Nearly every single supplement brand on the planet offers a pre-workout supplement, but what are they? Will they help you with your one-rep max? Are they supposed to give you significantly more energy and untold stamina? Some folks worry that they might not even work at all.
The answer isn’t just a simple yes or no. It’s about nutrition, your individual gym goals, and the broad definition of a pre-workout supplement. Today we’re going to break that all down so you can figure out what pre-workouts are best for you, and whether it’ll even really work no matter where you decide to buy them from.
A pre-workout supplement can be anything from a pill stuffed full of vitamins in the morning to a powder you toss into a blender bottle on your way to the gym. The important part of determining what it’ll do for you is looking at the ingredients. Any good pre-workout supplement will have the ingredients listed on the packaging. Because of this, you’ll be able to look into their flavorful claims and verify them for yourself.
Most supplements set out to increase your energy levels, improve your performance in the gym, grant you additional focus, and aid in your recovery afterward. The internet is an excellent tool for verifying pre-workout supplement claims because you have everything you need at your fingertips. You don’t have to take a supplement’s word for it, just look into the ingredients for yourself if you’re feeling skeptical. A supplement worth your money will use ingredients that have been researched and proven to work with studies, and if those studies have been replicated by more than one researcher, then all the better.
Choosing a pre-workout supplement is also going to be a pretty personal choice. One size doesn’t fit all in this case. If you’re waking up feeling energized and you could do without coffee when you’re getting your day started, then you probably want to avoid a pre-workout with caffeine. If you’re looking to build muscle or cut down on soreness, then you’re probably looking for pre-workouts that focus on recovery. If you think your workouts could be just a touch longer, then a supplement that will give you a touch more energy to draw from in the form of some simple carbs might be the thing that pushes you over the hump. The possibilities are almost endless when it comes to the world of supplements and which one is right for you.
When you’re picking out the right supplement or you, here are a few ingredients to look for, and what they’ll do for your workout.
So many pre-workout supplements will include caffeine just to give you a little bit of a boost before you hit the gym. Caffeine is one of the things that most Americans rely on more than anything to get them out of bed and ready to tackle the full days ahead of them. If you’re getting up early to hit the gym before work, or you’re just dedicated to the craft and worn out after a long day, then caffeine is probably one of the first things you reach for to give yourself a leg up on the competition.
Caffeine is simple, it works by tricking your brain into thinking you’re less tired than you really are. In your brain, you have receptors that are finely tuned to the presence of something called adenosine. When adenosine is present in your brain, those receptors bind to it and trigger a whole mess of sleepy responses in your body. Adenosine slows down activity in your neurons and dilates your blood vessels in your brain, gearing you up to wind down. Caffeine is similar enough to adenosine to bind to those receptors instead, and it has the additional benefit of triggering almost the exact opposite responses.
You’ll stave off drowsiness longer because caffeine is sitting in those receptors and boxing adenosine out, which keeps your brain from triggering the wind-down sequence in the first place. Beyond simply blocking adenosine, caffeine also increases the firing rate of your brain cells, this means increased alertness and your body releases a little adrenaline in response to the increased activity. All around caffeine is designed to give you an extra boost.
That alone would be enough of a reason for pre-workout supplements to add caffeine, but there are also several studies that tout the other benefits of caffeine in pre-supplements. A meta-analysis on caffeine found that it may enhance aerobic endurance, muscle strength, muscle endurance, jumping performance, and speed. So, if you’re looking for an edge that will squeeze results out of your workout, then seek out supplements with caffeine in them.
Beta-Alanine is an amino that our bodies already produce. It’s considered non-essential because of this. That doesn’t mean you can live your life without it, but that your body provides beta-alanine through synthesizing it instead of relying on your diet to add it to your system.
Beta-alanine helps your body produce carnosine, which is a compound your body uses in your muscles to temper their endurance as well as in your brain as a neurotransmitter. The properties of carnosine make it an excellent intramuscular buffer. Intramuscular buffers are essentially the waste management mechanisms in your body. Having compounds in your body that help you manage the buildup of lactic acid in your body is one of the many ways your body helps your muscles withstand the punishment of the gym.
Beta-alanine is pretty important in your body because of this. The idea behind adding beta-alanine to pre-workout supplements is to increase your ability to generate carnosine, fending off acid buildup in your muscles, and keeping you in the gym longer. Studies have shown a marked increase in endurance, so if you’re a runner or aiming for higher reps with lower loads, then a pre-workout with beta-alanine should probably be on the top of your list.
Increased endurance doesn’t necessarily lead to increased results. Folks tend to think that if they’re not as tried they’re reaping the benefits quicker, but that isn’t exactly true. Don’t let your pre-workout go to your head, and instead, you should be keeping track of your progress over time. Don’t tap out early and take advantage of the increased endurance you’re feeling from your supplements.
Creatine exists in your system mostly to help your body recycle adenosine triphosphate or ATP. This is similar to, but distinct from the adenosine that makes you drowsy at the end of the day. Your body uses ATP to provide energy to your cells, especially in high-demand areas like your muscle cells and your brain tissue. Your body uses creatine to keep ATP bouncing around throughout your body, keeping those cells well-fed and ready for more action.
Creatine is in pre-workouts because of the increased demand for energy that your workout generates. Your body turns creatine into phosphocreatine which helps replenish adenosine triphosphate which helps transfer more energy into your high-demand cells. If you’re looking for something to top off your energy pool when you’re doing some high-intensity exercise like powerlifting or HIIIT, you’re going to need energy transferred as efficiently as possible, so finding a pre-workout with creatine listed as one of its ingredients will be a massive help when the chips are down.
L-Citrulline is another non-essential nutrient. This one is a nutrient we use in our bodies for generating nitric oxide through our kidneys by breaking L-citrulline down into another amino acid called L-arginine. That nitric oxide in our bodies is used to relax our arteries and encourage blood flow.
That’s the kind of benefit you can look forward to when you’re picking out a pre-workout supplement. Increased blood flow throughout the body will help you transfer oxygen to your taxed muscles while you work out, giving you a boost to your strength and endurance. Your respiratory system is all about transferring nutrients to your body. Generally, exercise increases blood flow throughout your body to keep your muscles full of the nutrients they need, and opening up the floodgates with nitric oxide only makes that process that much easier. Combining this with the adrenaline you’ll get from a small caffeine boost, kicks your respiration into overdrive.
Branched-chain amino acids or BCAAS are a family of proteins your body needs for keeping things in working order. The BCAAS you’ll find in a pre-workout is primarily going to be the three essential (remember this means that your body can’t make them on its own) acids, leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
BCAAS are what you should be seeking out if you’re looking to stimulate muscle growth and help with recovery. Leucine is shown to stimulate the muscle protein synthesis process in your body. This is going to help you pack on more muscle after your high-intensity weight lifting, especially if you’re trying to look jacked rather than slimming down. BCAAS are also responsible for easing the soreness you’ll feel after a workout, which will help you with motivation if you’re typically put off by feeling sore the next day. If you can recover more quickly from your sore muscles that’s one less obstacle standing between you and mastery over your bench press.
BCAAs are all about getting you the most out of your work. You’re working hard to earn the muscle mass that these amino acids are helping your body generate, and you’re not going to see any growth without putting yourself up to the task. These are additions to a pre-workout that require you to get yourself out there and push yourself if you don’t want to waste your supplements.
Now that you’re equipped with the knowledge to pick out a supplement that matches your pre-workout needs, you’re probably itching to get one into your pantry. We’ve got a whole wealth of pre-workouts to choose from. They contain the supplements that will get you into the gym and lifting to the best of your abilities in no time flat.
Charged-AF: Charged-AF is a pre-workout that targets your focus, energy, and alertness. Anhydrous caffeine is caffeine straight from the source. It’s caffeine that’s been dehydrated and extracted from plant matter, making it easy to add to your smoothies or gym water. If you’re shopping around for pre-workout supplements, Charged-AF is for folks that need one more push to get to the end of their workouts. The caffeine will give you the energy to motivate yourself on the way in and all the way through a workout.
You’ll also find nutrients like vitamins B6 and B12. These B vitamins are great for your mental focus in the short and long run. Vitamins B6 and B12 have been shown to reduce Alzheimer’s risk, which is just a great secondary effect of routinely topping off your vitamin B levels. These vitamins are also great for hemoglobin production in the body. Keeping your blood in top nutrient transporting shape.
Amped-AF: Amped-AF is our ultimate focus pre-workout. The caffeine and L-Citrulline combo is there to top off your energy levels and get your blood ready to storm throughout your system. It’s great not only for getting over your initial inertia and pumping up your motivation with a kick of energy but also for getting you focused once you’re in the gym. The formula is also not too dependant on the caffeine levels like other pre-workouts tend to be. It’s all about getting your blood flowing, which naturally energizes you, rather than pumping you full of adrenaline and fleeting energy just to leave you to crash later in the day.
Blue Sky Pre: This pre-workout is vibrant and cost-effective. You’re going to be getting a small boost from the caffeine and your vitamins are going to promote healthy cardiovascular health. Combining this pre-workout with a good workout is going to get you rushing towards your goals.
You’re going to find that this pre-workout is also great for your endurance. The L-Citrulline, caffeine and Beta-alanine are all here to put the ball in your court. You’ll find yourself able to dig deeper than before on your final reps, getting you further that much faster. If you’re trying to break through a tough progress ceiling, then this is the Pre for you. That touch of endurance and the increase in energy levels should be just enough to get you through a tough exercise. You’re also going to be setting yourself up for more effective muscle growth and recovery.
Everything in the Blue Sky Pre is backed by science, and all you need to do is hit the gym as honestly as you have been this entire time. Our pre-workout is here to draw the best out of you.
You can see that all of the pre-workouts that we provide are chock-full of the kind of stuff you need for a natural and useful boost to your energy levels. A good pre-workout should get you in the headspace without jacking you up beyond a manageable level. Coffee before a workout is a little over the top, and the same goes for a pre-workout that’s going to overstimulate you before you’re in the gym. You want the focus to go along with that energy, a lot of a good workout is about maintaining tension on your muscles and making controlled and deliberate motions to build muscle.
We also make sure you get the vitamins and essential nutrients that will help you recover quickly and build muscle. Light levels of sodium are great for helping you retain water while you workout. L-Citrulline is going straight to your kidneys to generate nitric oxide and get your blood flowing. That’s great for focus because your command center will be flooded with nutrients and oxygen right before your workout as well as opening up the pipeline to your muscles when they’re begging for supplies while you’re pounding the iron.
A good pre-workout won’t be promising you the mood, they focus on giving you the building blocks you need for a solid foundation. It’s up to you to make sure you’re making the most out of your pre-workout. Find something that plays to your strengths and wring out all of the results you can by turning your focus into an efficient workout, use the caffeine as motivation, and treat your muscles well post-workout for maximum recovery and muscle growth.
Pre-workout supplements aren’t a magic wand you wave before you pick up your weights. When you get down to the core of it, they’re just powders full of the things your body wants, creates on its own, or benefits from the addition of. They’re never going to guarantee that your muscles are going to explode overnight or grow on their own without you putting in the work.
Pre-workout supplements are on the market to give you that last little kick when you’re digging deep at the end of a tough set, and the only people that will truly benefit from pre-workouts are the ones that are already taking their workouts seriously. So when you’re thinking about dumping a second or third scoop into your water before you head to the gym, you better be gearing up to put in an extra rep or two.