When some hear the words “Pre-Workout” they consider it the same as steroids. You get the tingles, you get hyped, you lift heavier weights, you move quicker, you do better. Must be the same thing, especially with all those additives, right? Wrong! Let me give you a run down on what pre-workout is. First off, In my opinion, pre-workout is what can give you that extra edge on your workout, especially if you are feeling tired or demotivated on that particular day. It gives you a caffeine boost, gets your blood pumping, and gets your heart going. Consider it the less calorific ultimate sugary treat with two shots of espresso included.
For one, I am an advocate of pre-workout. I have been taking it on and off for the last 5 years or so (after completing many nutrition and sports science modules, coupled with a plethora of personal research). I cycle between having pre-workout and not having it, and I switch up brands all the time. This allows my body to avoid adapting to the caffeine and other contents, therefore allowing it to continuously work without me having to increase the dosage that I have to take before each workout.
Now, what is pre-workout? Pre-workout is a mixture of ingredients that are naturally produced in the body. This means that although you are now consuming these via powder, pill or liquid form, they would have been produced anyways; you are just increasing the dose that is present.
The main essential ingredients in generic Pre-Workouts are:
- Caffeine– provides you with energy, minimizes fatigue and amps up your focus. Pre-workouts range anywhere from 0mg-500mg per serving. The dosage will depend on which type of pre-workout you take and how much of a dose you consume. Caffeine is both ergogenic in endurance and power, and can increase your performance. It increases blood flow in your body, decreases rate of perceived exertion and reduces fatigue. Be conscious of how you react to caffeine, and choose your pre-workout accordingly.
- Tyrosine, beta alanine, L-citrulline, etc.- these all help to vasodilate your blood vessels. This means it helps increase the size of your blood vessels during your workout to allow more blood to flow directly to your muscles. This helps make your muscles more efficient during your exercise, and allows for quicker recovery. Oh, and did I mention the PUMP? Also, some can fight oxidative stress and improve insulin sensitivity.
- BCAA (Branched Chain Amino Acids)- these are essential for muscle growth (hypertrophy) as they are the base of muscle building and recovery. BCAA’s are also present in meats, and plant-based proteins, so you can be assured it’s not a bad substance, although the words do look scary (leucine, for example). Many people take BCAA’s during their workout as well to decrease catabolism (muscle breakdown), but it’s not essential. These increase nitric oxide (NO) in the muscles, which help improve blood flow as well.
- Beta Alanine- this helps to increase muscular endurance. This means you will be able to work out longer and more efficient. Whether it’s adding in two reps, or running an extra kilometer, you will find that it will greatly increase your performance. Sometimes you might get a “tingling” or “itchy” sensation from these, but unless it’s quite severe, it’s nothing to worry about.
- Creatine- Power, power and more power! Creatine helps increase your power (force times velocity), as well as muscle size. Unfortunately, as creatine requires a loading process, which I had explained in a previous post on Creatine, you need to be taking it consistently.
Although I have talked to you about some of the benefits of pre-workout, you must be careful with dosing, what brands you take, and whether or not you need it. Additionally, there has been many studies that have proven that over-the-counter pre-workouts do not significantly change performance, other than decreasing rate of perceived exertion, so keep that in mind (Salinas, Hearon, & Bliss, 2016)! I find myself that it does help give me that boost I need on days I am feeling fatigued (I owe it to the caffeine, in my opinion), but it does it for me, and I don’t intend on stopping anytime soon. Unfortunately, however, caffeine does have some negative effects, which I spoke about in a previous post (caffeine), but when I feel like I really need it to get through a tough training session, I find it worth it!
My top 5 Favourite Pre-workouts:
- CNP Propane- Blue Raspberry
- C4-Fruit Punch
- Muscle Pharm- Watermelon
- ON Nutrition- Amino Energy (has a lot of BCAA’s and is a great preworkout)- Orange Cooler
- BPI Vortex- Snow Cone
Will you try pre-workout after reading this post? Do you currently take it? Or do you hate the idea of external substances in your body? Let me know your thoughts!
Bloomer, A. D., Chemmanchery, B. R., Liebowitz, R., & Zalaker, H. M. (2016). Ingestion of a Nutritional Supplement Pre-Workout Will Increase Exercise Time-to-Fatigue.
Green, J. M., Olenick, A., Eastep, C., & Winchester, L. (2016). Caffeine effects on velocity selection and physiological responses during RPE production. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 41(10), 1077-1082.
Hurtado, A., Hamm, M., Pineda, J. G., Martin, A., Cross, A., Uribe, V., … & Tinsley, G. (2017). Effects of Multi-ingredient Pre-workout Supplements on Repetitions-in-Reserve and Subjective Measures of Energy, Fatigue, and Focus during Lower-Body Resistance Exercise. In International Journal of Exercise Science: Conference Proceedings (Vol. 2, No. 9, p. 30).
Jagim, A. R., Jones, M. T., Wright, G. A., Antoine, C. S., Kovacs, A., & Oliver, J. M. (2016). The acute effects of multi-ingredient pre-workout ingestion on strength performance, lower body power, and anaerobic capacity. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 13(1), 11.
Martin, A., Hamm, M., Pineda, J. G., Uribe, V., Hurtado, A., Cross, A., … & Tinsley, G. M. (2017). Effects of Pre-Workout Supplements on Maximal Concentric and Eccentric Force Production During Lower Body Resistance Exercise. In International Journal of Exercise Science: Conference Proceedings (Vol. 2, No. 9, p. 52).
Salinas Jr, D., Hearon, C. M., & Bliss, M. V. (2016). The Effect of a Commercially Available Pre-Workout Supplement (The Bracket™) on Wingate Anaerobic Cycle Test Performance in Athletic Females. In International Journal of Exercise Science: Conference Proceedings (Vol. 2, No. 8, p. 16).