Are your workouts feeling a bit…blah? Do you run out of energy mid-workout or feel wiped out and sore after an intense sweat session? You probably know friends and fellow gym buddies who swear by pre-workout supplements, so you’re probably wondering if you would benefit from using them too. If your goal is to feel more energized during workouts, increase your stamina, achieve a new strength level, burn more calories and recover faster, then a pre-workout supplement might be just what you need.
What Are Pre-Workout Supplements?
Before we get into the benefits of a pre-workout supplement, let’s talk about what they are and what’s in them that makes your workouts more productive. As you can guess by the name, a pre-workout supplement is something you take before exercising to help you increase your training volume and intensity. Many forms come in a powder you usually mix with water and drink about 15 to 20 minutes before you hit the gym or the road.
What’s in a Pre-Workout Supplement?
The ingredients can vary greatly, and some are specific for certain activities such as muscle building or long-term endurance. In general, pre-workout supplements are usually some combination of caffeine, amino acids, vitamins, and electrolytes. Some of the more common ingredients include:
Caffeine: Pre-workout supplements often contain caffeine, which stimulates the nervous system and provides that extra boost of energy. Caffeine helps you endure longer sweat sessions and blast through them with less effort. Caffeine also enables you to stay mentally focused.
B Vitamins: Some pre-workout supplements contain the B vitamins, which have been proven to help convert protein and carbohydrates into energy. Bs repair and build cells, including red blood cells, after a workout. You also lose B vitamins when you sweat, which you know you’ll be doing if you’re reaching the intensity you need for a workout to be mega productive.
- Beta-alanine: Beta-alanine is a non-essential (meaning our bodies can produce it) amino acid that increases your body’s production of carnosine. Carnosine has been found to help prevent lactic acid buildup in your muscles. Reducing lactic acid buildup is essential when you’re upping the intensity of your workouts and pushing your muscles hard — especially during activities such as weightlifting, sprints, wrestling and high-intensity cycling when large muscles are contracting quickly.
Citrulline: Citrulline, another amino acid, promotes nitric oxide production in your body. Nitric oxide increases blood flow to body tissues. When you’re aiming to get in more reps or log more miles, having more oxygen and nutrients delivered to your muscles will help you reach that fitness goal.
- Electrolytes: Electrolytes are positively or negatively charged minerals such as potassium and sodium that help your body balance fluid levels. Having them in a pre-workout supplement when you know you’re going to lose buckets of sweat will help prevent cramps and improve your performance overall. Adding electrolytes before your workout will also help reduce muscle soreness afterward.
These are just a few of the ingredients you might find in a pre-workout supplement. You might also find a lot of things you don’t want in a pre-workout supplement such as artificial flavors, sweeteners, and dyes. You also don’t want banned substances such as 1,3-DMAA or 1,4-DMAA, stimulants that can cause strokes, heart attacks, and even death. Pre-workout supplements shouldn’t be loaded with calories either. If you need to fuel up before hitting the gym, there are better alternatives than a pre-workout supplement. If you want to learn more about what to look for in a pre-workout supplement, check out this post HERE.
What Are the Benefits of Taking a Pre-Workout Supplement?
Now that you know which ingredients you might find in a pre-workout supplement, let’s talk about the benefits you’ll get by adding them to your fitness routine.
More Energy: This is a bit of a no-brainer but having more energy before you pick up that first weight or take that first step is going to help you have a more successful workout. We’ve all had those foggy mornings after a lousy night’s sleep or fatigue from the stress of a long work day that have interfered with — or maybe even made us skip a planned sweat session. The caffeine and other energy-boosting elements will motivate you to get started — and they will help you feel energized throughout your workout session.
Improved Concentration: Sticking to an intense workout routine also requires a lot of mental focus, whether it’s paying attention to your form, clearing your mind of distracting “debris” or staying committed to doing that extra set of reps or lap. As an athlete, you know how much your mental state impacts your performance. A pre-workout supplement can help you stay committed — and help you avoid psyching yourself out or giving up too soon.
Better Athletic Performance: Your pre-workout supplement will improve your ability to train harder, longer and more efficiently. After all, the point of intense workouts is to reach your fitness goals, whether that’s losing weight, building more muscle mass, staying in shape or increasing your endurance. You’ll achieve those results sooner if you’re working out longer, more intensely and more effectively.
- Metabolism Boost: Many of the ingredients in pre-workout supplements help boost your metabolism. Some, such as caffeine, aid in burning fat. A faster metabolism helps you lose weight and allows you to eat more without gaining weight.
- Faster Recovery Time: Yes, it can feel great to have that post, intense-workout fatigue, and muscle soreness, proof that you kicked butt in your last session — but you don’t want to feel that way for very long! The sooner your muscles and body recover from a gruesome sweat session, the sooner you can do it again. And you’ll be able to take it a notch higher next time.
In addition to the real-time benefits of taking a pre-workout supplement, you can enjoy some long-term benefits too. Because your workouts are more productive and intense when you use a supplement, your body will adapt and change more rapidly. You’ll see and feel physical improvements sooner, which puts you on a path to long-term success.
And did you know you can use pre-workout supplements on days non-workout days? They’ll give you the energy and nutrients you need to tackle a difficult day.
Not all pre-workout supplements are created equally, so it’s best to read ingredients carefully. You’re also more likely to find higher quality supplements made by companies who are run by athletes or have athletes’ input. Grabbing something off your supermarket or discount store might seem like a convenient, affordable way to add a pre-workout supplement to your routine, but you aren’t as likely to experience the same level of positive results.