Females respond particularly well to pre- and post-training nutrition

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

Getty | OlegPhotoR
Getty | OlegPhotoR

Related tags supplementation Protein women's health

A new study measuring the impact of pre- and post-nutrient timing on lower- and upper-body strength in both men and women concludes that females appear to respond particularly favourably to nutrient consumption.

Activities such as high-intensity resistance training (HIRT) and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) may be more time-efficient modes to stimulate rapid changes in performance and body composition. Yet there is little research evaluating the combined effects of HIRT and HIIT on body composition and strength, particularly when paired with nutritional supplementation.

Protein consumption prior to or post-HIRT in women has demonstrated improved increases in lean mass (LM) and strength​.

An investigation evaluating a multi-ingredient pre-workout supplement (caffeine, creatine, and amino acids) consumed prior to HIIT resulted in significant improvements in LM and anaerobic capacity​. However, the timing of nutrients is variable in the literature with most studies focusing on either pre- or post-nutrient consumption separately rather than a combinatory approach.

Furthermore, sex-based differences exist​ in muscle and mitochondrial biogenesis in response to interval training. These differences are important considerations when evaluating body composition and strength outcomes, but investigations on the sex effects of exercise + nutrition is nearly non-existent.

Therefore, the purpose of this study, conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and funded by NSE Products, aimed to evaluate the chronic effect of pre-and post-workout supplementation (pre = multi-ingredient including caffeine/HMB/vit D; post = 20g whey protein/carbohydrates/glucosamine/vitamins) combined with HIRT + HIIT exercise, compared to placebo and control, on body composition, performance (VO2max, 1RM strength, counter movement jump), and recovery (creatine kinase, isoprostanes) in inactive males and females. An exploratory aim was to investigate sex differences in body composition and performance.

The authors hypothesised that the nutrient timing would lead to greater improvements in body composition, performance, and recovery compared to placebo, and control.

They found that the twice weekly nutrition supplementation before and after the exercise increased LM and strength, especially in females.

They conclude: "These effects are likely attributed to nutrients supporting muscle recovery and providing anabolic stimuli for muscle growth in response to HIRT + HIIT.

"Females appeared to respond more favourably to nutrient consumption, demonstrating greater increases in upper and lower body strength.

"Future research should continue to explore sex differences in nutrient timing and HIRT adaptations, particularly as data in males cannot always be generalized to females. The present study suggests there are beneficial effects of the exercise and nutrition intervention despite minimal training time and lifestyle changes."


Sixty-four healthy, untrained males (n​ = 23) and females (n​ =41), aged 18–52 years, were recruited for this randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.

Participants were asked to abstain from food and caloric beverages, caffeine, alcohol, and physical activity prior to testing sessions.

Treatment and placebo powders were packaged and supplied by the Sponsor (Nu Skin, NSE Products, USA). Participants were provided with their assigned treatment (SUP) pre-workout and post-workout, or non-caloric flavoured powder blend (PL). 

At baseline, participants completed a maximal graded exercise test on a treadmill to volitional exhaustion, and a maximal strength protocol to determine the appropriate intensities for the exercise training. Body composition measures, blood markers of muscle damage/recovery, and countermovement jumps were also evaluated.

Participants were then randomized in a 2:2:1 fashion to an active ingredient supplement, placebo, or control group (CON; no exercise or treatment assigned). 

Participants in the SUP treatment or PL group completed a 6-week supervised exercise intervention consisting of a full-body high-intensity resistance training workout followed by a high-intensity interval treadmill run twice per week. All groups participated in post-testing session identical to baseline testing 48–120 hours after the final training session. 

All participants were asked to complete a three-day food record at baseline prior to training and to maintain habits throughout the study.

The authors suggest future research may benefit from exploring a relative dose of the individual supplements vs. an absolute dose product as utilised in the present study.

They note a limitation of the study is the sample size of males and females in each group, which may need to be larger in future studies. Additionally, as a result of extensive research cleaning and spacing restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, the intervention could only be conducted on two days per week; inclusion of an additional day may have resulted in greater adaptations.

Source: Frontiers in Nutrition


"Evaluation of pre-workout and recovery formulations on body composition and performance after a 6-week high-intensity training program"

Cabre H.E., Gordon A.N., Patterson N.D., Smith-Ryan A.E.

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