Think of a pre-workout supplement as a wingman you rely on to help you achieve your goals, having your back from your warmup to your final set. They're formulated to help gym-goers and athletes gain strength and size by increasing energy, focus, and endurance.
Receiving rave reviews from other customers is one thing, but do pre-workout supplements actually work? Should you take them before you train? Does it matter what is in a pre-workout supplement, and what do you need to know if you’re unsure how to use a pre-workout mix?
We’ll cover all these questions and more. But first things first - did you know a high-quality pre-workout supplement is only as good as its ingredients? Let’s take a closer look at some of the ingredients in a pre-workout drink, and the science behind them that proves they are effective in priming you for your best workout ever.
WHAT IS IN PRE-WORKOUT SUPPLEMENTS?
When weighing whether or not a pre-workout supplement is effective, you need to measure the results against your objectives as either a recreational gym-goer or competitive athlete. What are you looking to achieve? What are your ultimate fitness goals?
It’s important to know what’s in your pre-workout supplements right off the bat so you can achieve those goals. If you’re not exactly sure what ingredients are in common pre-workout drinks, we’ve got your back. We’ll cover the important ingredients you should know so you can make the progress you want to see.
We’ll also cover what the experts have to say, their extensive research, and what exactly pre-workout can do for you. First, let’s take a closer look at pre-workout ingredients.
CAFFEINE FOR A KICK
Caffeine is that energy-boosting kick you get from your cup of coffee that we all know and love. Used in pre-workout supplements in different concentrations, it has been shown to improve anaerobic peak power output.
Reaching your peak is that sweet spot where you achieve a vigorous-intensity zone with a high heart rate. In this anaerobic zone, carbohydrates are burned more readily than fats, you have more energy during intense physical activity, and you build and maintain lean muscle mass.
Plenty of studies over the years have highlighted caffeine as a winner if you’re pushing weights. For example, one study revealed that gym-goers doing a deadlift or bench-press after ingesting caffeine achieved greater weights when heavy lifting than with men who took a placebo. Pre-workout is for everyone and there are multiple benefits of pre-workout supplements for women too.
When you throw L-Theanine into the (pre-workout) mix, combined with caffeine at the optimal level, you’ll heighten your focus and the combination helps eliminate jittery feelings that caffeine can often cause. This study confirmed the beneficial effects of combining caffeine and L-theanine.
That's one of the big pros of pre-workout – you're consuming the right combination of ingredients at the right time.
BETA-ALANINE FOR ENDURANCE
This amino acid has become a go-to ingredient for pre-workout formulas, thanks to its ability to raise muscle carnosine levels and in turn the amount of work you can perform at high intensities.
Why the fuss about carnosine? Your muscles rely on it to prevent muscle fatigue. In fact, men naturally have higher muscle carnosine concentrations than women, so you can see its impact on muscle power output even in its natural ratio in our bodies.
TEACRINE FOR PERFORMANCE
TeaCrine is a compound that may be included in a pre-workout supplement as a critical ingredient to boost energy and endurance and give you the edge of mental clarity. It's not a stimulant, but it helps athletes and gym-goers feel sharper and more focused during a training session when used in combination with caffeine.
This study showed TeaCrine improved performance by up to 35% and improved cognitive function when combined with caffeine. When you want to push yourself in the gym, having better mental focus and concentration in your corner is essential to help your mind take on the task you want to accomplish. It’s all part of finding your mojo.
NITROSIGINE FOR BLOOD FLOW
What does a pre-workout supplement do for blood flow? Nitrosigine is a non-stimulant compound that also helps to improve focus and energy, but also is a gamechanger in a pre-workout supplement. It increases blood flow thanks to the combination of arginine and silicon.
Scientists have known about the power of arginine for years. Our bodies rely on it to produce nitric oxide, and nitrosigine enhances it and boosts arginine levels for up to six hours after being consumed. Nitrosigine increases silicone plasma levels, and we know that silicone improves arterial wall elasticity.
The result? You get increased blood flow to power your workout, your workout will likely feel easier, and you'll achieve better pumps. With nitrosigine in the mix in a pre-workout supplement, you'll enjoy a more efficient and energized workout, and you'll reach your goals faster.
Talking blood flow, another ingredient, L-Citrulline has benefits when added to a pre-workout. It also supports nitric oxide production in the body and has been shown to improve nutrient and oxygen delivery to the muscles.
CREATINE FOR MUSCLES
Our bodies naturally produce creatine and help supply energy to cells throughout the body, particularly our muscle cells. But how does it all work? Creatine is turned into creatine phosphate in our bodies, which helps make the substance adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP provides the energy for muscle contractions. Creatine is often found in pre-workout drinks and it adds bonus benefits like promoting skeletal muscle mass, lean muscle mass, and muscle fiber size.
Increased blood flow also translates into more oxygen and essential nutrients reaching your muscles during and after your workout. When this happens, your stamina while training increases and your post-workout recovery improves, too.
WHAT DOES A PRE-WORKOUT DRINK DO?
Pre-workout supplements are designed to improve your performance from every angle possible. Among all the micro-goals we’ve covered, they are there to help you go stronger for longer and minimize your recovery. But simply ticking the boxes of research-backed ingredients will only get you so far.
The optimal quantity and quality of each component counts if you want to guarantee your pre-workout works, and you’ll want to check that they are third-party tested. Always check what’s in a pre-workout supplement before hitting the mix.
HOW TO USE PRE-WORKOUT
A pre-workout supplement is designed differently from other products you may choose to add to your workout arsenal. They’re formulated with the safe upper limit of caffeine to consume a day, which medical experts agree is about 400mg. To safeguard against consuming higher levels that could cause you to overdo it, always check the label and stick to the suggested number of scoops per serving.
If you’re not sure how to use a pre-workout for your unique body make-up, take half before you hit the gym and half after. This is a good approach if you're concerned about possible side effects such as shakiness.
Finally, it's all about timing. The aim is to enjoy the maximum energy-boosting benefits of the pre-workout formula. What does this mean for you? Take it about 30 minutes before you're scheduled to start training. The effects of caffeine peak within 15 and 45 minutes of it hitting your system. Follow this strategy, and you'll see the best results.