Pre- vs. Post-workout Supplements: Do You Really Need Them?

by Future Tilt March 29, 2024 5 min read

Pre- vs. Post-workout Supplements: Do You Really Need Them?

Timing is everything when it comes to sports nutrition. What serves as ideal fuel before your workout may not be so ideal during it . . . and what’s ideal during it may not be so ideal afterward!

In light of this it’s no wonder that both preworkout and postworkout supplements have gotten so popular. Today’s market is full of preworkouts designed to energize, postworkout supplements designed to build muscle, and pretty much everything in between.

But do you really need all this stuff to perform at your best — or, as Leonardo Davinci may have said, is simplicity the ultimate sophistication?

Keep reading to learn more.

  • Preworkout supplements: BCAAs, energy boosts, and more
  • Postworkout supplements: whey protein and other anabolic stuff
  • Do I even need post-workout supplements?
  • How to get your pre- and post-workout supplements all in one
  • Other pre and postworkout tips

Preworkout supplements: BCAAs, energy boosts, and more

The fuel you take in during the preworkout period goes a long way toward determining the quality of your workouts.

High-quality preworkout supplements are designed to energize and uplift by ‘freeing up’ energy for your upcoming workout.

They usually do this with the help of fast-absorbing carbs, BCAAs, and metabolism-boosting compounds like caffeine or ginseng.

Postworkout supplements: whey protein and other anabolic stuff

Post-workout supplements, on the other hand, are designed to replenish both energy and structure in the post-workout period.

They replenish energy by supplying your body with fast-absorbing carbs - this is one time when simple sugars can be good for you! The carbohydrates present in postworkout supplements refills your body’s glycogen reserves, leaving your whole body feeling fresh again.

And they replenish structure by supplying your body with protein powder (usually either whey protein or casein protein), glutamine, and/or other anabolic compounds. These compounds repair the ‘microtears’ that intense workouts cause. Over time, this cycle of breakdown and regrowth causes you to get progressively stronger.

A high-quality postworkout supplement may:

  • Reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness
  • Improve overall athletic performance
  • Replenish muscle glycogen
  • Promote muscle growth
  • Speed up recovery

Do I even need post-workout supplements?

The benefits mentioned above sound amazing . . . right? So amazing that it might be tempting to go out and acquire the best preworkout and post-workout supplements money can buy.

As great as these supplements are, though, they don’t provide a shortcut to your fitness goals. They’re simply a catalyst to help you get the most out of the training you’re already doing.

Doubling down on period-specific supplements can actually hinder your goals in some cases. If weight loss is your goal, you probably wouldn’t want to load up on high-carb preworkouts before training. Far better to stick with whole foods and retrain your body’s energy-production systems to burn fat for fuel instead! You’ll have more glycogen available on race day if you occasionally train with lower glycogen levels.

How to get your pre-, and postworkout supplements all in one

So . . . can you really get the pre- and post-workout nutrients your body needs from one product?

You sure can! Just as long as the product in question contains the following classes of ingredients.

1. L-Glutamine

L-glutamine is one of your body’s most preferred amino acids. It may improve muscle protein synthesis, stimulate the release of human growth hormone, and reduce post-workout muscle soreness. It may even support a healthy immune system, even throughout weeks or months of intense training! [1]


Short for branched-chain amino acids, BCAAs signal for muscle cell growth and replication. Leucine is one of the most anabolic BCAAs of all, so bonus points for products that contain this amino acid. L-carnitine is a powerful amino acid for workout recovery, too. [2][3]

3. Protein powder

Protein is an essential part of any quality postworkout supplement. High-quality protein is essential for overall workout recovery, notably muscle recovery. Which type of protein, you may ask? Whey protein isolate is generally considered the best source!

This type of whey protein absorbs super quickly, resulting in more anabolism (muscle growth) and shorter recovery times. Even endurance athletes who don’t want to develop huge muscles can benefit from whey protein’s restructuring nature.

4. Creatine

Creatine is one of the best-tested natural performance enhancers in existence. It creates a more optimal environment for building muscle by ensuring that the calories you take in fuel fat-free muscle mass, not fat. Creatine monohydrate and creatine anhydrous are both good choices here.

Creatine does have one potential downside, though: it can cause water retention within muscle bellies. Pure endurance athletes may find that gaining several pounds of water weight negates creatine’s other benefits. [4]

Other pre and postworkout tips

Once you’ve found a product that contains the above ingredient categories, the sky’s the limit - you might find that you’re able to optimize both pre- and post-workout nutrition simultaneously.

Here are a few other tips to take each and every one of your training timeslots to the next level.

Preworkout tips

Now may not be the right time to try a new dietary supplement — stick to your tried-and-true favorites instead. Don’t be afraid to include a little bit of healthy fat in your preworkout meal, either, as fat produces higher amounts of calories and ATP per gram than other macronutrients.

You can further supercharge your upcoming workout by ingesting some caffeine. Studies show that caffeine (yes, coffee counts!) may liberate stored energy, reduce your rate of perceived exertion, and more.

Intraworkout tips

This is slightly off-topic, but be sure to start your workouts with a thorough warmup. Warming up promotes blood flow and ensures you’re firing on all cylinders when it comes time to up your workout intensity. Other than a thorough warmup, be sure to consume plenty of electrolytes throughout your workout.

Postworkout tips

Combine your favorite protein powder, your favorite fruit, and your favorite dairy source and make a high-glycemic, high-pH protein shake! Weightlifters and other strength athletes can feel free to go extra heavy on the protein. Whole food protein sources (rich in L-glutamine, beta-alanine, valine, and more) are also great choices.

Whole-food carb sources like honey are great, too, this natural postworkout carb absorbs ultra-easily thanks to equal parts of glucose and fructose.

Author: Thomas Wrona

Date: 3/28/2024


  1. Coqueiro AY, Rogero MM, Tirapegui J. Glutamine as an Anti-Fatigue Amino Acid in Sports Nutrition. Nutrients. 2019.
  2. Mathieu Laplante, David M. Sabatini. mTOR signaling at a glance. 2019.
  3. Fielding, R., Riede, L., Lugo, J. P., & Bellamine, A. (2018). L-Carnitine Supplementation in Recovery after Exercise. Nutrients, 10(3).

Take the next step in your training regimen: Try any BRL Sports supplement risk-free! If our natural nutritional products aren’t the best you’ve ever used, simply return your purchase for a 100% refund — no questions asked!

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