Performance enhancement is, in fact, the very first step that needs to be taken care of to extract the maximum benefit from any training program.
The body would gradually demand more stamina and energy as you progress in the training course.
There are various techniques to meet this rising energy demand, and of which, one excellent choice is a pre-workout supplement.
As the name implies, they are used before the workout session, and the effect is experienced during your training session.
Increased endurance, the sudden outburst of energy, delay in fatigue, and faster recovery are some of the ideal characteristics of a pre-workout supplement.
In this article, we will cater you everything you must know about a pre-workout supplement1, its working, benefits, side effects, etc.
So, let us wind this intro here and move straight in the crux of this article.
Table of Contents
What are pre-workout supplements?
Let us try to dig a little deeper about pre-workout supplements.
Simply put, they are capsules, tablets, or water-soluble powder made by combining various herbal, and chemical ingredients, which helps in boosting the performance and comes handy during a workout session.
The main focus of a pre-workout supplement is giving that extra outburst of energy required in the middle of a workout, which will help you push the boundaries of human endurance and strength.
This way, you can stay focused and motivated during the exercise, helping you juice the best possible results.
With day by day improving vitals, you will be able to train harder, and this will accelerate the results compared to no-supplement version of training.
They are often consumed 30 ~ 60 minutes before the workout session, mixed with water or milk (powder) or gulped with water (capsules.)
Several studies have made regarding the benefits of a pre-workout supplement, and some of it says that a 20 % ~ 30 % enhancement in performance is seen in regular users.
How do they work?
The majority of the pre-workout supplements work the same way, and mostly there will be an active compound that gives this performance boost.
Some of the pre-workout supplements have only one active compound, but nowadays, manufacturers are trying a mixture of various active compounds to maximize the output.
Caffeine is a wakefulness-promoting agent found in coffee beans that interacts with the adenosine receptor to increase alertness. Cognition and mental activity of the user are drastically improved along with endurance, and power by upregulating the neural activity.
Nitric oxide is another primary active compound which is a vasodilator that widens the blood vessels to carry more blood to the muscles, thus keeping them well-nourished.
Creatine is processed to release ATP molecules, which are the energy currencies used by the muscles to create strength.
Beta-Alanine is an amino acid that prevents the toxic buildup of lactic acid produced as a result of muscle exertion, thus helping in increasing endurance by delaying fatigue.
When you should use a pre-workout supplement?
All supplements that you take have a sweet spot or a time window during which if you manage to take it, the results will be at its best.
In the case of pre-workout supplements, this is generally 30 ~ 60 minutes before the workout.
However, depending on the active compounds in the supplements, the time can vary.
Some of the compounds need a more extended period to get absorbed into the bloodstream, while some of the blends with a promoter can be easily absorbed in less than 30 minutes.
If your supplement is a caffeine-based one, then it might need at least 45 minutes to get absorbed into the system and to start circulating through the bloodstream.
On the other hand, creatine takes around an hour, and they shouldn’t be taken with caffeinated drinks.
Beta-alanine4 based supplements are often taken at least 45 minutes before the workout; however, the effect can last for up to 2 hours after consumption.
When it comes to blends, they are faster in getting absorbed and needs only 30 minutes to appear on the bloodstream.
Benefits of using a pre-workout supplements
First and foremost, let us wash away one misconception surrounding pre-workout supplements.
Taking pre-workout supplements alone won’t make you muscular or improves your endurance.
It is not a magic potion that could give your Arnold like body.
It is just an aid that can help you stick to your routine with more mental and physical power to last the entire session.
The efficacy and performance of the pre-workout supplement entirely depend on the manufacturer, ingredients, active compounds, or blends used.
Some of the unparalleled benefits using a pre-workout supplement are:
- You will be able to finish entire reps with the same intensity as you have started-off.
- There will be a sudden outburst of energy that will help you push a couple more reps in some high-intensity workouts.
- The exercising capability and flexibility of the individual are improved.
- Your metabolism is increased; as a result, nutrient allocation and energy release are enhanced.
- You will feel motivated and focused on your workout, eliminating the repetitive boredom.
- Muscle recovery post-workout is upgraded, which helps in defining a clear physique especially if you are on a cutting cycle.
- Helps muscle balance in resistance training workouts.
- Reduces the lactic acid build-up, which might result in cortisol release leading to muscle anabolism.
- Muscle damage due to change in the workout is very common, and with a pre-workout supplement, muscle improves its flexibility in handling tensions.
- Enhances the blood flow into various parts of the body, especially into the muscles, and as a result, endurance is increased.
Are there any side effects for pre-workout supplements?
It all boils down to the quality of ingredients, manufacturer, choice of active compounds, presence of steroids or other chemical substances, and finally, user handling which includes the dosage and intake frequency.
If you use a pre-workout supplement as recommended by the manufacturer or your doctor, then chances of adverse health effects are very less.
Still, some mild health effects are usually reported, which are not serious, though.
Some of the supplements are of herbal origin, meaning the ingredients are mostly plant extracts, and using those products is very less likely to turn harmful due to its organic nature.
Heart palpitation and abnormal heartbeats have been reported as a side effect due the stimulatory effect of these supplements.
Drastic weight loss might happen if you are using a pre-workout supplement while keeping the BMI unattended.
A proper diet has to be followed in order to compensate for this weight loss caused by pre-workout sample.
Some of the common side effects include headache, muscle cramps, anxiety, itching, nausea, diarrhea, and flushed skin.
However, the herbal pre-workout supplements are comparatively side-effects free and occasionally might lead to stomach upsets.
To be on a safe side, if you have a previous history of heart diseases, stroke, lung disorder, liver/kidney malfunctions, recently been through some surgery, or if any other complications are there, it is better to consult a doctor before using pre-workout supplements.
Pre-workout supplements are an added advantage, especially if you are graduating from novice to intermediate.
When the workout routine changes, it is usually difficult for the muscles to get adapted to the new exercise, and having a pre-workout supplement on your side will help you bridge this shortcoming.
The choice of the supplement is always the user’s discretion but always look for a well-reputed brand with many customer reviews and testimonials.
A blend is an excellent choice for general-purpose performance enhancement, but professionals go with more sophisticated pre-workout supplements with other additives.
Another thing to keep in mind is the timing of supplement intake, and it is better to have it at least 40 minutes before the gym session.
Avoid overloading of other stimulatory foods like coffee and energy drinks alongside a pre-workout sample.
This will significantly reduce the chances of adverse health effects.
Now that you know all about the pre-workout supplement give it a try and see how it changes your gym performance.
- Spradley, Brandon D., et al. “Ingesting a pre-workout supplement containing caffeine, B-vitamins, amino acids, creatine, and beta-alanine before exercise delays fatigue while improving reaction time and muscular endurance.” Nutrition & metabolism 9.1 (2012): 28. https://nutritionandmetabolism.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1743-7075-9-28
- Burnett, Arthur L., et al. “Nitric oxide: a physiologic mediator of penile erection.” Science 257.5068 (1992): 401-403. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/257/5068/401.short
- Harris, Roger C., Karin Söderlund, and Eric Hultman. “Elevation of creatine in resting and exercised muscle of normal subjects by creatine supplementation.” Clinical science 83.3 (1992): 367-374. https://portlandpress.com/clinsci/article-abstract/83/3/367/75945
- Artioli, Guilherme Giannini, et al. “Role of beta-alanine supplementation on muscle carnosine and exercise performance.” Med Sci Sports Exerc 42.6 (2010): 1162-1173. http://www.academia.edu/download/43844955/The_Role_of_-alanine_Supplementation_on_20160317-20037-pvj2h0.pdf