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Should You Take Pre-Workout


Lacking energy? 

Do you not have the motivation to get to the gym consistently? Need that little extra “oomph” to get better results?

The above are all reasons I have heard people say as to why they are consuming pre-workout. Pre-workout can be helpful if you purchase the right brand, but there is a confusion as to why pre-workout is being consumed and also what ingredients to look at. 

What is Pre-Workout? 

Pre-Workout is a supplement that has been developed to increase energy in the weight room or sport, improve muscular endurance, and also aid in the recovery and regeneration process post-workout. Many Pre-Workouts contain caffeine at high levels, but also a blend of ingredients that can sometimes do more harm than good. Tia Ghose (2015) Editor of Live Science explains that many of the ingredients in pre-workouts may just give you energy while you’re working out, but have little effect on the muscular adaptations post-workout. Pre-workout supplements are designed to give athletes the perception that they have more energy and are supercharged during their workout says Jordan Moon, an exercise physiologist and sports nutritionist of the United States Sports Academy and Concordia University Chicago.

Although studies have shown that caffeine, creatine, and beta-alanine improve performance to those that are pushing themselves to extreme measures; most people use supplements as a crutch, and fail to pay attention to their nutrition and sleep habits. Overall, pre-workout is a supplement that should be supplemented into a healthy lifestyle if you truly want to see results while using them. 

Sleep is the best Pre-Workout on the market! 

Contrary to popular belief, sleep is the best energy source out there. Most times when energy is needed people turn to caffeinated drinks, energy drinks, and/or pre-workout. In addition, when we talk about gaining muscles most look to eating more, lifting more, and taking more supplements. 

Guess what!? Sleep wins it all… 

Sleep plays a vital role in brain activity, muscle growth, recovery, and for young children, proper development says NHI (National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute) 2018. As crazy as it might sound, your body does the most rebuilding and repair at night. During sleep, there are two stages that occur: REM and Non-REM Sleep. REM is the ‘Rapid Eye Movement’ and affects brain energy. Non-Rem sleep is very important for muscle growth due to the secretion of Growth Hormone (David, 2018)

Angie Asche of Eleat Sports Nutrition explains that getting 7-8 hours of sleep improves performance in sport, increased metabolism, and increased energy. Therefore, if you really want to increase energy levels and see results try and squeeze in an hour or two more of sleep per night.

Caffeine Rush 

If the overall goal is to find out what “over the counter” supplement is best for increased energy and performance then coffee for the win. Although coffee may have a strong taste it has been researched as assisting with performance and energy stores with little negative effects if taken in moderation. 

Caffeine is an ingredient that is in many pre-workout supplements. Examine (2018) found that some energy drinks contain upwards of 280 mg in one can. The recommended amount of caffeine one should consume in a day is about 400 mg without having any health concerns. In addition, the EFSA explains that consuming 200 mg in a serving less than 2 hours prior to exercise can help increase energy. With that said if you take a serving of a pre-workout, have a cup of coffee, and a caffeinated drink you potentially just doubled the recommended daily intake for caffeine.

The best form of caffeine is from coffee. Coffee is a natural substance from coffee beans and in most forms has little ingredients that could cause harm unless you take it in high amounts. Examine (2019) explains that coffee can act as a fat burner, can increase ATP stores, increase muscle protein synthesis, and act as an anti-inflammatory compound.

Pre-Workouts that have shown the best results

In my experience, most people start taking pre-workout because they need that extra boost in order to workout. If you are lacking the energy to exercise then taking an energy drink or some type of powder is going to do more harm than good. The best energy sources come from all-natural ingredients such as whole foods, sleep, and water.  However, pre-workout can have positive effects if you are taking products that possess more than just caffeine which can help improve muscular function during your workout but also aid in the recovery and regeneration process post-workout. 

Patrick et. al (2018) of The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition explain how pre-workouts that contain Carbohydrates, caffeine, beetroot juice, Creatine, Nitric Oxide Agents, and Beta-Alanine can help improve performance and assist in the recovery process. 

Products containing Amino Acids have been found to improve muscular endurance, and also reduce the risk of muscular damage during the workout. Nitric Oxide Agents have been shown to increase blood flow to active muscles which results in increased performance during the training session. Creatine has been studied and confirmed that it can assist with helping muscle recovery at a faster rate resulting in muscular hypertrophy. Lastly, Beta-Alanine has been shown to improve high-intensity exercise performance (Partick et. al, 2018). 

While there are a few supplements that your performance and recovery can benefit from many pre-workouts have ingredients that do more harm than good. Angie Asche of Eleat Sports Nutrition LLC explained that it is important to read the nutrition labels of the pre-workout you are taking to identify if there are any artificial sweeteners in them. Artificial sweeteners have been shown to cause GI issues, and the last thing you want to experience during a game or workout is a bad stomach ache and/or a quick trip to the bathroom (sucralose/Splenda, acesulfame K, aspartame, xylitol, erythritol)

Wrap up

In conclusion, pre-workouts are not the worst thing for you but it is important to only use them in conjunction with a healthy balanced diet and lifestyle. Prior to purchasing a pre-workout, it is important that you look at your current lifestyle and make changes that influence what you are eating each day, how much sleep you are getting, and how much water you are consuming. If you are going to purchase a pre-workout use the NSF approved supplements to ensure you are getting a product of the highest quality. 


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