Have you been slogging away in the gym for hours on in and still feel that you do not have the body to show for it?
Do you feel that you keep losing focus while working out and just lack the energy to push through?
If your answer is yes to any of these questions, you should consider pre-workout supplements if you not have done so already. We are going to run through the pre workout pros and cons.
Pre workout supplements have seen a very rapid surge in the market with a number of options available to the consumer. You must have seen competing products in this category trying to one-up each other.
In this article, we will try to cover some basics about pre-workout supplements and will go through some positive and negative aspects of using them.
We will also answer some frequently asked questions regarding these supplements any beginner might have. We are sure that by the end of the article, you will be able to make an educated choice regarding pre-workout supplementation and the pros and cons of taking a pre workout.
What are pre-workout supplements?
Well, it’s not a real difficult question to answer, is it? Pre-workout supplements are the nutritional supplements that you take before you begin your workout, as simple as that. These supplements are designed with one purpose in mind: improving your workout performance.
Most of the products in this category accomplish this aim by a number of ways. Some of the pre-workout supplements have stimulants such as caffeine, which help you to feel stimulated and jacked up. They also have some performance boosters such as creatine, citrulline etc. Many of them also contain nitric oxide boosters such as glycocarn as well.
The combined effect of all these pre-workout ingredients results in a better stimulation, more energy, increased oxygen flow to the muscles and stimulation in protein biosynthesis. Taken together, these effects will help your workout more vigorously and efficiently so that you can pack on more muscle mass.
Typical ingredients of a pre-workout supplement
There are many ingredients that are added to these pre-workout supplements. These ingredients serve some different purposes in the recipe. In order to choose the right pre-workout supplement, it is important to know about these ingredients, their function in the recipe and their potential effect on the body.
Let us look at some commonly used ingredients in these pre-workout supplements:
Caffeine is the most common stimulant that is present in a majority of ‘stimulating’ pre-workout supplements out there. The amounts of caffeine can vary greatly between different brands and can be as high as 100-300 mg per serving. Just to put this ridiculous amount in perspective, one can of Red Bull has about 80 mg of caffeine.
Caffeine improves attention and focus during the workout and also aids in improving muscle recovery. However, high amount of caffeine consumption may lead to restlessness, nervousness, and insomnia.
Creatine is very well known for its ergogenic properties. It increases physical performance and stamina during a workout. It helps to replenish the energy in the form of ATPs in the muscles so that muscles have more energy to work out without tiring. Although some people do not respond to creatine, those who do can greatly benefit from taking it. Although too much creatine can cause a strain on your kidneys and may lead to bloating and other gastric issues.
This commonly used (or at times overused) substance is well known to decrease muscle fatigue. One of the side effects causes tingling in the hands and legs. If you are not a fan of the tingles, you better stay away from this component and choose the supplement sans beta alanine.
It is also one of the most commonly used stimulants in the pre-workout supplements. Methylhexanamine produces a strong rush of energy and improves stamina and endurance. Some people may see an elevation in mood after taking this supplement.
It is used in many pre-workout formulas as a performance enhancer. It reduces fatigue in the muscle and also helps to draw water into the muscle cells making them appear bulkier.
Agmatine causes a stimulation of the hormones released by the pituitary gland such as Luteinizing Hormone and Growth Hormone. It is also known to increase the effect of nitric oxide that results in better blood flow to the muscles.
However, an overuse of Agmatine may increase GH levels in blood and can lead to complications.
Citrulline is used to enhance the performance of the muscles and improve the oxygen consumption.
This compound has been clinically proven to stimulate the synthesis of nitric oxide and hence improve the blood flow to the muscle tissue. The increased blood flow causes an enhanced delivery of both oxygen and nutrients to the muscles leading to a better workout performance and growth.
There are many benefits as well as drawbacks of taking these pre-workout supplements, and all of them are closely tied to the properties of the individual ingredients in the recipe. Let’s take a look at what are the pros and cons of pre-workout supplementation.
Pros of taking pre-workout supplements
There are many ingredients which can surely help you in a number of ways to improve your workout. Pre-workout supplements can help you in many areas including:
1. Improved Muscle Strength
As we have seen earlier, many ingredients such as Creatine can increase the strength of the muscles. By replenishing the ATPs in the muscle, Creatine can improve strength, speed, and power of the muscle tissue. It is also well documented that use of Creatine can help to gain muscle size as well.
Many supplements such as Caffeine can also improve the muscle strength. Caffeine not only acts as a stimulant, but it also releases some chemicals called beta-endorphins in the brain that help in reduction of fatigue and improves recovery of muscles.
Components such as Agmatine can improve the muscle mass and strength by stimulating the release of GH from the pituitary gland. Many ingredients also cause stimulation of protein synthesis resulting in you packing up more muscle mass as you go on.
2. Improved stamina and endurance
Many ingredients used in the pre-workout supplements can increase stamina and muscle endurance. Beta-Alanine is an amino acid that is present in many pre-workout supplements that improve endurance by limiting the lactic acid buildup in the muscles. Lower lactic acid buildup results in less fatigue and better performance.
Another ingredient that causes increase in muscle endurance is Citrulline. It causes an increase in the blood flow to the skeletal muscles leading to a robust supply of oxygen. This increased oxygen also results in the reduction of lactic acid buildup. With an increase in the oxygen supply, the muscles can produce more ATPs and hence have more energy to perform.
Glycoran is also another ingredient that promotes an increased blood flow to the muscles and hence can improve endurance.
3. Pumped up muscles
Many supplements can also help increase the size of the muscles. Ingredients such as Taurine present in many pre-workout mixtures can draw water into the muscle cells making them appear bigger and bulkier.
Another ingredient called Arginine Alpha-ketoglutarate (AAKG) also stimulates the production of nitric oxide and improves blood flow to the muscles. This improved blood flow also makes the muscles look fuller and more pumped up.
4. More energy for the workout
One of the most common complaints that I keep hearing from people working out is that they get tired in the middle of the workout.
The loss of energy makes them lose focus, and they are not able to put in that extra effort that is a must for getting a good result.
Pre-workout supplements can really help you in this area. These supplements pump your bodies full of a lot of instant energy generating ingredients that cause a rapid and almost instant surge of energy.
The supplements replenish a lot of the lost electrolytes and help you maintain a high intensity during the entire workout.
Although the benefits that come with using pre-workout supplements are very enticing, there are some drawbacks as well. Let’s take a look at what they are:
Let’s take a look at what they are:
Cons of taking pre-workout supplements
As with any other supplements, the pre-workout supplements are not completely devoid of certain drawbacks.
1. Palpitations, restlessness, and insomnia
Most of the pre-workout supplements contain a stimulant such as Caffeine or Methylhexamine. These stimulants can jack you up or can cause your heart to race. Palpitations are not that uncommon while of high caffeine-containing supplements.
Also, if you tend to workout during the evening, excess stimulants may disrupt your sleep pattern and may even lead to insomnia. Jitters and restlessness are also sometimes problematic in some people.
Another common side effect of these stimulants is increased blood pressure. Things can get really tricky if you are already suffering from hypertension. You must exercise caution in such cases.
2. Gastric troubles
Many ingredients in your pre-workout supplements can lead to an unsettled digestive system. Some of the ingredients of the pre-workout formulas such as Creatine may lead to gastric trouble and bloating. Long term use of these supplements can cause irreparable damage to the GI system.
Some of the ingredients such as Taurine can cause muscles to lock in a lot of water in the body and may lead to dehydration. Also, some of the ingredients, especially amino acids can cause stimulation of urine production and may lead to dehydration. Always drink a lot of water while on these supplements.
Also, some of the ingredients, especially amino acids can cause stimulation of urine production and may lead to dehydration. Always drink a lot of water while on these supplements.
4. Drug test failure risk
Many of the pre-workout supplements contain chemicals that may result in some problems in drug tests. Although the US FDA strictly controls the ingredients that go into these supplements, there are many ingredients that when metabolized in the body, can produce substances similar to those produced by metabolism of some prohibited compounds.
For example, certain ingredients may be metabolized by the liver to produce metabolites that can be confused with amphetamines during the drug tests.
It is, therefore, always a good idea to know what ingredients are there in your supplements and exercise caution.
Nearly every formula on the market contains a ‘proprietary blend’, the contents of which are kept a secret. Most of these are harmless and won’t interfere with regular drug tests, but it is always good to do a little research before you choose one particular brand.
5. Energy crash
This is another common con of the supplements. Due to some ingredients that jack you up while you are working out, once the effect wanes out, you crash. It is always good to limit the amount of intake of these stimulating supplements to avoid this horrible feeling.
Frequently asked questions about pre-workout
1. I have heart issues; can I take pre-workout supplements?
A: Many ingredients in the pre-workout supplements contain ingredients which can cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. If you are on a pill to control your blood pressure, you must consult your doctor before starting.
2. How frequently should I take these?
A: Well, the frequency depends on what you want to achieve. Assuming that you are a beginner, I would recommend starting three times a week, every alternate day. That way, your body will have a chance to process the supplement and also, you will not overload the system.
3. Are there any pre-workout long-term side effects?
A: There may be some long-term effects of taking the supplements. The best way to avoid any long term complications is to use these only for a short period. Once you have reached your fitness goals, it is always better to taper off the use of these supplements. Although there are contradictory reports claiming both sides, I would strongly suggest not to over do these or any other supplements for that matter.
4. Can I pass a drug test while taking pre workout supplements?
A: There is no reason why not. Although there have been some reports of positive amphetamine tests in some people taking pre-workout supplements, if you have a drug test coming up, it is best to wait till it’s done to start supplementing just to be sure. Also, there are many manufacturers that advertise that their supplements do not show false positives during drug tests, try using them instead.
5. Is there a stimulant free option?
A: The market is filled with all sorts of pre-workout supplements. There are enough options that do not have any caffeine or any other stimulant in them.
6. I am a woman; can I use the same supplements as men?
A: The physiology of men and women though similar, varies in subtle ways. There are tons of supplements that are specifically tailor-made for women, and you would be way better off taking those instead.
7. Is there a pre-workout pill form?
A: Well, most of the pre-workout supplements are available in the powder form that needs to be taken by dissolving in milk or water.However, some people do not like the taste or prefer not to drink them before their workout. Some manufacturers do make pre-workout supplements in pill form as well.
Something to take home
If you are thinking about taking pre-workout supplements, do your research thoroughly. We hope we’ve provided an in-depth look into Pre Workout Pros and Cons. There are many options from which to choose. We hope that this article has helped you in understanding the concept behind these supplements and answered most of your questions. We wish you good luck in achieving the body of your dreams! Till next time.