Pre-workout supplements have exploded in the health and fitness market recently, and with their instant effects, it’s easy to see why. The hour before you work out is extremely critical in terms of the nutrients and vitamins you feed your body, as these are the things that will help push you through the session.
The purpose of pre-workout supplements depends on each product, but the general idea is that they give you a boost and improve your body’s natural abilities. Whether that means a boost in endurance, strength, pumps, or stamina, will depend on your individual supplement and your end goal, but the main idea is that they’ll give you an added burst.
There is a range of different brands available, all with their own unique selling point. Muscle growth, weight loss, natural pre-workout supplements, smooth rush, sweet flavor, there’s something to suit just about every need.
To decide which pre-workout supplement is right for you, you’ll need to decide what your health and fitness goals are and then work from there. However, before you decide to take any pre-workout supplement there are a few things you need to do for your body on a daily basis to ensure it’s at its healthiest.
- Watch your diet: This includes avoiding the bad stuff and getting enough of the good stuff, remembering everything in moderation is key.
- Drink enough water: According to Mayo Clinic, this amount varies for men and women. For men, 13 cups of water and for women, 9 cups of water per day.
- Get enough sleep: As the numbers change quite frequently, it can be hard to know how much sleep you should be having each night. Recent research claims you should aim for a minimum of 7 hours and try not to sleep more than 9.
- Exercise regularly: This is likely already on your radar if you’re looking at pre-workout supplements, but at least 30 minutes of regular exercise a day is recommended.
- Get enough sunlight: Vitamin D is supremely important in keeping your bones fit and strong so they can push through tough workouts.
As long as you are taking care of your body, you should be in ideal physical shape to benefit from pre-workout supplements. When taken correctly, these products will only help to boost the natural ability and strength your body has.
What are Pre-Workout Supplements?
Pre-workout supplements generally come in powder form and create a mix of essential ingredients that are designed to work together in helping you achieve your fitness goals. These ingredients can include stimulants, flavors, herbs, vitamins, and more that are blended together to help improve particular areas.
There is a pre-workout supplement for just about everything, including muscle growth, increased energy, weight loss, smooth recovery, and muscle strength. Once you’ve established what’s important to you, you can then find a reputable brand that combines your needs in the one supplement.
Pre-workout supplements come in many forms, with the most popular being powdered. However, there are other options available. Some users might like to take theirs in a pill form or eat it from an energy bar, however, the powdered form is found to be most beneficial.
Most pre-workout supplements require users to mix a spoonful or recommended serving into water, stir or shake and then consume. This should be done 30 – 60 minutes before a gym session, but it will depend on each product. There’s also the option to mix with something other than water, particularly if you’re affected by the taste and need to mask this somehow.
As health and fitness scientists continue to learn more about these supplements and their unique ingredients, we are likely to learn more about their short and long-term effects. In that past, there have been some major ingredients removed from pre-workout supplements due to their health risks so it’s essential to stay on top of the advancements.
How do Pre-Workout Supplements Work?
So what do pre-workout supplements do? Each ingredient works in special ways, and each will take a set amount of time to feel its effects. It’s for this reason that most supplements are recommended to take 30 – 60 minutes before working out so you can allow for all the ingredients to take effect.
Here are a few of the most popular ingredients found in pre-workout supplements and how they affect your body.
- Arginine: This is one of the most common ingredients found in all supplements, known for its ability to increase nitric oxide production. This allows better blood flow to your muscles to reduce fatigue. According to LiveStrong, 1.5g of arginine is the recommended dose to look for in a pre workout supplement to ensure it has a full effect.
- Beta-Alanine: Beta-Alanine is an amino acid that improves strength by acting as a sort of buffer in your muscle tissue. As we work out, our muscles are affected by lactic acid which can decrease the pH levels needed to perform for long periods. Beta-Alanine helps to combat this and in turn gives your muscles greater stamina to last and provides a more effective workout.
- Betaine: Another amino acid, but this time a modified version, Betaine can also boost your muscle strength. According to Muscle and Fitness, when you take Betaine it will improve your muscle power by up to 25% and increase your reps by 10%. This ingredient is a must for those wanting to build muscle and strength.
- Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs): This is a combination of three amino acids, including valine, isoleucine, and leucine. These three work together to stop fatigue, increase energy, and promote muscle growth. When taken together, BCAAs work at stripping body fat and retaining muscle so they’re ideal for anyone looking to get more toned.
- Caffeine: One of nature’s most popular stimulants, many people are fooled into thinking that caffeine’s presence in pre-workout supplements has to do solely with energy. However, caffeine also has the ability to promote fat metabolism during a workout so it’s fantastic for weight loss too.
- Citrulline Malate: A combination of both citrulline and malic acid, this ingredient is essential in increasing energy. Citrulline malate works by removing ammonia from your body which then helps to fight fatigue and aids in recovery once the workout is done. As it delays the onset of fatigue it’s useful for anyone, regardless of their fitness goals.
- Creatine: One of the most popular ingredients found in pre-workout supplements, Creatine is also often sold as its own supplement. Known for its ability to promote muscle strength, this is a crucial ingredient to provide your body with the quick energy boost it needs when training and will improve your pump while lifting weights.
- Glycerol: Glycerol is a triglyceride or primary fat found in our blood. This ingredient works by attracting large amounts of water to our muscles and binding it to give you a greater pump when working out.
- Taurine: A common dietary supplement and a key ingredient in some energy drinks, taurine is another form of amino acid that increases muscle strength and endurance. This amino acid also draws water into your muscles for a better pump and can improve blood flow as well.
- Tyrosine: With a wide range of benefits outside of pre-workout supplements, tyrosine is another amino acid that has a lot to offer your body. It boosts your energy and mental focus by creating hormones that can improve your performance in the gym.
Benefits of Pre-Workout Supplements
Depending on the ingredients, the benefits of pre-workout supplements can be great but varied. Here are a few of the reasons why people choose to take a supplement before they exercise.
- Increased energy: A benefit of almost every type of supplement is its ability to give you a sudden boost of energy after ingesting. With this boost of energy, you’re able to find motivation to start your workout routine, last longer through the exercises, and push yourself harder than before.
- Muscle pump: An almost instant benefit to pre-workout supplements is their ability to improve your muscle pump. Muscle pump in the fitness world is known as the size and vascularity of your muscles which can be instantly increased when you take the right supplements. Improved muscle pump will allow you to work harder and with heavier weights, improving your strength overall.
- Stamina: With pre-workout supplements you’re able to work out longer, meaning faster and more obvious results. With increased stamina you can push through the tiring workouts better than ever before and get twice the workout done before feeling fatigued.
- Weight loss: A pre-workout supplement aimed at shredding fat can be a great benefit for those looking to lose weight. Look for products that feature ingredients such as green tea which will allow you to drop fat and build muscle as you work out.
- Muscle growth: Probably the most important benefit for many supplement users is its ability to increase your muscle growth. With a good supplement in play, you can get almost 25% more gains from a standard workout than you would without it. If you’re looking to quickly and effectively build muscle with your workouts, this should be your top priority.
- Recovery: Not only are they great for improving your muscles strength mid-workout, pre-workout supplements can also aid in the recovery of muscles after you exercise. With your muscles cared for and an appropriate recovery method in place, you can ensure your body is ready for the next day’s session.
Short Term Side Effects of Pre-Workout Supplements
With so many confusing ingredients it can be hard to tell the pre-workout supplements dangers if any. There are some notable side effects that users have reported, though, but most of these can be pinpointed to a particular ingredient.
- Jitters: Many users report jitters from using pre workout supplements and this is due to the stimulants within. Although the rush of energy and jitters might help you get through the workout, it’s an unpleasant side effect that could stay with you the entire day.
- Insomnia: Following on from the jitters, it’s common that some of the more intense pre workout supplements would provide enough stimulants to keep you from sleeping. Always be cautious what time you take your supplements and be mindful that you aren’t consuming other forms of caffeine during the day that might heighten your energy levels further.
- Itchy skin: A symptom known to many pre workout supplement users, itchy skin is often a result of Beta-Alanine in your product. While most people are used to the instant effect this can have after taking your supplement, it makes others uncomfortable. For this reason, you might want to avoid any products that feature this ingredient.
- Thirst: Although this is common after performing any exercise regardless of using supplements, it may be common to feel extra thirsty during the day after taking pre workout. This is due to a few different ingredients, and it is essential to keep your water intake up during the day to prevent dehydration.
- Gastrointestinal upset: Some ingredients in pre workout supplements have been reported to cause an upset gastrointestinal system. If you find that a particular product is having this effect on you, you might search for a milder alternative until you’re satisfied with it.
- Heart racing: Generally a result of the caffeine and other stimulants, pre workout supplements can cause an increased heart rate and even sometimes palpitations. If you’re feeling this sensation, you should have a day or two off from taking supplements to give your body a rest.
As we become more aware of what we put into our bodies, more people are focusing on healthy pre-workout supplements that contain as little artificial ingredients as possible. A huge market has opened up for natural supplements that promise to offer just as big of a boost as the other types but without the harsh ingredients.
The Effects of Pre-Workout Supplements Long Term
As these supplements are still relatively new in the world of health and fitness it can be hard to know what their lasting effects might be. With a range of ingredients, though, it can often leave people wondering are pre-workout supplements safe in the long term?
Pre-workout supplements contain many ingredients that are relatively unstudied and as such this is a new field to fully be aware of all the long-term consequences. To ensure you don’t overdo your consumption of pre-workout supplements, carefully check the ingredients in each type and do your research on the possible effects of these.
Some might choose to take a testosterone booster with their pre-workout and there are both legal and illegal ways to do this. Natural testosterone boosters taken in high doses, though, still have the potential for serious long-term effects such as hair loss, testicular atrophy, prostate enlargement and increased estrogen levels, so be cautious if adding this to your regular supplement list.
Creatine, Arginine, and Beta-Alanine can also carry with them some side effects, both short and long term. According to Live Strong, these symptoms can include kidney stress, weight gain, and even cold sore outbreaks for those already with the virus. However, it should be noted that even in high doses these are still relatively safe to take regularly.
If you’re concerned about long-term effects, another suggestion might be to take them only as required a couple of times a week and not for every workout. However, if you’re hoping to make quick and meaningful gains this might not be an option you want to consider.
How to Take Pre-Workout Supplements
The specific instructions for your pre-workout supplements will differ for each type, so always refer to the labels on the container. Here are a few tips that can be applied to just about any type of pre-workout powder to improve their effectiveness.
- Timing: Timing is everything when taking your supplements. You want them to come into effect just before you start exercising, however if you miss the window you could have a wasted opportunity. If you’re confident that you’ll make it to the gym on time and not get caught up with traffic or other roadblocks, 30 – 60 minutes is best to have the full effect. However, if you’re unsure of what time you might arrive you may need to take it at the gym and then wait for the effects before starting.
- Find another method: For some, it can be hard to get a chance to mix up and drink your pre-workout supplement when it’s in powder form. If this is the case, you might prefer to take it in pill form. If your particular blend of pre-workout supplement isn’t available in pill form, you can encapsulate the tablets yourself using your favorite product. Be mindful that when consumed with this method, the time needed for it to take effect may differ.
- Do not exceed max dosage: Although this might be a given, many people feel the need to take more than the recommended dose of their pre workout supplement. There’s a reason why these products have a recommended serving and the science behind each ingredient has been carefully considered when suggesting this amount.
- Alternate your supplements: As mentioned earlier, most pre-workout supplements will create a dependency when taken every day and you will find that it takes more and more to feel the desired effect. To combat this, try to alternate your supplements and cycle through the different types as you target various areas in the gym. You may need to take a break from certain ingredients altogether to allow your tolerance to reset.
- Choose your liquids carefully: If you’re not a fan of mixing your pre-workout supplements with water, you will need to be cautious of exactly what you’re adding the powder too. Many people make the mistake of taking their supplements with an energy drink or coffee, causing them to have an intense burst of energy and crash hard.
- Post workout is just as important: Since you’re putting in the effort to focus on your pre-workout supplements, it makes sense that you should care about post workout too. How we care for our bodies after a workout and our recovery time will affect our ability to exercise the following day and have long-term effects as well.
Look for something that speeds up recovery and builds muscle, such as protein shakes. Without a good post workout supplement or adequate nutrition, your entire session can go to waste.
If you’re serious about working hard and getting results from your gym sessions, using pre-workout supplements should be a part of your fitness routine. With years of proven results from these amazing blends of herbs, vitamins and nutrients, pre-workout supplements offer users benefits to cater to every type of fitness goal.
Whether you’re looking to improve strength, build your muscle, lose fat, or lean down, pre-workout supplements can give a boost to your natural abilities and make you the fittest and strongest version of yourself possible.
As with any type of supplement, always read the label for any specific guidelines and consult a health practitioner if you’re unsure which one is right for you. When taken correctly, pre-workout supplements can boost your endurance and strength to help you reach your fitness goals sooner.