Whether it is in the gym, at our jobs or in our sport— we all want to perform better. Most of us could benefit greatly from a boost in strength, energy and focus. Better still is when these effects don’t come with jitters or an unexpected energy dump. Pre-workout supplements can lead to gains in strength, endurance and overall conditioning. They can also be as diverse and as complicated as the people who use them.
HOW PRE-WORKOUTS WORK
We broke down the basics of what pre-workout supplements are designed to do and why.
- By stimulating the release of adrenaline and inhibiting adenosine receptors, pre-workouts can lead to improved energy and endurance.
- Pre-workout supplements can boost circulation and blood flow, leading to better muscle pumps.
- A quality pre-workout can help to increase strength by increasing production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is essentially fuel for your muscles.
KEY PRE-WORKOUT INGREDIENTS AND WHAT THEY DO
In order to understand what to expect from your pre-workout supplement, you must understand its ingredients and how they may affect your body and your performance.
The most common pre-workout ingredient is caffeine. Most people have an idea of how caffeine affects their energy levels thanks to their familiarity with beverages like coffee. However, it can be more difficult to predict the effects of other, less familiar ingredients, especially when combined.
Here is a list of common pre-workout ingredients, the intended effects and the results they target.
- Caffeine (caffeine anhydrous): Caffeine Anhydrous is a form of caffeine considered to be purer and more effective than ordinary forms of caffeine. It provides a sustained energy boost that leads to increased focus and alertness. It can also provide increased fat oxidation, which can improve muscle gains. Since a cup of coffee has about 100 mg of caffeine, this can serve as a good measure when considering dosages of caffeine in your pre-workout.
- CDP-Choline: Stimulates mental energy and increases neurotransmitter levels
- Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA): This neurotransmitter helps keep you alert and focused.
- L-Carnitine Tartrate: Helps your body convert fat into energy, which can boost athletic performance. According to recent studies, carnitine may play an important role in recovery from exercise.
- Amino acids: Taurine, Glycine, and Aspartic acid work to promote stamina.
- Inosine (a nucleoside found in DNA): Helps to relieve tiredness and improve athletic performance.
- Niacin (B3): A catalyst for converting food into fuel. Niacin can help to speed metabolism, which can help you burn calories and increase energy. Be aware that Niacin dilates the blood vessels and can result in a blushing of the skin or a “flush” that can be accompanied by a warm sensation.
- Beta-Alanine: A building block of carnosine that can help improve performance and lead to gains in lean mass.
- L-Arginine: An important amino acid and a building block of nitric oxide, arginine helps maintain normal blood vessel function and plays an important role in producing creatine.
- Alpha Ketoglutarate: A source of glutamine that promotes protein synthesis and protects against the degradation of protein in muscle tissue.
- Yohimbe: Well-known for its alpha-2 antagonist, central nervous system (CNS) properties and potential ability to promote fat loss.
- Cocoa Seed Extract: Beneficial for digestive enzymes and may play an important role in healthy weight management.
- Citrulline malate: Used as a sports performance and cardiovascular health supplement, citrulline can help to improve endurance, reduce fatigue, boost performance and provide relief for sore muscles.
- Beetroot Juice: Antioxidant-rich beets contain naturally-occurring nitrates that increase nitric oxide production. This may improve endurance and efficiency for better performance in the gym.
- Betaine: Supplementation with betaine can improve muscle performance, endurance and body composition.
- N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine: A potent antioxidant that may improve exercise performance.
THE ENERGY YOU NEED FOR THE GOALS YOU CHOOSE
If fatigue is one of the main things keeping you from your goals, a good pre-workout supplement can help you win the fight for energy.
Pre-workouts are really designed to deliver one major component— energy. The longer you can fight off fatigue, the more you can push yourself and reap the maximum benefits of your efforts. Most pre-workouts, if not all, contain stimulants— so consult your doctor before use you have a heart condition or are sensitive to stimulants. It’s always wise to start with a small dose to gauge your sensitivity.
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