Pre-workouts are a relatively new addition to the supplement market. Over a reasonably short time span, they have evolved into a richly varied class of product with a wide array of different formulations and effects. There is something to suit everyone, so taking a look at some of the ingredients and what they do can help you decide which product is best for you.
Pre-Workout Positive Effects
As the name suggests, pre-workouts are taken before a gym session, and are designed to optimise physical, and often mental performance during a workout. These products are typically designed for strength athletes and work through a variety of different means. Some of the effects that people take pre-workouts to obtain include:
Stimulation – Extra energy can help you work harder and provide motivation
Pump – Enhanced blood flow to the muscles carries nutrients to the muscles and removes toxins
Endurance – Allows the body to work for longer before tiring
Focus – Provides the concentration which is necessary to perform at the maximum level
Strength and Power – Maximises the body's own potential
Recovery – Protects the muscles during a workout to minimise recovery time
Lean Mass Building – Encourages the body to lay down muscle tissue
Plateau busting – Many people take pre-workouts to boost them up to that next level
Common Pre-Workout Ingredients
Just as there are a number of effects that pre-workouts can exert on the body, so too are there are a large number of ingredients that are commonly included in pre-workout supplements. Some of the more common include:
Stimulants – Caffeine is the most common stimulant in pre-workout formulations, but natural extracts that contain stimulating ingredients, such as acacia, and citrus aurantium, are also very common.
Nitric Oxide Boosters – These are designed to generate nitric oxide (NO) within the body which causes blood vessels to dilate. Amino acids like L-Arginine and Citrulline, and their derivatives are the most common inclusions of this type.
Strength Boosters – Creatine and Taurine are some of the most common strength ingredients. These can also enhance pump and stimulate anabolic growth.
Cell Buffers – Cell buffers curtail the build up of acid, which is associated with the onset of fatigue. Beta alanine and carnosine are two of the most common ingredients. Beta alanine is responsible for the "tingling" sensation some pre-workouts can give.
Recovery – Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine are the Branched Chain Amino Acids. These can stimulate muscle growth and aid recovery. Other recovery aids such as antioxidants and natural anti-inflammatories are often included in pre-workout formulations.
Electrolytes – Electrolytes like potassium, sodium and magnesium make up for the electrolytes that are lost during exercise.
Nootropics – Focus enhancing ingredients like L-Tyrosine and Phenibut are common inclusions in pre-workout formulas.
Many ingredients in pre-workout formulations are derived from nature. It is difficult to find a product that does not contain a natural extract of some sort. Some people prefer to go to the source and boost their workout in a natural way.
Coffee is a common drink with a remarkable list of benefits that make it ideal to drink before a workout. Caffeine is one of the most common ingredients found in pre-workouts, and many people enjoy the enhanced energy and focus associated with this natural plant alkaloid. In addition, coffee is a very rich source of antioxidants, which can prevent oxidative damage to the muscles and speed recovery. Coffee enhances the levels of hormones like adrenalin in the blood. Adrenalin is the "flight of fight" hormone and boosts physical performance and fatty acid metabolism. On top of this, coffee contains strength-building B-group vitamins and may offer protective benefits to the liver, an organ vital for efficient metabolism and overall good health.
Green tea has been widely praised for its myriad health benefits, many of which can bring great advantages during a workout. Green tea contains not one but four stimulants – caffeine, theophylline, theobromine and L-theanine. These are known to work together, not just to boost energy, but they also enhance drive, concentration and focus.
Green tea is well known as a metabolic booster, and green tea extracts are frequently included in weight loss products. Consuming this beverage produces a thermogenic effect, and enhances the body's ability to use fatty acids. In addition, green tea acts as a vasodilator by boosting the body's production of nitric oxide. NO is responsible for that sought after pump, and increased blood flow to the muscles means a more efficient transfer of nutrients and wastes, which may help reduce fatigue and muscle damage.
Like other nutritional supplements, pre-workouts are regulated by the Australian Food Standards (FSANZ) or the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). These regulators are tasked with ensuring that the pre-workout products for sale in this country are free from illegal ingredients, and of a high quality standard. Because of these checks, it is reasonable to assume that the pre-workout formulations on the market are generally safe for consumption by most people.
It is still a good idea to select a pre-workout supplement made by a reputable manufacturer, always follow the instructions on the package, and if you feel it necessary, to consult a medical professional before using any new supplement.
Pre-Workouts – Yes or No?
There are many reasons to use a pre-workout supplement, and even more different supplements on the market to choose from. If you're looking to increase performance, focus, strength or just break through a training plateau, a pre-workout might be just the thing you need.