Supplements are intended to give you a little boost. Whether it’s a nutrient boost, ensuring you’ve covered all your bases or it’s an energy boost, allowing you to hit your workout hard.
But when it comes to supplements, some are better than others…how do you know which is your best option?
Well, today we’re going to be looking at arguably the most popular supplement – pre-workout – to help you get the most out of your supplements, and your workouts.
We’re also going to let you into a secret… pre-workouts don’t need to taste foul, be clumpy or gloopy, artificial or loaded with stimulants or other ingredients that make you feel nauseous.
So if you’ve rejected pre-workouts because you can’t face chugging down gallons of sickeningly sweet shake, or you struggle with the typical side effects that come with many pre-workouts. Or if you’re just looking for a better option than your current pre-workout, then this article is for you.
But first, the basics…
What is Pre-Workout?
Pre-workouts are a supplements that are pretty self-explanatory: you take it prior to your workout to improve your performance
Here’s the 411: pre-workouts typically contains high doses of caffeine and a combination of nutrients, including amino acids, caffeine, B vitamins and electrolytes and is usually taken as a scoop mixed with water consumed around 30 minutes before a workout.
This combination of ingredients results in:
- Improved strength and endurance
- Decreased muscle and mental fatigue to keep you pushing harder than ever before.
Despite being associated with more advanced gym-goers, a pre-workout can be taken by anyone at any level.
If you’re new to exercise, pre-workouts might help you get more into your workouts; and if you’re an advanced lifter, pre-workout may help you lift heavier.
They can be a great idea if you have specific health or fitness goals you want to reach. Because with the extra energy means you can hit extra sets and higher weights at a greater intensity and for longer.
When you combine all the extra minutes or the additional intensity added to each workout that you have consumed a pre-workout, you’re looking at a lot of extra gains. A little extra energy push per workout may result in you getting to your goals quicker – so it’s a no brainer, right?
How Do Pre-Workouts Work?
This depends on what ingredients are in the pre-workout, because all ingredients behave differently in the body once consumed.
Here are some of the most popular pre-workout ingredients:
Creatine is arguably the most common ingredient in pre-workout, and is the most researched. It’s a naturally occurring substance in the body, found in muscle cells, and is responsible for helping your muscles produce energy when working in the anaerobic zone. Your natural stores of creatine depend on your consumption of meat, the amount of muscle mass you have and your testosterone levels.
When you consume creatine, you increase the amount of phosphocreatine stores. This helps your body produce energy in the form of ATP, which allows you to workout harder and longer, as explored in a study on creatine by the journal Pharmacology Revolution.
This has numerous benefits in your workouts. Firstly, it helps you recover from exercise by increasing cell signaling, which aids muscle repair and growth. It raises the hormone IGF-1, which is an anabolic hormone associated with muscle building and retention. It lowers myostatin levels, which is a protein associated with managing muscle growth; and finally it increases cell hydration making you look more ‘pumped’.
The amino acid l-citrulline plays an integral role in the body’s metabolism and utilization of protein and is essential for the maintenance of muscle tissue. L-citrulline boosts nitric oxide production in the body, which relaxes blood vessels to improve circulation. A randomized controlled trial (the gold standard of research) looked at the benefits of supplementing with l-citrulline and found that it reduces time to exhaustion, improves insulin response, decreased fasting blood sugar, lipid profile and unhealthy LDL cholesterol.
Citrulline aids the elimination of ammonia, which is produced by the body during physical exertion and is toxic to the body, which as a result improves recovery post-exercise.
Another common ingredient in pre-workout is caffeine…but this isn’t necessarily always a good thing.
After caffeine is consumed, 99 percent is absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract within 45 minutes, as per a study by the American Journal of Health. So if you’re working out for an hour, consuming caffeine prior will help hold your energy levels throughout the workout.
In fact, a 2010 study found that participants who consumed 3g of caffeine per kilogram of body weight improved their cycling performance. So it works – that’s not the issue here.
There are downsides to consuming caffeine as a pre-workout ingredient, which we’ll go onto now…
Hint: if you’ve ever felt jittery after drinking too much coffee, it was because of an ‘caffeine overload’.
What Are the Main Issues with Pre-Workouts?
The main issues associated with pre-workouts can be separated into two camps.
- Camp number one: it causes unfavorable side effects such as jitters and energy crashes (due to caffeine).
- Camp number two: it clumps together, makes your shaker smell and tastes synthetic (and often awful).
Lightheaded and Energy Crash
The main side effects of pre-workout are that it can make you feel shaky, nauseous, your skin feel tingly or itchy, make you feel light-headed and can make you crash; according to a review published in 2013.
This is typically due to the combination of stimulants in the supplement (but most commonly an overload of caffeine), that are often too much for a lot of individuals. How you respond to this concoction also depends on your tiredness levels, whether you’ve eaten that day, how much water you’ve consumed and other variables that may affect the dosage required or side effects experienced.
Nonetheless, a lot of the side effects are associated with too much caffeine.
How much is ‘too much’ caffeine? Well, considering a cup of coffee contains around 95mg caffeine per serving, we wouldn’t recommend going too far above that in a single dosage of pre-workout if you want to stay safe.
Personally, we prefer to avoid pre-workouts containing caffeine altogether. No caffeine means no jitters, energy crashes or anxiety – simple as that.
Jittery Side Effects
When you consume too much caffeine, your central nervous system is overstimulated which makes you feel jittery, anxious, itchy and suffer from other bad side effects. Caffeine tells your brain to stimulate more adrenaline and cortisol production, which – in moderate doses – makes you feel more awake and stimulated; but in high doses, makes you feel stressed, anxious and causes adrenal fatigue.
The second main camp of complaints when it comes to pre-workout is that it’s not enjoyable to consume. Pre-workout flavors may consist of ‘fruity rainbow’ or ‘blue blaster’ and the name reflects the synthetic nature of the taste. They typically have a number of artificial flavorings and chemicals added to give them a strong, distinct flavor. But for a lot of people, the flavor is too much and feels like drinking blended candy.
Hard & Clumpy Pre-Workout Powder
Pre-workout in powder form means you have to pour it into your shaker (quite messy and inconvenient when on the move), and drink back a clumpy, powdery artificial gloop (not ideal).
This requires thorough cleaning straight after, but in reality, it may not get cleaned until the end of the day and by then it smells vile. And that’s if you can even use it after your pre-workout powder becomes hard and clumpy.
We’ve seen many people offer the ‘quick fix’ of putting your hard powder into a blender…but do you really want to be blending your pre-workout powder just to be able to use it?
The bottom line is that you shouldn’t need to put a supplement into a blender just to make it usable. You’re paying for the wrong product if that’s your problem…
…You want to take pre-workout for the benefits, but your powder going hard and clumpy is putting you off. So what you should you do?
Here’s the Solution: Pre-Workouts in Capsules, not Powder Form
This is our solution – a pre-workout from a respected supplement company that tackles ALL of the complaints mentioned above.
Performance Lab Pre comes in a capsule form. That’s right – a pre-workout pill that will give you a boost of energy, without making your skin crawl or forcing you to chug an artificial fruity rainbow (or carry one around with you). It is also 100% caffeine-free, helping you to avoid adrenal fatigue.
Most importantly for you, you will never have to worry about powder becoming clumpy…because this comes in capsules that are made from prebiotic fiber, meaning even the capsules are good for you – better than powder containing sweeteners and artificial coloring. Simple as that.
What else makes Performance Lab Pre better?
This stim-free pre-workout contains 1,250mg of creatine as mentioned above, included here in the premium and most effective form, Creapure®.
Performance Lab Pre also contains:
- L-Citrulline (as mentioned above). Research suggests this mix supports Nitric Oxide (NO) production to boost blood flow, meaning your muscle pumps will be improved and there’ll be less muscle damage.
- Himalayan Pink Salt to restore electrolytes depleted during intense workouts (350mg)
- Pine Bark Extract (100mg): This supplies even more antioxidants to help neutralize inflammation and oxidative stress that occurs from training
In our opinion, Performance Lab Pre is superior to other supplements because it doesn’t contain caffeine. Caffeine has more negative side effects than positive benefits when it comes to using it as an ingredient in a pre-workout supplement.
If you’re paying for a pre-workout simply for an energy boost, then you’re wasting your cash.
If you want an energy boost, then simply drink a coffee before your workout. You’ll save money and it’ll be just as effective as a pre-workout that contains caffeine.
Performance Lab Pre is caffeine free, synthetic-free (no fruity rainbows yay!), non-GMO, free from gluten, soy and allergens and 100 percent natural. That means you’ll really know if it works, because it doesn’t rely on stimulants to ‘fool’ you into believing that ‘it works’ like pre-workouts containing caffeine.
Think of all the negatives you can when it comes to pre-workout, take them all out of the equation and you’re left with the amazing benefits you can get from a quality pre-workout:
- Getting to your goals quicker
- Feeling more alert
- Being able to lift heavier
- Not having to deal with a powder and shaker situation.
- No risks of hard or clumpy pre-workout powder
What you’ve got left is the Performance Lab Pre-Workout supplement. You’re welcome. Now enjoy.