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Pre-Workout Supplements – What to Know?

When you hit the gym, you want to get the most from your training and exercise. After all, working out, exercising, and moving your body are involved in your results, regardless of your goals. However, how can you ensure that you can perform your best and push yourself while at the gym or working out?

That is where pre-workout supplements come in.

What are Pre-Workout Supplements?

Pre-workout supplements, typically called “pre-workouts” for short, are a blend of ingredients that improve the effectiveness of your workouts on your body. One of the reasons they are so popular is that they typically include ingredients that increase energy and improve performance. Plus, they are usually available in a variety of flavors- or may come unflavored so you can add them to your favorite beverage.

The problem is, that many people think that pre-workouts are an easy way to reach your goals- but they are not a cheat code or a shortcut. However, it’s important to note that pre-workouts are not magic, and they do not give you superpowers. Plus, just because you’re using a pre-workout does not mean you can neglect other aspects, such as rest, recovery, and nutrition. You need all of the above to ensure your best performance.

Over time, you will see the progress you’re looking for by using a pre-workout along with focusing on nutrition, rest, and recovery.

Types of Pre-Workouts

There are 2 main categories of pre-workouts:

  1. With stimulants
  2. Without stimulants

The one that you choose depends on the type of activity you’re doing or the goal of your workout. These factors also influence the ingredients you want to look for as well. We’ll take a closer look at ingredients later on in this article.

Most people, when they hear the term “pre-workout”, automatically think of energy and caffeine. For those who want to get “jacked up” on a pre-workout, this is a good thing.

However, there are some that don’t want to get “jacked up” so they assume that means they can’t use a pre-workout. This isn’t necessarily true because while energy is a benefit of pre-workouts, it’s not the only benefit. We’ll look at some of the benefits below:

Benefits of Pre-Workout Supplements

There are several benefits of pre-workouts:

  • Increased energy: this means you will not get fatigued as quickly, so you can increase the length and intensity of your workouts.
  • Increased focus: pre-workouts give you a brain boost to help you power through when things get tough- after all, working out takes willpower and mental focus.
  • Supplies amino acids: amino acids, which are found in protein, repair and build muscle and also prevent muscle tissue breakdown during your workout. This improves your endurance, which helps you push further in your training.
  • Fuels your body: carbs are the primary fuel source for your body, which is why having a meal with both protein and carbs prior to working out can help with your performance.  
  • Enhances pump: pre-workouts often contain ingredients that are vasodilators, which increase the flow of blood, oxygen, and nutrients in your body.
  • Improves overall performance: most pre-workouts contain various ingredients that are known to improve physical performance, which may involve increasing ATP production or blocking lactic acid which can improve the length and intensity of your training sessions.

How Do Pre-Workouts Work?

As the name indicates, pre-workout supplements should be taken approximately 15 to 30 minutes prior to working out. Typically, pre-workouts come in powder form to be mixed with water or another beverage- but you may also find capsules that you can swallow with water.

It’s important that pre-workouts are taken as directed- taking extra will not increase the effectiveness.

Ingredients to Look for in Pre-Workouts

It’s important to note that since everyone is unique and doesn’t work out the same way or have the same goals, pre-workouts are available in various formulations.

You will find that some ingredients, such as beta-alanine and creatine, are common in most pre-workouts because they offer a variety of benefits and can improve your workout in a variety of ways. However, there are other ingredients that can vary between formulations.

Some of the most common pre-workout ingredients include the following:

  • Caffeine anhydrous: this is a concentrated form of caffeine that provides users with a boost of energy
  • Theacrine: this is a stimulant that improves motivation, mood, energy, and mental clarity
  • Betaine anhydrous: this is an amino acid that balances hydration in/around muscle cells, increasing endurance during your workout
  • Creatine monohydrate: facilitates ATP recycling when training. Your body uses ATP to provide energy for quick, explosive movements. Creatine helps with recovery between sets, allowing you to push harder with each one
  • Beta-alanine: an amino acid that facilitates the production of carnosine, which affects muscle endurance during HITT workouts by regulating the buildup of lactic acid. Some people have a “tingling” feeling when consuming pre-workouts with beta-alanine which can be resolved by reducing your dosage

Are Pre-Workouts Safe?

Pre-workouts are intended for adults aged 18 and older who are healthy and don’t have pre-existing medical conditions. When you are using a pre-workout, make sure that you follow the instructions on the package and pay attention to the warning labels. If you have any concerns or questions, you’ll want to speak with your medical provider- especially if you are taking any prescription medications.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use pre-workouts, as it’s not clear how it could affect the baby.

Pay attention to the recommended dosage/serving size on the package- don’t take more than recommended. Also, consider other sources of caffeine or stimulants if you’re using a pre-workout that contains stimulants. While coffee, soda, or even pre-workouts may not make you jittery on your own- when combined, it may be too much caffeine for you and cause you to feel jittery.

Also Read: Best Bodyweight Chest Workouts for Beginners

How to Find the Right Pre-Workout for You

When you start shopping for a pre-workout, you may be overwhelmed by all the options- but keep in mind that the purpose of the pre-workout is to improve your physical performance. Therefore, consider your goals and needs. Also, before you worry about finding a pre-workout, make sure that you have nutrition, rest, and recovery in line since that’s where most of your results come from.

References

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Mayo Clinic. “How Vasodilators Treat High Blood Pressure.” Mayo Clinic, 2019, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure-medication/art-20048154.

Mayo Clinic Staff. “Choose Your Carbs Wisely.” Mayo Clinic, 2017, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/carbohydrates/art-20045705.

Robinson, Kara Mayer. “High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): What It Is, How to Do It.” WebMD, 2 Aug. 2020, www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/a-z/high-intensity-interval-training-HIIT.

“What Are Amino Acids and Which Ones Are Essential?” Verywell Fit, www.verywellfit.com/what-are-amino-acids-2242021.

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