The global sports nutrition market is currently worth a reported $50 billion and growth is projected to continue at a significant rate. Whether we’re talking about products that help you recover from exercise more quickly, drinks which can stimulate your body and mind prior to physical activity, or vitamins and minerals which help people lead a more healthy lifestyle, supplements are a huge part of this industry.

There are few areas within the wider world of sports supplementation which currently attract the attention that “preworkout” supplements seem to. To help you negotiate what can be a daunting area of exercise nutrition and maximize your training capacity, we have devised this complete guide to what to look for in your preworkout product. So, whether you’re a complete novice taking your first steps on a fitness journey, or you’re a seasoned pro looking for that little bit extra from your training regime, we’ve got you covered!

What exactly is preworkout?

Most people are aware that your body requires energy in order to exercise, regardless of the intensity. The food and/or supplements that you consume before a workout will help provide this energy and can determine how quickly you may experience feelings of fatigue.

The actual term “preworkout” has become an umbrella term which encompasses all  supplement variety that are used to enhance the performance of an individual during training session. They are available in a variety of forms but most usually are consumed in the form of a drink or shake. There are a huge variety of products available, most offering a mix of very similar ingredients which are intended to help prepare you for and fuel your workout. In very basic terms, any preworkout routine, whether natural or synthetic should include both protein and carbohydrates. Protein to help support muscle maintenance and growth, and carbohydrates because they provide the blood sugar which forms the basis of energy provision to your muscles.

The reality of preworkout supplements, however, is a little more complicated. Most contain a myriad of ingredients, some of which can be hugely beneficial to your workout, and some which don’t achieve an awful lot in all honesty. By the time you get to the end of this guide, you should hopefully have a better idea of what to look for in your preworkout product!

What to look for you in your preworkout?

There is a huge variation in the ingredients which different supplement manufacturers choose to include in their range of preworkout products.

Some will be more helpful to your training goals than others. As a result, we’ve taken the time to figure out what the key ingredients are so that you know exactly what to look for in your preworkout.

Caffeine:

One of the most proven stimulants- successful at improving several areas of exercise performance and should 100% be on your list of what to look for in your pre workout.

Research in the Journal of International Sports Nutrition has indicated that caffeine consumption can lead to improvements in power output as well as in longer duration activities such as running, cycling and intermittent sports such as soccer.

Caffeine can also make you feel more alert and energetic, stimulating your nervous system and making exercise feel less taxing. Perfect if you struggle for motivation at the beginning of your sessions.

OPTIMAL DOSE = 3-6 mg per kg of body weight.

Creatine:

Experts generally  agree that creatine is the most successful supplement when it comes to increasing strength and power.

It helps your body produce more of a high energy molecule called ATP (Adenosine Tri-Phosphate).

In a study reported in the Sports Medical journal, strength gains from a weight lifting program were approximately 5-10% higher among subjects taking a creatine supplement.

OPTIMAL DOSE = 3-5 g per day.

Citrulline:

Increases blood flow to body tissues. In relation to exercise, this means your body can get more oxygen and nutrients to the muscles which are working.

Supplementation in citrulline is thought to be beneficial to both endurance based activity and strength building exercise.

According to the Journal of Applied Physiology, studies have demonstrated that cyclists taking citrulline are able to ride for approximately 12% longer before exhaustion sets in than cyclists taking a placebo.

There are different variants of the supplement depending on your training goals, with L-citrulline more beneficial for endurance based activity and Citrulline malate more beneficial for strength based training.

OPTIMAL DOSE = L-citrulline- 6 g/ Citrulline malate- 8 g per day.

Beta Alanine:

Helps to combat the build up of fatigue related acids in your muscles.

As a result, it Improves performance during intense exercise which lasts between one and four minutes (anaerobic).

OPTIMAL DOSE = 4-6 g per day.

BCAA (branch chain amino acids):

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, which as we have already mentioned are pretty important in maintaining and building muscle.

BCAA’s are also thought to improve endurance, reduce mental and physical fatigue and limit muscle soreness in the aftermath of intense activity.

OPTIMAL DOSE = 5-20g per day.

Tyrosine:

Supports the production of noradrenaline and dopamine, both of which can help support mental and cognitive health during stressful activities, such as intense exercise.

Improving your mood can be a really important factor in boosting your motivation to train.

OPTIMAL DOSE = 100 mg per kg of body weight.

This is obviously not an exhaustive list of what to look for in your pre workout supplement. You won’t be going too far wrong, however, if you can find a product which includes most or all of them!

When should you take your preworkout?

Most experts agree that you should consume your preworkout shake or drink between 30 and 60 minutes before the start of your session. This gives the active ingredients in the supplement enough time to reach peak levels in your blood.

Now you know what to look for in your preworkout product, the best way of finding the supplement which is right for you is to do the research. One final tip: check the ingredients and their dosages before you commit!