What Makes A Great Pre-Workout
Can you remember the last time you had a really good workout? Did you eat a really well the day before – or were you supplementing with a complete pre-workout?
You know, there really is something to be said for a great pre-workout that helps you push your physical boundaries during a training session – while at the same time, does not cause a massive crash hours later.
Pre-workout are the bread and butter of having a great training session, but have you ever asked yourself what makes a great one?
To a certain extent, there could be some variance for what ingredients work better for others – but on a fundamental level, a great pre-workout will boil down to five important ingredients.
These important qualities will not only help you to push harder during training sessions – but they could also help you to recover faster and ultimately crush your goals.
Before we break down what makes a great pre-workout there are some important factor you should keep in mind:
They Are Not Magic Powders
Trust me, there is no substitute for a complete workout plan and a balanced diet. Don’t get me wrong, pre-workouts are great for boosting your ability to train hard during a workout, but they are not some magic powder that will help you lift heavier or effectively increase your strength.
Instead, pre-workouts are simply powders that contain ingredients that can help to allow you to train more effectively during your training session – but you still need to push yourself.
They Are Not Illegal
Many people have this somewhat crazy idea that by taking a pre-workout they are cheating. Truthfully, this is not the case at all. In fact, most pre-workout contain all-natural ingredients that enable your body to utilize the fuel from your diet.
Many Have Clinical Research
One of the most important things to keep in mind is that using a pre-workout isn’t really a roll of the die. Many of the main pre-workout ingredients have clinical backing and have been tried and tested over decades of science. In this review, we are only going to be talking about ingredients that show major clinical backing so that you can be sure the supplement you choose will help you perform.
Here are the best ingredients all great pre-workouts should have in common and what you should look for:
The king of all supplements will always be creatine – especially if you are a power athlete. You see, creatine works to naturally increase your bodies ability to resynthesize phosphates for energy during exercise.
In general, the more creatine you have in your diet the longer you can exercise and the faster you can recover following a workout.
Decades of clinical research has shown that creatine is not only one of the best supplements to take on its own for performance enhancement, but it can also easily be stacked with other products like protein, carbohydrates and even specific amino acids for best results.
A great pre-workout will contain around 3-5g of creatine per serving, although many supplements have moved to creatine HCL which is a concentrated dose and shouldn’t require more than 750mg to have a positive effect.
You’re going to find some varying opinions on the type of citrulline you should be using in your pre-workout. While many people will see citrulline malate as the best, other people will say Citrulline tartrate is the best.
Either way, this amino acid which is being sourced from watermelon seeds can drastically help to limit fatigue in the muscle. This means as you train you won’t start to feel tired as quickly as someone without a large amount of citrulline in the body.
When it comes to citrulline dosage you will probably see the benefits around 4-5g per person, but many clinical studies have been conducted on a dosage of 6g or more. There have not been any recorded side effects of a high citrulline intake so you will probably be fine with a high dose.
This is perhaps one of the most unique ingredients that you can find in a complete pre-workout. Alanine is an amino acid that is regularly found in many protein-rich foods, yet when consumed in a higher dose before a workout can help to drastically reduce the onset of lactic acid build up.
Think of a time when you were working out and your body started to get tired – perhaps to the point where you felt your muscles losing strength and power.
In some cases, this is a direct result of the accumulation of lactic acid in the muscle. Supplementing with beta Alanine can help in a very unique way to delay this effect – but buffering this production. This means that you can train longer, and harder (especially when paired with creatine) while using beta Alanine before a workout.
Alanine dosage will really depend on your personal drive to push yourself in a workout. Since alanine works to buffer lactic acid some people have said that this can make them feel itchy – but this is not a harmful side effect. If you are looking for a performance enhancement with beta alanine using a dosage of to 3-4g is perfect.
One of the most common ingredients into any great pre-workout as this amino acid will help to vasodilate the veins – allowing for greater blood flow. This better rate of blood flow has the obvious neither of increasing the amount of oxygen and other nutrients within the blood to working the muscle.
The better the blood flow, the better your recovery and potential for strength during a workout. L-arginine and beta-alanine go very well together as stackable pre-workout ingredients.
Dosage for l-arginine is best utilized around and 2-4g/serving. Depending on what you are stacking this ingredient with and what you plan to do during your training, more can be taken.
Ever wonder why a gym smells like sweat and coffee? Many people see the value in using a caffeine based supplement like coffee or tea because caffeine has been shown – aside from the obvious stimulant experience, to boost gross motor strength.
This is a fancy way of saying it helps you lift heavier objects – which is perfect for your workout and training session.
Caffeine consumption is the only ingredient on the list where you might want to be watchful of your dosage. As many people will know, caffeine is a stimulant based drug that can cause a dependency. Keeping your dosage to 250-300mg per day should be fine to assure you have some performance increase but you are not limiting yourself and becoming dependant on caffeine for your workouts.
How To Take Pre-Workout
It really is as simple as shaking up your favourite ingredients and pushing yourself during a training session – but there are some unique tricks you can take to ensure you are stacking your ingredients or supplement well for a tough training session.
Take With Juice
The first method is to supplement with juice – as when you take a pre-workout the contains a good source of glucose and moderate fructose this can help to ensure you have glycogen to draw on for a workout and have a rapid source of energy.
Start off Easy
Most pre-workouts will show a serving size – don’t be silly and take care 2-3 scoops on the first workout. Take your time and assess your tolerance. Ensuring that your body can handle the ingredients and they help to increase your strength potential is very important in your success.
Remember – It’s Not A Secret Powder
Too many of us get caught up in the idea of a supplement doing all the work for us and forget that the reason you take a pre-workout is to help you boost strength and recovery.
Simply taking the pre-workout will not help you to grow stronger – instead, it contains ingredients that are well known to help you work harder and limit fatigue.
Finding the perfect pre-workout for you will take time as everyone body will respond differently to various ingredients. If you are looking for a great pre-workout to get you started I would suggest 4Gauge or a supplement stack with Black Wolf.
Both contain pre-workouts that are potent and contain many of the ingredients we listed above. They are good starting points to get into the pre-workout game.
Train hard, supplement well and track your results. Enjoy the gains.
Gabriello is a writer and strength expert best known for his science-based and practical approach to Exercise Physiology, Nutrition and Strength. After serving in a directors position for The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology Gabriello moved towards writing to help more people understand the importance of living a healthy life. Gabriello’s writings have been published in several languages on some of the largest health and fitness websites helping people learn, grow and understand the complex components of optimizing human performance in a simplistic way.
Gabriello also takes on specialized, high-performance athletes who are in need of strength, mobility and conditioning programming to optimize their fitness through his Earned Fitness program.
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