How to choose a pre-workout supplement that is right for you
Choosing the right pre-workout for you, is challenging. There are a load of different products on the market. Caffeine, along with a confusing mix of natural or synthetic ingredients often appear in these supplements, these include amino acids, vitamins, and other powders. Which do you choose when they are all promising benefits such as to improving strength, endurance, power output, focus, fat loss, and blood flow?
In this blog post, we will discuss the benefits of pre-workout drinks and how to choose the best supplement for you. We'll also provide a list of our top five favorite pre-workout drinks. So, whether you're a beginner or a seasoned gym-goer, read on to learn more!
What is a pre-workout drink?
Pre-workout drinks aim to help people get the most out of their workouts. The majority of pre-workout drinks are available as a powder that you must mix yourself. Some brands produce ready-to-drink (RTD) versions of their powders so that people can drink on the go. Typically you consume a pre-workout 20-40 mins before a workout in order to provide energy and improve performance. There are many different types of pre-workout drinks available, and it is important to choose one that is right for you. Some of the most common ingredients in pre-workout drinks include:
- amino acids
- vasodilators, including nitrates and L-arginine
It's important to pay attention to the label and ensure that the drink does not contain any prohibited substances.
What are the benefits of pre-workout drinks?
You don't need to take a supplement in order to get benefits from exercise. Those who want to go further with their workouts will choose a pre-workout, which is used to boost energy levels and performance during exercise.
Pre-workout drinks can provide many benefits, with the main ones being:
- increased energy levels
- enhanced endurance
- improved focus and attention
- increased blood flow to muscles
- appetite suppression
How to choose the right pre-workout drink for you?
When selecting a pre-workout supplement, it's crucial to think about what you want to achieve. Each product has its own set of benefits, so choose one that best matches your needs. Here are some things to consider while picking a pre-workout supplement:
- Your fitness goals - Are you bulding muscle or looking to loose fat? Or perhaps its performance or health optimization that you're working on?
- The ingredients in the supplement - Pre-workout formulas generally consist of a flavored mixture of several ingredients, each with a specific role in improving performance.
- The dosage of the ingredients.
- How the supplement makes you feel.
What are the common ingredients in a pre-workout drink?
Caffeine - for cognitive function, strength, endurance
Caffeine is a natural component of tea and coffee. It's a common ingredient in pre-workout supplements since research has shown that it improves cognitive function. It encourages you to work harder and as a result, promotes strength and endurance. Caffeine can make you feel restless when consumed in large quantities or later in the day. So begin with a small dose and increase it little by little until you discover the optimum dosage for you or try caffeine free products.
Creatine - for muscle building, energy production
Creatine is a naturally occurring source of energy for muscular contraction in the human body. By keeping production high in active muscles, creatine helps to ensure a constant flow of energy to working muscles.
It has been shown that the consumption of creatine increases muscular mass and gives an energy-boosting performance, making it a good supplement for those wishing to improve their strength as well as their power. If you want to gain muscle, creatine is an option to be considered.
Nitrate - for blood flow, endurance
Nitrate is found in vegetables, and minor amounts are seen in the human body. This compound is known to increase blood flow. This best suits those who carry out endurance activities. It is good at reducing the amount of oxygen utilized by the tissues while exercising.
Beta-Alanine - for strength, endurance
Beta-alanine is a modified version of the amino acid alanine and a precursor to carnosine. Carnosine is found in muscle, predominantly fast-twitch muscle fibers. It helps to limit lactic acid build-up and is involved in the contractility of muscle fibers.
Beta-alanine supplementation has been shown to improve high-intensity exercise and muscular endurance, especially for those who participate in high-intensity interval training.
Alpha GPC - for cognitive function, power output
Alpha GPC has been shown to support chlorine production which benefits the brain and central nervous system and studies show its effectiveness at reducing cognitive decline and it may also improve power output.
BCAAs/EAAs - for muscle strength, recovery and repair, protein synthesis
EAAs and BCAAs are essential for health, performance and recovery: they are the building blocks for a functioning body and adequate amounts are essential to be healthy and ensure optimal recovery and performance.
Supplementation of EAAs and/or BCAAs help to enhance recovery and performance: adequate levels of amino acid, inclusive of BCAA, especially leucine, is critical in the muscle protein synthesis pathway and therefore necessary components of muscle repair, regeneration and muscle mass building.
BCAAs and EAAs have been linked with preventing central fatigue, reducing muscle breakdown, reducing muscle soreness, promoting muscle protein synthesis, improving physical performance, supporting cellular energy production and enhancing muscle tissue repair.
Other "Pre-Workout" Amino Acids
Acetyl L-Carnitine - for endurance, power output, recovery, cognitive function, fat loss
Acetyl L-Carnitine (ALC) is a form of carnitine, a naturally occurring amino acid, that may cross the blood-brain barrier, promoting the synthesis of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter. Acetylcholine is important for proper nerve cell communication and cognitive function, memory, and motivation. ALC has been found to improve both mental and physical performance while also enhancing fat metabolism by promoting the movement of free fatty acids into the mitochondria (the cells' core), where they are burned as energy.
Tyrosine - for motivation, stress management, memory function
Tyrosine, an amino acid that is utilized to generate noradrenaline and dopamine, the neurotransmitters responsible for motivation. It has been shown to reduce stress on the mind during times of intense stress (which depletes norepinephrine), suggesting it may assist with avoiding stress-induced memory and attention deficits caused by stress.
Theanine - for focus, cognitive function, reduces caffeine jitters
L-Theanine is a non-essential amino acid that isn't found in food but has shown promise as an attention and executive function booster. The combination of L-Theanine with caffeine is thought to be highly effective in improving mental performance. Prior to working out, it's possible to feel less anxious or jittery, as well more focussed.
Citrulline - for blood flow, endurance, recovery
Citrulline is an amino acid that is converted to arginine, which plays a role in the manufacture of nitric oxide (NO). NO has been recognized for its role in blood vessel contraction and relaxation. Citrulline malate has been found to improve muscular endurance, allowing individuals to exercise longer and harder without feeling fatigued.
Arginine - for blood flow, endurance
L-arginine is an amino acid that boosts endurance and conditioning by promoting nitric oxide production. When nitric oxide is released, it relaxes the muscles of the blood vessel walls, expanding them. Blood pressure decreases as a result of increased blood flow to the muscles during exercise.
What best brands of pre-workout drinks?
When it comes to the best pre-workout drinks on the market, there are quite a few contenders. We've tried a fair few and here are five of the best :
Below, we look at some of the best pre-workout drinks we've tried.
1. Amino Focus - clean energy with the mental edge
Amino FOCUS has been designed to give both your brain and body a boost. Made with a balanced blend of nootropics, amino acids, and caffeine, these drinks come in delicious flavours, are easy to mix with water and provide an energy boost without the sugar or jitters. Suitable for vegans, these drinks come in natural flavours with plant-based ingredients low-calorie, zero sugar. Amino gives you the mental edge you need to power through your workout.
It contains: L-Tyrosine, L-Citrulline DL-malate (1:1), Alpha GPC, Acetyl L-Carnitine, Anti-caking agent (Silicon dioxide), Maltodextrin, Acid (Citric acid), Caffeine anhydrous (200mg) , L-theanine, Flavourings, Sweeteners (Sucralose, Acesulfame-K), Anti-caking agent (Calcium salts of orthophosphoric acid), Colour (Caramel).
2. Sneak Energy - clean, low-calorie, sugar-free energy
Sneak is your clean energy alternative. Low-calorie and sugar-free, Sneak gives you the power to stay in control. With taurine, carnitine tartrate, choline bitartrate, theanine, ginseng, and caffeine for a sustained energy boost, Sneak keeps you moving forward.
It contains: L-Tyrosine, L-Taurine, Alpha GPC, Caffeine anhydrous, Carnitine, Maltodextrin, Malic acid, Natural Flavors, Sucralose,Ace-K, Potassium Chloride, Silicon Dioxide, Caffeine, Taurine, Tyrosine, Alpha GPC
3. Optimum Nutrition Amino Energy - delicious energy and alertness
4. Womens Best Pre-Workout Booster - energy that raises stamina and builds muscle strength
Start your workout off with a bang! This pre-workout boosters give you the energy and focus you need to achieve your best performance. This particular booster contains Creapure®, a premium grade of creatine that can help you build muscle, raise stamina levels, and increase strength. With L-arginine alpha-ketoglutarate, beta-alanine, and caffeine also included, this product is perfect for anyone looking to take their training up a notch.
It contains: L-Arginine Alpha-Ketoglutarate, Creatine Monohydrate (Creapure®, 100 %), Maltodextrin, Beta-Alanine, L-Citrulline Malate, Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate, L-Tyrosine, Flavour, Caffeine, Separating Agent (Silicon Dioxide), Sweetener (Sucralose), Berry Extract.
5. Applied Nutrition ABE Pre-Workout - a hard hitting dose of energy
ABE is a pre-workout that's appropriate for anybody, regardless of skill level. This product contains Creatine Monohydrate and Citrulline Malate, which help to decrease tiredness and provide constant focus during your workout. This supplement helps create Nitric Oxide, allowing you to work out harder and longer.
It contains: Citrulline Malate, Tri Creatine Blend (Creatine Monohydrate (3g per serving), Creatine Ethyl Ester, Creatine HCL), Sodium Bicarbonate, Citric Acid, Taurine, Caffeine, TeaCrine®, Sucralose, Niacinamide, Vitamin B12
What to do if you experience adverse effects from a pre-workout drink
Some of the components in a pre-workout might generate negative effects in some people. Here are 5 potential side effects of pre-workout supplements, as well as some advice on how to avoid them.
- May make you feel jittery
Caffeine is a common component in many pre-workout products. This stimulant has been found to enhance muscle strength and output during exercise while also reducing fatigue, allowing you to get more out of each workout.
Nonetheless, caffeine has a variety of negative effects, especially when taken in large quantities. These symptoms include sleeplessness, nausea, increased heart rate, drowsiness, headaches, anxiety, and restlessness.
If you're feeling jittery from your pre-workout, start with a smaller dose of a caffeinated pre-workout supplement. Increasing your dosage gradually will aid in determining what level is right for you. Alternatively, choose pre-workout products without any caffeine.
Remember that it’s best to avoid caffeine for at least 6 hours before bed to help prevent sleeplessness
- May increase water retention
Creatine is another well-known component in many pre-workout products. The most common creatine side effects are water retention, bloating, weight gain, and digestive issues.
The simplest method to avoid minor side effects from creatine is to take lower daily dosages rather than undertake a loading phase. Slower results but less bloat.
- May trigger mild reactions
A number of pre-workout supplements contain beta-alanine and niacin (vitamin B3). These substances might induce paresthesia, a tingly feeling in your hands and feet, and skin flushing.
Some people may find it uncomfortable, but this is a normal nervous system response. You can avoid these negative consequences by dividing or decreasing your dosages, or by purchasing pre-workouts that don't include them.
- May cause digestive upset
Several components in pre-workout supplements may cause digestive upset. Sodium bicarbonate, magnesium, creatine, and caffeine are all examples of such ingredients.
When you take a pre-workout, the amount of water it must be mixed with varies depending on the brand. Adding more water to your pre-workout might help alleviate these symptoms.
- May cause headaches
Citrulline, which is found in some pre-workout products, is supposed to increase blood flow to your muscles during activity, promoting muscular growth.
If you're still having problems with headaches after taking supplements that contain this component, consider switching to one that doesn't.