“Pre-Workout Supplements” are relatively new in comparison to other supplements on the market. Popular pre-workout supplements include, “USP labs Jack3d”, “BSN NO-EXPLODE” and “MusclePharm Assault”. The main goal of a pre-workout formula is to increase energy, deliver a greater pump and to increase focus. These effects don’t come cheap and they can have dangerous side effects.
What’s In Pre-Workout Supplements
The main ingredients in 99% of pre-workout supplements is caffeine, l-arginine and creatine.
Role of each ingredient:
Caffeine: Caffeine, especially in large amounts increases alertness, concentration and mental focus. Caffeine is also a powerful stimulant that can decrease the onset of fatigue by helping the body use stored body fat as fuel, in a process known as “glycogen sparing”. Caffeine is very effective in endurance athletes such as marathon runners and cyclists, due to its “glycogen sparing” effects.
All these benefits come at a cost, increased heart rate, jittering, increased anxiety and diarrhea are common side effects. Most pre-workout supplements contain 100-300 milligrams of caffeine per serving.
Caffeine can be obtained naturally in the form of black coffee.
L-arginine: L-arginine is a non-essential amino acid, meaning the body already produces it in small amounts. L-arginine increases nitric oxide production within the body, this leads to pumps that are fuller and last longer. By increasing the blood flow to and from muscles, l-arginine helps decrease rest times, decrease fatigue and increase nutrient delivery to muscles. L-arginine is also known to aid in the release of growth hormone during a workout.
L-arginine is well tolerated by most people, but users may experience nausea, stomach discomfort, stomach cramps, lowered blood pressure and worsening of asthma.
Natural sources of l-arginine include walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, sesame, sunflower seeds, brown rice, almonds, barley, oats and peanut. Dark chocolate is one of the most potent sources of l-arginine, but due to the high fat content it should be avoided so close to a workout.
Creatine:Creatine is also a non-essential amino acid, that is already produced by the body in small amounts. Creatine is one of the most useful and most proven supplements on the market. The benefits of creatine include increased ATP production, cell volumization, increased power output, buffers lactic acid build up and increased protein synthesis.
The long term side effects of creatine are unknown but short term side effects include, upset stomach, muscle cramping, diarrhea and dehydration. Most of these side effects can be minimized by drinking plenty of water when taking creatine. In addition, people tend to have more side effects when taking the powder as opposed to a more direct delivery method like serum or effervescent powder.
Creatine can be found in red meat, but you would have to eat pounds of red meat each day to get enough creatine to notice any effects.
Do You Need A Pre-Workout Supplement
If you feel sluggish or unmotivated while working out, a pre-workout supplement will be benefit you greatly. However if you already train with focus and intensity, a pre-workout supplement may be a waste of money.
Having a pre-workout supplement handy for the days you don’t feel like working out, or the days your tired can be very useful. Pre-workout formulas are best utilized before tough workouts, HIIT sessions and powerlifting sessions. If your going for a light jog or a walk, a pre-workout supplement is not necessary.
Pre-workout supplements are classed as advanced supplements, they are used by veteran trainees who are trying to break plateaus and take their training to next level. If your just starting to workout you probably don’t need a pre-workout supplement.
How To Pick The Right Pre-Workout Supplement
Always look at the label before buying any supplement, most pre-workout supplements have a “proprietary blend” listed on the label. This means the company selling the supplement doesn’t want to disclose the ingredients present.
This could be one of 2 things, either the company has a product containing fillers such as rice flour or the company doesn’t want its product to be copied by competitors, it’s usually the latter.
Choose a pre-workout supplement with the highest servings per container and the highest potency of caffeine, l-arginine and creatine per serving. Avoid overly hyped products with huge claims, if it’s too good to be true it probably is.
Some pre-workout products contain beta alanine, which is known to cause a mild tingling sensation all over your skin, it’s very mild but if you have sensitive skin you should avoid it.
If you are sensitive to caffeine or workout at night, avoid pre-workout supplements that are high in caffeine. It will be near impossible to find a pre-workout that doesn’t contain caffeine, instead half the serving size to reduce the caffeine content.