The Science Behind Pre-WorkoutsJuly 21, 2021
For those of who frequent the gym on a regular basis, it’s second nature to grab a pre-workout drink before heading out. It’s almost like muscle memory. Get your gym clothes on, pack your bag, and grab your pre-workout. If for some reason you skip the pre-workout step of your schedule, your body is going to notice.
Professional athletes, trainers, and fellow gym-goers may have inspired your habit of consuming pre-workout supplements, and you’re able to see the benefits first-hand. But what actually is the science behind taking pre-workout supplements before exercising?
Read on for everything you need to know from how long pre-workout takes to kick in, to the science-backed advantages of consuming pre-workout supplements.
WHAT ARE PRE-WORKOUT SUPPLEMENTS?
Pre-workout supplements act as an energy boost to the system to improve athletic performance. These supplements usually contain ingredients like caffeine, creatine, beta-alanine, amino acids, and nitric oxide agents that help your body push through challenging workouts.
When drinking pre-workout supplements before exercising, your body gains power and strength to dramatically improve exercise performance, helping you get the most out of your workout every time.
WHY DOES PRE-WORKOUT GIVE YOU SO MUCH ENERGY?
The combination of ingredients in pre-workout is what gives your body the energy to tackle a difficult workout. But the main ingredient that drives the performance is caffeine.
The caffeine in pre-workout delays fatigue and increases your overall anaerobic power. In other words, this pick-me-up makes you feel strong and increases your stamina - more than just your average cup of joe.
Even a small amount of pre-workout can give you the extra caffeine-jolt you need to lift heavy weights, take a HIIT class, or crush a bootcamp class. With the combination of its other ingredients, pre-workout is the ultimate energy booster.
HOW MUCH CAFFEINE DO PRE-WORKOUT SUPPLEMENTS HAVE?
Since caffeine is the main source of energy pre-workout supplements provide, there is a significant dose in each supplement. There are about 150-300 mg of caffeine in pre-workout supplements - the equivalent of several cups of coffee.
If you’re new to pre-workout, be sure to take it slow. Consuming too much caffeine can have the opposite intended effect - decreasing performance and increasing anxiety (more on this later).
If you’re interested in taking pre-workout and experiencing all the benefits it provides, start with a lower dose to get used to the energy boost before increasing.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR PRE-WORKOUT TO KICK IN?
In order to give your pre-workout an ample amount of time to kick in, it’s recommended that it be taken about one hour prior to training. However, studies suggest a range, from 30 minutes to two hours, so it’s best to consult the directions on your specific pre-workout supplement.
Bottom line, caffeine levels in the bloodstream peak about 60-90 minutes post pre-workout, so the best bet is giving your body at least that long to see all the benefits. You’ll figure out your own sweet spot with time.
If you’re thinking about tackling a late-night workout before bed, be sure to consider the time you take your pre-workout. The energy drink does have the potential to last anywhere from three to six hours, which could make sleeping difficult if taken too late.
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN TAKING PRE-WORKOUT SUPPLEMENTS
The simple purpose of taking pre-workout supplements is to reach fitness goals that may be more difficult to achieve without the extra energy boost. We all need a little pick-me-up from time to time and pre-workout can be the motivation you need to crush your next workout. To get the best results, here are some factors to consider before starting your own pre-workout regimen.
PRE-WORKOUT IS NOT A MIRACLE OVERNIGHT DRUG
Some people would like to believe that just by consuming pre-workout supplements, they’ll have ripped abs and huge biceps overnight - wouldn’t that be nice? But that’s not exactly what these supplements were created for.
The mixture is designed to give gym-goers an extra push through tough workouts, making supplements more effective than just drinking water alone.
When selecting a pre-workout drink, you’ll want to make sure it’s filled with the top ingredients out there so you can get the results you want to see. Speaking of ingredients, it’s also crucial to know exactly what’s in your pre-workout of choice so you don’t experience any adverse side effects.
THERE ARE SOME SIDE EFFECTS TO LOOK OUT FOR
While not a large concern when taken appropriately, pre-workout supplements may cause some side effects, particularly if allergies are at play. Be sure to read the label and be knowledgeable about the ingredients found in your pre-workout to avoid unexpected side effects.
There are a few things you’ll want to look out for when consuming any pre-workout beverage like:
Some people may experience itching, commonly linked to the beta-alanine included in many pre-workout supplements. Eliminating the beta-alanine and using creatine will help prevent itching in the future as that’s most likely the reason for the reaction.
As mentioned, caffeine is a large component of pre-workout drinks so consuming pre-workout late in the day can cause your body to want to stay up all night. Avoid this by opting for earlier workouts, or try switching to a caffeine-free pre-workout.
Breaking out in hives post pre-workout? That could be a bad reaction to niacin, found in some supplements. Try another ingredient to take the place of niacin and see how your body reacts.
Exercise is supposed to combat anxiety, but at the same time, it can cause it too. At least when coupled with pre-workout. Common ingredients that may trigger anxiety are bitter orange, yohimbe bark extract, or an overabundance of caffeine. Try testing multiple pre-workouts to see which is the best fit for your body.
Working out can be sweaty, but at times, pre-workout is more to blame than physical activity. The betaine contained in some supplements might be creating a body odor issue. Consider using pre-workout that doesn’t list betaine as one of its ingredients, and be on the road to a smell-free recovery… depending on how hard your workout was.
There’s a host of reasons why headaches occur and drinking pre-workout could potentially be a trigger. The creatine used in the supplements could be the culprit. Drinking lots of water can help headaches subside without the need to stop taking creatine altogether.
A common side effect of exercising is an unsettled stomach depending on what you ate before your workout… but pre-workout could also be at play. Avoid consuming too much of any supplement, especially yohimbe, arginine, and sodium bicarbonate - the main ingredients that cause belly issues.
High or low blood pressure
It’s important to keep in mind that high or low blood pressure can only be diagnosed by a doctor, but the pre-workout you take has the ability to affect both. Be careful to only take the recommended amount of pre-workout to help keep blood pressure levels balanced.
Despite the side effects that can be brought on by pre-workout, it is important to note the major benefits taking these supplements can have, including increased stamina and endurance, enhanced performance, and feeling physically stronger and more powerful.
As well, many side effects can be avoided by simply switching out ingredients until you find the blend that works best for you.
READY TO TRY PRE-WORKOUT?
With a better understanding of the science behind pre-workouts and what they contain, it’s time for you to find the perfect option for you. Still not sure if pre-workouts will do the job? Learn how pre-workout helps you reach your goals.