Pre-Workouts – All You Need To Know
Pre-workouts are one of the most talked-about supplements. Some people can’t train without pre-workouts, and others recommend staying as far away from them as possible and compare the supplements to drugs.
Before we get to any conclusions, let’s learn more about the supplement. By the end of the article, you’ll have answers to all the questions you might have ever had about pre-workouts. We don’t want to shove some powder down your throat. Our objective with this article is to empower you with the knowledge so you can make the right decision.
What are Pre-Workout Supplements?
Thanks to the name we at least don’t have to tell you when to take the supplement. Wait, we might have to – but more on this later. Pre-workout supplements were developed to help you power through your workouts.
But why take a pre-workout supplement? Why can’t you just drink a cup of coffee before you hit the gym? We’re getting to it and it’s going to be a long answer. After all, our articles are backed by research and not broscience.
A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition reported that combining pre-workout with HIIT workouts resulted in significant increases in VO2 max (the maximum rate of oxygen consumption measured during incremental exercise), training volume and lean body mass while also speeding up the rate at which moderately-trained recreational athletes lost body fat.
Pre-Workout Supplement Ingredients
Before we talk more about the supps, we need to discuss what makes the supplements so popular. No two pre-workouts are created equal. Different ingredients produce varying results and you need to consider them before buying a supp. Some of the most common ingredients are –
Creatine is arguably the most researched and yet misunderstood sports supplement. It is incredibly effective in increasing muscle power and performance during training. Creatine also helps replenish the ATP reserves.
Quick ATP top-ups and better muscle recovery can reduce your rest times between sets. One of the downsides of creatine is that it can cause water retention and might not be preferred by people who are on cutting cycles. Such athletes might prefer opting for a pre-workout with creatine HCL.
If you’ve been thinking how a pre-workout powder gets you psyched for a workout, the answer is caffeine – and a few other fancy ingredients like betaine and beta-alanine. The stimulants might also be a proprietary blend, in which case you’ll never know what exactly is inside a supplement.
Stimulants are responsible for providing energy and strength during the workout. This type of ingredient is a double-edged sword (more on this later in the article) and has divided the industry into stimulant and stimulant-free cults.
Amino Acids / BCAA Complex
Many supplements on the market have a BCAA blend. They can be very beneficial in a pre-workout supplement as it can promote muscle protein synthesis. BCAAs along with ECAAs can be a killer combination in a pre-workout powder.
BCAAs, as well as other amino acids, are added to support metabolism, and they also help in the transportation of fluids and minerals, boost energy and aid concentration. Having BCAAs pre-workout can eliminate the need of having it intra or post-workout.
Pump and Focus Complex
Most people who have trouble achieving a muscle-ripping pump in the gym might benefit from using a pre-workout supplement. The supps have a blend of citrulline, carnitine or arginine which can help with releasing nitric oxid – the compound responsible for inducing the pump. Ingredients like tyrosine, taurine, theanine, and caffeine can help with dialing in your focus.
Some pre-workouts might contain an array of B-Vitamins. Vitamins in the supps play a crucial role in maintaining the body’s metabolism and promoting energy. The quantities in the pre-workouts can also help you meet your daily B-vitamin requirements.
Vitamins B1, B2, B5, and B6 all play important roles in energy production and efficiency. Vitamin B12 supports blood production, and Vitamin B3 boosts DNA repair and promotes healthier skin, hair, and nails.
Best Stimulated Pre-Workouts on the Market
Benefits of a Pre-Workout Supplement
You’re not alone if you’ve ever missed a workout because you felt tired, lethargic or unmotivated. We all have days like these but getting your rear to the gym on such days is what separates the achievers from the dreamers.
One of the primary objectives of the pre-workouts supps is to pump you up for your workouts. Not only this, most good pre-workouts have a good dose of stimulants which will keep you charged throughout the workout. Your endurance and stamina will see a jump after you take a scoop full of the pre-workout goodness.
If you’re like the majority of the people, you might leave the gym feeling unsatisfied if you don’t have a nasty pump. There are many variables responsible for getting a muscle pump. A pre-workout supplement can get most of these variables in line and set you up for a muscle-popping pump.
Pre-workout supplements also ensure that you have a long-lasting pump. The process of getting muscle pumps runs in cycles. The bigger the pump, the more Nitric Oxide production, and so the cycle continues.
The amount of weight you lift and your intensity in the gym are directly proportional to your gains. Once you have the creatine, caffeine, along with other proprietary blends in your system, you’ll see a considerable improvement in your strength levels.
It’s almost like you transform into a different person as soon as you step into the gym. The creatine combined with caffeine, Vitamin B complexes, and other proprietary blends is responsible for long-lasting power.
The people who are never able to achieve a mind-muscle connection in the gym lack focus. Some times life outside the gym can get the better of you, and you might not be able to stop thinking about work, financial or family problems.
A pre-workout supp can help you get rid of the mental clutter and focus on the workout at hand. Ingredients like tyrosine, taurine, theanine, and caffeine can boost your mental focus and help you carve the physique of your dreams.
Delay in Fatigue
In the gym, you’re as good as your stamina. Once fatigue starts to kick in, it’s all downhill from there. By the time people reach their last exercises, they’re almost dragging their feet through the workout. It’s better to call the workout off at such a stage rather than risk an injury.
Ingredients like beta-alanine and betaine help in delaying fatigue and also promote quick recovery between sets. Don’t be surprised if you feel like the rapid-healing Wolverine after taking the pre-workout powders.
Best Non-Stimulated Pre-Workouts
Drawbacks of Using a Pre-Workout Supplement
The pre-workout powder has become one of the most famous sports supplements but like everything else in life, the yins are balanced by the yangs. There are some drawbacks to using a pre-workout supp that you should know about.
Jitters, Anxiety, Headaches, Itching
Yes, those are a lot of drawbacks combined into one. Just like how caffeine contributes to all the benefits of the pre-workout supps, its also a factor in all the disadvantages. The reason for almost all the disadvantages can be linked to overstimulation.
Consuming a high dosage of the supplement can lead you to feel jittery and uncomfortable even after you’re long done with your workout. The worse part is that there are no cures for the downsides and they will take their course.
An excess of caffeine can make your heart race – which can be a great thing while you’re working out but it isn’t what you need when you’re on your work desk or trying to meditate. We recommend never to exceed the recommended dosages of a pre-workout supp.
Dehydration and Digestion Issues
Creatine and caffeine are both diuretics – meaning they absorb water from the body. Most of the pre-workout supplements require you to drink at least one-gallon water every day so that you don’t run the risk of dehydration. Taking too much pre-workout can also cause you to crash after the effects of the supplement wear out.
You might also experience a drop in your appetite after you take the supps. Ingredients like sodium bicarbonate, magnesium, creatine, and caffeine can all cause digestion issues and you might have to experiment with different supplements to find out which one works for you.
Taking a stimulant-rich pre-workout supplement around bed-time can prove to be a disaster. A high dosage of caffeine-rich supp can affect some people’s sleep cycles. You should consume a stimulated pre-workout at least eight hours before hitting the sack.
People who workout late in the evening might have to stay away from stimulated pre-workouts. On the other hand, if you want to stay up late at night for a movie marathon, you know what you need to do.
The Effects Subside With Time
Since the pre-workouts are such effective supplements, it would be great to use them every day. But the sad part is, if you’re a frequent user of the supp, their effect will start to minimize with time. They are the perfect example of the law of diminishing marginal utility.
Your best bet would be to cycle your pre-workout supplements so that your body doesn’t get used to them. Use the supps for a month, quit them for the second, and resume from the third. You could also try switching supplement brands.
Artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols
Most of the pre-workout supplements contain artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols. While the sweeteners and sugar alcohols might enhance flavor without adding calories, some may cause intestinal distress and discomfort in some individuals.
Apart from this, a high intake of sugar alcohols may trigger uncomfortable symptoms, such as gas, bloating, and diarrhea – all of which can keep you out of the gym for a few days. Although not scientifically proven, some people report a similar digestive response from eating certain artificial sweeteners like sucralose.
While there might be several drawbacks of using a pre-workout supplement, it’s important to know that only a fraction of people ever experience even a single of these symptoms. The benefits of the supps and the positive effect they’ll have on your performance in the gym far outweigh the drawbacks.
Can You Make It at Home?
Now that you know everything that goes into making a pre-workout supplement, you might be wondering if you could make the supp at home. The short answer – yes. The long answer – it’s not so simple.
Most of the ingredients are easily available in the raw form on Amazon but nailing the right proportions is a monumental task. Many people have tried and failed in making the best pre-workout supplement in their garage.
If you’ve never found the perfect pre-training supp and want to test your luck with making one in your fantasy lab, below are all the ingredients you’ll ever need. Testing the effects of the supp is a long process and you might have to use it for at least four weeks before making adjustments to the formula.
Pre-Workout Supplement Ingredients
Which Pre-Workout Supplements Should You Use
Know Your Tolerance
There is no one-pre-workout-supplement-fits-all available on the market. You might have to choose your pre-workout supplement depending on your tolerance of ingredients like caffeine, beta-alanine, arginine, citrulline, etc.
Some brands go over the limits trying to distinguish themselves in the crowded market. An example of this is the ProSupps Mr. Hyde Test Surge.
Research published in Food and Chemical Toxicology cited that 400mg of caffeine a day is the upper limit for adults. What does this mean? One cup of instant coffee contains 60-80mg of caffeine, but high street flat whites contain anything between 65mg (Pret-a-Manger) and 160mg at Starbucks.
ProSupps Mr. Hyde Test Surge contains an uncomfortable 420mg of caffeine in a 7.5g scoop. Not only does this supp go over the daily caffeine limit, but it also does so in a single serving. If you were to take this product, you’d have to cut out any other form of caffeine (coffee, tea, energy drinks) from your routine.
We would recommend that when you start using a pre-workout supplement, you should do so in a linear manner. Meaning – if the recommended serving size is one scoop, you should begin with taking half-a-scoop and go higher as you learn more about your tolerance.
When To Take The Pre-Workouts
Most people make the mistake of taking the supps too close to their workouts. The stimulants and other ingredients in the product need at least 45-minutes to be absorbed by the body. Consuming the supplement upon entering the gym is worse than not using it at all.