Honestly, pre-workout drinks sound kind of awesome: Down a drink before exercising, get a boost of energy from said drink, burn extra calories—and ultimately, lose more weight.

Not to mention your fit Instagram friend swears by them (cue all the pre-workout drink pics). But can these exercise-enhancing, weight-loss-boosting drinks actually do what they claim? And uh, should you even use them in the first place?

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Hold on, what exactly are pre-workout drinks?

Pre-workout drinks (or “pre,” as many call it) are essentially supplements—usually sold either as powders or pre-mixed drinks—with ingredients meant to help enhance your workout when taken beforehand.

“The purpose of almost all pre- workouts is to increase energy, focus, and stamina levels, making it possibly easier for you to both crank through a workout and to give 100 percent at the workout,” says Pamela M. Nisevich Bede, R.D., nutrition consultant for Swim, Bike, Run, Eat and co-author of Run to Lose.

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Bede says the most common ingredient is caffeine. “Caffeine is well-researched and known to increase focus, stamina, and reduce perceived exertion—a.k.a. make the workout feel easier,” she explains. “Nitrates are also common—they increase vasodilation, improving blood and oxygen flow to working muscles.”

The ingredient list could also include beta-alanine, an amino acid. “I view beta-alanine as an ingredient that allows for one more rep or one more sprint, effectively allowing you to get more from your workout,” Bede says.

Obviously, you’re meant to take these supplements before you start working out—not after. The idea is to take them 30 to 60 minutes prior to get the best (i.e., energy-boosting) results, says Torey Armul, R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Interesting…so can they help you lose weight?

The short answer is maybe. Because the blend of ingredients is meant to turn up your drive, you may work at a higher intensity during exercise, which burns more calories during the session, as well as afterward, says Carwyn Sharp, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., chief scientific officer for the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

Armul agrees: “Properly fueling a workout can help you lose weight,” she says. “That’s because having available glucose stores can prolong the intensity and duration of your workouts, both of which control calorie burns.”

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While pre-workout drinks are relatively new and therefore haven’t been studied much, one 2018 review in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that pre-workout may help with muscular endurance (working stronger for longer) and continuous use did change people’s body composition by increasing lean body mass (which means less fat).

The catch: While these pre-workout drinks seem safe, they haven’t been studied over the long-term, so more research is needed to 100 percent say there are no real side effects.

In fact, Armul suggests fueling with real food rather than pre-workout (half a banana and a cup of coffee, for example, can provide most of the same stuff—and is more nutritious).

So, should I try pre-workout drinks…pre-workout?

In term’s of safety, you’re probably in the clear to try them out. But again, Armul says you’re likely better off with real foods as a snack about an hour before your workout. “A pre-workout mix can’t do anything that real food won’t do. And real food does it better,” she says

Fitness expert Chris Ryan, C.S.C.S., says traditional java offers the best bang for your buck. (He’s talking plain black coffee—nothing with added sugar or milk, which can negate any additional calorie burn.) Coffee can stimulate your metabolism and can help you run a bit faster (think shaving a few seconds off per mile) and lift a bit heavier. Aim for a small coffee and drink it 30 to 60 minutes before a workout to reap those small (but ultimately significant) gains.

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Another thing to note: Like any supplement, pre-workout drinks are not regulated by the FDA so there’s no government body that checks the label or what’s inside. “Don’t believe everything you read, because the FDA does not regulate their marketing claims or their ingredients,” says Armul, who adds that they could even contain illegal substances in some situations. One red flag: The words “proprietary blend,” according to the previously referenced 2018 review—that term forces buyers to guess exactly what ingredients (and how much of them) they’re getting.

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Also important: You can overdo it. “Too much of a good thing can also make you feel jittery, nervous, heart racing, or even ill,” says Bede. “ don’t usually supply energy in the form of calories or carbs—the ‘energy’ comes from the stimulants. Most people should avoid consuming more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day. If you have a caffeine sensitivity, it’s especially important for you to watch your intake or skip these altogether.

A smart strategy if you do want to try pre-workouts: “Start slow and read the label,” Bede says. “Grab a trusted brand and don’t take a full dose (or two or three) until you know how it may affect you.”

The bottom line: Pre-workout drinks might be able to boost your performance—possibly leading to weight loss—but no better than a nutritious snack before the gym would.

Jessica Migala Jessica Migala is a health writer specializing in general wellness, fitness, nutrition, and skincare, with work published in Women’s Health, Glamour, Health, Men’s Health, and more.

Let’s go back 5 years ago, heck it wasn’t even that long but we lived in a time where there were only pre workouts for increasing strength AND THAT’S IT!

I know, the travesty. A few years ago, everything changed when Cellucor saw a hole in the market. What about people that wanted to lose weight? Isn’t that what a fat burner is for? Well, yes and no. Fat burners are not pre workouts as they do not improve your workouts. Cellucor said, let’s take out the creatine and add ingredients to burn fat and burn more calories. BRILLIANT, I know… and the market fell in love, then the biggest form of flattery pursued, copycats.

We here at CP think that is a great thing being that competition makes a more successful environment for the consumer (better products). So let’s check out all these fat burning pre workouts we currently offer.

C4 Ripped

Cellucor C4 Ripped is the OG, the original fat burning pre workout and in all honesty, my favorite. When you take ripped you get the best workouts. You sweat your a$$ off and walk out of the gym feeling like you did something. It has an insane endurance factor and never wears off. I even did cardio, yes I know, the most dreaded form of exercise.

If you are an athlete or C4 Ripped is too strong for you, try Cellucor C4 Ripped Sport, their NCAA or Athlete Approved version of C4 Ripped.

Betancourt B-Nox Ripped

Betancourt B-Nox Ripped is a very new pre-workout which should mean it has the newest most proven ingredients. Remember, competition is great for the customer (thanks economics teacher). Betancourt uses a Ripped Juice Blend® along with a pre-workout formula to deliver that balance of improving lifts and burning those LB’s.

Nitraflex Burn

When looking at brands, you know what they are good at. For example, GAT is a pre-workout brand. When they come out with a new pre-workout formula, it’s in your best interest to try it. They do tend to be a little more hardcore than the competition but is that really a bad thing? Where some might lack on the pre-workout side, Nitraflex Burn shines. I love this product for leaning or toning down while maintaining very strong lifts.

Fat Burning Powder

There are other options if all you want is something to give you energy and burn the most fat with no lifting ingredients. This is where fat burning powders come in. Fat burners are usually pills which take too long to kick in and are a pain to take. Products like Scorch Powder or Redcon1 Double Tap Powder and Sparta Nutrition HydraShred are all phenomenal formulas to take pre-workout and crank some cardio. Also if you workout in the morning, this will jumpstart your metabolism for the most calories burned all day.

Fuel with Added Carnitine

What if you love your pre-workout and do not want to switch – we feel ya. I mean there is no FUEL ripped or burn out there….yet. Coming to CP in the next 1-10 years.

Sorry, I digress, but we have a solution for you. All you need to do is use your existing pre-workout and add a carnitine shot to your mix.

What is Carnitine? This magical liquid shot will help maintain muscle (prevent breakdown) and teach your body to burn stubborn fat for energy throughout the day leading to weight loss.

Numerous companies make Carnitine shots but VMi is the king of both taste and formula. If you want to crank up the heat and make your pre-workout a beast in the fat burning department, use VMI Carnitine Heat (comes in powder too). This will have carnitine plus other ingredients to ramp up your bodies metabolism during workouts or throughout the day. This scenario allows your pre-workout to be a fat burner but you can also take another Carnitine shot throughout the day making it the most effective option.

Do Pre-Workout Supplements Really Work for Weight Loss?

When you’re busy, you don’t always have two hours on a given day to put into your workout. So the question becomes—how do you maximize the benefits of the workout you do have time for? While there is a lot of conflicting information about how much you should work out day to day and week to week, all the research agrees that any workout is better for your overall health than none.

But do the pre-workout supplements help you burn fat? The answer is yes, a couple of them can – but there are several things to consider before you start supplementing.

How diet factors into your workout

Losing weight is a lot more complex than just counting carbs. A holistic approach is key to maintaining the benefits of your workout in the long run. Without the proper fuel, your workout can cause more damage than any good it might do. But should you eat breakfast and take a supplement for the energy you need, or opt for a pre-Workout Drink?

Ideally, a good meal with a healthy balance of complex carbohydrates, protein, and fat is eaten two to three hours before you work out. This will give you the energy you need no matter what type of exercise you’re doing.

What’s in your supplement?

Whether your pre-workout supplement comes in powder form or is already mixed into a beverage, you’ll want to keep an eye out for artificial flavors and sweeteners. The sugar alcohols in artificial sweeteners can cause bloating and gas that could make your workout unnecessarily uncomfortable. There is also evidence to suggest they can negatively affect your metabolic rate, so be mindful of what you’re drinking.

The active ingredients in your supplement all proclaim spectacular benefits, like boosted energy, enhanced performance, and increased fat burning. While the label may tout the benefits of whatever proprietary blend of ingredients they use, only some of them have held up under scientific research. And frankly, plenty of them are found in a normal, balanced diet.

A young couple out for a jog together in their neighbourhood

The most promising pre-workout supplements

The main source of the energy boost that these supplements provide is caffeine. When taken in doses of 100-400 mg an hour or so before you work out, caffeine has been shown to improve brain functioning and metabolism.

With more energy, focus, and motivation, your workout can be more productive and more effective at burning calories, which is helpful for any type of training routine. Of course, you can often get the same results from a large cup of coffee. And if you’re already drinking one every morning, combining it with the high doses seen in the supplements can leave you feeling jittery and anxious.

Creatine

One of the most popular supplements for bodybuilders, creatine is used to boost performance in high-intensity exercises like weight lifting and sprinting. By increasing the stores of creatine in your muscles, you’ll boost your performance and increase your muscle mass development.

Some people opt to start off their creatine supplementation by “loading,” which involves taking it in high doses for a few weeks. Because it can upset your stomach in high doses, people who are loading should avoid pre-workouts that contain creatine.

Many people take creatine because they think it burns fat, but you won’t see fat loss unless you are supplementing alongside strength training. The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn when you’re working out, and creatine does boost your muscle development. But if your workout regime consists mostly of endurance training, or if you’re not working out at all and trying to lose weight through diet, you’re not getting any help by taking it.

Sodium Bicarbonate

Baking soda is a common household staple, and it’s an active ingredient in many deodorants, but athletes use it for more than odor control. It isn’t common to see it on the list of ingredients in your pre-workout supplements, but it is worth considering.

Research backs up the boost a couple of teaspoons of sodium bicarbonate can give you. Because it’s alkaline, it neutralizes acids that build up in the muscles. Because weight lifting relies on your anaerobic metabolism for energy, lactic acid will start to slow you down. Bodybuilders that use sodium bicarbonate are often able to do more reps before getting fatigued. Runners can also have improved endurance from reduced muscle fatigue on the tail end of their runs for the same reason. It also seems to improve strength and coordination in athletes who take it before a workout, although the reasons why are unclear.

It’s not for everyone. It can cause an upset stomach taken in the dosage required for you to get a benefit. This can be mitigated by splitting it up. If you are on a low salt diet, the high levels of sodium can raise your blood pressure, so it should be avoided.

Less-promising (but still interesting) supplements

The rest of the ingredients in your workout supplements may or may not have any impact on the fat-burning or energy-boosting aspects of your exercise program.

Amino acids

Of the 20 amino acids used in protein synthesis, nine of them are only obtained through diet. The rest can be synthesized by your body, but are also found abundantly in foods with protein. While research has shown that amino acids are critical for muscle recovery and production, there is no evidence that they can boost performance during a workout.

Your diet should consist of a variety of whole proteins, which will contain all of these amino acids in different balances. Focusing too heavily on one protein source can lead to lower levels of certain amino acids. This is why the more high-quality protein powders will use several sources of protein in their ingredients.

B-Vitamins

Your body relies on B-vitamins for energy expenditure. They are a common ingredient in many pre-workout supplements, although sometimes you will find niacin alone. A balanced diet should provide you with plenty of B-vitamins, and taking too many can cause gastrointestinal and nerve problems. Although they are a common ingredient in energy drinks, B-vitamins are not stimulants – though people with deficiencies will likely feel an energy boost.

Of course, certain health factors can deplete your reserve of B-vitamins, and a supplement can be the boost you need to get you on track for your exercise program. Anxiety, stress, alcohol, and smoking all can drain your B-vitamins and leave you without the energy you need to get back in shape.

Nitric Oxide Precursors

Certain dietary nitrates, like beetroot juice, are a common additive to your supplements. Because nitric oxide can improve blood flow by relaxing your blood vessels, it’s thought that they can enhance your performance during exercise. However, more broad studies need to be done to confirm if there is any added benefits to using these in your training.

The Bottom Line

If you’re using a prework supplement with high-quality benefits, and you’re feeling the results, then there’s no need to give it up. But a big cup of coffee and a comprehensive nutrition plan can be just as effective at burning fat and building lean muscle. That’s why Noom is here to help. Find out how we can help you lose weight sustainably.

“I’ve never recommended a pre-workout”

Pre-workout supplements are essentially a combination of protein and carbs, with some added caffeine for a boost of energy. “Caffeine can interfere with sleep if consumed after around 4-5pm,” says Blow. “However, there are stimulant-free pre-workouts available like Myprotein’s Caffeine-Free Pre-Workout Blend.”

If your diet isn’t in a good place, then spending money on pre-workout supplements isn’t going to be a quick fix. “Pre-workout supplements are for someone who already has their daily nutrition intake sorted and they are now striving to seek those small extra gains where they can,” says Rebecca Dent, High Performance Dietitian (rebeccadent.co.uk).

What do pre-workout supplements do?

If you want to really push yourself in a workout or you’re about to do a class that requires some extra effort then you might want to look to a pre-workout for an added boost. Blow notes that, “you can get most of the vitamins, minerals and macronutrients you need from your diet, however, nutritional supplements act as a boost, rather than a replacement, which is especially useful to get the most out of exercise.”

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And, while supplements can be pricey, in some cases they can be a cost-effective way to get the nutrients you need. “To maximise muscle growth, research from the Journal of Sports Sciences recommends consumption of between 1.3-1.8g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. The research also recommends up to 1.8-2g protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day during periods of energy restriction to prevent muscle loss, more than double the government recommendations,” explains Blow. “Protein powders offer people an easy, convenient way to up their protein intake without consuming extra carbohydrates and fat, at a much lower cost than other protein sources like meat and fish.”

“Sciences recommends consumption of between 1.3-1.8g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day.”

What Are the Common Pre-Workout Ingredients?

Pre-workouts are often formulated with very specific ingredients. “B vitamins like niacin and vitamin B12 are used in the body during energy production and can often be found in pre-workout supplements,” says Blow. “Some pre-workout blends also contain beta alanine and L-citrulline, which have both been shown to improve energy during endurance exercise. You’ll find all of these key ingredients in Myprotein’s THE Pre-Workout, benefiting both short-duration (strength training) and longer-duration (cardio-based) activities.

BCAAs

“BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids), may also be part of your pre-workout supplement. Scientific studies show that amino acids may be able to help prevent fatigue, impacting performance. As the building blocks of muscle tissue, research shows that BCAAs may help prevent muscle damage and muscle breakdown,” adds Blow.

Dent notes that pre-workouts often contain creatine but explains that, “creatine supplementation needs to be taken on a regular basis to gain the beneficial effects and not as a one-off shake.” Dent suggests that instead of taking a pre-workout blend it is better to “add supplements into your nutrition plan individually in order to determine if they are having a positive influence to your exercise performance.”

Like pre-workout blends that come in pills or powder, you can also buy supplements like creatine and BCAAs individually in these forms.

What about Pre-Workouts with EAAs?

EAAs are the latest supplement ingredient on the block. Traditionally, “in sports nutrition, BCAA supplementation aims to kickstart muscle protein synthesis (muscle building),” says Blow. “EAAs not only do that but also provide additional amino acids needed to build and repair muscle. The biggest difference between BCAA and EAA is that BCAA contains a 4:1:1 ratio of three essential amino acids (leucine, isoleucine and valine), whereas EAAs deliver a blend of all nine Essential Amino Acids (Leucine, Lysine, Isoleucine, Valine, Threonine, Phenylalanine, Tryptophan, Methionine and Histidine) that your body can’t make itself.”

Supplementing with BCAAs and EAAs could be worthwhile if you’re lifting heavy in the gym or doing endurance sports, but McGregor only recommends her athlete clients supplement, specifically with BCAAs, “if they are injured and can’t workout out to the potential that they need to during a build phase. And BCAAs could preserve muscle mass, if you need to reduce training.”

Is Fasted Training with a Pre-Workout a Good Idea?

You might be looking to take a pre-workout so you have more energy when training fasted. But McGregor doesn’t advise this, “some people might say training first thing without fuel will help cut into more fat, but you’re actually preventing the hormonal cascades that you need to occur in order to get lean muscle mass gains. It’s a real area of misconception—too many fasted session can actually put your body under stress and you can actually end up holding onto fat.”

McGregor suggests that for everyday runners and gym-goers, a good combination of carbohydrates, protein and caffeine, think porridge with nuts or eggs on toast will suffice but concedes “it’s your choice.”

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Lindsay adds that if you are going to supplement with a pre-workout, “avoid any with artificial sweeteners. You should always think about optimal health first!”

YOUR PRE-WORKOUT INGREDIENT CRIB SHEET

According to Kimber, there are two key players worth zooming in on.

CARBOHYDRATE

What it does: Obvs, right. These give you energy to ensure you can perform at your best.

Kimber says: “Your body relies on its carbohydrate stores (glycogen) for fuel during a workout so, along with a regular eating pattern and balanced diet, consuming carbohydrates pre-workout would be a good way to ensure energy levels remain topped up.”

Maximise the benefits: Consume 15g carbohydrate at least 30 minutes before you work out.

CAFFEINE

What it does: Need an instant pick-me-up? This is just the ticket.

Kimber says: “Caffeine is a stimulant that has been shown in research to support maintaining high-intensity exercise of 20-60 minutes for longer, with reduced feelings of fatigue. Doses as low as 1.5mg/kg (around an 85-100mg cup) have been shown to be effective.”

Maximise the benefits: Have caffeine 15-60 minutes before you start exercising.

Three ingredients to be aware of. “As the research into these is limited,” says Kimber, ‘they should only be taken under professional guidance.”

BETA ALANINE

What it does: This is a naturally occurring non-essential amino acid that gets converted to the chemical called carnosine. Which matters because?

Kimber says: “Carnosine plays an important role in maintaining your cells’ pH. Too much acid accumulation by muscles is thought to contribute to fatigue. Clinical trials into its benefits as a pre-supplement, however, have produced conflicting results. It may also trigger feelings of pins and needles.”

GLUTAMINE

What it does: This is a “conditionally essential amino acid”, which basically means it can be made by the body – except during times of stress or illness.

Kimber says: “Glutamine is necessary for building muscle and is therefore believed to enhance performance (although current evidence is inconclusive).”

L-CITRULLINE AND L-ARGININE

What it does: These pre-workout supplements are used to maximise blood flow – and energy and oxygen flow – around your body and to your muscles during your workout.

Kimber says: “Very little research has been conducted in humans and, at present, there is no evidence to support a performance-enhancing effect.”

HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR PRE-WORKOUT SUPPLEMENT

If you’ve read all this and you’re keen to see what a pre-workout can do for you and your training, make sure you keep the following top tips from Kimber in mind before loading up your basket:

1. Keep things simple.

When it comes to pre-workout supplements, it’s not always the case that the fancier ingredients there are, the better. In fact, you might want to opt for a single ingredient product instead.

“Many pre-workout formulas contain a mystery mixture of ingredients, some of which have no evidence to support their benefit and others, which may even be harmful,” says Kimber.

“Remember that pre-workouts are not regulated for safety.” That magic blend might also only contain trace elements of what it is you’re after – as well as lots of what you’re not: hello, artificial sweeteners.

2. Read the label.

With that in mind, always check for an indication that the pre-workout product has been tested for quality and safety (if there’s mention of NSF International, that’s a good start, Kimber recommends), and/or bears the Informed-Choice logo.

“Or go to the organisation website for a list of the supplements they approve of,” Kimber says.

3. Try a sachet before you buy in bulk.

“Not only to check for tolerance, but also taste,” Kimber says.

4. Get expert advice.

“Some dietary supplements used to enhance exercise and athletic performance can have side effects and might interact with prescription and over-the-counter medications,” Kimber says.

If you’re worried, talk to a healthcare pro.

5. Make sure your choice is legit.

Not all pre-workout sups will be accepted by sports governing bodies so if you’re training for a particular competition, get clued up, Kimber says.

And remember: “Nutrition doesn’t come in a tub.”

Want to read more? We’ve answered the questions that are on your lips – can pre-workout drinks really help burn more calories and how can you keep up healthy steady weight loss?

The 7 Best Pre-Workout Supplements for Women in 2020

Last Updated on December 13, 2019

There might be affiliate links on this page, which means we get a small commission of anything you buy. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. Please do your own research before making any online purchase.

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When you are up and ready to go workout, can you go straight from bed (or work, or any other activity) to full speed ahead? Or does it take your mind and body a bit of time to get into the swing of things during your workout?

Often, people turn to pre-workout supplements to help with this transition into active motion. Pre-workout supplements are available in powder, pills, or as a processed snack (such as a bar) that are to be taken about half an hour before exercising. These supplements are made to help give exercisers just enough energy to power through their workouts with adding any extra side effects. These supplements can help increase performance by improving energy and delaying fatigue.

In this article, we are going to talk about what pre-workout supplements do and factors you should consider when shopping for one of these products. Then we will look at the top 7 products that are on the market today in this category of products.

A Quick Look at Our Top Picks

If you don’t have time to read the entire review, here’s a quick look at our favorite pre-workout supplements for women:

Best in Product TransparencyBest in Product TransparencyOPTIMUM‌ ‌NUTRITION‌ ‌Gold Standard

Best for providing energy without creatineBest for providing energy without creatineRARI‌ ‌Nutrition‌ ‌-‌ ‌INFINITY‌ ‌Preworkout‌

Best flavorBest flavorRed‌ ‌Leaf‌ ‌Pre-Workout‌ ‌Energizer‌ ‌Powder‌

Best for building muscleBest for building muscleRSP‌ ‌AminoLean‌

Best nootropic supplementBest nootropic supplementGenius‌ ‌Pre‌ ‌Workout‌ ‌Powder‌ ‌

Most natural optionMost natural optionLegion‌ ‌Pulse‌

Best amino blendBest amino blendOPTIMUM‌ ‌NUTRITION‌ ‌Amino‌ ‌Energy‌ ‌with‌ ‌Green‌ ‌Tea‌ ‌and‌ ‌Green‌ ‌Coffee‌ ‌Extract‌

Let’s get started.

Why Take a Pre-Workout Supplement?

Pre-workout supplements are formulated to help users experience an increase in energy and focus just prior to working out. It also helps exercise-goers overcome any excuses that may run through their mind of why they may skip their workout because pre-workout supplements provide people with energy and the mental focus that is needed to hit the gym.

The small extra boosts that you can do as a result of taking a pre-workout supplement all add up in the future to big gains, and once you see the results of this hard work, you will be even more motivated to continue on your workout journey. The more motivated you are, the more work you will do, and the healthier you will become.

You may not realize that one reason you may struggle through some workout sessions has to do with your intake (or lack thereof) of certain nutrients prior to your workout. Rather than leaving things to chance, athletes turn to pre-workout supplements so they can make sure that they’re getting the most out of each session. Pre-workout supplements are specifically designed to address any common issues that happen during training, such as muscle breakdown, fatigue, inability to focus, etc.

In essence, pre-workout supplements are designed to:

  • Improve athletic performance
  • Increase strength and endurance
  • Decrease the breakdown of muscles
  • Increase protein synthesis
  • Improve focus
  • Improve energy
  • Improve your body’s ability to deliver nutrients throughout your body
  • Increase metabolic rate
  • Stabilize hormones

Factors to Keep in Mind When Shopping for a Pre-Workout Supplement

Your goals

The ingredients in your pre-workout supplement should be relevant to your training goals. For example, if your main goal is improved muscle growth, you will want a pre-workout supplement that contains whey, BCAAs, and high-glycemic carbohydrates. If you want to improve your endurance, look for supplements that offer citrulline malate or beta alanine.

Cycling

Because your body will adapt to ingredients over time, the effectiveness of a pre-workout supplement can decline if you take it for too long. In order words, you can build a tolerance for a product. Because of this, it is best to cycle your supplements by taking them for six to eight weeks on a regular basis and then taking a few weeks off. Alternatively, you can buy a different supplement every time you run out so your body doesn’t get too used to one brand.

Stimulant or non-stimulant?

Pre-workout supplements that include stimulants almost always contain caffeine, but some may have other stimulants such as yohimbine, theacrine, guarana, and others. However, many companies have developed non-stimulant pre-workout supplements for people who prefer to avoid caffeine or who are sensitive to it.

If you want a pre-workout supplement that will amp you up and make you feel ready for action, there are a lot of options from which to choose. However, if you don’t want this, there are still products out there for you. And sometimes, a supplement will fall somewhere in between, with just a hint of caffeine, but nothing more than a cup of coffee.

What ingredients should be included?

While it’s true that different supplements are going to contain different ingredients, there are some key ingredients that should be universal among these products. First, BCAAs should be included, as these help you build muscle and recover from your workout. BCAAs also help reduce soreness after a workout so you will be able to get back to the gym sooner.

Beta-alanine is also a staple ingredient in these products. This ingredient helps you workout through any burning feeling so you can finish up all of your reps. It helps reduce muscle fatigue as acid is building up in your body while your muscles are at work. Finally, you want to make sure that your pre-workout supplement has nitric oxide boosters in it. These help boost your workout because they increase your blood flow directly to your muscles.

Watch out for products that contain a lot of ingredients

Pre-workout supplements that have a lot of ingredients in them often have very little of each ingredient, and are therefore largely ineffective. There is only so much room to put an amount of any ingredient into a supplement that will make it clinically effective, and correct doses of high quality ingredients is an expense that manufacturers don’t want to take on.

Learn which ingredients are the most important for your individual needs and focus on supplements with only those ingredients and possibly a few more.

Watch out for artificial ingredients

Especially if you take your pre-workout supplement every day (or multiple times a day), you may want to ensure that it is not loaded with artificial ingredients. The truth is, these ingredients are often not even necessary for the effectiveness of the product. They are just inexpensive for manufacturers to use in place of the natural alternative.

Now that you know what you should look for in a pre-workout supplement that can fit your individual needs, let’s look at the 7 best pre-workout supplements for women in 2020.

Best Pre-Workout Supplements for Women

1. OPTIMUM NUTRITION GOLD STANDARD

OPTIMUM‌ ‌NUTRITION‌ ‌GOLD‌ ‌STANDARD‌

Of all the pre-workout supplements for women that are on the market, this protein powder might be the most well-known and widely consumed. One of the reasons this may be true is because this is the best option for people who are looking for an accurate label on their product. While other products do share this quality, this pre-workout supplement in particular is unique because it also offers great macronutrients and has a decent price tag.

One serving provides women with 24 grams of protein, 3 grams of carbs, 1 gram of sugar, and just 1 gram of fat, which is perfect for both low fat and low carb diets. Optimum Nutrition has a good track record with third party testers as actually delivering the ingredients and nutrients that it promises to.

There are only a few ingredients in this pre-workout supplement, which is great for an option that is so inexpensive. Each flavor contains a protein blend of whey protein isolates, concentrate, and peptides. Whey peptides absorb quickly, so the body can start using the benefits right away before working out.

Users appreciate that there are three forms of whey protein in this supplement because each has its own pros and cons, so putting them all together in one creates a well-balanced protein. Further, the whey blend in this supplement is a high-quality protein that offers women branch chain amino acids and glutamine.

This supplement also has lecithin in it, which makes it easier to dissolve in liquid. This supplement can be used in either milk or water and will easily mix into both. It also has a mix of enzymes in it called Aminogen, which helps the body digest whey protein, as well as lactase, which makes digesting the lactose easier on the body as well. It does contain an artificial sweetener in the form of acesulfame potassium, but the amount is nearly negligible. All together, this whey supplement is easy to digest and easy to mix with any liquid you choose.

The vanilla flavor is good in that it is not too sweet and mild enough that you won’t be overwhelmed by the flavor and possibly get sick of it after a few weeks. However, because it does have a mild flavor, it is not too palatable when it is mixed in water. Try mixing it in almond milk if you don’t drink regular milk.

Consumers appreciate this reasonably-priced option because it has no frills and delivers its promise. This is a reliable option that many people default to buying.

Pros Cons
  • Not expensive
  • Offers a blend of three types of whey
  • Is easily digestible due to the enzymes present in the mix
  • Dissolves easily
  • Contains soy
  • Contains artificial ingredients, including an artificial sweetener
  • Some find it to be too bland

2. RARI Nutrition – INFINITY Preworkout

RARI‌ ‌Nutrition‌ ‌-‌ ‌INFINITY‌ ‌Preworkout‌

This might be the right pre-workout supplement for you if you are looking for something that can give you energy without containing creatine or any artificial ingredients. Rather, this supplement contains healthy ingredients that are proven to help women achieve maximum muscle building power and high performance workouts. The ingredients are scientifically dosed to create a ratio that will help women achieve the most benefits without adding unnecessary fillers like most pre-workout supplements do.

Users find that this supplement offers genuine energy along with stamina and endurance. The energy is sustainable and natural, which will help you complete even the toughest workouts without having side effects like feeling jittery or experiencing a crash later on. Plus, it is a perfect option for those who are looking for a vegan pre-workout supplement.

This supplement includes a wide variety of B vitamins in addition to the “infinity” blend, which is caffeine, agmatine sulfate, N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine, Bioperine, Beta Alanine, and L-Citrulline Malate. These ingredients help ensure that not only will this supplement give you more energy for your workouts, but it also helps improve mental focus with its safe nitric oxide enhancing ingredients.

This product is GMP lab certified for safety and purity, making this product a safe and high-quality option. Finally, it comes with a 100% money-back guarantee, meaning you can get your money back if you’re not satisfied with the product.

Pros Cons
  • Contains no creatine or artificial ingredients
  • Has a lot of vitamins
  • Provides sustained energy without a crash
  • Dosing varies from person to person, so you may need to do some trial and error before settling on a dose.
  • Some users experience headaches from the agmatine sulfate
  • Some cannot tolerate the taste

3. Red Leaf Pre-Workout Energizer Powder

Red‌ ‌Leaf‌ ‌Pre-Workout‌ ‌Energizer‌ ‌Powder‌

This is going to be your best option in terms of flavor for a pre-workout supplement. It offers a fresh, citrusy taste, as it’s naturally flavored with genuine citrus crystals to provide users with a refreshing cranberry lime flavor. Users enjoy the unique flavor without finding it so unusual that it gets boring. Unlike some other fruity pre-workout supplements, this option tastes both authentic and balanced. It’s easy to mix in with water, dissolves quickly, and offers users a refreshing drink before going to work out. Because this product does not have a chalky aftertaste or harsh flavor, and it will not make you jittery, some users opt to drink this instead of coffee in the morning to get their day going.

The formula used in this product is transparent in the sense that the manufacturers list each ingredient and quantities on the label. Some companies are resistant to expose their recipe in this manner, one reason being that oftentimes, “proprietary blends” contain a negligible amount of the ingredients that are expensive and highly-sought after. This supplement does not include the vague “blend” ingredients that can often be found on labels. Rather, it offers only proven ingredients in ideal ratios, and does not include fillers or stimulants. It also contains antioxidants from real, natural superfoods.

This product is unique in that it contains vaccinium macrocarpon, which is a cranberry extract that is known to be a powerful antioxidant that can help protect consumers from free radical damage and diseases. It also contains ingredients such as green tea extract to support health and energy, pure caffeine to provide natural energy, and beta alanine to reduce muscle fatigue and keep your energy high while you’re working out. Finally, this option has amino acids in it such as BCAAs, L-glutamine, and AAKG to help your muscles keep up and recover after a tough workout. Finally, it contains raspberry ketones, which are effective at burning fat and fueling even your toughest workouts.

This product is made in a GMP-certified facility to make sure that its potency and quality are up to standards.

Pros Cons
  • Best tasting pre-workout supplement for women
  • Offers a thoughtfully-crafted, solid formula that is effective
  • Manufacturer is transparent in their ingredient listing
  • Contains Sucralose
  • Users find the serving size is too small, meaning you might need to take two servings to benefit from the product, making it more expensive to add to your regular budget
  • Some people experience itchiness after taking this

4. RSP AminoLean

RSP‌ ‌AminoLean‌

This is the best option for women who are focused on building muscle. RSP Nutrition makes their products for those who are interested in bodybuilding and burning fat. This is an inexpensive option, yet it offers a comprehensive amino acid supplement that combines both BCAAs and EAAs with a mental clarity and energy blend in addition to natural weight management ingredients to create an ideal pre-workout supplement.

Each serving provides users with 5 grams of amino acids. However, these are not all branch chain amino acids, as this serving is a blend of fourteen amino acids. BCAAs are present in this blend, but so are some others such as glutamine and tyrosine that are not considered to be “branch chain”. But, this amino acid blend does work to help muscles recover faster and build themselves up.

This pre-workout supplement also contains a weight management blend that is comprised of CLA powder, green tea (and green coffee) extract, and l-carnitine l-tartrate, which is sometimes used to reduce muscle soreness and increase the impacts of growth hormones, which can, in turn, reduce body fat.

The natural focus and energy blend is comprised of caffeine, and a stimulant that is similar to caffeine called theobromine. Together, these give users about as much caffeine as one and a half cups of coffee. Because of this, some people choose to drink this in the morning instead of coffee.

This is a gluten-free option that is free from sugar, carbohydrates, and calories. It is a good option for people who are on a “clean” diet as well. It is neither too sweet, nor too sour, making it a palatable pre-workout supplement.

Pros Cons
  • Inexpensive
  • Provides clean energy without an energy crash later in the day
  • Many of the ingredients in this product have been linked to enhanced athletic performance
  • The proprietary blend is unclear regarding the amount of BCAAs this product provides
  • The ratio of ingredients is unclear
  • Contains artificial sweeteners

5. Genius Pre Workout Powder

Genius‌ ‌Pre‌ ‌Workout‌ ‌Powder‌

This is the best option for those who are looking for a nootropic supplement, meaning supplements that can improve cognitive function as well as physical ability. This pre-workout supplement is unusual in that it does not contain caffeine, but it does offer a variety of ingredients that have been linked to improving focus, power, and athletic endurance. The idea behind this is that users’ physical abilities will increase as your brain is engaged with the nutrition that is found in this supplement and your muscles are also activated by a scientifically proven blend.

Unlike supplements that rely on caffeine to get you ready for your workout, Genius Pre-Workout Powder has 6 grams of l-citrulline malate, beta alanine, and ATP, which will provide you with a slow and steady elevation to a high-energy state rather than a quick boost that is followed by a crash.

While this option does have a lot of ingredients, most are scientifically proven to be effective, and they are offered in a ratio that is backed by research. Let’s take a look at them.

Ingredients for a Mental Boost

  • Taurine: helps promote focus
  • Rhodiola rosea: boosts awareness and cognition
  • Toothed clubmoss: may increase ability to focus

Ingredients for a Physical Boost

  • Citrulline malate: linked to endurance and improved circulation
  • L-arginine: this nitric oxide precursor also increases endurance
  • HICA: may promote muscle mass
  • ElevATP: may boost power
  • Theobromine: improves circulation

Ingredients for Both Mental and Physical Boost

  • Betaine: improves power output and focus
  • L-tyrosine: can improve focus and reduce side effects of physical stress
  • Alpha GPC: improves power output, cognition, and increases the production of growth hormones

While this option is pricier than others, it is all natural and most of its competitors have significantly fewer active ingredients in them. Users find the flavors to be impressive, especially considering the fact that they are flavored with all natural ingredients.

Pros Cons
  • There are absolutely no artificial flavors, sweeteners, or colors in this supplement
  • This pre-workout supplement benefits your cognitive function along with your physical capabilities
  • Contains effective doses of scientifically-proven ingredients
  • Expensive compared to others
  • Dosage is on the low side for some ingredients
  • Some people prefer to have caffeine in their pre-workout supplement

6. Legion Pulse

Legion‌ ‌Pulse‌

This is the best option if you’re looking for a natural pre-workout supplement that is free from excessive and unnecessary additives. It comes in a variety of flavors that are all naturally sweetened and colored. In fact, the bluish tint this pre-workout supplement comes from its contents of spirulina, which is a nutrient-dense algae.

One serving of this supplement, which is two scoops, contains 5 calories. It has 350 mg of caffeine, which is equivalent to three and a half cups of coffee, making this a relatively strong pre-workout supplement. In addition to caffeine, this supplement has beta alanine, taurine, theanine, betaine, l-citrulline, DL-malate, and l-ornithine, which all help improve power and circulation. While many pre-workout supplements contain these ingredients, many only do so in negligible amounts, meaning they don’t really offer the intended effects. However, there is a substantial dose of every ingredient in each serving of this supplement, which makes this product stand out. It also contains a high dose of electrolytes when compared to other sports-related drinks.

While this pre-workout supplement does contain a significant amount of caffeine, it also has taurine and theanine in it, which mitigate the possible jittery side effects that can come along with consuming caffeine. The powder mixes and dissolves easily into water and tastes really good, despite the fact it has no artificial ingredients.

This option comes with a money-back guarantee, so if you are not completely satisfied with this pre-workout supplement, you can inform the company and get a full refund. Legion stands strongly behind their products.

Pros Cons
  • All natural
  • Contains high doses of ingredients
  • Contains electrolytes
  • Some find this pre-workout supplement to have too much caffeine, leading people to use only half of a serving at times
  • May lead to itchiness due to the high content of beta alanine
  • A bit high in price

7. Optimum Nutrition Amino Energy with Green Tea and Green Coffee Extract

Optimum‌ ‌Nutrition‌ ‌Amino‌ ‌Energy‌ ‌with‌ ‌Green‌ ‌Tea‌ ‌and‌ ‌Green‌ ‌Coffee‌ ‌Extract‌

Best for: people who want an amino blend, a cognitive boost, and an energy burst all in one

This pre-workout supplement offers a unified blend of amino acids to help in muscle recovery after a workout. This is the best option for those who want an amino blend, a boost of mental focus, and an energy burst all in one tasty drink. Each 9 gram serving contains 10 calories and 2g of carbs, which is relatively high when compared to other BCAA supplements. The five gram mix of amino acids contains taurine, glutamine, citrulline (increases blood flow), l-arginine, beta alanine (helps delay fatigue), l-leucine, l-isoleucine, l-threonine, l-methionine (improves bone strength), l-phenylalanine (improves nervous system function), HCl, l-histidine, l-lysine, l-valine, and l-tyrosine (works as a stimulant). These ingredients make up a proprietary blend of amino acids, and it is unknown whether or not they are in the standard ratio that is typically considered to be ideal.

This option offers the amount of caffeine that would be equal to about one and a half cups of coffee. The caffeine is derived from green tea extract and green coffee extract. The green tea extract retains a lot of its natural phytonutrients, as it’s been standardized for EGCG.

The unique formula offered in this product will provide you with the mental focus you need to get through your workout. With 18 calories per serving and no sugar, many people choose to use this supplement on a daily basis to simply help them improve they focus at work or school.

When using this pre-workout supplement, it’s best to start with a small dose to assess your tolerance and build up from there.

Pros Cons
  • Comes in over a dozen delicious flavors
  • Has ingredients that improve focus and endurance
  • Inexpensive
  • Some have found their product to come without a safety factory seal
  • There are several products on the market that are fake but trying to imitate this, so consumers have to be careful to buy from a reputable source
  • Contains soy and artificial sweeteners

Final Thoughts

Each of these pre-workout supplements for women is the best in its class. However, OPTIMUM NUTRITION GOLD STANDARD is the clear overall winner.

OPTIMUM‌ ‌NUTRITION‌ ‌GOLD‌ ‌STANDARD

Taking into account that this product has become the industry standard for quality, reliability, and cost, it is the option that is the most likely to fulfill the needs of the most people.

Connie Stemmle is a professional editor, freelance writer and ghostwriter. She holds a BS in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her 4-year-old daughter, running, or making efforts in her community to promote social justice.

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Should You Be Taking Pre-Workout Supplements?

Photo: Giphy

You may have heard your CrossFit or HIIT class friends refer to downing some “pre” before they hit the gym. Or perhaps you’ve seen companies advertising products meant to power you through a tough sweat. These pre-workout supplements have gained steam lately, as many people tout their energizing effects.

Because of the increase in popularity, more science has looked into the benefits and whether these mixes actually have a positive payoff on performance. With any supplement, though, there could be some risks. To weigh the pros and cons, we talked to a few experts to get the full scoop on pre-workout powders and pills.

When a Pre-Workout Supplement Can Give You a Boost

Science offers conflicting research about whether pre-workout supplements improve performance, and most studies (on the positive and negative side) involve fairly small test groups. One study found that while participants reported higher energy and concentration, the physical payoffs were lacking. Meanwhile, another study showed better energy, along with increased muscular endurance and anaerobic capacity.

The best research focuses on individual ingredients, rather than the combo that comes in a typical supplement.

Caffeine: “The most common ingredient in pre-workouts is caffeine,” says Pam Bede, R.D., a sports dietitian with EAS Sports Nutrition. “That’s because this familiar ergogenic aid has been used by athletes with the hopes of improving endurance, delaying fatigue, and even lowering the rate of perceived exertion (how difficult you perceive the workout to be).” For example, several studies show there are benefits of caffeine on strength and power outputs. Bede says the optimal dose of caffeine is .9 to 1.4mg per pound of body weight. For example, a 150-pound person would require about 135 to 200mg of caffeine about 20 minutes before a workout. (FYI, that’s less than a small cup of coffee at most cafés.)

Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs): These popular pre-workout ingredients are the building blocks of protein and are meant to protect glycogen stores in the muscles (so you can work out longer), and they may also help with recovery, says Bede. Science backs this up: One study supports the role of BCAAs in recovery and the building of muscular anaerobic power (your body’s ability to generate force). Other research found that BCAA supplementation helps maintain muscular performance. (Beta-alanine, specifically, is included in many pre-workout products.)

Nitric Oxide (NO) Boosters: You might also find nitric oxide boosters in a pre-workout mix. (These may be listed under names like L-arginine, L-citrulline, or L-norvaline.) These help with blood flow and nutrient and oxygen delivery to the muscles, says Bede. This can contribute to giving your muscles a “pumped up” look and feeling. One research review says the nitrate from beetroot juice can improve cardio endurance and time to exhaustion. Keep in mind that instead of a supplement, you could just go straight for the beet juice. Though the exact amount you need depends on your size, Bede suggests aiming for 300 to 500mL of the juice or about 400 to 500mg of a nitrate supplement. (Here’s more on nitric oxide and how to get more without supplements.)

Protein and Creatine: Finally, protein (including creatine) is a big draw for many supplement takers-though that need isn’t usually addressed in a pre-workout product. You’re more likely to find protein in “recovery” supplements (or straight-up protein powder) than in pre-workout blends, although the BCAAs in pre-workout supplements do provide protein-building amino acids. Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., professor of exercise science at Quincy College, does call out protein (about 20 to 25 grams just before or just after a strength session) for scientifically helping women gain lean muscle mass and lose body fat-though that can be via a supplement or whole-food source. Creatine, on the other hand, can be found in some pre-workout supplements (or sold separately) and can be used to improve performance during high-intensity workouts, as we reported in this guide to pre- and post-workout supplements.

Why You Have to Be Careful with Pre-Workout Supplements

Now, let’s talk safety. As with all supplements on the market, pre-workout products aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). That means manufacturers don’t need to test the safety of the specific product. And the amount of each ingredient could vary from package to package. (Related: Why This Dietitian Is Changing Her View On Supplements)

Opting for a reputable brand-one that has a stamp of approval from a third party, like the NSF and Good Manufacturing Products (GMP)-is a good way to know if you’re getting a safe product, says Bede. However, these stamps aren’t 100 percent foolproof, and you’ll still want to check the ingredient list to note whether it has more caffeine than you can handle or a long list of ingredients you’ve never seen before.

If you’re sensitive to caffeine, you should be especially skeptical of pre-workout supplements, says Bede. Most contain a variation of the stimulant to provide an energy boost. For some people, this can cause shaking, rapid heart rate, and other side effects that could actually hinder your workout. She also tells her clients to stay away from bitter orange, synephrine, and anything with chemical makeup similar to ephedra and ephedrine-an ingredient banned by the FDA for causing serious side effects, like heart conditions. (For a list of ingredients to look out for, check out the FDA’s page on supplement ingredients.)

Consumers are paying more attention to what’s in their food and supplements (hi, clean eating) and some brands are taking note, and prioritizing high-quality ingredients and easy-to-read labels. Alex Cesaria, former pro cyclist and cofounder of The Go Life, a nutritional supplement meant to improve your physical performance and cognitive focus, says they pay particular attention to their ingredients because consumers have become so in-tune with product labels. Cesaria and his team also decided to make their supplement in pill form to help regulate the amount of each ingredient. “When you scoop a powder, it’s hard to know exactly how much you’re getting,” says Cesaria. “The precise delivery is something we find important.”

One other safety precaution when considering supplements: “Do not take the advice of salespeople in supplement stores; these people are not nutrition experts,” says Torey Armul, R.D.N., a sports nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Consult with a registered dietitian to create a safe, effective, and tailored fueling plan to meet your needs.”

The Best “Natural” Pre-Workout? Whole Foods

You can find many of the ingredients in pre-workout supplements-the ones that research has shown to improve performance, like caffeine or nitric oxide-in real foods, too. Plus, with those real foods, you also get other good-for-you nutrients. (Here are a ton of pre-workout snack options.)

“I recommend a ‘food first’ approach for both recreational and elite athletes who are looking to fuel their workouts,” says Armul. “Real foods, rather than powders or supplements, are ideal because they offer the best variety of macro and micronutrients, tend to be easiest to digest, and are more palatable.”

Armul recommends keeping it simple with a snack one to two hours before a workout, making sure endurance athletes get a heavy serving of carbohydrates and weightlifters get a combo of carbs and protein. Watch the fiber and fat, Armul says, as you’ll digest those more slowly, which could lead to digestive discomfort. (Also see: 20 Foods You Shouldn’t Eat Before a Workout)

So Should You Take a Pre-Workout Supplement?

If you’re a recreational exerciser, you probably don’t need a pre-workout supplement. Beet juice, whole-food protein sources, and natural caffeine sources like matcha or coffee can likely provide the benefits you’re looking to achieve when taking a supplement-but without the risk.

If you do choose to grab a pick-me-up pre-workout, do your research. “Don’t just turn to the product’s website or Amazon page for info,” says Bede. “Really look into each ingredient to make sure it’s safe, effective, and will improve your performance.” (And when in doubt, consult a doctor or a dietitian.)

  • By By Mallory Creveling

Pre-Workout Supplements: 6 Side Effects and How To Avoid Them

Before getting started, IIFYM would like to point out that pre-workout supplements are not for everyone and can have serious side effects to your overall health if not used as directed. IIFYM recommends that you consult with your doctor before using any pre-workout supplements. Also, IIFYM does not support the use of pre-workout supplements to anyone under the age of 18.

With that said, if you are looking to start tracking macros, click here for our macro calculator!

Pre Workout Supplement 2019

We live in a world where we expect to feel something when we use pre-workout supplements. If you don’t feel some sort of energy, tingly sensation, or mental focus, then we consider it a terrible product. Yet, what many of us find out is that these pre-workout supplements also have some drawbacks—specifically, side effects.

At IIFYM, we want you to understand not only your nutrition but how things work and potential consequences (especially if abused). Pre-workout supplements are no exception. Some of us swear by pre-workout supplements and can’t work out without them.

Then on the flip side, we have people who never use pre-workout supplements and they have amazing workouts. The choice is ultimately yours in the direction you care to go, IIFYM family.

On the IIFYM website, we really don’t dabble in pre-workout supplements. In fact, if you did a search, there’s less than a handful that we have mentioned on the site. So, in an effort to bring you information on topics you care about, let’s dig into the topic of some potential side effects and how to avoid them when it comes to pre-workout supplements.

1) Insomnia

Have you ever looked at the label of your pre-workout supplements? You should. What you find on the back might give you a good indication if the product is for you or not—especially if you use your pre-workout supplements for a night-time training session and they contain stimulants.

In general, pre-workout supplements are slammed with caffeine. I’m not talking about a couple of cups of coffee worth, I mean anywhere from 200-400mg of caffeine per serving.

Sure, the caffeine in the pre-workout supplements will help give you energy throughout your workout due to it activating epinephrine and norepinephrine in the body, but if taken at night, it will also cause you to lay in bed staring at your ceiling.

So how can this be combated if you plan on getting a good night’s sleep? The half-life (how long it lasts) of caffeine is anywhere from three to five hours. With that being said, if you plan on hopping into bed around 11 pm, you shouldn’t take your pre-workout supplements after 6 pm or they might affect your sleep.

The Counter Approach

The good news is, everyone metabolizes caffeine at different rates, so in this instance, you might be able to get away with using your pre-workout supplements as late as 8 pm.

However, if you metabolize it extremely slowly, you might still be feeling the effects of the stimulant from a lunchtime workout. You could also lower the dose/serving size of your pre-workout supplements so the effects aren’t as drastic as a full serving, which could allow it to exit your system faster.

Don’t forget about post workout nutrition after your workout. If you would like information on how to set that up for maximal results, IIFYM has some great programs to get you on track to making progress through proper nutrition.

2) Diarrhea

Ah yes, the runs. Something we at IIFYM would hate to see any of you have. Yet, it happens with certain pre-workout supplements. This can happen for a number of reasons, but most people will find the issue arising from two things in particular.

The first one is some specific ingredients used in the products that can have a laxative effect on sensitive systems that send you to the toilet fairly quickly after slamming down the pre-workout supplements.

These ingredients include high dosages of the following: sodium bicarbonate, magnesium, taurine, arginine, Yohimbe, creatine, and caffeine. But more times than not, it comes down to how you use the product.

A problem in the supplement industry is that sometimes you have people creating pre-workout supplements without truly knowing how they work in the body and how they are absorbed. For instance, and this is the second issue we were talking about above, how much water you use to mix up your favorite pre-workout supplements.

The Reasoning For Adding More Water

Many call for you to mix your powder with around 8 ounces of water and more times than not, this isn’t enough. This can cause a paste to form in your gut.

What then happens is your body will pull water out of your cells to break down the paste and due to osmosis, that water ends up passing through the intestinal wall and when too much water enters, it causes the runs.

A simple fix to the above would be to use more water the next time you use your pre-workout supplements. If you pick up something new and find following the directions on the label had you running to the toilet, next time add more water.

IIFYM also recommends that you drink water during your workout as well. If you drink water throughout the day and consistently, you might not even show any signs of gastrointestinal issues when following the directions. It’s truly a case by case and person by person basis.

3) Dehydration

It goes without saying that the above (diarrhea) goes hand in hand with dehydration. Certain ingredients in pre-workout supplements can pull water and excrete it causing dehydration.

Some ingredients are put in to do this on purpose (for instance if it has a blend to help with weight loss or included as a diuretic) while others, when consumed in high doses, can cause dehydration.

IIFYM always recommends consuming water throughout the day, even when you aren’t thirsty. If you find after taking any pre-workout supplements that you are urinating more than normal, be sure to replenish what is lost by grabbing some water.

When exercising, not only do you sweat and lose water, but the water being shuttled to your muscles, especially if creatine is present in the pre-workout supplements, it’s pulling water from other areas of the body to flood those working muscles. This can cause dehydration depending on the severity. Again, be sure to drink plenty of water to prevent this side effect.

4) Headaches

If you’re following along you can see how some of the side effects mentioned in this IIFYM article involving pre-workout supplements are tied together. The side effect of a headache is no different. When your body becomes dehydrated such as in the example above, it can cause a headache. Your brain is surrounded by a sack full of fluid. When dehydration occurs, that fluid surrounding the brain is decreased which can cause the brain to bump into the skull. This in itself can cause a headache.

When vasodilation occurs, the blood vessels throughout your body expand, including the vessels in your head. This expansion can cause headaches.

Some pre-workout supplements have ingredients that help promote vasodilation (the pump we strive for). Many of these ingredients are forms of arginine, citrulline malate, or beta-alanine.

In order to minimize the effects, if you are getting headaches, you can either stay away from pre-workouts that include vasodilators if you’re consistently getting a headache, or lower the dosage/serving size you are using to see if that changes anything. It’s also advantageous to consume water both before and after taking any pre-workout supplements.

5) High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is something we can have even if we aren’t using any form of pre-workout supplements. At IIFYM we try to help you lead a healthy lifestyle to minimize the negative effects poor exercise and nutrition habits can have on the body.

For that reason, we have several IIFYM programs to suit your individual needs. Such as the Macro Blueprint to help those dial in their macro numbers.

Another thing that some people might not realize is that the simple act of high-intensity, short duration exercises like what takes place when you are weight training or doing HIIT, can increase your blood pressure.

Now, the levels can go back to normal, but during that timeframe even without the use of pre-workout supplements, your blood pressure can become elevated. If your doctor told you that you have high blood pressure, you should stay away from pre-workout supplements that have stimulants altogether.

Finding Another Avenue

All stimulants increase your blood pressure. That’s the nature of the ingredient (such as caffeine). This can be problematic if you already have an underlying high blood pressure issue that you might not be aware of. Again, for that reason, IIFYM recommends consulting with your doctor before starting an exercise program or using pre-workout supplements.

If you have an underlying health issue such as high blood pressure, one way to not exacerbate the issue would be to find pre-workout supplements that don’t have stimulants or that are very mildly dosed. There are plenty of pre-workout supplements out there which aren’t stimulant heavy to choose from.

IIFYM does not have a personal favorite that we stand behind, so you may need to do some trial and error to see what works for you. If a brand has samples of their pre-workout supplements that would be a great place to start to see how your body reacts to a specific product before opening your wallet.

6) Tingly or Prickly Sensations

A common side effect of many pre-workout supplements is a tingly or prickly sensation throughout your body. Everyone is different and it depends on your sensitivity to certain ingredients found in the pre-workout supplements. While a “side effect” it really isn’t anything to be worried about. If the pre-workout supplements contain ingredients such as niacin, beta-alanine, or vitamin B3, you’re more than likely going to get this sensation.

Many pre-workout supplements include niacin in a higher dose just for that very reason. They want you to feel something after taking their pre-workout supplements. It comes back to people equate something working if they can feel them. High dosages of niacin can also cause a flushing effect on the skin where it can become red, blotchy, and even itchy as if you have hives (but not as severe).

The tingly and prickly sensations you get from some pre-workout supplements is harmless and nothing to be concerned about. Eventually, what you are feeling will subside and you’ll go back to feeling normal. The sensation is simply due to a reaction within the nervous system.

If you aren’t interested in this particular side effect, it would be recommended that you stay away from pre-workout supplements that contain these ingredients. You can also isolate certain ingredients to stay away from as well.

If you don’t like the flush of niacin, then find a product that doesn’t contain niacin. Or pay close attention to the dosages of the above-mentioned ingredients and find a product with lower doses or simply take less of the product per workout and see how your body reacts.

If you have questions regarding IIFYM please feel free to click on the IIFYM FAQ tab on the website. Also, if you are looking for some great IIFYM guides, IIFYM recipes, or even IIFYM meal plans, check out the IIFYM programs available on the website.

Pre workout supplements are sports nutrition supplements marketed to increase the performance of your workout, give you more strength when performing the workout and thus claim to increase muscle growth and reduce body fat. What the supplement user is not told is the common side effects of pre-workout supplements. This article is brought to you by one of our expert personal trainers Denis Raynor who outlines some of the most common side effects of taking pre-workout supplements and how to avoid them should you wish to take them.

Generally, the first time you take a pre-workout supplement, you will an immense rush of energy. Dependent on the supplement, you might experience the purported benefits of taking them. You almost become reliant on these supplements for your workout and expect to feel that same rush when you use a pre-workout supplement. For some people, it almost gets to a point that unless you feel the same energy, tingly sensation, or mental focus, you might consider it a terrible product. Almost like a drug, you might go in search of a stronger product to experience the same feeling as your first time taking a pre-workout supplement.

Unfortunately, those who do take pre-workouts on a regular basis may encounter that these pre-workout supplements also have some drawbacks. In particular some common side effects of taking them. What we must outline is that pre-workout supplements are not for everyone. In fact, you don’t have to use them to achieve results in your workouts. And even worse, if pre-workout supplements are not used properly can have serious side effects to your overall health.
Here are some potential side effects and how to avoid them when it comes to pre-workout supplements.

1) Insomnia

Here at Icon, we open until 12 pm weekdays, which gives our members who work late night shifts a chance to get a late night workout. Having worked all day, you might be tired and want to take a pre-workout supplement to improve the performance of that workout despite being tired. Unfortunately taking a pre-workout supplement before a night-time training session can lead you to all sort of trouble. It is very important to look at the ingredients contained in a pre-workout supplement before you decide to take it at certain time frames. Although all pre-workout supplements are not created equal, what you might find on the back might give you a good indication if the product is for you or not in this time frame.
Most pre-workout supplements are overpowered with caffeine. I’m not talking about a couple cups of coffee worth, this is anywhere from 200-400mg of caffeine per serving. So if taken at night, it could cause you to lay in bed staring at your ceiling.
Sure, the caffeine in the pre-workout supplements will help give you energy throughout your workout, but how can this be countered if you plan on getting a good night’s sleep? THE BIG QUESTION, How long do they last? Caffeine can last anywhere from 3-5 hours. With that being said, if you plan on Jumping into bed around 11 pm, you shouldn’t take your pre-workout supplements after 6 pm or they might affect your sleep.

What you might do to counter the effects of taking a pre-workout supplement late at night

Everyone metabolise caffeine at different rates, so in this instance, you might be able to get away with using your pre-workout supplements as late as 8 pm. However, if you metabolise it extremely slowly, you might still be feeling the effects of the stimulant from a lunchtime workout. You could also lower the dose/serving size of your pre-workout supplements so the effects aren’t as drastic as a full serving, which could allow it to exit your system faster.

2) Diarrhea

Unfortunately, diarrhea happens with certain pre-workout supplements. This can happen for a number of reasons, but most people will find the issues raising from 2 areas.
The first area could be the specific ingredients used in the products that can have a laxative effect if you have a sensitive stomach that will send you to the toilet fairly quickly after consuming.
These ingredients include high dosages of the following: sodium bicarbonate, magnesium, taurine, arginine, Yohimbe, creatine, and caffeine. But more times than not, it comes down to how you use the product.
A problem in the supplement industry is that sometimes you have people creating pre-workout supplements without truly knowing how they work in the body and how they are absorbed.

Add more water to counter the effects pre-workout supplement diarrhoea

Adding more water. Many labels tell you to mix your powder with around 8 ounces of water and more times than not, this isn’t enough. As it has not been fully diluted, this can cause a paste to form in your gut which causes you to experience diarrhoea.
A simple fix to the above would be to use more water the next time you use your pre-workout supplements. If you pick up something new and find following the directions on the label had you running to the toilet, next time add more water.
I recommend that you drink water during your workout as well. If you drink water throughout the day, you might not even show any signs of gastrointestinal issues when following the directions. It’s truly a case by case basis.

3) Dehydration

Certain ingredients in pre-workout supplements can pull water and excrete it causing dehydration. Some ingredients are put in to do this on purpose (for instance if it has a blend to help with weight loss or included as a diuretic) while others, when consumed in high doses, can cause dehydration. Dehydration is also linked to headaches.
I always recommend people to consume water throughout the day, even when you aren’t thirsty. If you find after taking any pre-workout supplements that you are going to the toilet more than normal, be sure to replenish what is lost by grabbing some water absorbed.”

Make sure you are hydrated throughout the day.

When exercising, not only do you sweat and lose water, but the water being sent to your muscles, especially if creatine is present in the pre-workout supplements, it’s pulling water from other areas of the body to support those working muscles. This can cause dehydration depending on the volume intake of the supplement o the intensity of the workout.

4) Headaches

When your body becomes dehydrated, it can cause a headache. Water circulates around the brain creating a protective layer. When dehydration occurs, the fluid surrounding the brain gets thinner which can cause the brain to bump into the skull. This in itself can cause a headache.

Some pre-workout supplements have ingredients that help promote vasodilation (the muscle pump as its known). Many of these ingredients are forms of arginine, citrulline malate, or beta-alanine.
When vasodilation occurs, the blood vessels throughout your body expand, including the vessels in your head. This expansion can cause headaches.

Avoid headaches and be conservative with your servings

In order to minimise the effects, if you are getting headaches, you can either stay away from pre workouts that include vasodilators if you’re consistently getting a headache. You might find by lowering the Volume/serving size you are using to see if that changes anything. I would advise consuming water both before and after taking any pre-workout drinks.

5) High Blood Pressure

All stimulants increase your blood pressure. That’s the nature of the ingredient (such as caffeine). This can be the problem if you already have high blood pressure issues that you might not be aware of. Again, for that reason, I or our other Instructors at Icon Health Clubs would recommend consulting with your doctor before starting an exercise program or using any pre-workout supplements.

Take caution taking pre-workout supplements with HIIT

Pre workout supplements are often used in combination with High-intensity workouts (HIIT). What a lot of people might not realise is that high-intensity weight training or doing HIIT can increase your blood pressure. For most people post workout blood pressure levels can go back to normal, but during that timeframe even without the use of pre-workout supplements, your blood pressure can become elevated. If your doctor told you that you have high blood pressure, you should stay away from pre-workout supplements that have stimulants altogether.

Another note of caution to consider is that some pre-workout supplements may need some trial and error sessions taken to see what works for you. If a brand has samples of their pre-workout supplements that would be a great place to start to see how your body reacts to a specific product before paying in bulk.

6) Tingly or Prickly Sensations

A common side effect of many pre-workout supplements is a tingly or prickly sensation throughout your body. Everyone is different and it depends on your sensitivity to certain ingredients found in the pre-workout supplements. While a “side effect” it really isn’t anything to be worried about. If the pre-workout supplements contain ingredients such as niacin, beta-alanine, or vitamin B3, you’re more than likely going to get this sensation.
Many pre-workout supplements include niacin in a higher dose just for that very reason. They want you to feel something after taking their pre-workout supplements. It comes back to people equate something working if they can feel them. High dosages of niacin can also cause a flushing effect on the skin where it can become red, blotchy, and even itchy as if you have hives (but not as severe).

Preventing the Side Effect

The tingly and prickly sensations you get from some pre-workout supplements is harmless and nothing to be concerned about. Eventually, what you are feeling will subside and you’ll go back to feeling normal. The sensation is simply due to a reaction within the nervous system. If you aren’t interested in this particular side effect, it would be recommended that you stay away from pre-workout supplements that contain these ingredients. You can also isolate certain ingredients to stay away from as well. If you don’t like the flush of niacin, then find a product that doesn’t contain niacin. Or pay close attention to the grammes per serving of the above-mentioned ingredients and find a product with lower volumes or simply take less of the product per workout and see how your body reacts.

Should I take a pre-workout?

Who else knocks back a pre-workout to power through a 6am sweat sesh? We feel ya. Or maybe you’re more of a post-shift pre-workout drinker, relying on a kick of caffeine to see you through your evening workout. The fact of the matter is, many of us consume pre-workout on the reg – some of us take the stuff every single session! But, is it all that good for us and should we really be relying on it to smash our goals?

Well, you’re about to find out! Read on to find out the pros and cons of this popular supp, as well as when’s best to take it – spoiler: definitely not before bed.

What is pre-workout?

Pre-workout supplements are designed to give a sudden boost of energy and increased focus. Like our 50 Calibre supplement, most pre-workouts are available in powder form that you then mix with water. Key ingredients often include caffeine, beta alanine, amino acids and creatine.

When should I take pre-workout?

As the name suggests, you should consume pre-workout before exercise – usually around 20-30 minutes prior. For those who prefer to pump in the evenings, be careful how late you consume your pre-workout; if you’re planning on taking it a few hours before getting some shut eye, then think again. Taking pre-workouts too close to bedtime can disrupt your sleep and wreak havoc with your routine– not great when the sole purpose of taking the stuff is for energy! To be on the safe side, always refer to the packaging to find out how and when to consume your pre-workout.

What are the pros of pre-workout?

Improved performance

Hit a plateau at the gym? Lacking motivation? Well, downing a pre-workout before your session could improve your performance, helping you to secure that final rep or last that extra mile. Amino acid, beta alanine, is a pre-workout staple and is famed for it’s ability to increase performance. Numerous studies have shown that beta alanine can reduce fatigue during intense exercise, improving endurance and increasing muscle growth.

Increased focus

From the gym social butterfly who exercises his jaw more than his biceps to the never-ending list of things you’d rather be doing than, well, working out, it’s not unusual to get distracted when trying to stay fit. Believe it or not, draining a pre-workout before your sesh could keep you on track, increasing your focus and determination. Packed with fast acting caffeine, pre-workouts are perfect for those days where your concentration is lagging.

Beneficial ingredients

This varies between pre-workouts but many are filled with additional vitamins and minerals, making sure your body is fuelled and focused. The Grenade® 50 Calibre pre-workout includes additional BCAAs for anti-catabolic support, citrulline malate, the most proven NO-boosting amino acid, and numerous other effective ingredients to support muscle blood flow.

What are the cons of pre-workouts?

Over-stimulation

All supp pros will be all too familiar with the jitters that can come with taking a pre-workout. But, for those new to this supplement, the shaky sensation can be a little unnerving. When you consume a pre-workout, your body is dealing with high volumes of caffeine. This caffeine stimulates the nervous system. When you consume higher levels of caffeine than what your body is used to, your nervous system is unable to use all of the energy it has been given, which causes those tell-tale jitters and tingles. Not everyone will suffer with this side effect and some don’t mind too much but if it’s something you’re uncomfortable with, lower your serving or steer clear altogether.

Immunity

Like anything, if you abuse pre-workouts, they’ll become less effective. Your body gets used to certain ingredients after a while, especially if they’re consumed more often than recommended. To make sure you’re still able to feel the benefit of that pre-workout rush, reserve this supp for exercises emergencies, eg. when you’ve already snoozed through three alarms and are most definitely going to miss that early morning circuit class or when your body flat out refuses to complete that last rep (rude) and hitting your PB seems like an impossible feat. All worthy reasons to whack out the pre-workout.

Artificial ingredients

As with beneficial ingredients, this will vary between different supps but always always read the label before purchasing and consuming a pre-workout. Some feature dangerous ingredients or incorrect dosages of certain products, which could have a serious effect on your training and, more importantly, your health.

So, when you’re next lagging or fighting to focus, perk yourself up with a pre-workout and you’re sure to notice a difference in your training. Just remember, don’t over-do it and choose your supps wisely (our 50 Calibre pre-workout is worth a try, even if we do say so ourselves).

Looking for some workout inspo to burn your new pre-workout fuelled energy? Head over to our blog to find out 4 reasons why circuit training could be for you and discover the benefits of popular workout kickboxing.

Who Should Or Shouldn’t Take A Pre-Workout?

This is a complicated question! If you only go to the gym to get a light sweat, then a pre-workout may not provide much benefit. But if you’re someone who wants to turn serious training into serious results, a pre-workout can help. Say you’re four weeks in to Jim Stoppani, Ph.D’s Shortcut to Shred program, and you know you need a boost to make it through a leg day with cardio acceleration. You’re hungry and sore, but the workout must be done! This is the mindset that leads many to take their first pre-workout.

Anyone who feels like they need an energy boost in the gym, or who has an ambitious PR in their sights, is a prime candidate for a pre-workout supplement. However, even with the best pre in your gym bag, the best benefits are achieved over time with consistent training, continued use, adequate nutrition, and appropriate rest and recovery.

There’s a good reason exercise physiologist Krissy Kendall, Ph.D., includes the pre-workout staple ingredients of caffeine, BCAAs, citrulline malate, and other NO boosters on her list of “The 8 Best Supplements for Strength Athletes and Bodybuilders.”

However, if you know that you’re highly sensitive to caffeine, you may benefit more from a low-stimulant or stimulant-free pre-workout. Since many pre-workouts do contain stimulants—and some of them contain a lot of stimulants—check with your doctor first if you have any health conditions that might cause adverse reactions to them.

Parents should also be cautious about giving a stim-heavy pre-workout to adolescents, and no, they’re not a good idea for young children. If your child is getting serious about training, tell them they should be able to motivate themselves to get to the gym and work hard first. The intensity-boosting supplements can come later, after they’ve built a solid foundation.

Did you know that there are supplements to help you maximise the benefits of your time at the gym before you even walk through the door? To help you out, we’ve looked at the benefits of pre-workouts and how to choose the best one for your goals. We’ve also done some digging into the best time to take a pre-workout.

If you’re looking to increase your performance during your workouts and see greater changes to your body over time, using pre-workout supplements could help to give you the extra boost you need.

In this article, you’ll find:

  • Other supplements in a pre-workout

  • When to take

  • Side effects

What is Pre-Workout?

A pre-workout is a way to boost your energy and optimise performance during your workout. It typically comes as a powdered supplement that you mix with water. Pre-workout supplements generally contain combinations of ingredients, making them an easy alternative to taking several different supplements before hitting the gym.

Although each brand chooses their own ingredients, pre-workout shakes are often made up of caffeine, vitamins, creatine, and other various ingredients to enhance energy and strength.1

The benefit is an increase in performance during anaerobic exercise (like weightlifting) or endurance exercise (like cardio) by giving an energy boost and delaying fatigue.2 Even though the ingredients in pre-workouts might vary, they all aim to maximise the results of your workout.

What are the benefits?

If you’re new to working out and need an energy boost, or have been training for a while and feel like your progress has plateaued, then a this shake might be beneficial for you. The benefits of pre-workouts are related to increasing performance and strength.

Studies have shown short term increases in lean body mass and lower body strength when taking a pre-workout supplement consistently.2 Often, the combination of effects of the ingredients are greater than taking one supplement on its own.2

Caffeine

Caffeine is one of the most common ingredients found in pre-workout shakes, which has been shown to improve muscle power and endurance, without increasing how hard the activity feels (the rate of perceived exertion).3,4 In other words, you’re able to accomplish more in your workout without feeling like you’re pushing yourself harder.

It works by dilating (widening) your blood vessels, which increases blood flow to your muscles.3 Caffeine can also help to improve brain power (cognition) in the short term, making it easier to focus on the muscles that you’re working.5

Other supplements found in pre-workouts

Vitamin B

Another category of the common ingredients found in pre-workouts are B vitamins like niacin and vitamin B12. These vitamins play key roles in metabolism and energy.6 They may also contain creatine, a common ergogenic (building) aid, which increases performance in short-duration, high intensity exercise, and also helps with lean gains when taken consistently.7

Beta Alanine and L-Citrulline

Some pre-workouts formulas may also contain beta alanine and L-citrulline, which have both been shown to improve energy in endurance-related exercise.8,9 You’ll find all of these key ingredients in THE Pre-Workout, benefiting both short-duration (strength training) and longer-duration (cardio based) activities.

BCAA

Branched chain amino acids, or BCAAs, are often taken before a workout and may be part of your all-in-one pre-workout supplement. They may be included as a single ingredient or as individual amino acids. As building blocks of muscle tissue, amino acids may help to prevent muscle damage and muscle breakdown, as well as improve muscle rebuilding.5 They might also help prevent fatigue which impacts performance.5

Carbs

Some pre-workout mixes contain carbohydrates (sugar) to top off your available energy stores, while others are sugar and calorie-free. You might decide whether or not you need carbs based on whether you’ve eaten a meal recently or the type of workout you’re planning.

If you’re planning an endurance cardio workout (like running or cycling), the extra carbs can be useful, but if you’re planning on just lifting (anaerobic activity), you probably don’t need the sugar.

During explosive exercise, the body uses creatine to make energy. To perform at a high level, your muscles need a good supply of energy so that you can perform harder for longer periods of time. Being able to take your workout one step further every time can have a compounding effect, meaning reaching your aesthetic and strength goals sooner. These changes have the potential to improve your performance and keep making progress towards your fitness goals.

L-Glutamine

This is an amino acid, one of the molecules that make up protein. Naturally found in food sources, they can help to repair new muscle. When you work out, your muscles suffer from tiny tears, that when repaired make them stronger. Make sure your stores are topped up ready for a tough workout.

Vasodilators

When you’re working out, your body is working hard to pump enough oxygen to your muscles to make energy. Vasodilators cause the blood vessels to widen, which means an increased blood flow to the muscles, providing them with more of the nutrients they need to keep you moving. The longer it takes for you to tire, the harder you can push your workout and the greater changes you can make.

Overall, pre-workouts allow you to repeatedly increase your power, strength, and stamina over time. This can lead to more significant changes in lean body mass, loss of fat mass, and a faster metabolism.2

When to Take

Because caffeine is a staple ingredient and it takes effect in about 30 minutes, the ideal time for you to take your pre-workout supplement is 30-60 minutes before your workout.5

This gives enough time for the supplement to get into your bloodstream and give you the benefits you’re looking for. THE Pre-Workout is designed to be taken dissolved in water 30 minutes before exercise, which also helps you to stay hydrated.

Although caffeine impacts you immediately, some ingredients like creatine and beta-alanine need time to build up in your body, and are most effective when taken consistently to maintain muscle stores.5 For this reason, regularly supplementing with a pre-workout product will help maximise the benefits and impact of its ingredients.5

Side Effects

Potential side effects of a pre-workout depend on the ingredients in your specific supplement. Typically, caffeine and other energy-boosting compounds could increase your heart rate and blood pressure temporarily, but there’s been no evidence of widespread negative effects.5

Too much caffeine can result in side effects like nausea, heart palpitations, and headaches in those who are sensitive to caffeine, so be mindful of the timing of your pre-workout if you’ve recently consumed coffee and tea as well.5 You can always discuss supplements with your doctor before beginning a new routine and monitor the impact they have on you.

Take Home Message

Pre-workout supplements are designed to help increase your performance by boosting energy, power, and stamina. They’re generally taken about half an hour before your workout, and the benefits include improved muscle strength, cognition, lean gains, and endurance. To better select the optimal shake for before your workout, consider what your goals are.

Taking a pre-workout consistently can help maximise its impact on your performance. Pre-workouts can help you feel more confident in taking the next step in your training sessions and provide the boost you need to reach your peak performance level and continue to advance your physical abilities.

Everyone wants to get the most out of the time they spend exercising, and “preworkout” supplements claim to help you do exactly that. It might be tempting to try one of these supplements before hitting the gym or heading out for a run, in hopes of increasing your energy levels, muscle power or endurance during your workout.

Preworkout supplements often contain a mystery blend of ingredients ranging from caffeine to guarana to creatine. But do these supplements work, and are they safe to take?

It turns out that these supplements may just change the way you feel while you’re working out. Many of the ingredients in preworkout supplements are intended to give athletes the perception that their workout is supercharged, said Jordan Moon, an exercise physiologist and sports nutritionist at the United States Sports Academy and Concordia University Chicago, and chief science officer at the fitness tracking website Fittrace.com.

“You’ve got ingredients that are going to increase blood flow, increase heart rate, increase focus, increase blood flow to the skin and give you a little tingle,” Moon told Live Science.

But those physical effects don’t make people bigger, stronger or faster, Moon said.

And although some of these supplements’ ingredients — such as caffeine, creatine and beta-alanine — have been shown to modestly enhance performance in extreme athletes and bodybuilders, they only give people an edge if they are pushing themselves to the limit, Moon said.

And some supplements on the market may contain illegal and dangerous additives, such as amphetaminelike stimulants. Even supplements that contain only legal ingredients can include high levels of caffeine, which can have a negative effect on the heart, recent testing by one independent lab found.

Caffeine rush

Several studies have shown that taking caffeine can provide a physical boost before a workout. For instance, a 2012 study in the Journal of Strength Conditioning and Resistance found that men who took caffeine supplements could deadlift, bench-press and do other heavy lifting at greater weights compared with men who took a placebo. Other studies have suggested that runners and rowers can increase their aerobic capacity with a dose of caffeine, although the studies noted that the benefits of caffeine tend to wane as people develop a tolerance to it.

However, too much caffeine can pose a health risk, and supplements can contain much more than is found in food or drinks. A person could guzzle gallons of coffee and not suffer from a true caffeine overdose. But even at much lower levels, caffeine can worsen underlying conditions such as a heart arrhythmia, leading to cardiac arrest.

In recent testing, the supplement testing company LabDoor looked at 45 popular preworkout supplements and found that many contained extremely high doses of caffeine. One supplement contained 435 milligrams of caffeine — almost as much as four cups of coffee. (The research has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal, meaning it has not gone through the standard process used to vet scientific findings. LabDoor also links to sites such as Amazon and The Vitamin Shoppe, where consumers can purchase the supplements, and receives a commission on those sales.)

Although the lab found that none of the supplements contained a dose of caffeine that would be dangerous on its own, combined with a few cups of coffee or a soda, the supplements could easily make someone feel shaky, nauseated and ill, and could also exacerbate underlying heart conditions, said Neil Thanedar, CEO of LabDoor.

“The whole point is to work out harder or more intensely,” Thanedar told Live Science. So supplements with high caffeine levels are “putting you at risk of heart issues, and then telling you to go out and exert yourself.”

However, Moon said the levels in most of these products are unlikely to be truly dangerous.

“Unless you’re taking twice the dose or like four times the dose, you’re still going to be at the safe maximum recommended amount of caffeine,” Moon said. Creatine and amino acids

Almost all preworkout supplements contain creatine, which seems to boost energy production in muscle cells and also seems to draw fluids from the blood plasma into the skeletal muscle, which can improve muscle performance.

Creatine supplementation has shown modest benefits in a few small trials. A 2003 study in the Journal of Athletic Training found that college football players taking the supplement had less cramping and dehydration, as well as fewer injuries, than players who took a placebo. And a 2002 study of 20 athletes in the journal Nutrition found that creatine increased their body mass and gave them peak power during short sprints.

However, creatine must be taken regularly in order to “build up” to sufficient levels, Moon said. Taking it once or twice a week before a workout will not produce the necessary level to have an effect, and it only works when people push themselves hard during a workout.

Most “people who go to the gym spend 90 percent of the time talking and resting over lifting,” Moon said. “They might not even be pushing themselves hard enough to get any of the effectiveness of the ingredients.”

LabDoor’s testing showed that the labels of most supplements that were found to contain creatine did not list the amounts of creatine they contained. Moon noted that LabDoor did not test one of the most popular preworkout supplements, Jim Stoppani’s 12-Week Shortcut to Size.

Moon also said that grading supplements based on testing the levels of their ingredients may be misleading because there’s no good research on what dose may be effective for many of the supplement ingredients, some of which act synergistically. And consumers should know that supplement makers often tweak their products’ formulations every four or five months, so testing from companies like LabDoor will always be “playing catch-up” with these products, Moon added.

Other common preworkout ingredients include the B vitamin niacin, which can cause sweatiness and blood flow to the skin called a “niacin flush,” and vasodilators, such as citrulline, which widen blood vessels. Although studies don’t show that these ingredients increase muscle mass per se, the increased blood flow to the muscles may make “your muscles feel pumped, and you look bigger when you’re working out,” Moon said.

The effect, however, is transient, he said.

Realistically, “the only time people really need to take a preworkout is if their nutrition is non-ideal and they need help to get some energy,” Moon said. For example, that may include a wrestler who’s trying to fit into a lower weight class but still needs to work out, or someone on a low-carb diet who’s still trying to bulk up, he said.

Proprietary blends

Either way, there’s little evidence that the “proprietary blends” of ingredients that are found in preworkout supplements — which can be a grab bag of up to 10 ingredients — help boost athletic training any more than the individual ingredients alone. A randomized, controlled study published in 2014 in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine found that athletes who took a supplement called SizeOn Maximum Performance performed no better than athletes taking a combination of protein, carbohydrates and creatine.

But by positioning their products’ unique recipes as a trade secret, supplement makers circumvent the need to label each product with the dose of each individual ingredient, meaning a given supplement may have too little creatine, for instance, to have an effect, Thanedar said.

Dangerous additions

The biggest potential risk associated with preworkout supplements is the inclusion of dangerous substances, according to both Thanedar and Moon. For instance, the Food and Drug Administration recently filed criminal charges against USPLabs, the makers of the preworkout supplements Jack3d and OxyElite Pro, which have been linked to acute liver damage and multiple deaths.

The FDA found that the supplements contained a dangerous amphetamine precursor called 1,3-dimethylamylamine, or DMAA, which is not on the FDA’s list of approved supplement ingredients.

LabDoor’s testing revealed that the newer formulations of these supplements do not contain the illegal DMAA. However, another supplement, a drink called Train Critical FX, contained a similar amphetamine precursor, called BMPEA (beta-methylphenethylamine), the testing showed. BMPEA is a doping agent that can bring heart risks, and is also not on the FDA’s list of approved supplement ingredients.

“This ingredient, as well as other stimulants, really have no business being in the dietary supplement marketplace,” said Andrea Wong, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs at the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a trade organization for the supplement industry.

Ultimately, while most preworkout supplements are probably not dangerous, there’s little scientific backing for some of their more overblown claims.

“In the supplement industry, it’s about marketing; it’s not about what’s in the product,” Moon said. “Supplements don’t really do that much unless you’re already doing a lot on your own.”

Follow Tia Ghose on Twitter and Google+. Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Curious what all those beverages are that fill the fridges as you walk into the club? Aside from the water that you can win for checking in five times a month, some of them might be confusing to the untrained eye. Don’t worry, we’ve got your back. We spoke with Personal Trainer and supplement expert Lonnie P. from In-Shape Lodi for all the deets.

The health supplement business is booming and bigger than ever – and at 36 billion dollars a year there must be something to it. In simple terms, supplements are something you can use to enhance your performance or aid in your health and/or workout. But beware, health supplements by themselves are not going to suddenly make you healthy if you aren’t eating right and moving enough. Think about supplements like a new paint job on a house with a terrible foundation. The paint isn’t going to make the house livable if the foundation is weak. Supplements are the same – build up your foundation first with a healthy diet and exercise, then think about supplementation (with approval from your doc of course!)

A lot of the supplements available at In-Shape are either for pre-workout or post-workout, so let’s dive into those a bit more.

Pre-workout is a supplement designed to give you a boost of energy to increase athletic performance. Though formulas can differ a lot, most do this with a blend of caffeine, creatine, BCAA’s, and Beta-Alanine. Caffeine is a stimulant and can enhance cognitive function and physical performance. Creatine is naturally created as you digest protein. It’s a source of energy and helps build and maintain muscle. BCAA’s are branch chain amino acids that your body uses to maintain, or in some instances gain, muscle mass while burning fat. When you’re watching your calorie intake, your body can use BCAAs as an energy source instead of breaking down muscle for energy.

Lonnie says, “Pre-workout is something you take before exercise and is usually used to help prevent muscle glycogen depletion.”

The “best” time to take a pre-workout supplement can vary on several factors but generally speaking 30 minutes before your workout seems to be the accepted sweet spot. This allows your body time to digest the ingredients and begin using them in time to optimize the benefits.

“Like any kind of supplement, pre-workout is like an assisted boost to help get you through a workout, maybe for days you’re feeling sluggish after a long day of work and need that extra pick me up,” Lonnie explains. “I personally take pre-workouts with caffeine like C4 Ripped or Ultimate to help wake me up for my two a day work outs!”

Pre and post-workout supplements have different benefits. While pre-workouts are an energy boost and help with endurance to make your workouts last longer, many post-workouts aid in muscular recovery and muscle building.

Some post-workout supplements include glutamine, BCAAs, and casein protein. They help muscles recover and can increase muscle synthesis. “Glutamine is one I’m particularly enjoying after going through my callisthenic routines. My muscles don’t ache as much the following day,” Lonnie says!

“As some people may know, muscles have to be broken down to rebuild and grow, so I take post-workout to help them do just that. So, for me, post-workout supplements help the recovery process, so I can continue to train despite the physical effects of the body repairing itself,” Lonnie shared.

Regarding his supplementing practices, Lonnie said, “Depending on the supplement, there are different times to take certain post workouts. Glutamine can be taken after a workout or before you go to bed. BCAAs, or branch chain amino acids, can be taken during or after a workout. It’s recommended to keep it to no more than 4 scoops a day which is why I personally take two scoops, one during a workout and one after. I also take a casein protein right before I go to bed because it takes eight hours to digest.”

Looking to add mass? Post-workout supplements with whey protein are the whey to go. Since whey protein digests much faster (about 30 minutes on average) it doesn’t cause bloating and doesn’t keep you as full for as long.

So, which supplement (if any) is right for you? That totally depends on your fitness goals and exercise program. Do your homework, speak to a Trainer and be sure to consult your doctor before you ease into supplementation!

About 30 minutes before beginning one of his regular strength training workouts, Nick Dio takes a Go Pill. A pre-workout supplement packing ingredients that most people would need a pocket M.D. and a medical pronunciation guide to explain—pyruvic and succinic acid, creatine magnapower, and something called “cognizin,” among many others—he swears that he perceives a noticeable difference once it’s in his system. He likens the sensation to tossing back a triple shot of espresso, or maybe to what Bradley Cooper’s character felt in Limitless. Either way, Dio says, it helps set the tone. “I started taking pre-workout during my freshman year of high school,” he explains. “Once I take it, I know I’m going to focus my energy on the workout and nothing else.”

Dio isn’t the only one reaching for a boost before hitting the weights, as the market for pre-workout pills and powders that promise to boost performance has exploded in recent years. But could something that makes prominent use of, say, deer antler velvet—yes, deer antler velvet—really be what takes your brawniest efforts to the next level? And are these dubiously-flavored products worth their $30+ price tag? Here’s everything you need to know about the world of pre-workout supplements.

1. Most of them include the same four ingredients

Brands throw lots of things in their supplements, but most of them are formulated using one or more of the following: caffeine, amino acids, carbohydrates, and beetroot juice. Other exotic-sounding additions to the ingredients list typically turn out to be a derivative of one of those four things.

Caffeine

Good news, coffee heads: Research backs caffeine’s ability to boost energy levels, alertness, and arousal, and this remains true even if you are a heavy caffeine user outside the gym, according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

Amino acids and nitric oxide

Our bodies can’t produce “essential” branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), including leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which must be obtained via diet. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and help to increase energy levels. One 2016 study showcased their ability to dramatically enhance endurance performance over two consecutive days in college runners.

As for nitric oxide, you’ll typically see this displayed on labels as arginine, another amino acid. Essentially, nitric oxide is a gas that your body produces to help cells communicate better with one another. As a supplement, it is touted for its ability to dilate blood vessels, which increases protein synthesis. While research on its efficacy is mixed, one 2010 study found that male cyclists older than 50 who used a powdered arginine supplement exhibited a 16.7 percent increase in their anaerobic threshold—the point at which lactic acid starts to accumulate in the muscles—after three weeks. Men given a placebo didn’t see any increase.

Carbohydrates

Ah, who doesn’t love an excuse to down some of that thing that we all try to stay away from otherwise? Carbohydrates in pre-workout supplements help to fuel muscles with glycogen, which your body uses as an energy source while lifting.

Beetroot juice

Seriously. Whether it’s a component of your supplement or you’re sipping it straight, this nitrate-rich food has been proven to dilate blood vessels and increase blood plasma nitric oxide levels. One 2015 study found that men who drank the juice over a 15-day period were able to work out longer, and experienced greater muscle growth as a result.

Even though these four ingredients have had at least some proven success in the past, every athlete—or every guy who just wants to hit the bench press every now and then—will react to them differently. “Everyone’s body is unique,” says Dennis Cardone, DO, chief of primary care sports medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center. “Even caffeine, which is common in most pre-workout supplements, can cause an athlete to feel jittery, nervous, or nauseated, and can exacerbate underlying heart conditions.” Try different formulations and see which one makes you feel best without also making you feel worse, if that makes sense.

2. They’re not regulated by the FDA…

Like others supplement, pre-workout is not regulated for safety by the FDA, which means that these products can be sold until there is a reason for the FDA to pull them from stores. Translation: Too many guys experience wonkiness, and complaints are rampant.

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