Your head is in your workout. You're putting in the hard work, heading to the gym, spending time on eating a healthy diet, and exploring new training workouts. As you work to build your strength and achieve your goals, you may notice you need more – or better – fuel. That's where pre-workout can come into play. It's one of the most important tools you have for getting the best possible workout in.
Yet, not everyone believes pre-workout is the right step. Should you be using it, or is it not worth your time and investment? Let's take a closer look at what pre-workout has to offer.
What Is Pre-Workout?
Pre-workout is a tool. It helps to provide your body with nutrients and the necessary fuel it needs to get through a workout. As expected, it's taken prior to your workout rather than after.
Numerous products on the market offer pre-workout benefits. What's most important is to understand how these products can help you so you can choose appropriately later.
If you've ever gone into a workout feeling tired or lethargic, it may be because your body is lacking the necessary nutrients it needs to get into the workout mode. It may also leave you lacking the motivation to get into the workout that you need.
There are plenty of things you may hear about pre-workout, including that it may not be necessary for everyone. However, there's definitely evidence that it can be one of the best additions to your training program.
In fact, combining pre-workout with HIIT workouts can lead to a significant increase in VO2 max, lean body mass, and training volume, according to a study published by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. That means that, for some people, the use of pre-workout may help to speed up the results you're looking for, including losing body fat.
What Does Pre-Workout Do?
If all of that sounds good, but you're still not sure what it is going to do for you, look a bit closer at what this product may do.
Pre-workout is designed specifically to provide your body with the fuel it needs to continue a workout. Without the right fuel for your body, it's likely that your workout will be weaker, and you'll have less overall energy. You may also get tired sooner during your workout. In many ways, pre-workout is a way to work out harder and achieve more because you can work out longer.
There are various formulations for pre-workout. It may be available to you in a meal if you combine the right ingredients, shakes, or pills. The key here is to know what works for your needs.
Most of the time, these products are a mix – you'll drink it around 30 minutes before getting your workout started. That gives your body the time it needs to absorb the nutrients to achieve your goals.
Pre-workout formulations are varied. Most of the time, they contain extra carbs to help to increase the amount of glucose in your body. This helps to raise your blood sugar and gives you the energy you need during a workout.
Keep in mind that pre-workout is more than just carbs. When you use it, you're giving your body more fuel than drinking coffee or eating carb-heavy foods.
What Are the Benefits of Pre-Workout?
The benefits of a pre-workout for most people are fairly simple. It provides you with a boost of energy to help you get more in during your workout. If you can go longer and hit more of your goals while doing so, chances are good you'll reach your desired outcome faster, whether that is to burn body fat or build muscle.
Used properly, pre-workouts are designed to give you just what you need without any side effects. However, to get these results, you need to choose wisely. That means taking a closer look at what's in your pre-workout.
Reading the label is a good first step. It's important to look at the content of every product closely. It's common to see sugar and caffeine included in the ingredient lineup. There may be other stimulants in it to help boost your energy levels as well. You don't want products that have way too much sugar in them, as these can lead to serious health issues.
When choosing a pre-workout, you want to see good ingredients, those that have the ability to give you the best results. Some of the most important and valuable nutrients to notice include:
- Creatine monohydrate – It can help to increase muscle power and performance during your workout
- B vitamins – These are important to the production of energy and efficiency, and they work to promote healthier skin and DNA repair
- Taurine – You may notice this helps to boost your metabolism of fats, and it helps to reduce oxidative stress during your workout
- BCAAs – These nutrients help to improve endurance during your workout and can support proteins synthesis
- NO2-boosters: You'll notice these are called citrulline or arginine, which work to increase blood flow throughout your body and get nutrients to your cells more efficiently
What to Watch Out for When Choosing a Pre-Workout
As noted, there are many reasons to invest in pre-workout, especially if you find yourself burning out halfway through your workout. Yet, it's also important to know what concerns may exist.
As noted, you want to be sure that the pre-workout that you take doesn't have an excessive amount of caffeine in it. A good way to tell this is how it makes you feel.
Some products may cause you to feel jitters, or they may lead to itching. Some people just cannot calm down. Others cannot sleep well throughout the night. These are not necessarily going to cause you harm, but they can be uncomfortable and interrupt your day.
There are some ingredients to be careful about when choosing a pre-workout. For example, you don't want to take in more than 400mg of caffeine each day. If your workout contains much more than that, it could be putting you at risk for some complications (a bit over may not be that bad, but much more, and you could have a number of complications.
Is It Right for You? Know the Pros and Cons
There are a lot of things to consider when taking a pre-workout. Generally speaking, a good quality product is going to enhance your performance and help you achieve more during your workout.
- Pre-workout can improve performance. It may help you to get more out of your workout, especially if you are already pushing the limits of what you can achieve in the gym.
- It may help boost your focus and concentration. All of that caffeine can help you to get a boost in cognition.
- Increased reps: There's some evidence that pre-workout may help you to get your numbers up – which may mean more reps for your goals.
- It may help you stretch the length of your workout. There's some evidence that shows that the use of pre-workout can also give you more time to work out before you reach your limit.
- Overstimulation could be a concern. For some people, the interruption of sleep is a big concern, as is the feeling of jitters.
- You may build up a tolerance. Over time, your body may become more tolerant to the pre-workout. That means it may stop working for you long term. To avoid this, you may want to use it only when you are planning to go hard for a session instead of using it at every session.
- Some evidence of complications is out there. There's some evidence that the use of energy drinks (like pre-workout) can cause mental health problems, tax your kidneys, and lead to diabetes.
- It may upset your stomach. Some people develop digestive problems due to the other ingredients in pre-workout, including magnesium, creatine, and sodium bicarbonate that's often in them.
What Else You Should Know
Here are some commonly asked questions about pre-workout that you need to keep in mind.
Should I use pre-workout every day?
No. In most cases, it's best to use it when you plan to hit the gym hard. If you're not planning to push hard, skip that day so that you limit the risk of tolerance buildup.
When should I take a pre-workout?
It's often best to give your body at least 30 minutes to an hour to digest the pre-workout before you hit the weights or start your workout. However, if you plan to have a longer session, you could drink it up to an hour into your session, and you'll still see the results you need.
Is pre-workout dangerous?
Buying a high-quality product without a lot of excess caffeine in it is the best possible outcome for most people. Learn as much as you can about the products you're taking before you invest in them to ensure you're buying the very best for your body and health as well as your workout.