March 12, 2019
How to choose the best pre-workout supplement
Do you take a pre-workout supplement? Pre-workout supplements can provide a lot of benefits to helping you achieve your fitness goals. A pre-workout supplement can give you the extra energy boost you need to get started on an intense sweat session — and help you feel energized throughout your workout. Supplements can also help your workouts be more productive, with better athletic performance and help you recover faster. Want to learn more about the benefits of a pre-workout supplement? CLICK HERE.
Walk into any supermarket, discount big box store, drug store or health food store and you’ll be bombarded with shelves of pre-workout supplements. Browse online and you’ll find even more. Prices are all over the place too, so how do you know what to look for in a pre-workout supplement?
Before you grab the first pre-workout supplement you see or use one just because your roommate, gym buddy or significant other uses it, you might want to understand which ingredients are frequently used in them — and what they do.
What to Look for in a Pre-Workout Supplement
Some pre-workout supplements are designed for a specific purpose such as building muscle or burning fat. Most will have a combination of ingredients that will do a little bit of everything — build muscle, burn fat, provide energy and faster recovery, so let’s take a look at which ingredients you want to see in your pre-workout supplement:
Vitamins — The Energy Booster & Cell Producer:
The higher-quality pre-workout supplements usually contain several vitamins such as vitamin A, many of the Bs, C, D, E & K. You’ll want to see the Bs well represented in your pre-workout supplement because B vitamins are considered micronutrients and help convert proteins and carbohydrates into energy. The Bs also aid in building and repairing cells, particularly red blood cells. An Oregon State University study found that athletes who have even a minor B-vitamin deficiency experienced reduced high-intensity performance and longer recovery times.
If you follow a diet that eliminates certain food groups such as paleo, keto, vegetarian or vegan, you may also be more susceptible to vitamin deficiencies.
The B vitamins are water-soluble too, which means you lose them in your sweaty strength-training or cardio sessions.
Vitamin C, another water-soluble vitamin, is needed for synthesizing collagen. Collagen is the main protein in connective tissue such as tendons, ligaments, bone and skin. Vitamin C also helps prevent oxidative stress, which occurs when there is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body. Oxidative stress can lead to cell damage, including DNA, proteins and lipids.
Beta-Alanine — The Strength Booster
Beta-alanine is a non-essential amino acid, which just means your body makes it naturally. You’ll want to see beta-alanine in your pre-workout supplement because it is important in the production of carnosine. So why do we care about carnosine? Carnosine reduces the buildup of lactic acid in cells. We don’t want acid buildup because it makes it harder for our muscles to contract — meaning they fatigue faster. One review of several studies found that beta-alanine increases working capacity, decreases fatigue and exhaustion — and has a positive effect on carnosine content and body composition.
By the way, despite several misconceptions, lactic acid buildup is not what makes our muscles sore a day or so after intense physical activity — research has shown the soreness is due to microscopic damage to the muscles and surrounding tissue.
Green Coffee Bean Extract — The Fat Burner
The roasted beans we convert into that delicious dark elixir AKA coffee offer some benefits if we leave the bean in their un-roasted state. Green coffee beans contain a higher concentration of chlorogenic acid. Chlorogenic acid is thought to aid in calorie burning and appetite suppression.
Chlorogenic acid is your body’s friend in several other ways — it may help normalize blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure, positively affect cholesterol levels, fight aging with antioxidants and improve energy levels. That’s quite a few benefits from a single ingredient source, so green coffee bean extract should be in your pre-workout supplements.
Citrulline Malate — The Muscle Pumper
Citrulline or citrulline malate (which is citrulline with malic acid and the better option) offers a one-two punch to your body’s ability to get blood and nutrients to your muscles during intense exercise. First, it helps boost nitric oxide levels, which dilates your blood vessels. Sort of like how adding a few more lanes to a highway allows more vehicles to reach destinations faster, your muscles receive much-needed oxygen more quickly.
The second part of the punch is that malic acid helps the tricarboxylic (TCA or also Krebs) cycle. The TCA cycle is a metabolic process that breaks down organic fuel molecules so they can be converted into energy. And if those aren’t enough citrulline malate benefits, here’s another — citrulline malate also helps reduce muscle soreness after those intense hours in the gym. One study found that weightlifters who supplemented with citrulline malate before their workout were able to do 52.92 percent more repetitions and felt a 40 percent decrease in muscle soreness afterward. Other studies have found similar results. Definitely look for this powerhouse in your pre-workout supplement.
L Tyrosine — The Brain Booster
L tyrosine is an amino acid known to enhance focus, elevate mood and even boost sex drive. This feel-good ally helps your body make dopamine, adrenaline, noradrenaline, thyroid hormones and melanin. Dopamine is a brain neurotransmitter that helps regulate movement, learning, attention span and emotional responses. Powering through a grueling workout is stressful and requires a significant amount of mental strength. Having L tyrosine in your pre-workout supplement gives you that little extra psychological and physical boost to get you to the next level.
Electrolytes — The Supplier
You might be thinking why would I need electrolytes before a workout, aren’t those for after? Your body needs electrolytes during your sweat sessions just as much as it does after — and here’s why:
Electrolytes are chemicals that form ions (electrically charged particles) in your body fluids. Ions carry the electrical energy needed for muscle contractions and other bodily functions essential to exercise. Electrolyte depletion results in cramps, but even if you don’t experience muscle cramping, you want to provide a consistent flow of electrolytes to maintain your bodily functions at optimal levels.
A Final Word — What Should NOT be in Your Pre-Workout Supplement
As you can see, the ingredients in a pre-workout supplement can make a big difference in giving your body the best chance of reaching and surpassing your fitness goals. However, shop carefully because unfortunately, there is a lot of money to be made in the exercise supplement industry. Greed often trumps ethics when it comes to money, so supplement suppliers often load their supplements with low-cost, low-quality ingredients to save money — or they don’t use adequate dosages.
The milder impact of low-quality ingredients is that your body often can’t properly absorb the cheaper versions of supplement elements or it doesn’t get enough of something, so you’re just wasting your money. A more significant effect is that sometimes suppliers add artificial sweeteners, flavors, dyes and toxins to their supplements — if you’re trying to give your body the optimum shot at better health, you certainly don’t want to add a bunch of crap ingredients that are going to undo all the good you’re doing elsewhere. And the biggest red flag to watch for are banned substances such as 1,3-DMAA or 1,4-DMAA, stimulants that can cause strokes, heart attacks, and even death.
Look for a supplement supplier who sources from a GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) certified facility, ideally one based in the U.S. and not China or other dodgy overseas countries. And last, try to find a supplier who has athletes working with nutritionists and compounding pharmacists in the design and creation process. After all, you wouldn’t want to dine in a restaurant if instead of chefs in the kitchen, mechanics were trying to prepare your meal.