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Ever spent every waking hour at the gym yet still feel like you aren’t getting anywhere with muscle building or weight loss?
Well, as frustrating as this is, it sometimes happens. It is everyone’s dream to hit the gym for a few days and start realizing noticeable bulges and trims all over their body.
The secret to energy-filled workouts lies within workout supplements.Pre and post-workout supplements are all the rave. But what does pre-workout do? And what do they do in terms of physical improvement? The supplement market is so full of products. How are you to know what are the best ones and which ones to buy? It is important to know what these pre-workout supplements do specifically in order to answer the targeted goal, especially in our workouts.
There normally are pre and post workout supplements that anyone using the gym should invest in. Pre-workout supplements, in this case, are taken before any athletic activity to boost performance and eventually, result.
These supply you with ample energy and endurance that will see you completing your reps and increasing resistance each time. It is important that you fully understand what pre-workout supplements do to facilitate this.
What is the purpose of Pre-Workout Supplements
Working out has become very prevalent because of our need to be healthy, to be strong and to shape up. The tough one always gets the best, as the cliche goes. Everyone who undergoes a workout routine or activity does not want to waste his or her time. It is imperative for anyone who undergoes physical training to make the most out of their time. This is where pre-workout supplements come to fruition. Pre-workout supplements help athletes or anyone working out to maximize the quality of their workout such that results will appear faster. Most, if not all, supplements bring about some improvement into the effects of a person’s workout routine.
You probably have learned or come across pre workout supplements before. You’ve either seen your friends using them before workouts or heard your sports supplements store attendant recommend them. It probably is the first thing that you’ll learn about when you start asking around for some tips to increase strength and endurance during workouts.
However, there’s always a first time learning new things for effective workouts.
There are different pre-workout supplements in the market. Each performs differently depending on the ingredients in them. Most of these supplements either promote fat burn or muscle formation of course with varying levels of muscle formation.
When herbs, vitamins, and minerals are blended in perfect proportions, they will promote performance enhancement. The kind of pre-workout supplement that you decide to go for may trigger one or all of these; stamina, energy and potential to build muscle.
If you think that pre-workout supplements won’t work for you because of the caffeine in them, you’d be pleased to know that each product has a different stimulant as an ingredient. The secret is in finding one that works for you.
However, most of the supplements do not mention that side-effects can also affect the person. Most synthetic pre-workout supplements may contain levels of caffeine.
One of the most common workout “supplements” that is present in most food supplements as well as drink supplements is caffeine. Everyone can almost attest the effectivity of caffeine in boosting workouts and energy. It has been found by a certain research that men who took caffeine supplements could deadlift, bench press and do more heavy lifting at greater weights. Other studies have suggested that runners and rowers can increase their aerobic capacity with a dose of caffeine. But caffeine tolerance happens very easily to even a high school kid who keeps drinking coffee. Caffeine’s effects in improving a person’s workout diminish over time due to substance tolerance.
That can be unfortunate for strictly synthetic pre-workout supplements and caffeine although there are pre-workout supplements that do not have any side-effects because it comes from nature. To cite an example of a product is Eurycoma longifolia Extract, famously known as Tongkat Ali. The herb comes from the forests of Malaysia and Indonesia. It works like a more potent version of Panax Ginseng, increasing energy levels, burning fat, helping the body metabolize proteins, and increasing endurance during workout sessions. There is very low risk to develop tolerance of the substance.
Choosing Pre Workout Supplements
Choosing to include them in your workouts is entirely a personal preference. The idea behind pre-workout supplements arose when the need to help body builders gather more energy for the tasks ahead arose. With time, the careful formulation of ingredients has helped to improve the quality and efficacy of pre-workout supplements for better results.
In order to rule out chances of allergic reactions to certain ingredients, it is highly advisable that you carefully read the ingredients label before use. Luckily, different products contain different stimulants in them hence the luxury of choosing one that suits you.
Choosing supplements is vital once you are able to assess if you need supplements. There are several supplements available in the market today. It can be a bit daunting to know which one to choose. First, you need to know if the product is produced in an FDA certified facility. It is also imperative that supplements are produced in facilities certified under GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) because this means that a supplement has been sourced in the highest quality, processed cleanly and in the best way possible, and are properly regulated in terms of quality and distribution. Every bit of the process affects the finished product.
What Does Pre-Workout do?
Considering that you have found a workout supplement that works for you. It could be creatine, Tongkat Ali, or caffeine (hopefully not caffeine). How does it affect you and how does it work?
Pre-workout supplements are there to increase your capacity and workout effect. It may also help you recover from the physical strain of the workout. Adaptogens are oftentimes taken by athletes to promote recovery after a workout and to lessen the strain as the workout training begins. Pre-workout supplements also give you the endurance to continue a workout or physical activity for longer periods. But in the end, taking these supplements will boil down to the attention and detail you give to your workout. Results of the supplements can depend both on the supplement and your workout. Pre-workout supplements also help increase blood flow and burn fat while helping your body amp up its muscle mass.
Due to the difference in strength and physiological structure in men and women, most companies manufacture varying workout supplements for women as well as others for men.
Below are the most common ingredients in workout supplements
This is a widely known and used stimulant that is known to increase mental alertness, energy, and endurance. The effects of caffeine are not new to you if you enjoy a cup of coffee every morning. Clinically, caffeine has been proven to reduce the feeling of effort when performing strength training exercises.
This will enable you to push harder and heavier at the gym. A recent research has shown that caffeine boosts exercise performance by an astonishing 11.8%. In addition to this, caffeinated pre-workout supplements and teas also offer other crucial benefits to the human body. These umpteen benefits are the reason behind the surging popularity of caffeine and include the following:
a. Endurance and stamina
Everyone who wakes up to the smell of a freshly brewed cup of coffee is already aware that coffee increases pulse rate, blood pressure as well as the production of stomach acid.
When it comes to workouts, these effects are manifested in the form of a burst of energy and a reduced feeling of fatigue. This is because caffeinated pre-workout supplements equip give you the right doses of glycogen that your body utilizes in the later stages of your exercise so that exhaustion and fatigue are delayed and you are able to nail those crucial final reps.
A recent research has also found that athletes felt increased endurance during workouts involving spinning and running after consuming a moderate amount of caffeine.
b. Facilitates weight loss
Caffeine helps you drop extra pounds by increasing the amount of energy that your body burns in a day. It does this by mobilizing fat reserves and prompting working muscles to utilize fat as fuel to accelerate the weight loss process.
c. Lowers perceived effort
Caffeine also enhances workout performance by altering your perception of how hard your body is working. According to a recent research, caffeine lowers perceived exertion by 5.6% allowing athletes to train harder and for longer periods of time.
d. Diminishes muscle pain
It also interacts with regions of the brain and spinal cord that are involved in the processing of pain and thus leads to reduced muscle pains during exercise.
It is important to note that the effects of caffeine vary from individual to individual and therefore it is recommended that you start off slow and gauge how much caffeine is suitable for you.
A general rule of thumb is to consume 3-6 gms of caffeine as per body weight about 20-30 minutes prior to exercising. Also, do not exceed 6 mg per day because it may lead to caffeine tolerance which means that it will stop effecting your body.
You can also retain your sensitivity to caffeine by incorporating 1-2 low caffeine days (consume 50% of your usual intake) and 1 no caffeine day within your week.
Creatine is a strength-boosting supplement that drives fluid into your muscle cells, blunting soreness, and helping you to lift heavier for longer periods. Creatine monohydrate, which is the gold standard of creatines, is the more recommended variety of creatine.
This is one of the well-known strength enhancers in pre-workout supplements. This is mainly because the structure of its molecule is similar to ATP. This is the same energy molecule that our cells use to feed us with the energy to get things going.
This ingredient also increases endurance. Naturally, when cells are depleted of oxygen, the production of ATP levels decrease hence slowing you down. The strength created/supplied by creatine is a result of excess energy molecules in your system.
Moreover, creatine is the only supplement that has been proven to catalyze muscle growth, enhance anaerobic endurance and minimize soreness and muscle damage during workouts. Creatine can be taken together with other stimulants and can also be consumed separately. However, if you’d rather a non-creatine pre-workout supplement you can check out this guide.
3. Nitric Oxide
Before purchasing a workout supplement, it is important to read the ingredients label. In most cases, you will notice the terms pump matrix or nitric oxide matrix. These are the key ingredients responsible for the production of nitric oxide which is a major vascular dilator.
When all your blood vessels dilate during exercise, the circulation of rich blood and nutrients increases. This promotes proper nourishing of muscles. When this occurs, you stand a better chance at growing, strengthening and recovering your muscles.
Supplements provide nitric oxide via nitrates found in tuber and green leafy vegetables. Most pre-workout supplements contain beet extracts that get broken down into nitrate inside your body.
This nitrate is then converted into nitric oxide during tough workouts when your body finds it difficult to get enough oxygen. According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, using nitrates (beet juice) as stimulants prior to workouts reduces the amount of oxygen needed to perform moderate intensity workouts and helps subjects last longer in near-maximal exercises.
In. addition to this, nitric oxide also makes your muscles seem bigger due to the increased blood flow.
4. Beta Alanine
Sometimes when you take a pre-workout supplement, you may feel a tingly, warm and itchy sensation. This is a clear indication that the supplement contains the ingredient beta-Alanine.
This is an ingredient that acts as a muscle buffer that further promotes muscle strength. Usually, your muscles are able to perform better at a certain pH. However, lactic acid interferes with the pH balance during exercise, hence interfering with your muscle’s ability to perform as they should.
This results in reduced progress or no improvements at all. Beta-Alanine, in this case, combats this acidity hence maintaining better working conditions for an extended period of time. This further results in increased strength, muscle growth, reduced fatigue due to exertion, improved anaerobic exercise capacity and increased amount of exercise which paves the way for development of lean mass.
Studies on the effects of beta-alanine indicate that it helps you squeeze out a few more reps in the higher rep range i.e. 8-15 and boosts performance in moderate-intensity workouts that last between 60-240 seconds. Beta-alanine is among the most widely used stimulants as it is known to be 100% safe. For best results, consume in doses of 2.6-5 gms everyday.
5. Tongkat Ali
Eurycoma longifolia, otherwise known as Tongkat Ali, helps boost immediate strength and endurance due to its ability to increase levels of testosterone. Combining Tongkat Ali with other supplements help benefit the speed of progress for your workout.
This is a common stimulant present in most workout supplements and is a mild stimulant that is found in bitter orange fruit. It has similar energizing effects as caffeine but without most cons that come with it. Synephrine is also the ideal stimulant for people looking to drop weight as it promotes fat metabolism during exercises.
It does this by increasing basal metabolic rate and lipolysis activity, boosting the thermic effect of food and blocking the activity of fat cell receptors that inhibit fat metabolism.
7. Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA)
Branched chain amino acids (BCAA) blends comprise of a combination of three crucial amino acids that include leucine, isoleucine and valine. Amino acids are essential as your body uses them to promote muscle growth, digest food and repair broken muscles among other things.
BCAAs are absorbed more readily into your system and are bioavailable energy boosters that the body benefit from since working out needs tons of energy.
Therefore, BCAA blend is perfect for those of you who are looking to build muscles, increase overall strength and repair muscles that are damaged due to exercise. L-leucine is known to be an effective ingredient in muscle triggering so be on the lookout for it in your preferred pre-workout supplement.
The recommended dosage for the BCAA blend varies depending upon the individual’s goals, however, you can consume upto 20 gms of BCAA in a day.
Citruline is an amino acid that plays an important role in maintaining healthy nitric oxide levels as well as blood flow.
One of the main reasons behind its huge appeal among athletes is its ability to boost the production of nitric oxide which has been found to minimize muscle soreness, improve aerobic performance and to increase muscle endurance.
Try to consume 6-8 gms of citruline in a day as it has been found to deliver significant benefits in clinical tests.
Betaine (trimethylglycine) is a compound found in plants such as beet and is becoming increasingly popular among athletes as research proves that it is capable of bringing about increased strength and muscle endurance.
The exact mechanism of how betaine brings about such effects is not completely understood but one of the most trusted hypothesis in this regard points to the ‘cellular swelling’ properties of betaine.
This property is thought to improve performance by protecting cells against the damage that is induced by exercise. Also try to consume 1.25-2.5 gms of betaine in a day as it offers significant merits.
Arginine is an amino acid that converts into nitric oxide (NO), a gas molecule that allows your blood vessels to expand so it enhances cardiovascular function and allows for faster distribution of energy that the body needs when working out.
Tyrosine is an amino acid that elevates mood, improves focus, improves sex drive and workout performance. Tyrosine is used by the body to support production of hormones and neurotransmitters including dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine and it so supports the production of thyroid hormone.
Although these are the most common ingredients in pre-workout supplements, you may notice other ingredients and herbs in there.
Do You Really Need Pre-Workout Supplements?
You do not need pre-workout supplements. Just because these supplements help in your workouts, they are not mandatory for strength training. The main reason is that it is a personal preference. If someone wants to stay unhealthy, you can keep telling the person the kinds of improvement that he or she could achieve but if he does not care. The same goes when we talk about the need to take pre-workout supplements. No one actually needs to work out if they want to live ordinary unhealthy lives. But that is not the point, isn’t it? If you settle for a second quality life or health, you’ll hardly need anything. But if you want to improve, the needs will arise – the need to exercise, the need to push yourself more, the need to eat healthily, the need to study more, the need to wake up early, the need to stop smoking, the need to learn, the need move faster, the need to be this. So when you ask if you need pre-workout supplements, the answer should be to go back to your goals.