Imagine it’s 6am on a cold winter morning, its pitch black outside as you roll out of bed.
Now imagine its 6pm after a 10-hour shift at work and you’re drained from the long day.
Getting to the gym (and actually having a productive workout) can be hard when you’re feeling tired or drained, which is why many people turn to a pre-workout supplement.
There’s no question that these supplements can get you fired up and ready to crush your workout.
But you probably still have a few questions like…
- Do you need to use pre-workout to get results?
- Why are there so many products and are they all the same?
- And what’s in this supplement anyway?
These are all really great questions, so today I’m going to make sure we answer each and every one based on scientific evidence.
Let me start by clarifying that you do not need to use a pre-workout supplement to get results.
This is one of those products that you can choose to use or you can choose to skip depending on your preferences and lifestyle.
In fact, if you’re eating the right foods and getting enough sleep, then you probably won’t even need a pre-workout drink to have a good gym session.
Now, if my sister were writing this post, then she’d probably have a different opinion.
She’d say that after sitting at an office desk all day staring at a computer, the last thing you have is the energy and enthusiasm to crush a workout.
I get it… sometimes after a long day at work or first thing in the morning – you need a little boost.
Pre-workout can help you feel focused and energized.
It can get you in the zone and make training all that more enjoyable.
If you are going to use a pre-workout, then its important to realize that there are hundreds of products out there and they are NOT all created equal.
In fact, it can be tough to find a pre-workout supplement that’s made with proven ingredients at high enough amounts to be effective.
A lot of companies use things like “proprietary blends” or methods, such as “pixie dusting”, to make their products seem really good… when they’re mostly just a blend of low-quality ingredients and unnecessary additives that do nothing to improve your energy or focus.
Let’s talk about both of the things I just mentioned, the first being a trick called pixie dusting.
Pixie dusting is exactly what it sounds like… it’s the process of sprinkling small amounts of ingredients, just like a fairy would, so that you can technically add them to your label.
Since you see an effective ingredient on the label, you assume it’s a high quality product. However, in reality, there’s such a small amount of that ingredient in the product that it doesn’t do much of anything.
Along the same lines are things called “Proprietary Blends“.
At first, proprietary blends sounds intriguing. Maybe you saw this on a label and thought, “Man this company must have some awesome secret formula that makes their product so much better they didn’t want to share.”
But that is NOT the case.
Instead companies who use proprietary blends are probably trying to hide the amount of the specific ingredients used since it’s not that much in the first place.
All this leads up to our first big takeaway when it comes to pre-workout supplements…
And that is, it’s equally important to know what ingredients are in a product, as well as in what amounts.
You see it’s not just having an ingredient that’s important, you need to take it one step further and actually look to see how much of that ingredient is used.
When ingredients like caffeine or beta alanine are studied, they are studied at specific amounts, so if you’re using a pre-workout with less than what’s studied, then there’s no guarantee it’ll work.
To put it into one simple sentence…
“A product with good ingredients, but at too low of a dose, is no longer a good product.”
When you go to choose a pre-workout supplement, you’ll want to look for both proven ingredients and adequate amounts of those ingredients, which is why I choose Megawatt V2 PreWorkout.
With that, let’s start talking about some proven pre-workout ingredients.
First up is caffeine.
Caffeine is found in almost every pre-workout because it has repeatedly shown to boost performance, as well as increase endurance and decrease feelings of fatigue.
It’s also found in things like coffee, so if all you’re looking for is a stimulant boost, then either pre-workout or a cup-of-Joe is an appropriate option.
When it comes to the amount or dose of caffeine, most studies look at a range of 3 to 6 mg caffeine per kg (remember that’s kg not lb) of body weight.
Next up, we have creatine… and when you see this on a label you’ll probably see it listed as creatine monohydrate. In addition to being an ingredient in pre-workout supplements, it can also be purchased as a pure product.
Creatine is one of the most researched and commonly used supplements in the world.
It’s a substance that’s naturally occurring in your body and is also found in food such as meats, eggs, and dairy.
In order to describe the benefits of creatine, we’ll need to have a quick science lesson.
We learned earlier that the human body uses simple carbohydrates in the form of glucose for energy.
Well, when the body breaks down glucose into an even more basic unit of energy, we get a chemical called “ATP”, which stands for adenosine tri-phosphate.
During strength training, our body quickly runs out of ATP and needs additional phosphates to make more of this energy source.
Creatine, which contains phosphates, helps restore ATP or energy levels, thereby making it a popular pre-workout supplement.
According to the International Society of Sport Nutrition, creatine monohydrate is currently the most effective supplement for increasing training capacity and lean body mass.
In most studies, individuals start by taking high doses of creatine, usually 3–5 grams per day in order to achieve the greatest benefit.
Another popular ingredient to look for is beta alanine.
Beta alanine is a non-essential amino acid that’s naturally found in the body, as well as common foods like meat and eggs.
When used as a supplement, beta alanine in doses of about 4-6 grams per day works to increase the time before you feel fatigued.
Simply put, when you workout, the pH or acidity of your blood decreases, which isn’t good for optimal performance.
Beta alanine acts as a buffer that slows down the time it takes for your pH to drop so you can get in a better, longer workout.
As a side note, if you’ve ever gotten the tingles after drinking pre-workout, then it was probably because of beta alanine. This is totally normal and nothing to be concerned about, in fact it’s purposefully used to create the infamous “gym pump” we all know and love.
You may also see ingredients like agmatine or tyrosine, both of which may be beneficial, however additional research is still needed.
As always, no conversation would be complete without talking about safety.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to make a blank statement that these products are or aren’t safe because each one contains a different mixture of ingredients in different amounts.
There aren’t tons of studies out there, but one publication looked at the safety of a caffeine, beta-alanine, and nitrate pre-workout supplement in active, healthy females who drank either 1 or 2 servings for 28 days straight. The study found no abnormal changes in resting vital signs (like heart rate and blood pressure) among healthy adult females.
Another study that looked at the effects of pre-workout supplements on muscle performance showed no overall effect on vital signs, such as blood pressure and heart rate, as well as no statistically significant change in things like cholesterol levels.
The one thing to keep in mind is that these products are approved at a specific dose, so you shouldn’t take more than the recommended amounts to avoid uncomfortable side effects.
You’ll also want to avoid using these pre-workout supplements every day to prevent your body from getting used to their effects.
I usually recommend saving Megawatt V2 Preworkout for tough training days, early mornings, or when you’re aiming for a personal best at the gym.
To sum it all up, when it comes to pre-workout supplements look for ingredients, such as caffeine, creatine and beta alanine, since these have been shown to benefit performance.
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