How To Use Pre-Workout Supplements

Pre-Workout Supplements are hot topics these days...

It's often confusing as to what we should be taking and when.

In this article we are going to be looking at:-

  • What's included in typical Pre-Workout Supplements
  • What do the Pre-Workout Supplements ingredients do
  • Is it worth including a Pre-Workout Supplements in our supplementation strategy.

Pre-workout-supplements

Pre-Workout Supplements - What's In Them

Using MyProtein MyPre as an example of a typical Pre-Workout Supplement, for a 2 scoop dose we get:

  • ​Creatine (4g)
  • Caffeine (400mg)
  • BCAA's (4g of 2:1:1 Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine) 
  • Pantothenic Acid, Vitamin B6, B12, Niacin and Riboflavin
  • 3g spread between: Beta Alanine, L-Citrulline Malate, L-Arginine, D Aspartic Acid and Betaine.
  • Flavouring

Pre-Workout Supplements: Ingredients - What Do They Do

Taking each of the above in turn, let's break them down:

​Creatine

Creatine is the ingredient which has the most scientific evidence to backup it's place in the supplement cupboard of anyone looking to increase muscle strength and density. It's proven to work and known to be safe and cheap.


However, the dosage provided in 2 scoops of My Pre is below the clinically recommended amount and this assumes you work up to taking 2 scoops of My Pre. A feat which definitely separates the boys from the men!

Additionally, there have been studies showing that ingesting Creatine at the same time as Caffeine diminishes it's effects.​

​Caffeine

Caffeine probably needs very little introduction or justification as a proven stimulant. Using Caffeine in a pre-workout is going to increase your alertness, willingness to train and endurance. Clinically proven doses range between 3-6mg per kg of bodyweight. With this in mind 400mg (from two scoops) is a good dosage for most people.

​BCAA's

BCAA's really provide most value in two areas:

  • Preventing muscle catabolism when training in a fasted or low calorie state.
  • Assisting with reduction of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).

4g from 2 scoops is just below the recommended amount. However, if you are looking to mitigate either of the two points above then it has a valid place in your pre-workout.

B Vitamins

The vitamins B2, B3, B5, B6, and B12 all have health benefits but in terms of requiring them in a pre-workout... Well, I don't see any reason for them to be there.  Most people who are consuming a well constructed healthy diet will already be getting sufficient B vitamins and won't need to supplement them at all or specifically in a pre-workout window.

3g between: Beta Alanine, L-Citrulline Malate, L-Arginine, D Aspartic Acid and Betaine

Beta Alanine

Beta Alanine ​has been observed to improve muscular endurance performance. Typically being seen as increased reps in the gym. It has also been shown to improve cardiovascular exercise such as rowing, cycling and sprinting.

Beta Alanine ​has been observed to improve muscular endurance performance. Typically being seen as increased reps in the gym. It has also been shown to improve cardiovascular exercise such as rowing, cycling and sprinting.

L-Citrulline Malate

Citrulline Malate is used as a sports performance and cardiovascular health supplement. Supplementation provides reduced fatigue and improved endurance for prolonged aerobic and anaerobic exercise ​.

L-Arginine

​Used as a sports supplement which is marketed as increasing Nitric Oxide activity in the body. Evidence however, is inconclusive.

D Aspartic Acid

Believed to be a minor, temporary booster of Testosterone levels.

Betaine

Increasing evidence is showing it to be a muscle endurance and strength booster. 

pre-workout-supplements

Should I take Pre-Workout Supplements?

Crucial Pre-Workout Window​

Looking at the ingredients listed above, only one of them is particularly time sensitive i.e. one that you would benefit from taking pre-workout. It's caffeine!

Caffeine is readily available in many forms other than pre-workout supplements. So if this is the only time sensitive ingredient - do we really need to be taking a pre-workout?

​Worthwhile Pre-Workout Ingredients

Whilst some of the other ingredients have proven benefits and therefore are worthy of being included in the supplementation regime of someone looking to improve their body composition, they are not time sensitive. You could take the others outside of your workout window - at your convenience. 

​Worthwhile Pre-Workout Ingredient Dosages

As with most pre-made products, it's a one size fits all. Looking at the useful ingredients that are in this typical product, they are supplied in doses which are lower than recommended.

By using a pre-mixed product, you are not really getting optimal doses of the useful ingredients. If you are taking in doses which are lower than used during the scientific tests that proved their effectiveness, then it's questionable what benefits you would get.

pre-workout supplements

​Pre-Workout Supplements - The Verdict

The My-Pre supplement used as an example does include some great ingredients which are highly likely to give your workouts a boost. However, of these, only Caffeine is actually time critical and likely to improve your session when taken prior to a workout.

The other ingredients whilst noted to improve performance, are not time critical and could therefore be taken separately at any convenient time.​

My recommendation (and indeed what I do) is to make your own pre-workout. My personal pre-workout mix includes: Caffeine, Creatine, Beta Alanine, ​Citrulline Malate and flavoured BCAA's. (Whilst BCAA's have had mixed write up's recently, I prefer to include them when cutting as a reasonably priced insurance policy against muscle catabolism).

I've personally experienced great results with this mix. I feel it's provided:

As always, it comes down to the factors of convenience​, price and being able to fine tune the product to your own requirements.

It maybe that you don't tolerate some of the ingredients above, some people struggle with Caffeine or may find the amount pre-mixed to be excessive. If this is you, then you would be better off taking on the task of making your own pre-workout.

If you are short of time and want convenience, two scoops of My-Pre is certainly going to give you the majority of Bang For Buck of the products listed above.

If you have the time and want to zone in on your supplementation then you can buy the individual supplements and experiment with your own mixes. 

Whichever path you take, it's key to remember supplementation is just an aid to performance. Your diet and exercise effort level will determine 90%+ of the progress you make.​

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