When getting back into the gym, I decided I wanted to take my fitness to the next level. I started by doing some research into different products that could improve my performance. After protein and creatine I started to see a lot of discussions around pre-workout supplements. I spent months taking a deep dive into the subject and researching and reviewing over ten different products. I hope this article will inform your own investigation into pre-workout supplements.
Pre-workout supplements are performance-enhancing products that are used prior to a workout. They are often used by professional athletes, bodybuilders, and powerlifters. However, they are widely available to the general public and as such, many fitness enthusiasts use them to have more energy, gain that extra push and improve their overall performance at the gym.
There is a lot of preconceived notions that pre-workout supplements are just for bodybuilders – they’re just for the guys that go to the gym four, five, six, or even seven days a week to bulk up and get big muscles. Sure, a lot of bodybuilders use pre-workout supplements, but that’s because they work!
It’s just like firearms. A lot of people use guns, right? We probably won’t ever see a cop stop using a gun just because the criminals are using them. So why should it be any different with pre-workout supplements?
It often boils down to being misinformed. People just don’t know enough about pre-workout supplements, what they can do for them, and how safe they are to use, so they make fast empty assumptions and go on with their day.
So now you’re here, you want to learn about pre-workout supplements, and you are prepared to give yourself the advantage by using them. Whether it’s to get bigger, stronger, or to be more energetic, you’re ready for that little extra push. There is a lot of different information but this is what I found out.
Don’t rush into anything just yet – there are still some things about pre-workout supplements that you should know!
What Are The Common Ingredients of a Pre-Workout Supplement?
There are many ingredients that are commonly found in pre-workout supplements. Some of these ingredients are powerful enough to provide extreme performance enhancement results, while others are just minor accessories to those powerful ingredients. Sometimes you may not notice the subtle effects at first but after using them for a while you notice slight improvements that lead to big gains..
What you need to know about is those powerful ingredients. You need to know what different ingredients that most pre-workouts are focused around. This will help you to better understand the effects of these supplements and it will help you with figuring out which composition of ingredients is most compelling to you.
So let’s fire through a list of some of these ingredients. This will give you a quick overview and a better understanding of each.
Here we go…
Studies on arginine are still in the works. However, many misconceive the role that arginine plays in exercise performance enhancement. Arginine assumes the responsibility as a precursor to nitric oxide. It is with this ingredient that a heighted amount of nitric oxide reaches the muscles. This is why many pre-workouts containing arginine are often hyped for their incredible pumps. Arginine also helps to increase blood flow and improve nutrient delivery to the muscles, which includes the delivery of amino acids and creatine. No common side effects have been reported as a direct result of arginine supplementation.
Studies have proven that beta alanine is effective in increasing exercise performance. The study concluded that supplements containing beta alanine provided a substantial ergogenic effect in participants performing high intensity exercises. More specifically, these results were highly noticeable in exercises of durations ranging from one to four minutes.
Beta alanine is a very powerful ingredient, but that does come with some potential side effects for some people – this includes feeling itchy and tingly and your fingertips.
Studies have proven that caffeine does improve exercise performance in the short term. The study concluded that supplements containing caffeine provided both an energy boost and upper body strength increase in men during resistance training. Caffeine also assists with faster muscle glycogen recovery when paired with carbohydrates. Further, Caffeine is widely recognized for its ability to increase focus and concentration, which is also experienced during all types of exercise.
Caffeine is a very powerful ingredient with many benefits – but it does have some minor side effects, such as headaches or jitteriness. Again these side effects are only scene in some people. But when using, if you do notice this, check the package to see how much caffeine it contains and then look for a product that contains less for your next purchase.
Creatine nitrate is made by bonding creatine with nitrate. It is viewed as being one of the most water soluble forms of creatine and is highly effective when coupled with arginine. It serves as a very high quality source of creatine and is essentially a freebie when included in a pre-workout, as you no longer have to go out and buy the creatine supplement separately. So if you are sick of stacking multiple products then you may want to look for a pre-workout with creatine nitrate.
Creatine nitrate side effects are negligible. Creatine nitrate also assumes the same exercise performance benefits as creatine.
Tyrosine, an amino acid, turns into dopamine, which provides a high level of mental clarity, focus, and alertness. This ingredient has been proven to improve cognitive performance. This translates very well to both aerobic and anaerobic exercise. It is also found in BCAAs so having this in the blend is an additional bonus.
Tyrosine is a great ingredient to rely on when you absolutely must avoid caffeine-based supplements – but it does come with some potential side effects, such as anxiety, irritability, and restlessness.
What Are The Benefits of a Pre-Workout Supplement?
The benefits listed for each of these common ingredients should shed some light on what pre-workout supplements have to offer you. Basically, these supplements can create an increase in:
- Nutrient delivery to the muscles.
- Improved muscle pumps and vascularity.
- Enhanced mental clarity, focus, and concentration.
- Additional energy for both short and long durations.
- Strength in the short term during resistance training.
- Endurance in the short term during cardiovascular training.
Sometimes the benefits of a pre-workout supplement are deeper than what’s seen at the surface though. For example, someone that finds themselves unmotivated on the way to the gym may see a great improvement in their energy levels. When at the gym and using a pre-workout supplement it will give them ‘that extra little push’ to get you going.
The thing about pre-workout supplements is that you really need to know when to use them. They are not something that should be a part of your everyday life all the time. They should be used in cycles and the timing of when you cycle on the supplement needs to be concerned.
The absolute best time to introduce a pre-workout supplement to your training regimen is when you hit a plateau. This may be when you can’t continue increasing your lifts, your weight loss progress has halted, you are becoming demotivated with the gym, or anything else that has put you at a standstill.
Remember, all supplements are nothing more than an accessory and should be seen as either a short term solution.
What Are The Drawbacks of a Pre-Workout Supplement?
The drawbacks of pre-workout supplements are usually at a product-by-product level. These drawbacks are also often very insignificant and even preventable with the right approach.
Pre-workouts that are high in nitrates should be taken at small dosage levels at first. It is important to build up tolerance to the nitrates as otherwise, there is an increased risk of severe headaches. However, some people choose to take some caffeine on the side — bingo, it’s usually in the same supplement — as the caffeine helps to supress the nitrate-induced headaches.
Some of the more powerful pre-workout supplements contain stimulants. While these stimulants really do maximize the performance enhancement effects of the supplement, they can also lead to a few different side effects. These side effects may include headaches,
The tingly feeling, which is commonly associated with pre-workout supplements that contain beta alanine, can be relieved by consuming a lot of carbohydrates with the supplement. Alternatively, you could attempt spreading out your dosing more.
The best supplement products are designed with a blend of ingredients that will complement each other and limit the risk of side effects. This is what it takes to make a powerful pre-workout supplement and it is often something that is hard for the beginner to locate. This is why it is so important to know the difference in ingredients and to place value in legitimate product reviews and not just label claims.
Is a Pre-Workout Supplement Right For You? Which One?
Anyone that is heavily involved in fitness training should consider investing in a pre-workout supplement at some point. The benefits of using this type of supplement are clear and abundant. However, the benefits can only be experienced if the right pre-workout supplement is used.
These products are not all created to be equal. Some are just made to be sold based on marketing claims and pretty bottles. Others are designed to be powerful forces in the supplements industry. The bad products usually fade away, but have another 10 or 20 to replace them when they’re gone. So it’s understandable if you find it difficult to locate the right pre-workout supplement for you.
This is when you have two options – you can research products to death like I did until you find the right one for you or you can begin a trial and error phase to see which one is right for you.
The best way to go about it would actually be to create a hybrid of those two approaches. Pre-workout supplements can get costly, so you will want to make sure that you begin your trial and error with a product that has proven to provide consistent results for its users. So a bit of research and trial and error combined is just what you need.
If you’re ready to take the step, below is a quick overview on a few poplar supplements out there along with a few that are up and comers. We hope this information will give you guidance and help you make an informed purchase decision.
Let us know what you think
If you have any questions please add them to the comments below. We’ll try to answer them as best as possible and updated the post with any improvements. Also if you have used pre-works let us know what your results have been and what product works for you?