by Allison Welch December 13, 2022 5 min read

In many ways, this is self-explanatory until you start getting into the complicated world of pre-workout supplements. A quick internet search will reveal more things than you knew existed. 

Put simply, a pre-workout supplement is a mix of nutrients - typically vitamins, and amino acids along with some caffeine and [if added] sugar that will enhance your training and workout regimen. A pre-workout combines ingredients that boost energy and help develop the muscle and endurance you require for high-intensity training. 

Pre-workouts contain ingredients like caffeine to give you a little burst of energy for motivation and to keep going during a workout. They also contain ingredients that will increase blood flow and pump oxygen to your muscles.


Pre-Workout Benefits 
The benefits of pre-workout supplements are many. Depending on the type of training you do, pre-workouts can be taken to enhance endurance and stamina, or they can be focused on building muscle and strength.  

We can break these down according to the multiple ways that pre-workouts help with workouts and intense training. 


Enhances Strength
Perhaps the most important ingredient in pre-workout supplements for enhancing strength is creatine. On the cellular level, creatine increases the biochemical mechanisms that enhance energy in your body. Creatine enhances strength, and muscle mass, when combined with strength training. 

The presence of nitrate in a pre-workout stimulates the production of nitric oxide. This improves blood flow and allows your body to carry more amino acids and other nutrients to your muscles. This results an optimized environment for strength output during a workout and long term strength gains.


Boosts Endurance 
A pre-workout can support endurance by combatting the body’s primary fatigue mechanisms. For instance, caffeine gives you energy. In the same way that you blast yourself awake with a strong cup of coffee or an espresso, the caffeine in pre-workouts charges you up for motivation and endurance through an intense workout. 

The other main stumbling block for endurance is muscle fatigue from soreness. To combat this, pre-workouts contain beta-alanine. Beta-alanine converts into carnosine, which acts as a pH buffer. Thus, lessening the acidic nature of exercised muscles responsible for  the burn from intense training. As a result, you can push harder and longer through your workouts. 


When to Take Pre-Workouts
You want to take your pre-workout supplements at a time that provides optimal benefit. Taking them too soon allows them to metabolize without doing you any good. If you take them too late you will not get the full benefit while you train.

Trainers recommend taking pre-workouts 30-60 minutes before you begin working out. This allows the caffeine to begin energizing you and let the more complicated ingredients begin to enter your bloodstream.  

Remember that pre-workouts contain significant amounts of caffeine, so its important to follow the instructions outlined on the label.


Pre-Workout Side Effects
Many people can be sensitive to caffeine. Although levels of caffeine in pre-workout supplements are well within the parameters considered safe, some people may experience anxiety when using them.

Some people may react to the beta-alanine and experience numbness and tingling in their hands and feet. These symptoms are not considered dangerous, but they can be uncomfortable. 

Many pre-workout supplements contain a form of niacin called nicotinic acid. People with a sensitivity to niacin will experience reddening of their skin. Although not dangerous, this too can be unsettling and uncomfortable. 


Are Pre-Workouts Safe?
Pre-workout supplements are generally considered safe. They are intended for people who engage in high-intensity training for competitive sports. Some people will experience anxiety with pre-workout supplements. If you are uncertain, check with your physician before taking pre-workout supplements. 


Should I Take Pre-Workouts?
If you are the type of person who works out primarily to maintain all-around fitness pre-workouts may not be for you. You simply will not get much benefit from them, and you may end up feeling a little jittery from not burning up all the fuel contained in a typical pre-workout supplement.  

But if you are engaged in high-intensity training, the type of training that creates some real burn and potential exhaustion, a pre-workout may be just the thing you need. Pre-workouts are intended to boost you through those points in a workout where most people want to stop.


Common Misconceptions About Pre-Workout Supplements
With so much buzz and talk about pre-workout supplements, there is bound to be some misinformation floating around. For instance, it is easy to confuse some of the ingredients in pre-workouts with other things that may or may not have some dangers. Without doing your homework, you may stumble across some common misconceptions about pre-workouts.

  1. Pre-workouts are a waste of money. This is just plain wrong. There are valid and effective pre-workout supplements that provide verifiable results in the forms of increased muscle strength and increased stamina. 
  2. Eat right and you won't need supplements. For someone who works out to stay fit, this can be true. But competitive athletes, people who compete at high levels, require more. They require increased blood and oxygen flow. And they must sustain high levels of energy output. This is best supported by a legitimate supplement. 
  3. Creatine is a steroid. This is simply not true. Creatine is a naturally occurring substance found in our bodies that stimulates cellular energy. Steroids mimic the male hormone testosterone. Creatine is perfectly safe. Steroids carry a host of physical dangers. 
  4. Pre-workout supplements improve muscle and strength without training. This is emphatically not true. Supplements are, by definition, something you add to the training. You may find yourself more alert by taking pre-workouts without training, but the only way to get the benefits of a pre-workout supplement is through serious training and workouts. 

 
How Do You Know The Supplement Is Working?

You will see increased muscle and you will notice increased strength in a relatively short time while using pre-workout supplements. How long these changes take is dependent on your training goals, the type of training you do, and your own physiology. However, you will notice some of the effects of pre-workout supplements almost as soon as you start taking them.

Here are some key things you will notice:

  • Sudden increases in energy level. 
  • You become intensely focused on your workout. 
  • Beta-alanine can cause tingling sensations. You will likely feel this right away. 

The results from pre-workout supplements will vary from one person to the next. But you will see results and soon. 


Best Pre-Workout Supplement
There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of pre-workout supplements on the market. Pouring through your choices can be difficult. Do your due diligence and read the labels before you buy. Make sure the product you choose contains the active ingredients listed above without any junk fillers, extra sugar, or ingredients you do not recognize.

 

Wrapping Things Up
There is so much buzz and talk surrounding pre-workout supplements. It can be difficult to get legitimate information on the benefits of pre-workouts, and even harder to find out the truth about potential side effects.

The good news here is that pre-workout supplements do work. You will see demonstrable results from using a good pre-workout supplement. Make sure you use these supplements as part of an intense training program. They are not intended for general fitness regimens. And take them as directed. When used properly, pre-workout supplements will accentuate your workouts. 

Pre-workout supplements give you extra motivation for high-intensity training. They can help you go longer and harder with your workouts. And you will see more muscle, more stamina, and less soreness from serious physical training.

For the committed athlete, pre-workout supplements can give you the advantage you need.


*As always, consult your primary care physician before adding supplements into your diet.



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