What Are Pre Workout Supplements?
If you’ve been to a supplement store, spoke to another gym-goer or been on any bodybuilding related website in the last 5 years I’ve sure you’ve seen and heard a lot about these ‘pre-workout supplements’.
Pre-workout supplements are at the top of the totum pole along with whey protein when it comes to interest generated and product sales for any of the major supplement manufacturers…
When we’re buying protein, be it whey protein concentrate or whey protein isolate we generally know what we’re getting. Outside of the flavouring and the slight difference in macronutrient profiles (some have a couple grams of carbs, other have none… same for fat content) there’s not a lot to it.
Pre-workout supplements on the other hand are a whole different beast…
With audacious claims of tripling your bench press, inducing skin tearing pumps, laser-like focus and roadmap vascularity strewn across the label of the pre-workout supplements’ container how do we seperate fact from fiction?
In simple terms a pre-workout supplement is designed to give you a boost in energy, motivation, focus and help you grind out that extra rep or two on your heavy sets.
Pre-Workout Supplement Benefits (The ACTUAL Benefits)
I still remember my first pre-workout supplement, back in 2010 I bought my first tub of the original Jack3d from my local supplement store for 80 bucks… after smashing down 1 scoop of the bitter lemon lime flavoured concoction I sped to the gym and 20 minutes later one of the best workouts of my life ensued… I was new to lifting at the time but the benefits from that pre-workout powder had me lifting heavier weights than I ever had before, once I had finished my planned workout I insisted on throwing in some extra exercises as I didn’t want to leave, I felt unstoppable.
Endless amounts of energy
The ability to push out those extra few reps.
This feeling of activating a ‘god-mode’ is the reason why many gym-goers become dependant on pre-workout supplements, they can’t keep up the intensity and push the weight they normally would unless they’ve chugged down their pre-workout powder before stepping foot in the gym.
It’s all in their mind.
Pre-workout supplements give you a slight edge, without a doubt but being unable to train without taking a pre-workout is the sign of a weak mind. Focus, intensity, the ability to grind out those last rep as your body tells you ‘No!’ are the result of indomitable will and a strong mindset – not the temporary effects of some mass produced powder.
Provided you pick up a good quality pre-workout supplement (more on that shortly) focus and energy are the two big benefits you’ll gain from taking a pre-workout supplement before you hit the weights – when you’d normally want to drag your tired body out of the gym and into the car to get home you’ll instead opt to do that extra set, to add that extra exercise to your regime.
You won’t want to stop.
What’s In ‘Em?
With many, many brands out there all marketing and preaching their pre-workout supplements how do you know which one to choose?!
When we strip away all the labelling, marketing, branding and flashy colors though it doesn’t take long to notice that all pre-workout supplements are almost the same.
Dosages may be slightly higher or lower depending on the specific supplement, but all of the same active ingredients are there. There’s only so many (legal) stimulants that increase performance and focus during exercise, there’s only so many supplements to assist blood flow and water retention…
All of these big supplement companies are working with the same set of ingredients.
Who are they?
The Essential Pre Workout Supplement Ingredients
200 – 500mg
Caffeine is a stimulant that increases muscle endurance & improves mental focus.
2 – 5g
Beta Alanine is a naturally occurring amino acid that reduces fatigue and induces a ‘tinging’ feeling.
2 – 5g
Creatine Monohydrate is one of the most well researched and documented supplements on the planet, creatine is an amino acid that can assist us in increasing lean muscle mass and gaining strength.
4 – 8g
Citrulline is an amino acid used to stimulate the production of Nitric Oxide which increases blood flow to the muscles resulting in that full, pumped feeling when lifting. Citrulline also has been proven to relieve muscular soreness and increase endurance.
The Science Behind Pre-Workout Supplements
The majority of over the counter pre-workout supplements will have a barrage of additional ingredients listed on the tub, the vast majority of which are ‘filler’ ingredients – supplements that have not been proven effective (or have little to no credible studies backing them) often in insignificant dosages…
If your pre-workout supplement only contained caffeine and creatine and you paid $60 for it you’d feel ripped off, when you’ve got a shopping list full of (ineffective) ingredients on the tub however unless you’re familiar with what they are you’ll be left impressed at the deal you got.
Here’s what the studies have to say about the proven ingredients in pre-workout supplements…
Increases muscle endurance:
Reduces exercise induced fatigue
5 grams appears to be the sweet spot for Beta Alanine supplementation
Strength and size gains as a result of creatine supplementation
Increases Nitric Oxide production
What’s The Best Over The Counter Pre-Workout Supplement?
No proprietary blends (all ingredients and dosages divulged)
“While everyone claims to have the best pre-workout supplement on the market, we can actually back up such claim with real science, and real numbers.”
First, every ingredient in PULSE has been proven effective in well-designed, well-executed peer-reviewed research conducted with healthy adults. Furthermore, each ingredient is included at the clinically effective dosages used in the studies, which means you can actually expect to receive the benefits demonstrated.
Second, PULSE doesn’t rely on a concoction of cheap and potentially dangerous stimulants to improve performance, like many other pre-workout supplements on the market. In fact, the only stimulant is caffeine and it’s combined with theanine, which means a smooth energy curve with no jitters or crash.”
No nasty artificial colours or sweeteners
“PULSE is naturally sweetened. Artificial sweeteners may not be as dangerous as some people claim, studies suggest that regular consumption of artificial sweeteners may indeed be harmful to our health, and that more research is needed.”
Clinically affective dosages of all ingredients (Yes, science with studies to back up the dosages, not an individuals’ broscience)
“We have a simple standard that we live by: every active ingredient used in LEGION products must be backed by published scientific literature and must be integrated at clinically effective dosages”
No overhyped marketing campaigns or false promises
The Legion Pulse pre-workout formula is as follows:
- Caffeine Anhydrous – 350mg
- L-Theanine – 350mg
- L-Citrulline, DL-malate – 8g
- Beta Alanine – 4.8g
- Betaine Anhydrous – 2.5g
- L-Ornithine HCL – 2.2g
This is per serve (2 scoops). Most supplement companies will do the dodgy on the servings per container label and state that a pre-workout supplement has 30 servings per container, little does it mention that this is at a half dosage – e.g. by consuming the recommend amount of 2 scoops you’re instantly brought down to 15 actual servings per workout.
Pulse by Legion Athletics clearly states that at the full serving size in order to get those scientifically backed doses of ingredients you’ll get 21 serves per tub.
On A Budget? Here’s 2 Methods To Make Your Own Pre-Workout Supplement
Hyphy Mud (A Ghetto Prison Pre-Workout Drink)
Hyphy Mud is a homemade pre workout supplement I’ve heard many gym-goers raging on about both online and at the gym for almost a year now. ‘Kali Muscle’ an actor and bodybuilder on YouTube created this prison style pre workout supplement called Hyphy Mud (short for hyperactive – makes u dangerous).
Chances are you’ve got the ingredients in your house right now to make Hyphy Mud for your pre workout drink.
Hyphy Mud Ingredients:
- 1 cup (don’t use your shaker for this)
- 1 mixing spoon
- 1 – 2 heaped teaspoons of instant coffee
- 200mls of dark soda (Pepsi or Coca Cola will do the trick)
How To Make Hyphy Mud:
Place 1 or 2 heaped teaspoons of instant coffee of your choice in the bottom of your cup or glass (amount of coffee dependent on your level of stimulant tolerance).
Top up your glass or cup with dark soda, I find 200ml to be the sweet spot.
Stir your instant coffee and dark soda together.
Drink as quickly as possible, chances are you’re not going to enjoy the taste!
Continue your pre-workout ritual.
Traditional DIY Pre-Workout Drink
Save money, get better results and increase your knowledge on supplementation by making your own pre workout supplement at home, it’s extremely easy… allow me to share with you how I’ve been making my own pre workout supplements that have assisted me in overcoming strength plateaus.
Simply purchase the essential ingredients listed below, add in the optional ingredients if you wish (like I said, these are nice but not necessary) and mix them together in water. Consume 20 – 30 minutes before your workout.
Caffeine 200 – 350mg
Beta Alanine – 5g
Creatine – 5g
Citrulline Malate – 8g
This comes down to personal preference, add in some calorie free flavouring or mix your pre workout supplement ingredients in a calorie free beverage.
Mix it all together, gulp it down, laugh at the savings you made and go and smash your workout!