Whether fitness conscious or simply athletic, everyone always wants to go the extra mile in their workouts to improve athletic performance. With this thought, the first thing that comes to our minds is to have a nutritious diet and follow a strict workout routine.
However, for that extra mile, you need something powerful and capable of keeping you consistent and maximizing your energy, enabling you to push your boundaries.
This is where a pre-workout enters the picture. Also known as pre-workout supplements, these dietary supplements come in the form of water-soluble powder. A wide range of pre-workout supplements is available on the market. Each pre-workout powder has a distinct formula designed to meet different requirements.
Pre-workouts are instant-action drinks, so you have to ingest them 20 to 60 minutes before a training session. Usually, pre-workout formulas are considered unhealthy supplements that lead to poor health conditions.
This article clearly explains how pre-workout works and whether it is effective or not. Also, we shall look at the composition of pre-workout supplements so you can lay your hands on the right product.
Benefits Of Pre-Workout Supplements
The advantages of taking pre-workout supplements are as follows:
Boost Energy Levels
Intense workouts are the key to enhancing the endurance and strength required to keep up with a sports routine. During a strenuous workout, your body loses a lot of energy, which may cause you to give up on the workout early. If your body strength prevents you from giving your best at the gym, you should include a pre-workout powder in your daily diet.
Pre-workout supplements increase the working capacity of the energy production system, ultimately increasing the overall energy. Taking a pre-workout supplement also reduces fatigue, helping your body prepare for challenging workouts. (1)
Increase Blood Circulation
Upon ingestion, pre-workout supplements dilate blood vessels. As a result, the blood circulates at a higher rate, and the blood pressure increases.
Usually, arginine present in most pre-workout supplements contributes to increased blood circulation. Such pre-workout formulas are the best choice for cardiovascular activity, weight-lifting and body-weight workouts. (2)
Increase Muscle Growth
The effects of pre-workout supplements also include the gain of muscle mass. If you have lean body mass, you should take pre-workout powders to improve your body's ability to build huge muscles. The pre-workouts strengthen the muscles, allowing you to perform a challenging workout without experiencing muscle fatigue. Moreover, by using a pre-workout, you can enhance the recovery of damaged muscles. (3)
Main Ingredients Of Pre-Workout Supplements
You may find different pre-workout supplements with different compositions. Some are good for stamina development, while some are favorable for healthy muscle gain. Their nutritional value depends on their ingredients.
Also, it is the ingredients that make a pre-workout effective and purpose-specific. So, before you choose a pre-workout, make sure you know its composition and how it will work for your needs. Here is a brief review of the main ingredients used to prepare pre-workout supplements:
It is an essential element of sports nutrition. Caffeine-based pre-workouts are known for their excellent potential to increase endurance, which helps with exercise performance. Caffeine elevates energy levels, allowing you to keep on working out and avoid feeling exhausted for the next training session.
Caffeine works in a unique way to ensure the desired results. Caffeine-containing pre-workout instantly targets the central nervous system and blocks adenosine receptors that control sleep. Hence, you do not feel low, tired, or drowsy when you consume such a pre-workout drink. Instead, you feel active, focused, and capable of putting more effort into your training session. (4)
These workout supplements are ideal for athletes and gym-goers who strive to perform better every day. The effect of these supplements kicks in within 30 minutes and lasts for many hours.
If you want caffeine free pre workout you can always go for it.
It improves a body's endurance and makes it strong enough to survive heavy workouts. The intake of creatine is also ideal for a lean body and weak muscles. This ingredient stimulates muscle development and builds mass in body muscles. Creatine-rich pre-workout powders also make the muscles strong and prevent them from further damage. (5)
Thus, if you want your muscles to grow healthy and qualify for weight-lifting workouts, look for a creatine-based pre-workout. Such pre-workout formulas also give a quick boost to energy.
While preparing a body for intense workouts, you must intake additional amino acids to avoid muscle damage and fatigue. Thus, wellness professionals recommend pre-workout supplements enriched with amino acids for an instant energy boost and the best performance outcomes. (6)
One of the most common amino acids used in pre-workout is beta-alanine. This amino acid controls your pain receptors and encourages your body to produce more energy. Those who train their bodies heavily should opt for a pre-workout supplement containing beta-alanine. (7)
One more amino acid named citrulline tops up energy levels, making a strenuous workout more effective. (8)
B Vitamins play a vital role in enhancing the effectiveness of pre-workout supplements. That's why most supplements include ingredients that are a good source of B vitamins.
The importance of B vitamins lies in their functions. B vitamins securely process the nutrients to extract cellular energy from the ingested food. Hence, they provide more energy to your body, which you can utilize for workouts.
Niacin is a B vitamin commonly found in most supplements. This compound allows you to work harder for endurance sports by enhancing energy production.
This compound gives physical strength and promises to take exercise performance to the next level.
The Dark Side Of Pre-Workout
Pre-workouts are generally formulated to benefit the body and prepare it for athletic workouts. However, not all individuals experience the same results with pre-workout supplements. Each body responds differently to the consumption of these supplements.
While some individuals can enjoy and focus more on vigorous workouts, some incur adverse effects of pre-workouts. The pre-workout side-effects may be nominal as well as severe.
A lot of factors go into making a pre-workout dangerous for humans. First of all, you must follow the instructions regarding the recommended quantities mentioned on the packaging seriously. Consuming an extra concentrated or overdosing on pre-workout may result in high blood pressure, anxiety, etc. (9)
In some cases, the pre-workout ingredients do not suit a body. This happens when the consumer has a medical history. Let's discuss the possible side-effects of pre-workout products and how you can avoid them:
As soon as pre-workout increases the blood flow and blood pressure, the heart rate also increases. Ingesting more than a specific limit may pose a threat to the heart. One of the deadly consequences of pre-workouts includes cardiac arrest. The increased blood flow also causes headaches.
This side-effect is associated with excessive caffeine intake. Caffeine-sensitive individuals also experience anxiety and drowsiness for some hours after consuming a pre-workout. This condition affects your health and prevents you from doing resistance training. To avoid this, use caffeine-free pre-workouts or those containing a minimum quantity. (10)
Creatine triumphs all else when it comes to improving muscle strength. But if you consume this ingredient in abundant quantities, it can cause extra water to store in your muscles. Instead of benefitting from pre-workout supplements, you will suffer from water retention.
Creatine also interferes with the digestive system in some cases. Hence, bloating, abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea arise. The best solution is to limit the dose of creatine by taking pre-workout supplements in small amounts.
As beta-alanine enhances your productivity by increasing resistance limits, many people also report discomfort with its intake. A tingling sensation can be expected after taking an extra or overly concentrated dose of a beta-alanine pre-workout.
You can always look at pre workout without beta alanine to avoid tingling sensation or itchy feeling.
You can also look at Why does pre workout tingles?
Are All Pre-Workouts Worth It?
Most pre-workout supplements aim to maximize endurance, energy levels, and stamina, overcome weakness, and help with weight loss. Still, not all types of pre-workout drinks are worth the investment, as some can be detrimental to your health. We recommend you avoid the following supplements:
Pre-workouts focused on reducing weight quickly might do the intended job at the cost of your heart, kidneys, liver, and stomach health. Opting for drastic weight loss in exchange for damaged organs is not a wise idea.
So, it's better to avoid an instant fat burning pre-workout. Instead, you can go for a caffeine-based pre-workout to do strength training more effectively.
Pre-Workouts With Artificial Sweeteners
Some pre-workout supplements include artificial sweeteners in their composition. Such supplements elevate blood sugar levels, which slows down the process of weight loss. Thus, if you are involved in strength training, artificial sweeteners are a no-go zone.
Instead you can look at pre workout supplements which tastes good.
Pre-Workouts With Emulsifiers
Emulsifiers are not dangerous for health, but they may reduce the effectiveness of the supplements to some extent. Make sure to choose an emulsifier-free pre-workout for faster results.
How To Take Pre-workout?
Pre-workout supplements come in powdered form. You have to dissolve the powder in water according to the ratio mentioned on the jar to prepare a serving.
Pre-workout should never be ingested in powdered or concentrated form. Dry-scooping can amplify the effects of pre-workout, which can be uncomfortable and harmful to you. The consequences can be anxiety, sleep deprivation, heart abnormalities, and chills.
Is It Fine to Skip Pre-workout?
Pre-workout supplements are commonly used among athletes, workout champs, and bodybuilders because of their effectiveness and benefits. However, these supplements are not mandatory to ensure satisfactory results. The need for a balanced and healthy meal always comes first. These supplements only enhance the nutritional value of your diet and increase the productivity required for excellent athletic performance.
Although you should be consistent in taking pre-workouts, it is not a big deal if you skip them on some days. Moreover, you can also avoid them if you abide by a healthy diet plan consisting of whole foods in appropriate quantities.
If you do not want to use supplements anymore, you can replace them with proteins, antioxidants, and healthy fat. These nutrients will be more than enough for strength training if taken in the proper amount. Eat more cheese, peanut butter, and bananas. Use wheat crackers to provide complex carbohydrates to your body. Drink beetroot juice daily to improve blood regulation, which helps with the cardio routine.
Following a balanced diet containing sports nutrition is also a good option for those who are allergic to pre-workout. Instead of getting conscious about the pre-workout doses, switch to a protein-rich diet to get the same results. Similarly, fulfilling nutritional needs through a wholesome diet would be better. If your training is not too hard, you can consult a medical professional for workout-appropriate diet plan suggestions.
Pre-Workout Vs. Energy Drinks
There is a common misconception that pre-workout and energy drinks are the same products that serve the same purpose. Although it is valid to some extent, these products cannot be considered an alternative to each other.
Both pre-workout and energy drinks have energy-boosting ingredients. Like pre-workouts, an energy drink also boasts a quick-action formula manufactured to boost energy and control drowsiness. The drinks are limited to this function and are unreliable for athletic performance, while a pre-workout can do more.
The latter product promotes muscle buildup, provides healthy nutrients, and prepares the body for resistance workouts. Hence, pre-workout supplements are healthy and nutritious as well.
Moreover, energy formulas do not cause any harm if taken excessively. On the contrary, pre-workout supplements can negatively impact your health if the ingested values exceed the recommended quantities. Thus, sticking to the quantity chart is not a hard and fast rule for drinking, though you should not be careless unnecessarily.
We can conclude that pre-workout supplements are good for health and conducive to performing a high-intensity workout in the right amount. The bad parts come with the careless use and incorrect selection of pre-workout supplements.
If you follow all the safety implications mentioned on the label of pre-workout supplements, there is no harm in using them. Also, we recommend you choose the ingredients carefully as the effects of a pre-workout depend on its composition. Before trying any new products, consult a doctor or expert to see if they will suit your body.
William Toro ‧ CPT & Nutritionist
William is a certified personal trainer from NASM, he has also been a rehab physiologist for sports persons. He has more than 15 years of experience training people. And has featured in multiple publications like FoxNews, CNBC, Bustle, and other.