Pre-workout supplements are extremely popular in the fitness world. Taking pre-workout can enhance your energy levels and endurance, making them perfect for a wide array of activities, including bodybuilding.
But whether you’re a bodybuilder or trying to get lean, professional, or a newbie at lifting, pre-workout can be integral to your journey. It is formulated to boost energy endurance and focuses on maximizing the effectiveness of your workout at the gym.
However, many products on the market today can be overpriced and offer questionable results. They can be great for some people but harmful for others. Therefore, you must be careful about buying or taking them; it’s essential to consider what it’s made of and if it’s right for you!
This article will help you understand pre-workout, the benefits of pre-workout, the right time to take pre-workout, the risks, and what precautions you should take before trying them.
What is Pre-workout?
Pre-workout is a category of supplements intended to increase energy, alertness, strength, muscle endurance and reduce fatigue so you can train harder for longer during a workout. It is taken before working out.
Most standard pre-workout supplements you purchase are provided in powder form, then get mixed. You can mix it with water or another liquid. There are also pre-workout shakes you can make, like the best pre-work shake.
However, some brands sell ready-to-drink versions. For instance, some manufacturers include them in energy drinks, pills, and even bars.
They contain a mix of ingredients that can boost your energy, such as caffeine or creatine, and others like branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), taurine, and beta-alanine. Some also have nitric oxide (NO) boosters to improve blood flow. These enhance performance in the gym and lead to better results.
They’re used mainly by bodybuilders, athletes, CrossFit enthusiasts, and average gym-goers to give them an extra boost in the gym, making it easier for them to push harder and complete that last rep or set.
Banned Pre-workout Shakes
Not all pre-workout are created equal. Some are better, and others are downright dangerous and banned from the FDA due to their side effects. Supplements containing the stimulant DMAA, or 1,3-dimethylamylamine, were banned from sale in 2012 when it was discovered that at least two troops died while participating in physical training.
OxyElite Pro, a weight-loss supplement, was also banned from the market in 2013 after it was related to several severe hepatitis and liver failure cases in Hawaii, including some involving military dependents.
Here are seven of the most dangerous pre-workout supplements:
- Ephedrine HCL (also known as ephedra)
- DMAA (1,3 Dimethylamylamine) (also known as methylhexanamine)
- 1,4 Dinitrophenol (DNP)
- DMBA (1,3 Dimethylbutylamine) (also known as AMP Citrate)
- Octodrine (1,3 Dimethylbutylamine) (also known as DMHA)
- Synephrine HCL
Is Pre-workout Safe?
It all depends on the ingredients. Pre-workouts vary in ingredients, but most combine caffeine with other chemicals designed to enhance your workout. These include creatine and beta-alanine, which can be beneficial in appropriate doses, and others such as L-arginine and nitric oxide boosters have less evidence behind them.
These ingredients can be safe but in high doses can be very harmful. For example, some pre-workout shakes may contain high amounts of these chemicals, often without the manufacturer revealing exactly how much. To be on the safe side, read the ingredient label before you buy the pre-workout shake, and if you are new to taking pre-workout, take half a dose when starting.
Why Should You Take Pre-workout?
The benefits of pre-workout may vary depending on the ingredients. The most common include caffeine, protein, creatine, amino acids, beta-alanine, branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), and nitric oxide.
Here are the benefits of consuming pre-workout shakes that contain the following ingredients:
L-citrulline is an amino acid produced naturally in your body. It helps with lactic acid build-up, reducing fatigue and muscle soreness, meaning your muscles won’t tire quickly, and you can work out for longer, with more intensity.
Taking a pre-workout containing L-citrulline increases blood flow and aerobic performance and dilates your blood vessels for better nutrient delivery to muscles, reducing fatigue.
Beta-alanine is also a naturally occurring amino acid that provides you with more energy and endurance, so you can train harder and longer before feeling fatigued. It also prevents lactic acid build-up in your muscles, so you can do more reps without getting tired.
Enhanced Muscle Growth: Amino acid L-arginine dilate blood vessels so you can get more blood flow to your muscles during a workout. This means your muscles get more nutrients and oxygen during exercise, which may help them recover faster after a tough session.
Improved performance – Creatine Monohydrate improves performance during high-intensity exercise. It also increases strength and muscle mass. It works by pulling water from your bloodstream into your muscles, helping retain nutrients and support muscle growth.
Increased energy levels – Most pre-workouts contain caffeine, a natural stimulant that will give you energy and boost you get through your workout.
Caffeine can also make you feel more alert and improve brain function, making you feel more focused when taking pre-workout. It has also been shown to improve endurance in aerobic and anaerobic exercises.
Nitric Oxide (NO) Boosters
In addition to increasing the amount of oxygen in your blood, nitric oxide (NO) boosters pre-workout supplements also increase the blood flow. This allows more energy and nutrients to reach your muscles so they can function at a higher level.
When is the Best Time to Take Pre-workout?
The best time to take pre-workout is about 30 minutes before working out. This will give your body enough time to digest the supplement and absorb it into your bloodstream, which will help you power through your workout.
It also allows for any potential side effects that might occur from taking the supplement on an empty stomach, such as nausea or vomiting, to dissipate before you start exercising.
If you wait much longer than 30 minutes, your body will have already started using the nutrients for other functions, and it won’t have enough stored up for your workout.
If you take a pre-workout supplement too close to your workout, you may experience gastrointestinal (G.I.) distress, which leads to bloating, nausea and vomiting. This can be very uncomfortable and lead to poor performance during your workout.
Should You Take Pre-Workout Daily?
There are several considerations you should take into account before deciding to take pre-workout every day. A few you may want to ask yourself include the following:
- How much caffeine is in your pre-workout, and how does it affect you?
- Are you getting enough nutrients from your diet?
- Do you have any health conditions that stimulants might exacerbate?
Make sure you are healthy and your body can handle the effects from pre-workout before taking it daily.
Best Alternatives to Pre-workout
Pre-workout is a great way to get prepped for an intense weight lifting session or cardio workout, helping you gain more energy, strength, and focus.
However, pre-workout can contain some harsh ingredients that may not be so good for your body type. If you’re looking to avoid those ingredients or pre-workout in general, but still want a boost before your workouts, here are some alternatives to consider:
Drink coffee before hitting the weights: Caffeine increases alertness, improves mood, and boosts metabolism.
Coffee also has antioxidants that help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals in our bodies during exercise (or any other time). The caffeine in coffee also makes your muscles contract faster, so they’re ready for more intense activities like lifting heavy weights or running at full speed!
Fruits like apples, bananas, and berries are high in natural sugars that will give you an energy boost during your workout. Fruits like bananas contain potassium which helps maintain healthy blood pressure levels and prevent muscle cramps while exercising. They also provide carbohydrates, vitamins B6 and C, which will give you energy before going into the gym!
Coconut water is full of vitamins and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and B vitamins. These nutrients work together to keep your body hydrated while you exercise while also providing a small amount of energy.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are excellent sources of zinc, which helps with testosterone production and muscle growth. These foods can help boost energy levels while also providing healthy fats.
Green tea is one of the healthiest beverages and contains caffeine to boost your energy levels during workouts. Green tea is also packed with antioxidants to help fight off free radicals that cause oxidative stress in the body.
Studies show that beetroot juice supplementation can significantly improve exercise performance, particularly for high-intensity exercise lasting between 30 seconds and 45 minutes. This is due to increased nitric oxide levels in the blood after consuming beetroot juice.
Oats are a natural carbohydrate source that provides slow-releasing energy – perfect for fuelling your workout. Oats are also a great source of fiber. Studies have shown that eating oats before an exercise can result in your body burning more fat during the session rather than using the carbs as fuel instead.
You can have them in different ways, whether as a pre-workout natural yogurt shake, fruit, or oats with almond milk and nuts.
Taking pre-workout is like adding a turbo boost to your healthy lifestyle. A great pre-workout supplement can give you that extra push you need to get through the day or help you get those last few reps in during exercise. It doesn’t offer a permanent solution to your health problems, but it will put you on the right track and keep you motivated. It can be a great way to jumpstart your workout!