Pre-workout supplements (pre-workouts) are a combination of ingredients designed to prepare the body for training and exercise. Taken 30-60 minutes before your workout, a pre-workout can boost energy and athletic performance as well as aid in muscle recovery post workout. The right pre-workout can increase energy and have you feeling like you can take on the world – and your workout.
There are a few key things I expect from a pre-workout:
ENERGY AND FOCUS
To get the most out of your workout, you need to be prepared physically and mentally. If you’re not ready and focused, you won’t get the maximum benefits from your session. Good stimulants will help provide motivation, energy, and focus. Caffeine, for example, is a stimulant known to boost energy and alertness, and help improve sports performance. In studies on conditioned athletes, consuming caffeine before a workout has been shown to improve speed and stamina, as well as boost strength and power.
The amino acid, N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine, is also known to have an energy-boosting stimulant effect and has been shown to boost cognitive performance, reduce stress, and increase working memory and wellbeing.
STRENGTH AND POWER
Working out has a ton of benefits for both your mind and body. But for me, one of the big reasons is to build muscle. And muscle isn’t just about strength. Muscle mass also helps boost your metabolism and burn fat.
There are a few supplements that can really impact muscle gain, and Creatine is one of the most effective in helping to promote gains in muscle size and improve exercise performance. Creatine helps your muscles produce cellular energy, which can lead to gains in strength, power, speed, and muscle growth. This can also allow for quicker recovery between sets for more work in less time.
The amino acid, Betaine, is thought to help boost muscle strength and size by promoting Creatine production in the body (through Methionine formation) and through an increase in muscle protein synthesis. Betaine has been linked to increased power output and increases in workout volume – it may also accelerate muscle growth and fat loss.
Most pre-workouts also contain vasodilators that boost Nitric Oxide (NO) production for bigger pumps in the gym. NO helps your arteries relax, improving blood flow and increasing the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to working muscles. One good precursor to increased Nitric Oxide production (through its conversion to Arginine) is L-Citrulline, an amino acid that has been shown to help increase exercise capacity and reduce fatigue.
If you’re fatigued, you can’t push yourself harder and increase your performance. Endurance is critical for getting the most out of every workout. One widely studied amino acid, Beta-Alanine (which increases Carnosine levels in muscle), has been shown to produce a lactic acid buffering effect, helping you push back against the muscle fatigue you feel during exercise. Any increase in performance can potentially lead to gains in strength and power as well as muscle growth, and greater fat loss.
You also need to fuel your body so you can keep up the intensity. During exercise, your body uses blood glucose and glycogen (stored carbs) as its main energy source, so consuming enough nutrients throughout the day and before working out will help keep you from quickly depleting your energy stores.