You can’t expect to show up to every gym session feeling 100%. Sometimes, you’ll go there feeling tired, lazy, and unmotivated. Having a good pre-workout may be the answer to all your problems. Or at least that one specific problem.
Not sold on the idea? You aren’t the only one. However, the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition shows that pre-workout combined with HIIT provided more benefits than workouts alone.
Those using the supplements showed significant increases in VO2 max, training volume, lean body mass, AND a decrease in body fat.
So, are those benefits worth it? Keep reading to find out if you can use pre-workout safely and intelligently.
What Does Pre-Workout Do?
First off, let’s cover the basics! What does pre-workout actually do?
These supplements are designed to boost energy levels, increase focus, and in some cases, increase muscle growth and strength gain.
You may find you didn’t fuel yourself properly throughout the day, didn’t get enough sleep, or otherwise don’t have what it takes to get in a good gym session. Pre is designed to help keep you going on days precisely like this.
Often, pre-workout supplements are a powder that you mix into your drink of choice about 30 minutes to an hour before hitting the gym.
But do you know what is in them?
What’s in Pre-Workout and Is It Safe?
The only real way to know what is in your supplements is to check the ingredients label on the container. However, you need to be wary!
Pre-workouts are some of the most commonly recalled supplements because of deceptive labels or unlabeled ingredients. The best way to know that your supplement is safe is to check for options that:
- Don’t have proprietary formulas
- Are third-party tested
- Are produced in a GMP-certified facility
There are a few common ingredients that you will see in pre-workouts, though. Some of the most common are caffeine, simple carbs, and vasodilators.
Caffeine and other stimulants are easily the most common as these supplements are meant to increase energy and focus. Keep an eye on how much caffeine your pre has, though. Too much of this stimulant can cause severe health issues like insomnia, anxiety, and high blood pressure.
For most people, a good pre-workout is a safe supplement. However, even at the safe end of the caffeine spectrum, it can still cause jitters, itching, and poor sleep. All of these are harmless but uncomfortable.
If you’re new to these supplements, go for half doses, and see how your body reacts before going all in.
What Other Pre-Workout Ingredients Should I Look For?
Creatine Monohydrate: One of the most well-researched supplements, creatine is included in most pre-workouts due to its ability to increase muscle power and performance during training.
Taurine: Found in various animal meat, taurine fights oxidative stress during workouts.
B vitamins: Vitamins B1, B2, B5, and B6 all play essential roles in energy production and efficiency. At the same time, Vitamin B12 supports blood production.
NO2-boosters: Arginine, for example, is a nitrogen dioxide-boosting amino acid that acts as a ‘vasodilator.’ Arginine and other similar supplements expand your veins and arteries, making blood flow easier and delivering nutrients quicker and more efficiently.
What Pre-Workouts and Ingredients Should I Avoid?
Research published in Food and Chemical Toxicology states that 400mg of caffeine daily is adults’ upper limit. So what does this mean to you?
Some pre-workout brands go over the recommended daily dose and should be actively avoided. ProSupps Mr. Hyde NitroX, for example, contains 410mg of caffeine in a 7.5g scoop.
Additionally, pre-workouts that don’t show how much of what ingredients are in a serving should be at least a little concerning.
As cliché as this sounds, if you are interested in trying a new pre, research the ingredients and the company you want to try.
So, Is Pre-Workout Dangerous?
This broad question could be very misleading. Are there dangerous pre-workouts? Absolutely! But are there safe options? Absolutely!
Generally, pre-workout supplements are safe to take regularly, following the manufacturer’s instructions. But, of course, when ingesting caffeine, we all have different thresholds. Unfortunately, with some brands adding too many stimulants, it can become a risky game.
So be sure to check how much caffeine is in each serving of your chosen pre-workout. Concerned about the side effects of pre-workout? Keep reading.
Is it Better to Workout Without Pre-Workout?
This is purely a matter of opinion. It is up to you to decide whether or not these supplements are worth it based on the knowledge you gain from articles like this.
However, if you don’t need the extra boost in the gym, don’t feel like you need to take a pre.
How Long Does Pre-Workout Take to Kick In?
When you are ready to start your workout, you want to hit the ground running. You don’t want to wait for your pre to kick in, so it pays to figure out the best time to take it.
For most people, the best time to take a pre-workout is around 30 minutes to one hour before your workout. This should give the supplement enough time to hit your bloodstream and energize you before your session.
When You Shouldn’t Take Pre-Workout
Something to consider is the ‘half-life’ of caffeine. Caffeine has a half-life of between three to seven hours. So if you’re used to evening training, you’ll want to take half the recommended serving or swap it out for a stimulant-free pre-workout.
Even if caffeine doesn’t affect you ability to fall asleep, it will decrease the quality of sleep you get, hurting your recovery.
When Should I Take Pre-Workout?
The all-important question: if you’re going to use pre-workout, when is the best time to take it? Well, as we’ve mentioned, most people take these supplements about 30 minutes to an hour before they hit the gym.
This gives the supplement enough time to get into your bloodstream before you start working out.
Should I Take a Pre-Workout Every Day?
Probably not. If you take pre regularly, your body can build up a tolerance to its effects. This is why cycling the supplement or coming off it for six to eight weeks to give your body a chance to reset is a good idea.
If you still need a little boost in the gym, try drinking coffee and eating a banana before heading in!
Should I Take Pre-Workout as a Beginner?
As long as you are a healthy adult and know the supplement you plan on using is safe, there is no harm in taking pre as a beginner.
Can I Use Coffee as a Pre-Workout?
Yes, you can use coffee as a pre-workout!
As we’ve mentioned, coffee and pre share a common primary ingredient — caffeine. Coffee has been found to improve athletic performance and doesn’t contain the additional components that other pre-workout supplements may have. Studies have shown that caffeine concentration peaks about an hour after ingestion, with effects lessening after that.
However, you will not be getting the additional pump effects, endurance ingredients, or simple carbs to help power through your workout.
The Pros and Cons of Taking Pre-Workout
Here is the section you’ve been waiting for!
- Improved physical performance: the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition concluded that pre-workout supplements “have promise as an ergogenic aid for active individuals.” Essentially, they enhance the performance of people who already go to the gym.
- Increased concentration and focus: Pre contains caffeine, which is known to improve cognition. The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found caffeine positively affects people’s mood, arousal, and concentration.
- The University of Córdoba found that citrulline added to pre could add up to 53% more bench press reps in a single workout.
- In another study, pre containing citrulline gave cyclists a 12% longer ride before hitting exhaustion.
- Adverse side effects caused by overconsumption of stimulants: if the jitters and interrupted sleep mentioned earlier don’t sound like a good time, avoid the pre.
- You can build up a tolerance with pre-workout overuse. If pre is taken excessively, your body becomes immune to its effects. It’s best to save pre-workout for challenging sessions to avoid this or try cycling the supplement.
- Pre can cause gut problems: ingredients like magnesium, sodium bicarbonate, creatine, and caffeine can cause digestion issues.
- Scientists have previously linked energy drinks to kidney damage, diabetes, and mental health problems (pre-workouts arguably fall into this category).
Is Pre-Workout Actually Worth it?
A safe pre is absolutely worth it for hitting your goals faster and having more energy in the gym!
Learn more about what pre we recommend here.
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