10. Beck TW, Housh TJ, Malek MH, Mielke M, Hendrix R. The acute effects of a caffeine-containing supplement on bench press strength and time to running exhaustion. J Strength Cond Res. 2008 Sep;22(5):1654-8. PubMed PMID: 18714218.

11. Woolf K, Bidwell WK, Carlson AG. The effect of caffeine as an ergogenic aid in anaerobic exercise. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2008 Aug;18(4):412-29. PubMed PMID: 18708685.

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About The Author
Elliot is a raw powerlifter who enjoys researching the science behind how the human body works. He has a BS in Biochemistry.

8 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Tue, 01/19/2016 - 02:34
ILL-HESHMI

One thing i did not understand about caffeine is that the article mentions it "is often therapeutically used to treat disorders such as COPD and asthma" but then states "Avoid if you have withstanding medical conditions (especially if cardiac related)". The reason of my confusion is that i believe these two statements contradict each other. Aren't COPD and asthma cardiac related? someone please help me with this one.

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Posted Tue, 01/19/2016 - 10:27
MikeWines

I'm not sure about COPD but apparently there is some research showing a similarity in the chemical composition of caffeine to specific medicine used to treat asthma: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11687099

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Posted Tue, 05/28/2013 - 15:22
jajumow

hi iam jajumow from kenya so i like gym

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Posted Fri, 05/24/2013 - 18:18
suki

10g of BCAA ??

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Posted Sat, 07/13/2013 - 03:16
Roman

Yeah, to some that quantity may seem excessive, however to others it seems trivial. Of the old-school arcane formulae for intense muscle building, one of the practices was/is to ingest one gram of protein per pound of body fat(!). I had a hard time believing that (in my case) eating 160 grams of protein would do anything more than give me an upset tummy. With the modern BCAAs (fancy Whey Hydrolysate essentially) however, this seems pretty legitimate based on their assimilation rate and other tertiary effects.

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Posted Tue, 05/14/2013 - 20:43
Ricardo

Nice article and it actually helped me understand a few worries I had about creatine.. thanks!

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Posted Thu, 05/09/2013 - 18:38
zach stubbs

Fantastic article Elliot! Well done.

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Posted Fri, 05/10/2013 - 16:57
Elliot

Thank you for taking the time to read it, I appreciate that!