When we’re training well, life is great. We wake up in a morning, we go to work and take care of our various chores and tasks, all the while secretly counting down the minutes until we get to hit the gym and pump some iron. However, when training isn’t going well, life generally sucks. We all find ourselves struggling to find energy and motivation from time to time, just as we all find ourselves going through periods where our energy levels and motivational levels are through the roof. If however, you find yourself struggling to get excited about training on a regular basis, drastic action may be required. Some people will chug down a sugary energy drink, or a strong coffee, but often, this simply does not cut it. This is where pre-workout supplements prove to be so beneficial. Pre-workout supplements have not been around all that long, especially when compared with other popular supplements such as whey protein and creatine. Despite the fact that pre-workout supps are relatively new, they’re hugely popular as many bodybuilders will base their entire stacks around them, and rightfully so. Pre-workout supplements could potentially be just the pick-me-up your workout needs to help get you back on the gain train, but why are these supplements so effective? Here we’ll aim to provide you with a definitive answer as we look at everything you need to know about pre-workout supplements.
What are pre-workout supplements?
As the name implies, pre-workout supplements are designed to be consumed just before you work out. They’re manufactured to help provide a temporary boost in mental and physical energy to help get you through a workout when your head, and your body, just ordinarily would not have been in the game. Whilst there are many different pre-workout formulas currently available, primarily you will find that most supplements such as C-PRE Advanced Pre-Workout Formula are designed to provide you with the exact same benefits. Primarily they will:
- Boost your energy levels
- Increase your mental energy
- Increase your motivational levels
- Enhance endurance
- Boost strength levels
- Increase athletic performance
- Boost vascularity levels
- Promote stronger muscle pumps
- Speed up fat loss
- Speed up nutrient delivery rates
- Help balance anabolic hormones
Why are they so popular?
As mentioned, we’ve all had days where our energy levels are incredibly low, and when we simply can’t seem to get our heads in the game, no matter how hard we try. Subsequently we either force ourselves to go through the motions, and have a subsequently poor workout, or we simply throw in the towel and convince ourselves that we’ll pick things up the next day. On the flipside however, you’ve probably also had days where you couldn’t wait to train, and as soon as you set foot in the gym, you just knew you were going to have a killer workout. Whilst training, your energy levels will have been higher than ever, you’ll have felt stronger, you’ll have been smashing PBs (Personal Bests) left, right, and centre, and you’ll have been loving every single minute of it. At the end of your session your muscles will have been more pumped than ever, your veins will have been bulging from your biceps, and you won’t have wanted the training to end. Yes, you will have been in ‘the zone’. If only every training session could be like that – you’d surely be more jacked than ever. Well, with pre-workout supplements, that is exactly what can happen. Pre-workout supplements contain stimulants that perk you up when you’re tired, they contain amino acids to provide energy, they often provide Nitric Oxide which boosts circulation, and they contain other nutrients which are designed to increase endurance, stamina, and mental focus.
What do they contain?
We can’t provide a definitive answer to this question because different manufacturers obviously have different formulas and different blends. Primarily however, you will find that most pre-workout supplements do tend to contain a few familiar faces. The different ingredients found in these supplements will provide different benefits and will work on different aspects of your training. For example, some ingredients found in them will increase overall strength levels, whilst others simply help to boost energy levels. Commonly, you’ll find the following ingredients in pre-workout supplements:
Caffeine is synonymous with pre-workout supplements, though there are now stimulant-free versions available for people with sensitivities. Caffeine is perfect for times when you are feeling tired and lethargic, because it functions as a powerful stimulant. This stimulant will target the central nervous system whilst simultaneously helping to provide a temporary increase in the metabolism. This stimulant functions by initiating the release of fatty acids into our bloodstreams, allowing them to be used as a form of energy for physical exertion. Because of this, when consumed before training, not only do users benefit from an increase in energy, they will also benefit with increased rates of fat loss as well, because you are literally fuelling your workout with your own fat. When we consume caffeine, it stimulates the body and the mind helping to provide a temporary increase in physical and mental energy. From a training perspective, this is very beneficial because you have more energy, and you can establish a stronger and clearer mind-muscle connection when training. The thing to remember here is that different people have different tolerances to caffeine, so always begin with small dosages and assess your tolerance level before you proceed any further.
Taurine is an amino acid that occurs naturally in the body as it is synthesized from cysteine. This amino acid is slightly different to the other amino acids currently available to us because it isn’t turned directly into proteins at all, but rather it is used in a variety of other physiological processes within the human body. For training purposes, this is very beneficial because many of these processes play a key role in the contractions of our muscles. Put simply, taurine helps the muscles to contract and subsequently helps to make them more efficient when training.
Creatine monohydrate is another naturally occurring compound that can be synthesized by our own bodies. Creatine is very beneficial in terms of training because it helps to ensure the muscles have a slow and steady stream of energy. This means that the muscles can work harder, and more intensely, for longer durations. Creatine does this by helping to increase the amounts of ATP (Adenosine Tri-Phosphate) available to the muscles. ATP is a key source of energy used by the cells found in the muscles, allowing them to contract. The more ATP the muscles have, the harder they can work, and therefore, the more productive your workouts will become.
Nitric Oxide is another common addition to many pre-workout supplements. It works as a vasodilator by dilating the blood vessels and allowing more oxygenated blood to pass through them. This increase in circulation is very important because the more oxygen and nutrients that can be supplied to your muscle cells, the more energy they will have, and again, the harder they can work.
How to use pre-workouts effectively
Pre-workout supplements are not the cheapest of products, so if you are buying one, you will of course want to ensure you’re getting your money’s worth. Below you will find a series of tips on how to effectively use pre-workout supplements:
Consume on an empty stomach
A lot of people make the mistake of taking a pre-workout supplement in conjunction with a pre-workout meal. In reality, you should only use one or the other. This is because pre-workout supplements should be consumed on an empty stomach to ensure that they are absorbed by your body quickly enough. If your stomach has food in this will slow down the absorption process and your body will not be able to absorb it in time. This doesn’t mean you should starve yourself for several hours if you plan on taking a pre-workout supplement, but just try to consume it at least one hour after eating a meal or drinking a shake.
Don’t consume it too early or too late
Ideally when you take a pre-workout supplement, you will want to consume it around 30 – 40 minutes before you train. If you take it too early, the effects may begin to wear off before you’ve finished your workout. If you take it too late, it may not kick in early enough and you may find it only starting to take effect when you’re, say, midway through your workout.
Never exceed the recommended dosage
Pre-workout supplements are very potent and contain high amounts of caffeine and other stimulants. These can increase your heart rate and if taken in high amounts, can be very dangerous. You should therefore, never exceed the recommended dosage and you should never consume them in conjunction with other caffeinated products. There have been instances where people have mixed pre-workout powders with energy drinks and have subsequently been hospitalized, and in some cases, have sadly died as a result.