Pre-Workouts: Over-Hyped or Helpful?
With products that are advertising “skin splitting pumps” and “alpha AF workouts” it’s no wonder many people that are more casual lifters have been turned off by pre workouts. As of now, much of marketing in the pre workout world is towards those hyper aggressive gym goers, which I understand from a marketing perspective, but I think this also weeds out a lot of people that could benefit from using a pre workout supplement.
Also! With so many on the market, how is anyone supposed to know which one is best for them? It seems like every day a new company is coming out with the latest and greatest pre workout and now with SUPER CREATINE…*yawn*.
So for those of you that are curious to know more about pre workouts, what are their benefits, and an easy guide on what to look for in a legitimately good pre workout (of which I will call “pre” from here on out), look no further.
Let’s start off with what should be a red flag for you: proprietary blends. If you have a pre-workout with a proprietary blend, toss it now. Kidding, it’s not going to kill you (most likely), but the big issue I have with them is that you don’t know how much of each ingredient is included in what you’re taking.
This is especially bad when they lump caffeine into the blend. How are you supposed to know how much caffeine you’re taking if they don’t tell you how much is in each serving? Caffeine in particular is something important to track as it is very easy to overdo caffeine which could lead to some crazy intense jitters and even heart palpitations at higher doses and no one wants that.
Next you have to remember that each ingredient is important for helping to enhance your workout, but if they don’t specify how much of each is in there, how do you know you’re getting the clinically effective dosages? Short answer is: you don’t. That company could easily underdose the more expensive ingredients in an effort to save money and you wouldn’t even know.
Okay now that we’re past the major red flag let’s move onto things you should be looking for. Here’s a list of ingredients in a pre that you want with a little something about what they do:
1. Citrulline Malate (specifically not L-Citrulline)
a. Improves muscle endurance
b. Relieves muscle soreness
c. Improves aerobic performance
d. Citrulline malate is superior to L-citrulline for two reasons:
i. It’s likely that malic acid confers additional health and performance benefits
ii. It’s the form used in most studies demonstrating the performance benefits associated with L-citrulline
e. Has been shown to be more effective than L-arginine in respect to muscle pumps
f. Clinically effective dose of citrulline malate is between 4 and 10 grams
a. Reduces exercise-induced fatigue
b. Improves anaerobic exercise capacity
c. Increases potential workload, which can lead to an increase in lean mass
d. Reduces feelings of fatigue during exercise
e. The clinically effective dose of beta-alanine is between 2.6 and 6.4 grams.
f. This will give you that prickly feeling when used in higher levels
a. amino acid found in various foods such as beets, spinach, and quinoa
b. boosts muscle endurance and increases strength
c. clinically effective dose of betaine is between 1.25 and 2.5 grams
a. Increases power output
b. Mitigates cognitive decline as we age
c. Increases growth hormone levels
d. increases the activity of a chemical in the brain known as acetylcholine, which is used by nerves to communicate with each other, and provides the brain with glycerophosphate, which can improve its health and function
e. clinically effective dose is between 250 to 500 milligrams
a. This one isn’t necessary, and in fact should be avoided if you are lifting past 5PM so that it doesn’t impact your sleep.
b. However, it can be super helpful and does in fact give you energy during the workout
c. Anything more than 350 mg of caffeine is probably hitting the excessive side
a. This one is atypical in pre workouts, but it is an excellent addition
b. Reduces the effects of mental stress
c. Increases the production of nitric oxide, which improves blood flow
d. When paired with caffeine, improves mood, memory performance, and attention
e. clinically effective dose of L-theanine is between 100 and 250 milligrams
f. having a 2:1 ration of L-theanine to caffeine it produces a more calming effect instead of alertness of something like a 1:1
Why isn’t creatine listed? Because it’s not needed in pre-workout at all. Research shows there's slightly more benefit to taking it after workout, but really this is splitting hairs. I prefer my creatine separate from my pre because I can more easily control when I take it during the day and can have it without having to take pre.