Solved: Do you really need pre-workout supplements and what does it really do for you.
When it comes to training, a key element to your workout results is the fuel you put into your body. We’ve all heard of pre-workouts, but do you really know the pros and cons of them and how they can influence your workout goals? We’ll breakdown what a pre-workout does, the key benefits and disadvantages and the ingredients that are commonly found in them.
We’ve all had those days where we mentally or physically just can’t get into our workout 100%. Sometimes we feel tired, unmotivated, lethargic, and simply; meh! That’s just life and finding your mojo to give your workout everything after a rough day in the office, or the morning after your 1-year-old has decided not to sleep all night is simply the last thing on the cards. However, this is where a pre-workout could be all your need to alleviate your training lull.
What is a pre-workout?
Pre-workout supplements are multi-ingredient dietary formulas designed to boost your energy and athletic performance during your workout. Pre-workouts are often in powder form and then mixed with water to mimic the flavour of a sports beverage. However, it can also be consumed in food or pill form. As the name suggests, pre-workouts should be taken before a workout, and although many people drink it on their way to the gym or during their workout, it should be taken at least 30 to 60 minutes prior to hitting the weights or cardio machines.
The caffeinated boost that comes from the supplement can allow people to maximise their gym time by giving them the energy to get to the gym, plus the endurance to power through longer workouts with more reps and more intensity. There are two categories of pre-workout’s: products with stimulants and products without stimulants.
Benefits of a pre-workout
An improvement in exercise performance is the main benefit of pre-workout and many gym goers swear by it. Although, it should be noted that this supplement does not produce results on its own merit. Instead, it’s an energy-producing supplement. The theory behind using a pre-workout is that when you have the energy and endurance to work out longer and harder, there will likely be an acceleration in results. A pre-workout on its own doesn’t affect weight loss or muscle growth, but it gives you a boost of energy that can help increase focus and endurance and improve your physical performance. Not to mention, you’ll likely feel more motivated to get to the gym.
There are several types of pre-workout supplements on the market that feature beneficial ingredients like caffeine, carbohydrates, amino acids, antioxidants, and B vitamins. These common ingredients are the key players that give you an energy boost to endure a challenging workout.
A note of caution: each product boasts a different ingredient combination so it’s important that you read the labels carefully and look at the key ingredients before deciding on which one is right for you.
Disadvantages of a pre-workout
Pre-workout’s have been the source of many debates since it was introduced to the market with many people raising concern about its safety and necessity. Is a pre-workout bad for you? The answer really depends on the product’s ingredients, how it’s used and how your body responds to it.
Familiarising yourself with the ingredients in the product and monitoring how your body reacts to a pre-workout is essential to using it safely. One side effect of using a pre-workout is feeling overstimulated or jittery. Other potential side effects can include an upset stomach, headaches and insomnia. Having a small meal or a protein bar along with your pre-workout can help alleviate these symptoms. Again, due to the caffeine found in many varieties of pre-workout supplements, some find taking pre-workout in the evening can delay or disrupt sleep depending on how sensitive your body is to caffeine.
People who have heart conditions or high blood pressure should consult their physician before taking pre-workout, and likewise, people who are on other medications or taking other supplements should talk to their doctor before adding pre-workout to their regimen.
What's in my pre-workout?
The ingredients in a pre-workout vary from product to product, and with so many products on the market, it can be confusing to know which of these ingredients will give you the boost you’re looking for. Here are the top three essential ingredients to look for in pre-workouts: caffeine, creatine, and amino acids. We’ll then break down some of the more common ingredients you’re likely to see as well outside of these three.
Caffeine is one of the more recognisable pre-workout ingredients and it’s largely responsible for that boost in energy levels and focus that you’re looking for in a pre-workout like Redcon1 Total War Pre Workout. It is important to read the label and know the amount of caffeine in each serving size. Some products have the same amount of natural caffeine as you’d find in a cup of coffee, but others have significantly more than that. If you work out later in the afternoon or evening, or have a caffeine sensitivity, you may want to seek out pre-workouts without caffeine. These types of supplements rely on other stimulants. And as mentioned above, you can also find non-stimulant pre-workout that will get your blood circulating to increase energy.
Creatine monohydrate is a supplement that helps with muscle building. It’s a naturally occurring substance that is found in muscle cells, and studies have shown that supplementing your creatine intake can help build muscle. Some pre-workout products like Axe & Sledge Hydraulic Non Stim Pre Pump contain creatine to accelerate the production of muscle cells while doing strength training or high-intensity exercise. More muscle cells build muscle mass and of course, stronger muscles allow for harder workouts. If you are an avid weightlifter or if weightlifting is your main type of exercise, creatine should be one of your top priorities in pre-workout formula.
If you’ve been doing your research, you will likely have come across a few of the compounds below. While they might sound like intimidating artificial ingredients, they’re just scientific names for natural ingredients that occur naturally in your body and can improve your exercise performance. Let’s check them out!
- Beta-alanine: Do you know that burning feeling you get when you’re pushing through your last few reps and maxing your muscles out to their limit? Beta-alanine is what makes that sensation more bearable and helps you push through it in products like Max's Lab Series Beta Pump Compound X. One thing to note is that, while beta-alanine has been studied and shown to be safe in recommended amounts, it does have one side effect. Some people who take beta-alanine will feel an odd tingling sensation. If you’re someone who experiences this, you can make it better by taking small amounts of beta-alanine over a longer period.
- Nitric Oxide (NO): Nitric oxide found in products such as Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Pre Workout Advanced helps dilate your blood vessels, which increases blood flow. Nitric oxide provides a clear pathway for oxygen and nutrients to get into the blood vessels, which can give you an extra boost during lifting. You might see l-citrulline and l-arginine on a nutrition label in tandem with nitric oxide; that’s because both are amino acids involved in the process of creating it!
- L-tyrosine: L-tyrosine is an amino acid that helps produce adrenaline and norepinephrine, two hormones that are activated when the body is under stress. At first, that might sound bad. But stress isn’t always a bad thing; sometimes it means you’re pushing through a difficult workout! And because of its relationship with those two hormones, studies have shown that a pre-workout like Red Dragon Dragons Breath that contains l-tyrosine can help improve exercise performance when you’re under stress.
- Acetyl l-carnitine: Acetyl l-carnitine is an amino acid that contributes to the production of energy. It helps your body convert fat into energy, so if fat loss is your goal, it’s a good idea to seek this out in your pre-workout and look at products like Red Dragon Fireball Thermogenic.
- Vitamin B-6: In addition to different types of amino acids, you also may see vitamin B-6 listed on the label of your pre-workout. Vitamin B-6 found in a pre-workout such as Axe & Sledge Seventh Gear Pre Workout is a key player in your body’s energy production, specifically for the breakdown of muscle glycogen. It’s crucial for your metabolism, particularly during exercise, and getting enough of it in your diet can help with weight loss, too.
Working out is such an integral part of many of our lives, whether you are starting out, or have been going to the gym for years; whether its cardio or weight training or a combination of both, pre-workouts can fit into your lifestyle and give you that edge to work towards your goals even better. An important thing to remember, like supplement you put into your body; it is important to understand the ingredients and how your body reacts to them as no two people are the same! If ever you are in doubt, we recommend speaking to your doctor or physician before using supplements to truly understand if there will be any side effects to your body or health that need to be taken into consideration. Start discovering our full range of pre-workouts here.