Getting Started With Pre-Workout Supplements
The concept of pre-workouts started from individuals lacking an additional stimulation/drive component to jump start their workouts. Therefore, the majority of pre-workouts are stimulant based in order to induce a euphoric benefit of seemingly increased energy levels.
Whether or not this is actually the case needs to be determined by analyzing the individual ingredients used for common pre-workouts. These stimulants are paired with additional Amino Acids mostly for different muscular reactions/effects in the body.
Some pre-workouts also contain extracts, such as beet root or black pepper, and some of these extracts, including the ones I just mentioned, have real scientific beneficial effects, and some do not.
I will provide an overview of the ingredients common in pre-workouts, and some that are not so common but could be supplemented for added benefit.
The short- It’s your main stimulant.
The long-The most basic ingredient in pre-workout supplements and that is for good reason. Caffeine is a stimulant like none other, and is effective at creating an energetic response in the individual. Most pre-workouts over caffeinate the individual in order to compensate for their lack of ingredients.
Be wary of this and remember 180mg of caffeine is the average amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee. Use that as a marker when looking at dosages.
Beta-alanine (Carnosyn) –
The short- Improves sustainability during workouts
The long – This is the ingredient responsible for that tingle in your face and redness in your cheeks, but that is not its main purpose. Carnosyn is the patented 100% beta alanine version of the amino acid as well, and if you can, you should look for that ingredient name as a quality standard.
Beta-alanine is a precursor to carnosine, hence the company’s clever name, which is an amino acid responsible for buffer effects of pH in your muscles. Once you begin working out, you are creating lactic acid as a byproduct of your normal energy creation, and this lactic acid can create a pH change in your muscles which has negative effects.
Carnosine is responsible for protection against the lactic acid fermentation which then produces more sustainability in your workouts.
The short- Improves cardiovascular functions
The long- This is the bio-available version of the amino acid Citrilline, and has proven endurance benefits for both aerobic and anaerobic exercise. It is involved in the nitric oxide cycle and urea cycle in your body along with the amino acids Arginine and Ornithine.
Citrilline is actually the byproduct of reactions in both cycles to create Arginine and Ornithine respectively, but supplementing Citrilline can increase blood concentrations of both these ingredients, which in turn, can bring additional positive benefits.
The biggest one is creation of nitric oxide in the body which improves cardiovascular function and is a vasodilator aka widens veins in order to move blood faster. If you supplement Citrilline, there is no need to supplement Arginine as well. It doesn’t provide additional benefits and creates an oversaturation for the receptors of Arginine.
The short- Increases energy production
The long- Creatine is truly a staple of most, if not all, good pre-workouts for a number of reasons. The primary functional of Creatine is to create additional ATP production for higher energy levels throughout a workout.
Creatine also draws in extra water into muscles for recovery purposes which induce a mass gaining effect or hypertrophy. Creatine has a long list of positive benefits and research associated with those benefits such as: anaerobic power output, weight, hydration levels, running capabilities, etc. This should be a definitive staple in your pre-workout, but make sure your hydration levels are high.
You should be drinking around a gallon a day if taking Creatine at any dosage due to its negative gastrointestinal effects if not properly hydrated.
The short- Reduces blood pressure, anti-stress
The long- This is an amino acid that is metabolized in order to produce the neurotransmitters dopamine and adrenaline. It is utilized as an anti-stress compound, and generally found in pre-workouts for the rational of “I am about to stress my body physically; therefore, I should take the necessary nutritional precautions”.
With the additional benefits of being an active compound in most thyroid reactions, generally fat loss is associated with supplementation. It mentally reduces the acute stress that a workout can provide along with minor reductions in blood pressure. When heavy anaerobic exercise is performed, blood pressure rises in order to meet the muscular demand necessary to perform the lift.
If some of this blood pressure can be mitigated, the after effects of increased blood pressure can be less severe. This Mitigation of blood pressure can be useful for increasing workout duration.