In recent years, pre-workouts have become more popular, especially among fitness enthusiasts who go to the gym regularly. If you’re wondering what constitutes a pre-workout, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we look at what is in pre-workouts, how they help, and other details that you may not have known before so read on!
What Is a Pre-Workout?
A pre-workout is just an informal way to refer to pre-workout supplements that are taken, you guessed it, pre-workout to boost your energy and performance.
If you’re someone who works out regularly, then you’re well-acquainted with those days when you’d rather stay home and do nothing than go to the gym. Sometimes, lethargy takes over and you find yourself unmotivated. It’s a perfectly normal and common situation that happens to a lot of people.
Having the right pre-workout is the answer to those days.
Pre-workout supplements can be chewable tablets, capsules, canned drinks, and powdered drink mixes that can be easily consumed before you start your workout. There is no set formula for how these supplements are manufactured and ingredients differ from brand to brand.
What is in pre-workouts? The contents can range from amino acids and caffeine to carbohydrates and sugar or added sweeteners. This makes it important to know the ingredients before you purchase a pre-workout since you definitely don’t want to compromise your health for that extra bit of motivation.
What’s in a Pre-workout?
Pre-workouts are multi-ingredient dietary formulas. While the contents are different from one brand to the next, there are certain ingredients that you should look for and ones to keep an eye on since too much of them can be bad for you.
After all, there are a lot of unverified, untested supplements in the market that can negatively affect your health in the long run and can harm your performance at the gym (even after giving you that much-needed initial boost).
Pre-workout Ingredients That Help You Power Through
When checking on what is in a pre-workout, here are some ingredients to look for:
Amino acids are a common ingredient in the different pre-workouts you can get on the market. There are certain amino acids that you should look for like L-citrulline, L-theanine, and L-dopa because they can effectively and safely take your workout to the next level without adversely affecting your health.
What is L-citrulline?
L-citrulline is a naturally-occurring amino acid that is found in watermelons and produced by our own body to some extent. L-citrulline helps increase the production of nitric oxide in our bodies, which is known to relax blood vessels while also improving blood flow. It also helps reduce muscle fatigue by reducing the lactic acid and ammonia in our tissues. L-citrulline has been also shown to increase the supply of ingredients that allow our bodies to make protein. The amino acid has also been credited with enhancing post-workout recovery.
With all these advantages, make sure this amino acid is present as you search for the perfect pre-workout.
Although L-theanine is not produced by or considered essential for humans, it offers a range of health benefits that can improve your overall workout. The compound occurs naturally in green and black tea.
Research has shown that this amino acid can also improve a person's mental and cognitive focus. L-theanine works particularly well with caffeine since the latter is a stimulant and can cause jittery feelings while the former works as a relaxant without a sedative effect. This results in higher levels of alertness and increased focus without the drawbacks of caffeine.
The important thing to know about the amino acid L-dopa is that it is the precursor to dopamine, i.e, it can help increase dopamine levels in your body, the “feel-good” hormone which is related to motivation and reward. The amino acid is also known to be a safe nootropic supplement that can lower stress, and improve a person’s mood and focus, while also reducing anxiety. It is the perfect supplement to take before you hit those gains in your workout.
The reason why people love coffee so much is because of caffeine, a well-known mental stimulant that helps you focus on your work (when taken in the right amounts) while increasing alertness and suppressing sedation.
Apart from these benefits, did you know that caffeine can also improve your physical and athletic performance?
When consumed before a workout, caffeine can help you burn more calories, providing a significant increase in power output as well as an increase in training volume. It does all this while preventing fatigue from setting in too soon.
Since it is a stimulant, consuming too much caffeine can cause jittery feelings and in some cases, even anxiety. However, a relaxant like l-theanine can help negate those effects and ensure your workout does not suffer.
Research also suggests that caffeine can help improve your anaerobic running capacity as well as enhance your aerobic exercises. When looking at pre-workout ingredients, this one will almost always show up.
Do note that most supplements contain anywhere between 150 to 300 milligrams of caffeine, which may be too much for some people. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, consult your dietician and trainer before choosing any kind of pre-workout supplement.
5. Anti-fatigue agents
One of the most important purposes of pre-workout supplements is it reduces the fatigue you feel after an intense workout and helps you recover faster.
One ingredient that helps in this aspect is Rhodiola Rosea — a medicinal plant that has been demonstrated to reduce fatigue as well as feelings of burnout. The herb was also shown to increase mental focus, improve attention, and help achieve longer workouts.
Pre-workout Ingredients That Shouldn’t Be Consumed In Excess
When checking on what is in pre-workouts, screen the ingredients carefully. There are certain ingredients that may be added in excess and can compromise your health and performance.
While sweeteners and caffeine are common components of pre-workout supplements, they should be doled out in small amounts since too large quantities can be harmful to your overall health.
Let’s take a closer look at what these two ingredients can do if taken in excess.
1. Excess Sugar/Artificial Sweeteners
Let’s face it: when choosing a drink that you’ll be drinking fairly often, the taste plays a part. To attract more consumers, some brands will add artificial sweeteners and excessive sugar to their supplements. This practice can make the taste more appealing but it’s ultimately bad for your health.
Another form that artificial sweeteners take is sugar alcohols. While these may have fewer calories, they can cause symptoms like gas, bloating, and diarrhea which will adversely affect your workout rather than enhance it.
How much sugar is too much?
If you’re working out for at least 90 minutes, 30 to 60 grams of sugar per hour should be enough. This amount will supply your muscles with energy while delaying fatigue, increasing endurance as well as stamina. Too much sugar can cause abdominal stress while working out and can lead to weight gain in the long run.
2. Excess Caffeine
Although caffeine is often the primary energy-boosting ingredient in a pre-workout, excessive caffeine can disrupt your sleep cycle, increase blood pressure, and even cause stress.
Although most supplements contain a safe amount of caffeine in them, if you’re also taking caffeine from other sources (like coffee), you may have to decrease your consumption so you don’t exceed the 400-milligram daily intake recommended by the FDA.
When Should One Take A Pre-Workout?
Caffeine, one of the primary ingredients in pre-workout supplements, takes around 15 to 20 minutes to kick in. Another ingredient in pre-workouts like Strike that works with caffeine is L-theanine — a relaxant that counters caffeine’s jittery effects. Like caffeine, L-theanine takes about 15 to 20 minutes to take effect.
Since these two compounds largely affect your workout, Strike recommends consuming pre-workout drinks with these ingredients 15 to 20 minutes before starting your exercise.
Another common ingredient, l-citrulline, takes around 30 minutes to take effect. When this precursor of nitric oxide hits 15 minutes later, you can expect an increase in blood flow to help improve your performance.
Things To Know Before Taking Pre-workouts
With so many options available on the market, it can be tricky to pick the right kind of pre-workout supplement. Since you may be ingesting it quite regularly, it’s important to be aware of what is in pre-workouts before making it part of your regular exercise regimen.
The pre-workout you choose will not just affect your exertion, but your overall mood as well. Having the right ingredients is important so that you can be sure that it helps you perform better without any long-term adverse effects.
With the optimal blend of caffeine that boosts performance, L-theanine that balances the jitteriness of caffeine, L-citrulline for nitric oxide production and a better blood flow, and L-dopa that acts as a dopamine precursor, Strike is guaranteed to boost your performance while keeping you in the right frame of mind.
The best part? It comes in a ready-to-drink bottle that you can conveniently pick and drink on the way to the gym and be ready for the challenges to come!