Do Pre-Workout Supplements Actually Help?
Pre-workout supplements are pretty popular, and you can find them from pretty much any company that makes exercise supplements.
Pre workout supplements claim to boost your performance, giving you a burst of energy, making your muscles last longer, and increase blood flow. When you put all of these things together you get a lot more out of your workouts. So what do you need to know about these supplements? We have thses powerful stimulants, but what are they actually doing for us?
At their core, most pre-workout supplements are very similar. They contain a blend of the major players: creatine, arginine, beta-alanine, carnitine, citrulline, to name a few. All of which can be found in the body, and there’s science to prove that they really do have benefits for performance. What you want to know most about a pre-workout is: 1. in what dose are you receiving these stimulants in and 2. which ingredients do you want in a pre-workout, and which ones do you want to stay away from?
Caffeine – Standard Effective Dose: 100-200mg
Caffeine is the primary stimulant in most pre-workouts and is what gives you that “boost” of energy. A cup of coffee usually has around 100mg of caffeine in it and gives most people their daily pick me up in the morning to get them going. Pre-workouts do the same thing and usually crank up the dose to somewhere around 250mg or 300mg. It helps you focus more and feel less fatigue—exactly the claims the supplement labels make!
Creatine – Standard Effective Dose: 5 grams
Creatine is naturally stored in your muscles so any supplementation just adds to what you already have. Usually with positive results. Creatine is used as an extra energy source for your muscles when you work them. During bursts of intense activity like weightlifting your body will quickly run out of energy and your body needs to refill its sources. When you supplement with creatine, you increase the available creatine in your muscles so your body can replenish its energy faster and help you work out harder.
Beta-Alanine – Standard Effective Dose: 2.4 grams
Beta-alanine has been shown to help people get more reps when they’re training. Studies have shown that it improved performance in moderately intense activities that lasted between 60-240 seconds. So while it’s not going to help with your 1 rep max, it will help you reach sustained exercises into the aerobic phase of your lifts that truly benefit your body.
The explanation here is that beta-alanine turns into carnosine in the body.
Beta-alanine is also what gives you that wired, tingly feeling in your hands and face. This happens when your pre-workout supplement contains more than 2 grams of it. But don’t worry, it’s a harmless and common effect called paresthesia.
Nitrate – Standard Effective Dose: 0.5 grams
When you take in nitrates, they get broken down in the body into nitrite, which then gets converted into the famous nitric oxide when your body endures hard activity where you’re under duress and need more oxygen.
The more nitrates you have, the more available nitric oxide there is. This helps you workout because nitric oxide opens up your blood vessels and allow more blood flow through your system. This means you’re getting more blood, and more oxygen into your muscles so you can work harder, longer. With a consistent dose, studies show that nitrates reduce the amount of oxygen needed to perform exercise at moderate intensity, in addition to helping your muscles last longer during really intense, near-maximal exercise.
What to Stay Away From
The main stimulant you want to stay away from is DMAA, called 1,3-dimethylamylamine, or DMAA. DMAA is structurally similar to amphetamine, and since early 2000s, has been marketed as a natural weight loss aid. DMAA goes by other names: geranamine, dimethylamylamine, methylhexanamine, and many more.
In general, pre-workout supplements can “work” because they may change the way you feel, mostly thanks to our friend caffeine. The kicker is, neither caffeine nor pre-workout supplements will automatically make anyone stronger, bigger, or faster. You still need to be willing to work your ass off when you exercise.
If the whole point is to work out harder and more intensely, you can do the same by taking caffeine by itself. Coffee is my personal go-to (and it’s dang tasty). As far as I’m concerned, the only people who possibly need pre-workout supplements are fitness models who lack energy from a long dieting period. If you’re after those claims of getting stronger and performing better, try looking into the individual ingredients, such as creatine and beta-alanine, and taking them separately, where you can moderate the dose to your needs and fitness goals. blockquote>