Pre-workout vs Intra workout (BCAA) – What’s best?

Pre-workout vs intra workout (BCAA)


As a fitness noob, it’s common to get confused between the concept of pre-workout, intra workout, and post workouts supplementation. 

I have seen many people being unaware of the utility of these supplements and still consuming them because of their Gym trainer or favorite YouTuber said it.

Pre-workouts gives you mental clarity and a better muscle pump, it contains caffeine, beta-alanine, and nitric boosters. Intra-workout supplements support muscle protein synthesis and prevent post-workout muscle soreness, it contains essential amino, electrolytes, and carbs to boost muscle glycogen levels.

In this article, we are going to debunk all the myths about pre-workout and Intra workout supplementation, we are also going to talk about their difference and other best strategies. First, let’s understand the basics. 

What is Intra workout supplementation

Intra workout supplements are designed to fuel your workout session with greater intensity and support muscle growth. 

The primary ingredients of Intra workouts are as follow:

  • BCAA’s: These are the three essential amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine.) that primary works for muscle repair and avoiding fatigue. BCAA’s can help prevent muscle protein breakdown which saves the athlete from burning down muscle mass while training. 
  • EAA’s: There are 20 types of different amino acids and 9 of them are Essential Amino Acids (EAA’s), you need all those 9 amino acids to fuel your muscle for protein synthesis.  
  • Simple Carbs: Carbs is the best and fastest source of energy, some of the intra workouts contain a decent amount of carbs to supply instant energy to sustain intense training. 
  • Electrolytes: Intense training sessions lead to losing a lot of essential minerals, electrolytes help in restoring the healthy balance. 

In short, a good intra workout supplement focuses on providing sustainable energy for superior training performance while supporting muscle health. 

What is pre-workout? 

Serious lifters are obsessed with Pre-workouts, but how do these supplements really affect the performance. 

While intra workout supplements are focused on improving muscular performance, Pre-workout supplements are designed to improve the energy levels through a blend of ingredients. 

Every pre-workout supplement contains a different blend of ingredients and they are all created differently. Here is a common list of ingredients: 

  • Caffeine: As we all know, it helps in boosting brainpower and achieving improved focus. 
  • Vasodilators: it can be l-arginine, citrulline or any other compound. The task of the vasodilatory is to improve the blood flow to achieve a superior pump and improves the supply of nutrition right blood to the muscles.  
  • Beta-alanine: it’s responsible for the tingling effect you experience after taking pre-workout. Beta-alanine has been proven to improve strength and performance by improving the production of Carnosine and clearing lactic buildup. 
  • Creatine and BCAA’s: Many famous pre-workout blends contain a small amount of creating and BCAA’s to support muscle development and improved energy levels. 

In short, pre-workouts are more focused on creating better mental focus and motivation. 

Pre-workout vs Intra workout (BCAA’s)

So now you know about the basics of pre-workout supplements and intra workout supplements. 

While the pre-workouts are created to provide better mental alertness and improved blood flow, Intra workouts supplements are intended to defend muscle catabolization and improve overall strength. 

Let’s have a few pointer differences between pre-workout and Intra workouts. 


The primary purpose of a pre-workout supplement is to increase energy and focus, Beta-alanine present in the pre-workout supplement assists in clearing lactic buildup and providing better muscle endurance.  

On the other hand, Intra workout supplements are loaded with a big portion of BCAA’s, which is proven very effective in improving muscle endurance and prevention of muscle protein breakdown. Additionally, Intra workouts are also loaded with carbs and electrolytes to assist in intense training sessions.

Contrary to most other amino acids, BCAAs (3) are mostly broken down directly muscle, rather than in the liver. Because of this, they are believed to play a major role in improving exercise performance. 


Intra workouts surely help in achieving those extra reps but pre-workouts are found to be more beneficial for strength improvement. 

Caffeine and Beta-alanine actively assist in improving the mind and muscle connection to hit new PR. 

Muscle pump

In this matter, Intra workouts cant compete with the pre-workouts. 

Most of the Pre-workouts revolved around two main functions: Brain stimulation and Vasodilation. L-Arginine, L-Citrulline, Citrulline malate are the most common ingredient found in almost every pre-workout. 

Achieving a better pump not only provides a sense of accomplishment but also helps in better muscle gains by stretching the fascia. 

Brain stimulants

While intra workout supplements are loaded with ingredients that are proven effective to support muscle growth, every pre-workout contains a unique blend of ingredients to stimulate the brain for better functioning. 

If you are in favor of stimulant-free supplements then a combination of coffee and BCAA will work best for you. 

Fat burning

Intra workouts and pre-workouts, both operate in their own way to burn down fat. 

Studies have shown the effectiveness of BCAA’s in the fat-burning process. A study (4) conducted with the competitive wrestlers found improved fat loss in wrestlers who were supplemented with BCAA’s. 

In another study (5), weightlifters given 14 grams of BCAAs per day lost 1% more body fat. The group that was supplemented with the BCAA group also gained 4.4 lbs (2 kg) more muscle.

On the other hand, Pre-workouts not only help in making you feel more energetic but also skyrocket your metabolic rate which leads to improved calorie burning. 


Intra workouts are designed to fuel your muscles and pre-workouts are designed to fuel your brain. 

Pre-workouts eliminate fatigue by clearing lactic buildup while keeping your brain more focused and energetic. 

Intra workouts help you prevent fatigue by constantly fueling muscles with the essential aminos. A study (6) conducted on the effectiveness of BCAA’s on fatigue found a 17% improvement in performance. 

BCAAs are also proven effective in improving central nervous system fatigue by the production of serotonin in your brain (10). 

If you are into endurance workouts then it’s advised to rely on Intra workouts supplements, since they help in preventing muscle catabolization while delaying fatigue. 


Intra workout BCAA is way ahead in this. 

Multiple studies (7, 8) have proven the effectiveness of BCAA’s in reducing the symptoms of DOMS. BCAA can help in reducing soreness by up to 33%. 

Pre-workouts may help in stimulating the brain for better performance but most of the pre-workouts blends don’t contain an active ingredient to support post-workout soreness. 


While the pre-workout supplementation directly stimulates the brain for more energy production, on the other hand, BCAA’s go directly into muscle tissue to regulate amino balance and fueling.

Pre-workout and intra workout together?

There is nothing bad in supplementing them together. adding a scoop of bcaa in your favorite pre-workout will support muscle protein synthesis.

Personally, I favor adding both with my pre-workout meal. 

Combining pre-workout supplements with the BCAA’s fine-tune your workout with the added benefits.  Pre-workouts will assist in achieving laser-sharp focus and boosting your motivation, while BCAAs will help your endurance, muscle growth, and muscle recovery.

Taking BCAA for pre-workout? 

YES! Why not? 

There are already multiple benefits of BCAA’s, if you are looking for a stimulant-free boost in a workout then these are definitly a great choice. 

BCAA’s can help you achieve a better workout by reducing fatigue, reducing soreness, increasing muscle mass, burning more fat, and many other benefits. What else can you expect from a single supplement? 

Additionally, you can be flexible with the timing of BCAAs, you can take them before or after a workout. 

If you have a budget of 2-3 scoops per day when I would suggest you take a scoop 30-minutes prior to workout with some carbs, and add a scoop as an intra workout.  

BCAA’s won’t supply you improved focus for a workout, for that purpose you can either add a shot of coffee before a workout. 

Why not both? So…

Thanks for reading. Questions are welcomed in the comments as always. This site contains affiliate links as well as general health and fitness information. Please read my Medical Disclaimer and Writing Disclaimer for more information.

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