In the world of sports nutrition, pre-workout supplements are probably the second most commonly used supplements behind whey protein. Pre-workout is commonly used to provide a boost of energy, improve exercise performance and dilate blood vessels. We will dig into each of these functions more deeply in this blog article. There is an endless sea of pre-workout supplements on the market and pre-workout supplementation can be confusing. Let’s try synthesise the important information that you need to know to make a informed decision the next time you purchase a pre-workout. What is pre-workout? Let’s find out!
Who Should Use Pre-Workout Supplements?
Pre-workout products are often said to only be beneficial for “hardcore” gym goers, but this is just not the case. Whether you have been training for 3 months or 3 decades, there are benefits that can apply to you! Pre-workout supplements are commonly used by competitors right through to your weekend warrior trainers. The days of pre-workouts being exclusively for gym junkies is over as more people realise the positive impact they have.
Essentially, pre-workout is going to be beneficial for anyone who is looking got an energy boost prior to an athletic event. The core ingredients that are present will be suitable for a wide range of sports, so if your general goal is to improve athletic performance, then it is probably a good idea to take pre-workout. It doesn’t matter if you train at a gym, go for runs in the morning or swim laps down at the local pool, there is a supplement to suit anyone.
Pre Workout before gym
The reason why pre-workout products are so synonymous with resistance training sports, is because they contain ingredients which specifically relate to what is trying to be achieved through training this way. This includes ingredients like citrulline malate and agmatine sulfate. They will increase blood flow and blood pressure to improve the muscle pump and aid physical performance in the gym. Another common ingredient is beta alanine which is used to improve endurance and muscle power during a tough workout. Better pumps and more muscle endurance can increase muscle mass which is often the goal for bodybuilders and powerlifters.
Pre-workout is also very popular amongst athletes who take part in CrossFit. In particular, beta alanine is the most desired of the pre-workout ingredients because it acts as a lactic acid buffer. This can help these athletes push harder for longer during their workouts.
When to Use Pre-Workout Supplements
Pre-workout is best taken around 30-60 minutes prior to commencing exercise. Ingredients in the pre-workout (especially caffeine) take some time to be absorbed into your body. Another reason why you might want to wait at least 30 minutes after having your pre-workout before you train, is that to let the fluid you just consumed settle a little. Different pre-workout supplements may have different recommendations with regard to timing so read the label.
Pre-Workout Supplement Ingredients
Pre-workout formulas often contain a tonne of words, many of which are foreign to the average user. This section will outline the ingredients you should look for when you buy a pre-workout supplement. Some manufacturers try to pack their pre-workout powder with redundant ingredients to make the formula seem better. Do not be fooled though, they aren’t always needed. This includes adding ingredients like essential amino acids and branched chain amino acids. Whilst they are not going to be harmful, they sometimes will not do a whole lot for you when you.
Here at Power Supps, we also promote a transparent label rather than a proprietary blend. This approach gives the consumer more information to make a decision. A proprietary blend is a product that lists the ingredients on its nutritional label but does not necessarily display the amount of each ingredient. This can be problematic if you are taking a pre-workout and especially when you are combining pre-workout with other supplements.
A common question that is asked by customers is how companies are able to flavour their pre-workout supplements whilst keeping most formulas calorie free. This is because manufactures use artificial sweeteners to create great tasting beverages without needing to add sugar. This tends to worry some people but the reality is that artificial sweeteners have been given a bad name through misinformation in the media. The actual quantity that you would need consume to cause any harm is astronomical.
This is the key ingredient in most pre-workout formulas as it provides a boost of energy and also enhances focus. Caffeine is well proven in the literature and has been shown to be effective in moderately trained recreational athletes. Almost every pre-workout formula will contain caffeine as it is an efficient way to boost energy.
Di Caffeine Malate
This ingredient is not present in all pre-workout supplements, but it is a great inclusion nonetheless. The role of the malic acid is to cause a more sustained release of the caffeine into the blood stream.
This is found in most pre-workout supplements is also known as the ingredient that gives you the trademark “tingling” sensation. This product helps to increase exercise performance by reducing muscle fatigue, allowing you to train harder for longer. Being able to push your sets harder can be beneficial for building lean body mass and activating protein synthesis. As mentioned, beta alanine can cause a paraesthesia which is simply a mild tingling sensation under the skin.
This great ingredient is one of the amino acids found in the best pre-workout supplements because it dilates blood vessels. Increased pressure is usually a bad thing but in this case it results in better muscle pumps. This amino acid combination aims to increase nitric oxide levels which leads to increased blood flow. This is one of the primary benefits of pre-workout because the build up of metabolites can be beneficial for hypertrophy.
Now this may not be as popular as the aforementioned pre-workout ingredients, however it is gradually gaining in popularity. Like most amino acids used in pre-workout, it is used to boost nitric oxide levels. As agmatine sulfate can also help reduce muscle soreness, making this a great supplement to be taking to be taking for anyone training hard for muscle growth or weight loss.
Taurine is a very interesting ingredient and is mainly used for its positive effects on mental focus. It can enhance mood and boost cognitive function but has also shown promising effects in the weight management realm. Therefore it may be of use to anyone undertaking a dieting phase or contest prep to boost fat burning. Taurine is essential to the development of the brain, retina and skeletal muscle and is also crucial for cardiovascular function.
This is one of the most essential amino acids for males in particular and is sometimes found in pre-workout. DAA is a key ingredient in most testosterone boosting and anti-oestrogen supplements but also features most notably in the famous GAT pre-workout, Nitraflex . DAA has been shown to improve hormone function with significant effects as it can improve the rate of testosterone synthesis which can boost testosterone levels in the body. This can be very beneficial for men who are middle-aged and older at this stage of their life.
What are Non-Stim Pre-Workouts?
Non-stim pre-workouts are formulas that still contain all the key ingredients that boost performance. Ingredients like beta alanine, citrulline malate and l-arginine should still be in the product. They essentially contain no stimulants, making them ideal for an evening workout or for individuals who do not enjoy high amounts of caffeine. Non-stimulant supplements contain plenty of ingredients to assist with boosting your pump and dialling in your focus, often bypassing the need to stacks of stimulants. In fact, some of the most popular and best pre-workouts that we have at Power Supps are caffeine free!
A lot of non-stim formulas contain nootropics which are ingredients that improve mental function and cognition. Due to the fact that these ingredients can improve mood and alertness, they can boost energy levels without any need for caffeine. For example, one of the best pre-workouts on our shelves is Hydraulic by Axe & Sledge and out customers often report how alert they feel after taking a full serve.
What is a “pump” Pre Workout?
Bodybuilders use all sorts of confusing terminology like pumped, flat, full, bubbly and round but what does any of this even mean? When bodybuilders refer to the “pump” they are talking about the muscle being filled with blood and swelling up. This not only makes the muscle look larger but it also causes a feeling that makes the skin feel tight. This might sound vain but the pump is also very important for muscle growth as the accumulation of metabolites.
For this reason, improving the pump is one of the biggest aims of a pre-workout. This is done through use of ingredients like citrulline malate and agmatine sulfate which are precursors to nitric oxide. Higher levels of nitric oxide in the blood causes vasodilation of blood vessels which allows more nutrients and oxygen to be transported to muscles.
Should Pre-Workout Contain Creatine Monohydrate?
Creatine monohydrate is the most well-researched and trusted sports supplement in the world. It is one of the main supplements that most people should be taking. However many people ask whether or not they should only look for pre-workout formulas that contain creatine monohydrate. Whilst it is not a bad thing to include creatine in a pre-workout formula, it is often not necessary. Creatine monohydrate is not timing dependent, so you can take it any time of day. If you find a pre-workout that you really enjoy that contains creatine then by all means use it, however just be aware that there might not always be a full 5g serving of creatine which is the daily requirement for the majority of people.
A great product that we have at Power Supps that ticks all the boxes is Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre Advanced, which contains a full 5g of creatine but also contains all of the other performance ingredients that you hope to see in a pre-workout.
There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a pre-workout. We hope that this article has helped you feel more confident with making an informed decision for yourself. As explained in this article, pre-workout is indicated for anyone who is trying to perform to their best ability whether or not you train on the field or in the gym and remember, you don’t have to be a pro bodybuilder to take pre-workout.
There are also timing considerations when it comes to taking pre-workout. These have been thoroughly examined so that you can get the most out of your pre-workout. As outlined above, there are a myriad of ingredients that commonly feature in a pre-workout and they all play a slightly different role. Some increase blood flow, some reduce muscle cramps and some increase endurance. They all play an important role in helping you train to the best of your ability. Non-stim pre-workout has also been highlighted to explain why they are so useful and why it is important to consider your own caffeine tolerance when taking a pre-workout.
So there you have it, a comprehensive run down on everything you need to know from the amino acids that make your muscles swell and the caffeine that boosts your energy. If there is anything else you would like to know about pre-workout or any other supplement, feel free to browse our website where there is a range of blog articles and reviews as well as product breakdowns for every product that we stock.
Authors’s Recommendation: “I love Beta Pump Compound X in the grade flavour which is Max’s Protein’s signature pre-workout!”