3 useful supplements for high-intensity exercise

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No matter what fitness level you are, if you like to train hard, you need to be attentive to how you’re treating your body in and out of the gym. This means that you are training with intent and strategy. You’re also fueling the body appropriately to recover and meet the demands needed for the activity you love to perform regularly. 

Things like sleep, nutrition, and supplementation are all worth considering to improve performance and recovery for high-intensity exercise. High-intensity training can be defined as many things. For example, the high-intensity practice could be described as taking a class, performing circuit workouts, or just training super-heavy—all of these are high-intensity activities, but how we define that intensity varies slightly. 

We must recognize that not everyone will train the same way, so we need to individualize what we regularly consume to meet our needs and optimize our performance. In this article, we will focus on supplements for high-intensity workouts specifically. We’ll cover how to define the intensity and three great performance high-intensity workout supplements worth exploring.

‌‌‌‌What Is High-Intensity Training? 

In a workout setting, intensity is often defined as one of the means to gauge effort for the desired activity. It’s important to note that intensity’s definition can take different forms, and it’s not just “high-intensity interval training” or HIIT. Thus, anything that requires a lot of scalable physical effort could be regarded as “high-intensity.” 

When lifting weights, intensity could be defined as weight on the bar, so high intensity in a weightlifting setting would be heavier training for the day. In a “high-intensity” class setting, intensity is usually defined as the effort required to meet and match the metabolic demands set upon trainees in the class. For another example, if you’re an avid runner, then a higher-intensity training day could be defined as either a long run that demands a lot of effort or a run focused on elevating the heart rate.

None of the above ways of looking at intensity are inherently wrong, and this is why it’s essential to approach passion as being dynamic and individual to one’s activity. Much like how power is emotional, so is the supplementation required for certain activities that are deemed high-intensity.

‌‌‌‌Supplementing for High-Intensity Activities

When it comes to supplementing for high-intensity activities and exercise, it’s essential to consider several factors. These will be individual for everyone, but two questions to consider include:

What type of activity or workout is being performed?

This includes all the different forms of training and the ways we defined intensity, as referenced above. Some factors to think about with this question include what your diet is like, how often you’re training, how long you plan on performing activities, and what your day-to-day is like regarding how it could impact performance.

What area of performance are you trying to support? Pre-, intra-, or post-workout recovery?

This question entails how you envision the supplement supporting performance. You can diligently decide what’s worth it and what should be skipped by understanding this question. This helps find the essentials for your needs. 

Considering these questions will then help dictate what supplements could be helpful for your workouts. The supplements below are broken into two sections: Pre–high-intensity and post-high-intensity exercises.

‌‌‌‌Preworkout Supplements for High-Intensity Exercise


When it comes to tried-and-true supplements that help provide energy before high-intensity exercise, very few compare to caffeine. Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant that is widely consumed to boost both the brain and the body. 

Regarding high-intensity exercise, caffeine can be incredibly beneficial for boosting performance—however, it’s worth noting that there’s a fine line between workout support and jitters. This is why it’s important to understand personal tolerance and choose supplements like pre-workout formulas and other accessories that include caffeine with attentiveness. 

Caffeine and its positive impact on workout performance have been pretty heavily studied over the last few decades. It’s generally accepted that caffeine is one of the pre-exercise supplements that can provide both a mental and physical boost to alter performance. More specifically, caffeine is ergogenic or consumed to increase energy production and recovery. 

Beetroot Juice

Another useful pre-high-intensity exercise supplement is beetroot juice. This supplement is less widely known than caffeine but is building a pretty impressive resume for its potential benefits in supporting the exercise. Beetroot juice has been suggested to increase blood nitric oxide concentrations due to its high inorganic nitrates. 

A review of beetroot juice published in 2018 in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition looked for trends from multiple studies that used beetroot juice to support performance in acute settings. Authors suggested that beetroot juice may play a role in replenishing the phosphocreatine resynthesis during repetitive exercise with short rest times, which could result in longer performances at higher intensities. Additionally, the authors suggested that beetroot juice might play a role in increasing power output. 

‌‌‌‌Post-workout Supplements for High-Intensity Exercise


To likely no one’s surprise, protein powder is on the list as a helpful recovery supplement for high-intensity exercise. For those that train hard and often, recovery has to be a focal point of one’s day-to-day to ensure longevity in whatever activity is being pursued. Protein powder is an easy way to ensure one consumes enough protein daily to meet protein needs and support growth and recovery. 

Protein plays a significant role in how our muscles grow and recover. When performing any form of high-intensity exercise, whether it be on a weightlifting platform, in a class, or at your local track, then you’ll need protein following your workout to support recovery. Note: you don’t necessarily need to consume protein powder to recover and progress, but it’s one of the few supplements that’s easy to drink, bring with you, and can help be a “safe bet” when daily protein totals might be on the lower side. 

Over the last few years, protein powder consumption about resistance and endurance training has attached multiple messages. Some camps say, “you need this immediately after a workout,” then there are others that say things along the lines of, “it’s not that important, and you have a larger time frame than what’s been previously suggested following a workout.”

Neither is inherently wrong, but when taken at face value without the context of one’s situation, the language comes up short. A study published in 2018 in the Journal of Frontiers In Nutrition looked at how protein powder consumption affects recovery from resistance and endurance. The authors suggest that while the post-exercise window for protein consumption isn’t necessarily as short as many say (<1 hour), it’s also not ideal not to consume some form of protein. It can be disadvantageous, which brings us back to the idea above of this supplement being a “safe bet” for many.

While supplementation is a great way to support high-intensity workouts, it’s important to remember that supplements should complement—not replace—a nutritious diet. As always, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before adding to your daily supplement regimen. 


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