Should You Take Pre-Workout?

All you’ve ever needed to know about Pre-Workout!

What is Pre-Workout?

Pre-Workout is a supplement, typically a powder, that is taken prior to a workout in order to stimulate the body to enhance and improve the individual’s performance.

What are some common ingredients found in a typical Pre-Workout?

Caffeine – stimulates the Central Nervous System in order to increase alertness, energy and focus.

Creatine – Substance that can help to increase muscular endurance through increased storage of energy known as creatine phosphate.

BCAA’s (Branch Chain Amino Acids) – 3 amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, valine) which help regulate protein synthesis and thus can impact muscular growth.

Beta-alanine – An amino acid which can help mask the feelings of fatigue allowing you to maintain intensity for longer.

Glycerol – A triglyceride (fatty acid) which when ingested may improve water retention (maintaining hydration) and enhance muscular endurance.

Arginine – Another amino acid which is argued can improve endurance through vasodilation of blood vessels which improves efficiency of blood flow to working muscles.

Betaine – This amino acid which can potentially increase production of creatine within the body – and we have already read about the benefits of increased creatine levels!

How Effective is Pre-Workout?

There is absolutely no doubt that the majority of pre-workout supplements will do exactly what they say on the tin – stimulate the body. I’m sure you’ve heard stories from gym goers about feeling tingles in the hands or face after ingesting pre-workout and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they feel this way – after all, they’ve just dumped a huge load of stimulants into the blood sending their nervous system into overdrive. So yes, undoubtedly pre-workouts will stimulate the body BUT and have the potential to improve alertness, focus and performance. With that being said there are many pre-workout supplements available which are not effective or even dangerous – make sure you know what exactly it is your putting in your body!

How Safe is Pre-Workout?

There have been previous cases of pre-workout being banned due to the presence of dangerous substances. One fairly well known example is the pre-workout known as “Jack3d” which was banned back in 2012 as it contain a stimulant known as DMAA (dimethylamylamine) which could onset hypertension (high blood pressure) and therefore having some pretty serious health consequences specifically for those who already suffer from elevated blood pressure.

If you find a good pre-workout from a reputable source, you have nothing to worry about. With that being said, those with pre-existing medical conditions should certainly speak to an appropriate medical professional before consuming any form of pre-workout.

The Crash and Side Effects

A typical pre-workout can contain up to 300 mg of caffeine, which is three times more than the amount in a cup of coffee! That is a substantial amount of caffeine that the body has ingested and as the caffeine wears off you can experience what is commonly known as a crash. This is caused by a build-up of a substance called adenosine in the brain which had previously been counteracted by the caffeine. This adenosine build-up can cause extreme tiredness, headache, irritability and difficulty concentrating.

Feeling jittery feeling and tingly,  itching, onset of a headache, flushing skin, anxiety, nausea or dizziness may also occur after the ingestion of pre-workout. Not all individuals will experience these side effects, however it is not uncommon.

Product choice

As mentioned previously, if you do take pre-workout, you need to ensure you are taking a good quality supplement. It needs to have a good and abundant blend of the substances which will truly make a difference to your performance. Unfortunately, many companies will load their product with cheap and practically useless substances (such as maltodextrin) and hold back on the worthwhile substances to keep production costs down. Don’t waste your money on these products and always read the ingredient labels.

Do you need them?

No. Similar to my advice on my Protein supplement article, these are known as supplements for a reason. They are non-essential.

If you feel that you could do with a boost before you go and train then, by all means, feel free to use pre-workout but ensure it is a good quality product with a good blend of all the important ingredients (mentioned at the start of the article)!

What do I do before my workouts I hear you ask? To be honest, I don’t bother with pre-workouts as I feel they are unnecessary expense for me especially when one of the best pre-workout options is coffee. Much cheaper, scientifically proven to improve performance and tastes great!


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