When you are hitting the gym, you want to be able to give it 100%, but sometimes it’s hard to get motivated. Whether you are sneaking in a workout before work or trying to knock it out in the evening, chances are you’ve had days where you didn’t have the energy to push yourself.
Enter pre-workout supplements. If you’ve never used one before it can be a little daunting. Of course, the performance-enhancing benefits are enticing but are they safe? Is it worth the benefits or will it cost us our health in the process? The answer comes down to the specific workout supplement and its ingredients.
How Pre-Workouts can Benefit Your Workouts
A pre-workout supplement is typically made up of a variety of performance-enhancing ingredients aimed at getting more out of your workout. Although the exact benefits will vary by brand, some of the most common benefits of taking a pre-workout include improved energy, focus, athletic performance, and recovery.
Taking a pre-workout shortly before hitting the gym is believed to help you to get the most out of your exercise routine and allow you to make gains faster. With more energy, you can push yourself farther during your workout. With faster recovery, you can get back into the gym more often.
What are Some Common Ingredients in Pre-Workout Supplements?
The most common pre-workout ingredients include caffeine, creatine, and amino acids, such as beta-alanine, and branched-chain amino acids (BCAA). Below are some of the benefits associated with each ingredient. You may see one or a combination of these ingredients in a supplement depending on the product.
Caffeine is used to help boost energy and focus. Research has also found caffeine to help improve exercise performance and aid in fat loss. Some supplements contain high amounts of caffeine which can cause side effects in those who are sensitive to it.
Creatine is a compound our body produces already on its own. It is sold as an ingredient in pre-workout supplements but can also be commonly found as a supplement on its own. Creatine supplementation is associated with improved recovery, strength, and exercise performance.
Beta-alanine is a common amino acid added to pre-workout supplements to prevent acid buildup in the muscle tissue. This allows you to work your muscles harder for a longer period before getting fatigued. Some people experience a tingling sensation when taking supplements with beta-alanine. This side effect is harmless but can be unpleasant for some.
BCAAs are a group of amino acids that have been studied for their effects on muscle tissue. Studies have shown taking BCAAs before a workout can help to boost muscle growth while inhibiting muscle soreness. These amino acids are already present in many food sources and don’t necessarily need to be taken in supplement form.
Are Pre-Workout Supplements Safe?
Whether or not you experience side effects will depend on the ingredients in the pre-workout supplement you choose. Supplements that contain high levels of caffeine can cause jitteriness, elevated heart rate, and upset stomach. If you are sensitive to caffeine, you might consider choosing a stimulant-free pre-workout or opting for a lower dose.
Pre-workout supplements that contain creatine could also cause an upset stomach and mild water retention. Products with beta-alanine may cause a tingling sensation that can be uncomfortable for some.
Always speak with your physician before taking a pre-workout supplement, especially if you have any underlying medical conditions or are taking any medications that could interact with certain ingredients.
What to Look for in a Pre-Workout?
When choosing a pre-workout, it’s usually best to avoid those that have excessive caffeine, especially if you choose to get your workout in at night as this could impact your sleep. Avoid pre-workout supplements that contain high amounts of added sugars and sugar alcohols. Added sugars can add flavor to a supplement but it will tack on many calories. Additionally, products that contain high amounts of sugar alcohols as an alternative could cause digestive upset which can hinder your workout.
Instead, look for a supplement that contains functional ingredients for a clean boost of energy, such as Naked Nutrition’s stim free pre-workout.
This supplement is free of stimulants, caffeine, additives, and artificial sweeteners and is third-party tested for your peace of mind. It’s best to look for supplements that are third-party tested by companies such as NSF or U.S. Pharmacopeia, to ensure the safety and purity of the product.
There is a lot of conflicting information going around regarding pre-workout supplements, many people wonder “Are they good for you? The answer depends on the ingredients. By choosing a pre-workout that contains functional ingredients and nothing more, you are likely to reap the benefits with minimal risk. Always choose supplements that are third-party tested for safety and avoid excessive caffeine, added sugars, and sugar alcohols.