It’s that time of day again – 30 minutes before you hit the gym, you down a serving of your favorite pre-workout product. Preworkouts are critical to helping you get the most out of your training session, right?
As an avid disciple of the school of heavy plates, you know that it is important that your pre-workout help prime your body so that the next 90 minutes or so will pay great dividends towards your goal.
But, the question is does your preworkout really help you meet your goals? This is a question that baffles most trainees, as seasoned as they may be, since all preworkout supplements are not created the same.
Yes, while preworkouts can be extremely effective and bring you so much closer to your ideal workout, there are fundamental differences in what they contain, making it important to know what to look for in the first place.
That is – given you have a goal, right? (And you should, of course!). Let’s investigate some of the most common ingredients you can find in preworkouts available on the market today, and what they do to help support your goal.
Focus And Energy
Ingredients that improve your focus and energy have been the bedrock of many successful preworkout supplements for years, simply for the fact that they promote workout efficiency and enable you to get the most out of the time you spend there.
For the same reason you wouldn’t expect an effective workout when all you want to do is sleep, be sure to look for the following ingredients;
Caffeine And Other Methlyxanthines
These are all stimulants obtained naturally, or made synthetically that increase alertness and overall better neuromuscular coordination. Of course, this means a better work out, and a greater degree of muscle stimulation.
This is an amino acid that is a precursor to many important neurotransmitters such as noradrenaline (norepinephrine), a catecholamine that increases metabolism of fatty acids for fuel, and which enhances energy levels at the same time.
The neurotransmitters noradrenaline and adrenaline, together with the hormone cortisol are collectively known as “the stress hormones”, and also enable you to deal with the stress-induced from training more efficiently.
The B vitamins are integrally involved in the metabolism of macronutrients, which contributes to enhanced production of the body’s main energy currency ATP. Faster generation of ATP means sustained energy, and ability to work out harder.
The requirements for B vitamins in athletes is significantly higher than for the average individual, so a basic multi-vitamin will not suffice if you train intensely.
Apart from the inclusion of energy boosters, the next thing most persons look for in their preworkout supplements are ingredients that boost nitric oxide production (or support increased synthesis). There are a couple of different ingredients that lend themselves to this goal, most commonly including:
While in the past L-arginine was considered the gold standard of nitric oxide boosting supplements, today it is largely superseded by various ester forms such as AAKG, which boast improved stability and greater conversion into the nitric oxide molecule.
Another amino acid, but one that is very interesting to say the least. What we mean by this is the fact that L-citrulline still needs to convert into L-arginine, which then lends itself to nitric oxide synthesis, but it does so at a rate much more efficiently than arginine itself.
This means that L-citrulline has actually superseded arginine as the go to ingredient for boosting nitric oxide production.
A compound commonly found in grapes and red wine, resveratrol has gained immense popularity over the past few years for its antiaging effects and ability to support nitric oxide synthesis.
Resveratrol helps to up regulate the enzyme that produces nitric oxide; nitric oxide synthase, in effect making it so that your body is capable of producing a greater amount of nitric oxide. This is important, as all the L-arginine in the world will do nothing unless this enzyme is capable of converting it into nitric oxide.
Weight Loss/Fat Burning
Preworkout fat burners are another popular class of specialist supplements that you may use from time to time, especially following your hibernation during winter months. These pre-workout products normally still make use of energy boosters/stimulants, as great synergy can be found between the two classes of ingredients.
Weight loss preworkout supplements can commonly be found having:
This is an amino acid that facilitates the transport of long chain fatty acids into the mitochondria of muscle cells, where they are burnt to make ATP. Even though fats are transported without exogenous carnitine consumption-since the body can naturally produce small amounts of it, the potential for weight loss is amplified when using a pre-workout product fortified with L-carnitine
Green Tea Extract
A useful addition to effective preworkout fat burners is green tea extract, standardized to contain at least 50% ECGC-the catechin responsible for its weight loss potential.
Combined with caffeine, the production of catecholamines such as noradrenaline are amplified, helping to accelerate the liberation of stored fat as free fatty acids.
If you’ve got a thing for chili peppers, then you know too well what capsaicin is. The active phytochemical that gives pepper its unique “hotness”, it also shows great promise as a preworkout fat burning ingredient, helping increase your thermogenic rate
Capsaicin also triggers the release of the catecholamine noradrenalin, which then promotes the burning of fatty acids for fuel.
Another characteristic of an effective preworkout supplement would be to increase the time before you experience fatigue, in effect allowing you to work out harder, for a longer period of time.
If endurance training, or increasing your maximum power output is important, be sure to opt for preworkout supplements that contain the following:
One of the most-well known ingredients that improves maximal power output, being extremely useful for improving ATP generation over short durations of intense exercise.
Creatine is also very effective in improving fatigue resistance, by slowing down the rate of ATP depletion in cells.
Another amino acid commonly found in preworkout supplements that are specifically geared at increasing your performance, owing to the stabilizing effect it has on muscle pH, and increasing muscle carnosine density.
As you work out, the pH within muscle cells can quickly become acidic, causing “failure” or the inability of the muscle to contract anymore.
Beta-alanine helps delay the inevitable, and together with Creatine can synergistically improve your fatigue resistance and maximal power output.
So, What Should You Do?
First and foremost, be sure that the preworkout you roll with has ingredients that support your goal. If you are trying to increase maximal power output, a product with a high amount of green tea extract won’t do much to help you get there.
Always read labels, and select those that will take your physique to the next level.