From feeling a bit deflated before a training session and craving a powerful energy hit, to looking for something that may help enhance your results, there are many potential reasons to reach for pre-workout supplements.
But are they actually worth the hype, or is the pre-workout shelf on your local supplement store just another clever way to reach into your wallet?
Here’s our scoop on pre-workouts:
Understandably, most of us don’t show up for training sessions as our most refreshed selves. Since fitness is only a part of our busy lives, other commitments often take priority - so exercise often happens early in the morning on just a few hours of sleep, or after already doing some draining but oh-so-important stuff earlier in the day.
This is where a pre-workout may be a reasonable option. Packed with ingredients such as caffeine, pre-workouts are designed to give you a boost of energy and keep you going longer.
Other than the obvious caffeine (or its various derivatives such), which most popular pre-workouts tend to contain, some other ingredients you may find in pre-workouts include:
- NO2-boosters (e.g. Arginine) - acting as vasodilators, these expand your blood vessels, improving blood flow and potentially aiding in nutrient delivery to muscles.
- B-vitamins (e.g. Vitamin B12) - as they play important roles in energy production and efficiency.
- Taurine - a component found in animal meats that may help fight oxidative stress during workouts.
Sounds pretty magical? Not so fast!
Clever packaging and impressive ingredient lists on pre-workout supplements make them look like magic potions (with a hefty price tag often attached) - however, they are far from that.
The most important factor in your fitness performance is still your overall lifestyle. No pre-workout will replace quality nutrition, provide a reliable substitute for restful sleep, or deliver mind-blowing performance benefits without you putting in the work.
In addition, caffeine, contained in many pre-workouts, can cause significant side effects if consumed in excess; and since we often consume caffeine on top of supplementation, it’s quite easy to go overboard.
Some undesirable side effects to look out for include:
- Increased heart rate
- Stomach discomfort
- Poor sleep
And as for the “non-stimulant” pre-workouts that contain no caffeine…feel free to reach out for them if you REALLY want to invest in what essentially is a fancy cordial, but there are usually no scientifically proven reasons for these to work at all.
As with all supplements, are pre-workouts necessary? Absolutely not!
Can you incorporate them into your fitness regimen if you really enjoy and can easily afford them? Totally!
However, be mindful of the potential side effects and remember that your overall lifestyle will have a much bigger impact on your result.